All Things Upwork
May 22, 2008 by Josh Breinlinger

Stuart Hibbert from icomplete was kind enough to interview with oDesk and share some of his insights into how to successfully use oDesk as a buyer. His interview was included in a recent oDesk newsletter.


Stuart HibbertBased in Swindon, England, was conceived by three founders who, after many years of running successful small businesses, wanted to pass on their knowledge to help other companies improve their image, save time, and increase profits.

Their Software-as-a-Service Business Suite incorporates CRM (contact management), calendar, task management, collaboration tools, telephony and website widgets, plus real-life personal assistants to answer calls and undertake tasks clients don’t have time or expertise to do themselves. The beta version is due out soon, to be followed by the commercial launch in the United Kingdom – starting at just £25 ($50) per month – there are no upfront costs, or contract tie-ins. An advertising-supported ‘free’ version will also be available worldwide (minus some of the enhanced features).

CEO Stuart Hibbert is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business and specifically the product and technical teams. “Ultimately,” he says, “the buck stops with me.”
As an oDesk buyer:

Hibbert has been using oDesk for nearly a year, hiring developers within several disciplines; Java, AJAX (JavaScript) and Asterisk; as well as product testing and technical writing. “We started off with just a couple of Java developers back in June 2007,” he says. “We wanted to understand how outsourcing would work for us and which service best suited our requirements. We initially worked with two remote management services, but we liked oDesk so much that we moved those developers over to oDesk too. Our team is now nine providers strong. We tend to have a regular stable of providers – however, for certain skills we do regularly post to the community at large to see if there is new talent available.”

Q: What has been the biggest challenge in using remote providers?
A: To date we have been using individual providers rather than teams, which we feel gives us more flexibility – but at the same time means that we are having to project manage everyone separately. Which, given different time zones (+9 hours in Sydney to -8 hours on the west coast of the United States), is quite challenging – but rewarding when we get it right.

Q: In what way has oDesk made it easier to manage remote workers?
A: Several ways:

* Hire – Instant access to a wealth of providers located around the world. We ask all providers to undertake tests in the field which is most closely associated to the position they are applying for. We read the feedback which has been provided by other buyers.
* Day to day management – The Work Diary is invaluable to us, allowing us to be able to manage remote workers efficiently.
* Payment – We don’t have to worry about the payments to providers who are located across the globe; oDesk manages this all for us.

Q: Do you manage all your oDesk staffers directly, or have you pulled back and hired a project manager through oDesk?
A: A combination really. So far I have managed directly, but as we are developing the business I find that I have less time available. So we have just promoted one of our providers to become team leader, someone who knew how we worked and could see the vision of what we wanted to achieve.

Q: Is it difficult to give up a certain amount of oversight and direct involvement?
A: Sure it was difficult. I am one of the founders of the business, so what we are doing is “my baby.” It is always difficult to give that up. But for the development of the business and for the good of the team, it is best.

Q: We’ve rolled out some new features lately to help with this process, such as Create Team. Is there anything you think oDesk should do in the future to help facilitate a buyer granting more autonomy to teams of workers?
A: More collaboration tools. Providers tend to use email as the primary way of communicating – which can take time for them to “construct” their thoughts logically. Tools that would help to decrease this time would be great. Also, a diary of when providers are ‘planning’ to work – this way buyers would have more visibility as to when providers would be working, especially on an international basis when you have things like different public holidays and such like – would help with current and future planning.

Q: What tips or advice would you have for someone considering signing up as an oDesk buyer?
A: My advice:

* Understand what you want to achieve – be as specific as possible in your briefing/specification.
* Put in proper project management – failure is usually as a result of buyers and providers not communicating effectively.
* Give your providers more than one task at a time – this way if they are waiting on anything, then they at least have another task to work on.

Q: From a buyer’s perspective, what advice would you give to a provider wanting to increase success through oDesk?
A: My advice:

* Get tested. If you say that something is your key competency, then find the associated test on oDesk and take it. Generally, if someone applies for a position, if they aren’t tested we will generally reject them without looking much further than that.
* Check that you match the skills that are being sought. If someone says that they are looking for you to have certification on a particular test or a certain amount of history and you haven’t, then you are more likely to be rejected.
* Make your cover letter specific to the role you are applying for. So many times do we receive generic cover letters which bear little or no resemblance to the position they are applying for.
* Do the best possible job that you can for the provider. They will then give you a glowing feedback report which will help you to secure future work easier.

Josh Breinlinger

Senior Associate at Sigma Partners

Josh joined Sigma as a Senior Associate in 2010, bringing six years of startup experience building exceptional teams, products, and communities. He has a black-belt in online marketing and a strong track record of success in user acquisition and retention. Prior to joining Sigma, Josh was the Director of Product and Marketing at AdRoll, an online advertising company, where he helped grow revenue 4x in… read more