With experience both as an oDesk freelancer and client, Joshua Warren has a unique perspective on online work.
It all started when the economy took a dive several years ago. He found steady work on oDesk as a freelance web developer earning $15/hour, but in no time he was commanding a rate of $95/hr—and still the demand for his work was more than he could keep up with. As a result, he began hiring other oDesk freelancers to help with overflow work.
Still, the requests kept on coming, and Joshua soon realized he couldn’t get all of this work done by himself. He recalls, “I was just a single freelancer getting absolutely overwhelmed with the amount of work, and realized that I needed help. Instead of looking for someone locally, I wanted to find the absolute best person that could help me no matter where they were in the world.”
So, in 2008 Joshua founded Creatuity, a web development firm specializing in Magento, PHP and WordPress. He explains how he got started: “I found a project, just a personal project that I hadn’t made a lot of progress on and didn’t have a lot of time for. I put it out there as a test project and hired a few different people. That’s actually how I ended up finding someone that I’m still working with to this day.”
Flash forward five years, and Joshua is at the helm of a booming business that currently employs 23 people, 13 of which are remote and deliver all work online. While growing his company, he honed his own best practices for hiring and managing online talent. Below are five of our favorite oDesk success strategies from Joshua.
1. Don’t narrow your talent search by hourly rate—the perfect freelancer might be out there for just a little bit more.
Because getting it done right is usually more important than getting it done cheaply, Joshua advises against narrowing your applicant pool based on hourly rate. He explains that when he first started hiring online, he discovered that “instead of finding the best balance between price and quality, a lot of people were just looking for the best price. I realized that it’s important to get as many candidates as possible by not narrowing down on money upfront and leaving the job requirements open.” This technique has helped Joshua identify a number of talented freelancers who—while a little more expensive—were well worth the investment.
2. Look for candidates who are passionate about what they do and who you’ll personally enjoy working with.
When it comes to evaluating potential hires, Joshua has developed his own formula based on equal parts communication and passion. He explains, “Finding someone I can work well with can be just as important as finding someone with the technical qualifications, so I’ll look to see if they included something about themselves in their application. Did they say something that shows me they’re passionate about what they do, that they are interested in it, that this isn’t just another contract and another few hundred dollars? Is this something that is their craft, that they enjoy doing? Those are the people that stand out to me, and those will usually be the very first ones I’ll invite to interview.”
3. Written communication is a key indicator of overall job performance.
With online work, Joshua has found that there is a strong correlation between written skills and overall performance. This is because the most common way for remote team members to work together is through email or other written messages. For this reason, Joshua explains that “you need someone who isn’t afraid to send you a detailed daily email, and who will also understand you when you reply.” To identify people who can communicate well in writing, Joshua focuses on written abilities instead of verbal abilities in his interviews.
4. Establish and articulate a clear company culture to guide your hiring and management decisions.
Joshua disagrees with the common misconception that you can’t create a company culture with remote workers. So, one day he and his team developed a list of their core values using email and online polls. He explains, “it really surprised everyone we had hired because they’d never seen remote workers treated that way—they were used to being treated as these contractors that you kind of use up on a project and then move onto the next thing.” This experience proved to Joshua that building a company culture with your remote team is not only possible, but also has a strong positive impact on things like team morale and engagement. He explains, “I think it’s helped more with retention than bonuses or raises or anything else really could.”
5. Double your productivity (and gain a killer competitive advantage) by building a network of global freelancers to cover all time zones.
In Joshua’s experience, having a team from many different time zones is smart business strategy. Creatuity is currently running at 18 hours of productivity per 24-hour cycle, and Joshua plans on recruiting in China, Australia, and Japan to get that productivity rate up to 100% of the day. He explains the benefits of having a company that never stops working: “Our clients are amazed because they will bring us something at 5:00 p.m. and they’re thinking ‘Hey, you know, it’s 5:00 p.m. here in Dallas, we’re going home and it’s going to be a little while before I hear back on this.’ We’ll hand it off to someone in Poland, and by the time the client is back in the office at 8:00 a.m. the work is done. The clients are just blown away because they think someone was up all night working on it!”