Outsourcing with oDesk


After weeks of reviewing different companies and coming to the conclusion that I just don’t have the volume of work to employ any specific providers (virtual assistant, developer, designer, etc.) full or even part time I realized I needed a different option. I wanted to move away from project based systems I’ve used in the past like RentACoder and move to more of an hourly based system. I remember reading about a company called ::oDesk(“a”)::< that specialized in hourly providers. For the most part they are very similar to elance and rentacoder: providers, buyers, ratings, etc. The key differentiator (other than hourly workers) is their "Work Diary". This will sound very "big brother" but the provider has an app that runs on their local system while the provider is "clocked in". This app tracks # of mouse clicks and keyboard strokes... but the kicker is that the app takes a screenshot of the provider's desktop at random intervals every 10 minutes! This sounds pretty scary to many freelancers that like the freedom to work where they want on what they want when they want. That said, it is music to the ears of buyers that are scared to hire someone across the world and never know if the person is really working during the billed hours. ::oDesk("a")::< says it isn't very different than having your manager sitting in the cube next to you... watching every move you make. I tend to agree. I've posted a few different "jobs" and have interviewed quite a few providers over the past month. My success rate has been all over the map. My first venture into ::oDesk("a")::< land was to find someone who could do basic web design / updating for me. Keep in mind I was specifically looking for people that could work CHEAP! You are suppose to interview providers which is a pretty time consuming and difficult process. I found it easier to hire 5 providers for 2 hours to work on the exact same task and see how they performed. Did they work hard to understand the project? Did they ask good questions for clarification? Did they over promise and under deliver? Many just took the project and tried to work on it without asking any questions resulting in some very interesting results. Others replied that they needed more time and some didn't reply at all. A couple did come through with okay results and they would work for basic tasks but I'd probably have to move up the pay scale to get decent results. My second job was where I found a diamond provider! This project was listed as a virtual assistant. Again I replied to about 4 providers giving them the same task. I asked each to search the internet for companies that were competitors and/or complimentary to my most popular site and find out who was advertising with them and where they were advertising. This would provide me with a list of companies to contact for advertising / sponsorship opportunities. Of the 5 applicants 2 were women in the US, two were in India (man and woman) and the third was in Pakistan. I gave them all 3 hours to compile as large a list as possible. After I reviewed the results I was surprised and excited to discover the best results were from the woman in India who also happened to be on the least expensive side of the scale. As mentioned earlier I just don't have enough to give a virtual assistant full time work. Fortunately my new VA is happy to work from project to project as many (up to 20) or as few hours a week as I need. Visit ::oDesk("a"):: to see if there is an provider for your next project.

Outsourcing Success!

 bpovia virtual assistant
One of the companies I’ve been working with in www.BPOVIA.com in China.   The founder, James, is a great guy and was very prompt and professional with his communications with me.   I’m still trying to get a feel for what I want done and how much time my projects will take, but I had a very important project that I’ve been putting off for years.  Basically my grandfather wrote a book that was typed.   About 150 copies were made back in the 1980’s and no soft copy exists.   My task was to convert the hard copy to a soft copy.

The book was 500 pages (250 double sided) that could be scanned then read with OCR relatively easily.  The problems were someone had to scan and OCR the pages BUT also do all the corrections for words that couldn’t be read.   James quoted me a price that was extremely competitive with other companies locally and even other companies abroad.   I unbound the book, sent him the loose pages, and within a week I had a 4 mb PDF soft copy of my Grandfather’s book!

Other than a few problems sending payment to China via PayPal the whole process couldn’t have gone better.   Kudo’s to BPOVIA and team for a job well done.

Now, to continue on my quest to find the perfect virtual assistant!

Outsourcing Problems & Questions

Going into this journey of how I would outsource my life I’ve learned some valuable lessons.   I’m kicking myself for not coming to these conclusions sooner… even before embarking on a search for a virtual assistant:

  1. I don’t have enough projects for a basic skill level “virtual assistant” to fill 40 hours a week.   I discovered I don’t even have enough work to necessitate a 20 hours a week contract.  This pretty much eliminates working with some of the “big” outsourcing companies.
  2. The things that keep me busy as a solo entrepreneur are pretty diverse and range from the virtual assistant type items (filtering spam, replying to basic email queries, research, etc.)  to the higher level skilled items (website design, script installation, forum administration, conflict resolution, etc.)   This being the case I’m finding it hard to outsource as much of my life as I’d like to.
  3. I had the crazy notion that if the going rate for a Virtual Assistant with basic skills was $4 – $5 an hour that I could find someone for a few more $ with a bit more skill to do all the VA stuff AND a little bit of web design, forum admin, etc.   Well, I realized that not very many international outsource providers have the diverse skill set that many of us entrepreneurs have.   Also, you can’t expect someone with higher level skills (example website design) to enjoy, or even be wiling to do the day to day stuff a VA will do.
  4. Posting for, and interviewing an assistant, getting them setup / trained, and then managing them is a lot of work!   I made the mistake of interviewing too many people from too many companies for too many different types of jobs all at the same time.  It got to the point that I was spending all my free time trying to remember who I had already talked to about what and when.

Bottom line:  I need to take a step back and regroup.   I now know that I’m not ready for a full time virtual assistant (though I wish I was).  The dream of finding someone that would work for $7.00 an hour that would do everything from sifting through my mail to website design was a crazy dream.    But fret not my internet friend, I’m still on the path to an outsourced life, but I think a lot of the things I outsource will be on a project by project basis which will be farmed out to people with very specific skill sets.