In this post, I hope to convince you that online freelancing sites can help you grow your business. To that end, I'll be sharing five ways that sites like Odesk.com have enabled me to better serve my clients and create additional revenue streams.
For starters, you can find inexpensive contractors to complete small projects that you have no time or inclination to do yourself. For example, I gave a TEDx talk last year and want to turn it into an eBook. I used the steps that I will outline in my next post to connect with a professional transcriptionist. Total cost? $15.77. I was able to focus on billable work, and the transcription gave me a good start on a piece of flagship content.
At times oDesk has also served to remove bottlenecks. One of my clients needed to compile old student records into an alumni database for a fundraising campaign. No one wanted to take responsibility for what promised to be a long, tedious process. I made a public posting on oDesk, and received dozens of applicants within a matter of hours. The applicant whom I hired turned out to be a very thorough and responsive data entry specialist, and with only $54.69 out of pocket, which my client reimbursed, I was able to keep the campaign moving forward.
What about projects with modest budgets? Get thee to oDesk—or freelancer, or elance, or guru.com. I wanted to help my dad put up a website for the insurance agency that he has owned for over thirty years. He's not the most tech-savvy fish in the pond, and he really didn't want to spend much money. After I convinced him that an established web presence would make the agency more marketable and valuable when he gets ready to sell it, he agreed to set aside $1000.
We registered a domain, found a designer to create a custom theme, and then handed off the layered .psd files to a WordPress developer. I wrote content for the site—he's my dad, after all—and the total cost of the project was less than $500. The finished product won't be winning any design awards, but it will serve him well until he's ready to budget for a really attractive website.
I have also used oDesk to expand my network of talented creative professionals. Have you ever been asked by a client to provide a service that you yourself don't provide? Most of the time you can bring a strategic partner on board—your accountant, go-to designer, Photoshop ninja, or ExpressionEngine junkie. But what if you can't find a good fit? What if a client needs someone to fix a particularly onerous e-commerce bug or project requiring highly specialized knowledge and you simply don't have anyone on your shortlist who can tackle the problem?
Enter oDesk. Back in January, I wanted to create an iPhone app, and the only local iOS developer I knew had a full-time job and limited availability on nights and weekends. My project would have been dead in the water if I hadn't known to look on oDesk. I was able to connect with a talented senior developer who charged me 40% of what I would have paid the local guy. He also made my project one of his top priorities.
The money I saved on that project brings up another interesting point: I've had to put skunkworks projects on the shelf in the past because I couldn't justify spending money on them. I simply could not have afforded to create my first app if I'd had to pay 250% of what the project ended up costing. The project total was still a stretch at the time, yet I'm glad I went through with it. That app has now paid for itself and generates anywhere from $1000-$1500 a month in revenue.
Online freelancing sites open up a lot of possibilities. oDesk didn't just make Mustache Bash more affordable; it made my app possible.
I should mention that my developer wasn't just less inexpensive. He was better. Hiring local doesn't always guarantee a better outcome. Freelancing sites aren't simply silos of cheap, unskilled labor. In fact, smart, talented, and responsive professionals from all over the world look for new business on oDesk, and your next hire on oDesk could very well become your competitive advantage (or your next business partner).
Whether you want to delegate a small, and perhaps boring, task, remove a bottleneck on a time-sensitive project, work within a modest budget, expand your network, or make a skunkworks project a reality, sites like oDesk can help you meet your clients' needs, expands your offerings, and grow your business a lot faster than you could otherwise.
My next post will show you step-by-step how to make a confident hire.