The Way We Work

With more than 860,000 contractors in more than 150 countries, oDesk is a global employment platform that lets companies hire, manage and pay a flexible, online workforce. Work is delivered through the oDesk Guarantee, which ensures employers that every hour billed is an hour worked.

Getting started as a remote employer is not as difficult as it may sound. oDesk’s site and blog provide many resources for recruiting, hiring and managing online workers. Here’s a fast collection of tips — and links to more information — for making your first online hire a successful one.

Post a Job.
oDesk provides a template that lets you detail the work, the necessary qualifications and your timeline and budget.

  • Say What You Need. Describe exactly what you need done — not just “build a shopping website,” but “I need a talented designer who is familiar with Photoshop, HTML and CSS to customize a BigCommerce template.” If there are templates or specific technologies involved, name them upfront.
  • Say Who You Want. Detail the qualifications and experience level your role requires, just as you would for a full-time hire. Cite the deadline and expected time commitment. “This position is for an experienced designer – familiarity with BigCommerce preferred – who is available to work at least 10 hours per week. The intended launch date is February 12th, 2011.”
  • Test For Attentiveness. Close the job description with a requirement, such as “In your reply, please link to at least 3 websites you’ve designed (ideally fashion-related)” to quickly weed out anyone who didn’t consider your job posting carefully before applying.

With oDesk, you’re not relying only on a cover letter and resume. You also get a portfolio and detailed online work history, with a feedback rating and comments from past employers.

  • Feedback & Portfolio. See what other employers say about the contractor, and check out work samples, before you even offer an interview.
  • Cull the crowd. Just like with in-house hiring, there’s no room for hesitation. Only take on interviewing the candidates who are a close fit for your needs.
  • Test drive. Take the few top candidates after interviewing (by phone, IM, Skype, however you like) and test them with a small, simple job, then give the best performer the larger, more mission-critical work.

Once you’ve hired the right contractor, managing her is as easy as checking up on an in-house worker.

  • Starter Kit. Give her everything she needs on day one, including email introductions to any collaborators or supervisors, contact info, job specs and other materials, and necessary access to data and systems.
  • Snapshot Reviews. When the contractor is logging hours, desktop snapshots appear in the Work Diary, which lets you see what he or she is working on.
  • Check-ins and milestones. In the office, you stroll around and check in with your staff, right? Do the same remotely: Set deadlines for milestones, and mark your calendar for regular check-ins as the job progresses.

Using remote contractors is different — it’s faster, more flexible and more cost-efficient. But with a little effort, recruiting, hiring and managing a remote team through oDesk is as easy as having them in the next cubicle.

Brian McDonough

Freelance Writer

Brian McDonough has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years, and has managed teams of in-house and freelance writers for newspapers, magazines and web sites.