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21 June  2011 ~

A couple of weeks back, a friend of mine asked if I could recommend a low cost but responsible and proficient resource.  She had read the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris and wanted to begin to implement it.  I thought about it and then asked if she had considered Eance.com?   She was familiar with it but wasn’t real sure how to use it effectively and she asked for my suggestions.

To be upfront, I’ve used elance for a couple of years and have had mixed success with it.   Given my experiences, I shared 5 tips I had learned.

#1 – Understand the motivation of the resource.  While this may sound Machiavellian, it is also very real.  The main reason (or even only reason) resources are on elance is for the money.  I’ve never found (nor expected) any “loyalty” or “connection” to my projects beyond what I paid the person.  While this may not be an absolute, it would be to my friend’s benefit to treat it as one.

#2 – Try to be “beyond” crystal clear in how you lay out your requirements.  Certainly many people offering resources may have MBA’s or a strong corporate work ethic, but many do not.  Plan to provide very strong guidance on what you require otherwise you will not maximize your resource’s opportunity to deliver what you expect (and end up wasting both your time and money)

#3 – You are responsible for whom you choose – Sort of obvious but something that should not be overlooked.  Everyone is going to tell you they can do what you need – your challenge is to interview and find the ones that you feel have the most potential to successfully accomplish your tasks.

#4 – You get what you pay for – While this old cliché isn’t always 100% true, it is close.    While we all would like to pay next to nothing and get work done for us at an MBA level, this is just not practical.  People need money to live.  Expect to pay for the skill set you require.  Also, if you don’t have experience working with outsourced professionals, what may appear to be a cheap price, may not be.  Given time differences, cultural differences and language differences, it may take 2-3 times as long to accomplish a task vs your expectation.  Thus your cheap hourly rate just increased by 2-3x along with your frustration.

#5 – Communication – My thoughts are everything being equal, resources probably prefer to interact passively with you – i.e. communicate with you via sporadic emails.  You shouldn’t be afraid to tell them you want it to establish a more active communication plan – including scheduled calls and/or other communications.

So after listening to my tips, how did my friend’s initial Elance foray turn out?  Here’s what she said…

I want to thank you for turning me on to Elance.  The lady that helped me was fantastic and definitely is going the extra mile (it probably doesn’t hurt that she found my project very interesting) but she was great in being collaborative and making suggestions for improving the process.  She even did the personal touch of thanking each vendor that sent a proposal and also is preparing thank you notes. 

How have your experiences been with elance?  Feel free to share your tips here.

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