The Way We Work
July 12, 2012 by Amy Sept

Mark Buskuhl runs a small business in addition to his full-time job. But he didn’t want Snapshot Pod, which offers rentals of a more modern version of the classic photo booth, to look like a side project to potential customers.

“A lot of mom-and-pop businesses look like small mom-and-pop businesses,” he said. “I think the image of your business—the face of your company—is important.”

Buskuhl turned to online professionals to create the business presence he wanted. He hired oDesk contractors for everything from his logo design and website, to the graphics for the actual photo booth, to marketing materials like videos and photos.

Working with contractors from all over the world, Buskuhl was able to “create a professional and high-end face for my business in a very cost-effective way.”

Hiring online helps him focus on what he’s good at

Snapshot Pod “helps create memories” at parties and events in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas of Texas, Buskuhl explained. “We do birthday parties and weddings, but it’s been really popular at corporate events,” he said. “It’s a powerful marketing tool because you can work your branding into it. People don’t throw away photos of themselves.”

When he first started Snapshot Pod, Buskuhl had a concept for the business but no time to build it. oDesk offered a good solution: A way to focus on his own areas of expertise while contracting the rest to other professionals through online work.

“There are people out there who can do things much better than I can!” he observed. “I believe you should focus on what you know and hire other experts for the rest. Hiring out brings better returns for business owners.”

How to start hiring out

Buskuhl said he knew what he needed to do before he could launch Snapshot Pod. “I had a list of tasks and went to oDesk looking for talent who could do them.”

After learning about oDesk through a blog post, Buskuhl said he’s become a huge fan. He still works with some of his original contractors, and says he’s learned a few lessons along the way:

  • Use test jobs as part of the hiring process. “This not only provides a great way to check skills and knowledge,” Buskuhl said. “It also gives both of you a chance to test things out. Does the relationship meet your expectations?”
  • Always act professionally. As with any hiring situation, Buskuhl says that sometimes a working relationship just doesn’t work. “Not every hire will work out, but even if you’re ending the contract you should always act professionally.”
  • Think globally. Buskuhl observes that there can be cultural differences that you should try to be aware of. “Depending on the job, language can also be an issue,” he explained. “That’s one reason why I rely on email; some contractors use translation services. Through email, I can be clearer and more specific.”
  • Find a hiring process that works for you. Buskuhl prefers to contact people directly rather than posting an ad. “oDesk really allows searchers to narrow and identify prospects,” he explained. “I can zoom in on people with very, very specific skills.”
  • Look beyond feedback and ratings. Feedback and ratings provide part of the picture, Buskuhl notes, but not everything. “Limited experience on oDesk isn’t an indication of skill, for example; I’ve had great experience with people who’d worked very limited hours,” he said. “I get a much better sense of people by reviewing their portfolio and examples.”

Learn from bigger businesses

In the end, the most important advice Mark has for other small business owners is to focus on what they’re good at and let go of the rest. “Think about how big companies operate and why,” he suggested. “The delegate. They hire people with specific skills. And that’s what helps them grow.”

How have you used online workers to help your business grow? Leave your experiences in the comments section below.

Amy Sept

Managing Editor and Contractor

As the managing editor of the Upwork blog, Amy Sept works with regular and guest writers to share information that helps freelancers and businesses navigate the future of work. A writer and social media pro, she owns Nimbyist Communications and often works remotely with non-profits, tech companies, and small business owners.