All Things Upwork

The oDesk team recently traveled down to the thriving startup hub of Austin, Texas, to host both a client user group and a Contractor Appreciation Day (and to have some really great barbecue). We met with an extremely entrepreneurial and passionate group of both clients and contractors, who had some great insights to share about how to build a business on oDesk. Here were the top three highlights:

1. Use all the tools at your disposal to make hiring and managing as successful as possible.

When it comes to hiring, panelist Govind Davis—CEO of MCF Technology Solutions—advised clients to pay attention to information like work history, ratings, and skills test, to filter potential candidates. Clients can then further refine the list and identify the best people by interviewing them through Skype.

As for managing, several clients recommended utilizing oDesk teams and task codes to stay organized. Other suggestions included using a global cloud service such as Amazon Web Services, which can enable faster uploads by allowing contractors to have a local access point instead of needing to access a remote server, and OneLogin, a password management system that can help ensure contractors have the access they need for important sites and services.

2. Have realistic expectations and stay a step ahead.

Jack Miller, CTO at The Good Life, advised businesses not to treat online work as a “magical solution” to staffing issues, as these expectations can result in disappointment. Instead, Jack recommended, “Think about it as an effective way to hire people to quickly. Give yourself time to do it, treat it as a skill, and find good contractors.”

Along the same lines, businesses were advised to stay a step ahead, to avoid getting into a situation where they have a critical project and are unsure if a contractor will deliver. Experienced users recommended that clients develop a trusted relationship with one or two contractors before they have a critical project they need done, to ensure that when crunch time comes, they are ready.

3. Clearly communicate at all stages to build trust and work as partners.

Both clients and contractors reinforced the importance of clear and frequent communication to getting the best possible result. Contractors noted that they are able to do their best work when they are clear on the project’s background, deliverables, and expectations; one contractor even noted that clarity on those topics is a key criteria when selecting which jobs she applies to.

For clients, this means that defining the project and providing as much information as possible will not only result in more qualified candidates, but more successful results. For contractors, the key takeaway was that if the client is having trouble defining requirements,
contributing your expertise to help them think through this process is a win-win for both parties.

Both clients and contractors expressed that long-term relationships are the ideal, and that those relationships cannot develop or exist without trust. For contractors, this means not only delivering consistently high-quality results on time, but also being a trusted partner—working with the client to strategize, over-communicating about deliverables, and even sharing a project management system with the client so they are as informed and involved as possible during the process.

Overall, we had a great time meeting our Texas clients and contractors, and getting a firsthand look into the city’s thriving startup community—a great model for a startup ecosystem that is very tight-knit, where everyone goes the extra mile to help each other. In particular, Capital Factory—the coworking space and accelerator where we held the events—and Conjunctured, a coworking community we visited with, are great examples of how Austin is nurturing its startups.

Most of all, it was extremely valuable to hear users’ perspective on both best practices and areas where oDesk can improve. We are looking forward to hosting similar events in the future!

Do you have any best practices to share about building your business through oDesk? We would love to hear them! Please add them to the comments section below.

Mollie Carter

Director of Freelancer Marketing

As director of freelancer marketing, Mollie Carter brings to Elance-oDesk extensive marketing experience in the Internet and software industry. As a senior manager at PayPal, she was part of the founding team for PayPal’s first telesales organization, helping to build the team to an astounding $50M in annual revenue. While director at PayPal, Mollie led the Merchant Acquisition Marketing and Consumer Engagement Marketing divisions, developing… read more