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Prialto’s model is based on our belief that companies benefit from a managed service for important, ongoing processes that need continual maintenance and improvement.

There may be times, however, when it makes sense to hire individuals elsewhere in the human cloud, particularly for one-off projects. For such work, we are big fans of freelancer marketplaces like Elance and oDesk.

These are the best and most popular platforms for outsourcing work to unknown remote vendors, and both companies are growing rapidly. By early 2012, GigaOm was reporting that $500 million of work had been contracted through E-lance alone. Elance reported over 100,000 contractors registered worldwide back in 2010.

The major pitfalls of this type of contracted work tend to occur because you’re usually creating a new relationship. Prialto has gained tremendous experience overcoming these difficulties by helping our own members leverage these platforms over the years.

Here are some basic tips that we abide by when using Elance or oDesk to make sure that the job gets done right.

  1. Provide a very detailed project description. Give as much information on timeline, deliverables, formats, management expectations and project templates as you can.
  2. Where possible, upload and include attachments in your project posting to show samples of work that you like or documents that the contractor will need in order to complete the project.
  3. In the project posting, include a unique phrase or term (e.g. "I am a rockstar") that contractors should include in their proposal to you. This is an easy way to weed out vendors that lack attention to detail.
  4. Keep in mind that past ratings aren't necessarily a reliable indicator of future performance. No two projects are identical, unless you’ve worked with the same contractor previously. Limit your review to the last two ratings, or just the lowest and highest ratings, if any.
  5. Don't be afraid to try new freelancers. While experienced ones can be good, new ones are often extremely motivated and any feedback you provide will have a bigger impact for them.
  6. Hire a couple of contractors to do a brief test project before picking the best one. That is especially the case if the project is a recurring one.
  7. Use the project management tools built into the platforms where you can. Workrooms and milestone checklists are an excellent way to track your project with the contractor in a neutral space.
  8. Over-communicate with your contractor. Reply to messages promptly and offer to jump on a video call if needed. It helps the contractor to know that you’re on top of and excited by the project as well.
  9. Feedback is key for online contractors. Don’t provide public feedback on the platform until you’ve received all aspects of the job and you are satisfied with the result. But make sure to provide 1:1 feedback to the contractor in a timely manner as you go along.
  10. If there are any hiccups with a freelancer, end the project. Freelancers tend to take advantage of any benefit of the doubt on your part.

Want more? Here’s a list of Elance tips that’s geared specifically to startups.

If you’re looking for more tips on effective delegation in general, check out a few ideas here.


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“This article was originally posted by Prialto: The Virtual Support Service for Executives. Prialto Virtual Assistants are geared to actually pull your business forward and make delegating easy” 

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