Ventures in Outsourcing

Written by Joey Daoud

On October 15, 2008

Practicing what I’m documenting, I’ve hired my first freelancer and outsourced a tedious task that’s been a huge time suck – transcribing the documentary footage.

I had briefly done some browsing on Elance for transcription services and it all seemed pretty prohibitive – about $15-$25 an hour, which for 20 hours and counting gets pretty pricey.

I made it through 3 hours of transcribing before the carpal tunnel set in and I gave Elance another look. This time instead of searching for someone I posted my job.

Filling out the job post was like any other eBay/Craiglist posting. I wrote as detailed a description I could think of, set my price range, how long I wanted the post to be up and some other details, and then set it free.

Within an hour I got a bid. Elance makes it easy to communicate through their site, either through their secure message board which offers a little more legitimacy than email, or chat.

You can also rate the bids and write notes for yourself. Overall a very nice interface.

Within 24 hours I had 7 bids ranging from $100 to about $700 (funny becase my price range was $50-$500). Of course I’m always weary about super low bids, but this was partly an experiment so I awarded Mr. $100 bid the job.

I’m using Elance’s Escrow service, so they’ve taken the money and are holding it until the job is complete.

So right now as I type, someone in some part of the world is transcribing David Allen or Tim Ferriss.

We’ll see if the $100 was worth the time and effort I saved.

Anyone have any Elance stories or tips for outsourcing?

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3 Comments

  1. Mwangi

    1 SPEAK TO FOLKS WITH EXPERIENCE
    Before outsourcing, make sure you talk to people who have used a particular site and ask them for guidance because every freelance site has its quirks.
    For example: Rentacoder is one of the cheaper (if not the cheapest) site to get most of the major stuff done – copywriting and e-book writing for $250 or less and setting up a WordPress blog for $10.
    BUT in order for you to get someone to do the job cheaply, you’ll probably need someone whose been on the site before and knows how to get stuff done cheap.
    I got my WordPress site uploaded, minus plugins for $50 and it took a day and a half.
    A friend of mine got advice from someone who’d done it before and got more done for $10 in 2 hours.

    2 NEVER EVER EVER OUTSOURCE TASKS THAT WILL TAKE MORE THAN 3 DAYS….UNLESS YOU TRUST THE CONTRACTOR

    This one I have learned the cold hard way. First of all, I went online to get 6 podcasts transcribed on rentacoder. I thought I had “a steal” when someone agreed to do it for $50….how wrong I was. It took them 4 months to send the first drafts for me to have a look at and review (mind you I had to do the proofreading)
    The second job was to conduct some Google adwords testing on my site and compile all that on my site. It was quite simple, test ads on different positions, see which one does best, put it in a report and send it to me.
    We started about 4 months back, he still hasn’t finished the job.
    Divide projects into 3 days or less projects. The first project I gave him was to figure out how to install the split testing software and record that in 3 days, I still have that document.
    I would then pay for it piece by piece by piece until I trust the coder and can leave him alone…….

    3 PROCESS MAP AND HAVE MANUALS FOR EVERYTHING
    This one I am learning now the hard way. I am currently hiring a full time webmaster and have had to change webmasters 3 times already because their work ethic didn’t gel with mine.
    Always having to mine through old Google chats and emails and then reordering them is a waste of time.
    Record jing videos, use dia to create process maps, write a simple word/open office/google docs document where you outline what needs to be done where it falls within the overall vision so that anytime a new staff member comes in they can easily catch up to speed.

    4 DOWNLOAD JING
    http://www.jingproject.com. Its free and it makes screen capture with audio narration easy. Want to explain exactly what you want your site to look like, use jing.
    Want to send a screenshot with some notes of what you want removed, use jing.
    5 PEOPLE ARE FICKLE, ONLY DEAL WITH SHORT PROJECTS ON FREELANCE SITES
    I also learned this when I signed on to be an article writer for a client. Still hasn’t paid me five months later because of constant delays (also on my part, so not entirely her fault) in the project.
    6 KNOW WHAT FREELANCE SITE DOES WHAT BEST

    You can’t go past Elance if you want copywriting done. However for technical/web master/web devleoper type of things, you can get the same quality of service probably cheaper from rentacoder.com and getafreelancer.com for a much cheaper price than Elance and Guru.

    7 IF YOU HAVE EVEN A SMALL BIT OF CASH FLOW, BE QUICK TO FIRE AND SLOW TO HIRE
    If you are earning more than $5 an hour, then be quick to fire and slow to hire. There are hundreds of contractors all over the world who can work for you so make sure you look for great quality people who gel with your work ethic.
    Believe it or not you can get full time webmasters, customer service people, vas for less than $5 an hour and there are plenty of them all over the world so don’t feel constrained by the VA whose showing you attitude. Respectfully show him the boot and move on to someone who wants to work for you as much as you want them to work for you.

    Hope these tips help.

    Reply
  2. dan

    Elance has been great for me, although you do certainly run into some rough patches from time to time. I’ve found some awesome people on there that I still use for many different jobs and I’m very happy with them. I think elance is a good place to test a lot of providers, find one you’re happy with, and then work on a more long term arrangement.

    But for your project I would recommend checking out mturk.com…I know there are a lot of people that have podcasts transcribed using Mturk. You should check it out.

    Reply
  3. Joey

    Thanks Dan. I’ve never heard of Mturk. I’m checking it out now. Amazon…I’m even more intrigued.

    Reply

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