How to Build and Manage Your Virtual Freelance Team on oDesk

So, you've decided to recruit a freelance team. Where to start? How can you navigate HR and performance concerns? Of course, you can search for a freelancer on specialized services according to needed specialization. For example, if you need a writer, you can go to a writing service like EssayMama.com; if you need a custom infographics, go to Visual.ly, etc. But it is hard to manage all these services, freelancers, and tasks separately. Here's where oDesk can help!

oDesk is a global freelancing portal. It allows anybody to build a team of freelancers who work remotely. This means that global corporations may use the platform in the same way that a private user may use the platform. All you have to do is post your job on oDesk along with your budget estimate, your timeframe, and your job parameters and then select the people who apply for the job. You can pay them with an hourly rate or at a fixed rate. Beware—some of the freelancers are qualified and some are not.

The benefits for an employer

There are literally thousands of people on oDesk, and like most freelance sites, some will not be up to your standards. There are thousands of people willing to work for peanuts. This is not so great if you are looking for reliable people, because cheap doesn’t equal reliable; but you can strike a good balance between “quite cheap” and reliable if you review enough freelancers. If you opt for a reasonable timeframe for the work, people will work for you at a lower rate. If you offer very little and want the work soon, you will only have the reckless, desperate and unreliable apply for your work.

Look for reliability as a top priority! 

Let’s save you years of experience and tell you right now what you are looking for with a good freelancer: you are looking for RELIABILITY!!! People spend years hiring freelancers and only then realize that the most precious commodity is reliability. Your freelancer may be the most qualified person in the world, but if that person doesn’t deliver when promised then that person is no use to you.

That is the one, key, top, unequivocal element of a freelancer you must look for. As you start out on oDesk, you will first think a cheap rate is important, but it is not. Here are the priorities employers have that are dead wrong:

  • Cheap work rate: This translates to unreliable and low quality work.
  • Turnaround time: The shorter their turnaround time, the more likely they are to fail or do poor quality work.
  • Qualifications: They can claim anything, and you have no way of checking.
  • Quality: What good is quality when the freelancer turns it in late or asks for more money at the end?
  • Communication: Granted, this is important, but reliability is more important. It is annoying when a freelancer cannot understand simple instructions.
  • Experience and reviews: Trusting a new freelancer may be tough, but the system is very easy to manipulate and a devious freelancer can easily make it appear as if he or she has had lots of experience and no negative reviews.
  • Trust: If they are reliable, they are trustworthy. There is little more to be said on trust.

Build up a reliable team by understanding the negative side for freelancers

There are negative sides to being a freelancer on oDesk. If you can get around those negative sides, then you set yourself up as a good employer that the freelancers will trust. If they trust you, they will do your work without fuss, and it will be easier to find somebody reliable. Here are the negative sides of being a freelancer and what you can do to make yourself more attractive to them. Here are the negative sides and how you may overcome them:

  • Too much competition: Vet and test freelancers and stop going for the ones with the lowest bids.
  • Low payout: Pay a reasonable rate to entice reliable freelancers.
  • Employers hold all the power: Give a perfect review for freelancers if you want to hire them again.
  • Getting a first job is difficult: Give the newbies a chance by communicating with them beforehand.
  • Employers have no verified payment method: Verify your payment method so they can trust you.
  • Employers post jobs and do not come back: Be reliable yourself if you expect it from others.

Agree on communication times

It is annoying trying to contact a freelancer and never being sure as to when he or she is available. Ask your team when they are available and when they are not. Ask what their working hours are and write them in your planner. You should also ask their maximum reply times. Do they check their email every six hours, twice per day, once per day?

Be clear about what you expect

This means making it very clear your deadline, payment, job parameters, etc. An easy way is to bullet point your job when you send it to them. List the important stuff and then expand on it below. Try to be consistent with what you expect. Do not create a project with a week deadline on one hand, and then create another and expect the writer to produce within six hours.

Build a project with specific instructions to avoid errors

The more specific your instructions are, the less likely the team is to mess it all up. Consider the many things you want, and also add in things you do not want. For example, for a brochure design you may specify that you do not want clip art in the design, or for web design, you may state you do not want dropdown menus.

What can I do to avoid being ripped off?

Trust is a big factor and it works both ways, but it has to be earned. You both earn trust by being reliable. You are reliable in that you pay up, and they are reliable in that they do as they claim they will within the deadline. Test every team member with smaller projects first and slowly increase the workload to a comfortable level. If the team member does not let you down, then he or she may become a permanent member of your online team. Just make sure that you always hold up your end of the bargain and help each member grow without criticizing too much. Remember that good team members will rarely make mistakes on purpose, so do not criticize them as if they should have known better.

eLearning is a quick and affordable way to get to get new freelancers up to scratch. Whether they're helping you code, write, or assist customers, bushing up on key skills will benefit both them and your company! Still not convinced? Learn more about joining the freelance revolution!

Jessica Millis, freelance writer and educator from JMU (writing classes). Her dream - to finish writing her first novel. For any information - visit Jessica's About Me page.