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Short answer: Hire a freelancer from oDesk and start a beautiful relationship.

A struggle for many aspiring online store owners is their ability to put into action much of the wonderful marketing advice available online. It’s all good and well to be told you ought to setup a blog, or get involved with Twitter or even start integrating the best back linking strategy. All good advice but next to useless for eCommerce Beginners who generally don’t have the technical skills, time or inclination to first learn and then complete this work.

Sometimes you might need an extra bit of help to achieve something technical in your store. Whatever it is, you’ll obviously need to turn to someone more technically minded than you!

The usual option is to hire a local web developer, social media expert, graphic designer who knows a bit, or your nephew who has newly minted knowledge. These options range from expensive to stressful. Hiring a local web developer is great if you are able to manage your money to ensure a tangible return. I am more dubious about all the other options, especially leaning on family to achieve what you need.

As I’ve mentioned earlier the web development market is getting commoditised so you do have a chance of finding an inexpensive web developer but again you still need to manage the money spend very carefully and be clear about the project objectives. Just the thought of going through this process makes some people weep and tremble. Too much effort! Arrrrrgh!

Unless you’ve been living in a tunnel you will have heard about outsourcing. There are good and bad stories, as with everything.

oDesk.com is one of the largest, online, outsourcing networks and is essentially a huge catalogue of workers with their skills, experience and past work history on display. It’s like a giant recruitment platform. It’s a fantastic resource for instantly connecting with good people who can help you. (oDesk originally built the outsourcing system for themselves, so it is tried and tested well.)

oDesk Home Page

There are many other similar recruitment platforms to oDesk such as Freelancer.com, Elance.com and Guru.com, but I like oDesk best because it has a novel way of creating a trusting relationship between you and your contracted worker.

You see, oDesk takes a snapshot every couple of minutes of the worker’s computer as they work on your project. You can see what they are working on while they’re billing you for their time. So, if they’re messing around on Facebook and your task had nothing to do with social media development then you can dispute their work and not pay.

The other recruitment platforms don’t offer this same transparency. I like transparency. It helps to create a trusting relationship.

You can either pay a worker by the hour, which you both agree upon. Or pay a lump sum for a single project. Most workers prefer an hourly rate as this means they get paid for the project as they go along. I prefer to pay by the hour. I set a maximum time limit per week, which is generally for the total agreed amount. I can stop the contract at any time, so I still have control. The most the worker can bill me for is the maximum time limit that I’ve set.

Whilst paying a single payment for the project might seem tidier and more attractive initially I don’t think you end up building a good quality relationship. The worker naturally concentrates more on limiting his or her time to the contracted amount, rather than focusing on the quality of the job, and requesting more hours and money, if that’s what the project requires. If you choose a worker with integrity you’ll have no problem with agreeing to their hourly rate. Good workers want to retain your trust and business so it’s in their best interests to do a good job, not a cheap job, and that’s what you want as well.

Although, admittedly, I haven’t used Elance or Guru for a year or so I have always found oDesk to have better quality freelancers. Less time wasters. More people who actually want to create a good quality working relationship. Less beginners. More information in their profiles.

Each worker creates a comprehensive profile on the oDesk website. You can browse all the available worker profiles for free, without an account of your own. Sometimes, if you’re very clever, you’ll be able to find a worker’s email listed in their portfolio in order to contact them directly. oDesk charges 10% of the project cost to effectively reveal the worker’s contact details.(You don’t pay unless you go ahead with the contract.)

Contacting the worker directly, bypassing oDesk, will save you 10% off the project cost, but you need to ask yourself whether that 10% is really worth the extra risk and hassle.

By working within the oDesk system you have the advantage of seeing snapshots of the worker’s screen so you can check that they’re actually doing what they said they’d do. oDesk also measures the CPU activity of their computer. This means that oDesk records and measures whether the worker is sitting there staring blankly at a screen, or whether they’re tapping away on the keyboard and moving the mouse. The extra 10% is your Nanny, watching over the worker.

By working within the oDesk system you also get the advantage of using their payment system, and controlling how much is paid and when. Paying someone in Belarus can be problematic as their banking system doesn’t operate the same way as other countries. You have to make an international transfer, through an intermediary bank and it can take up to 3 weeks to arrive. So oDesk’s extra 10% service fee allows you to easily pay your worker via credit card, with no hassle.

oDesk stores your credit card in a totally secure environment. This means that your web worker doesn’t have access to your credit card or bank account information. oDesk’s 10% fee allows you to relax about your credit card being online.

So, to summarise:

  • Sometimes you need extra help for technical tasks you can’t do yourself. You can find workers online to help you.
  • I like oDesk.com. You can find good quality helpers and web workers.
  • oDesk charge 10% of the project cost, which I happily pay in return for snapshots of the worker’s computer activity and secure easy payment processing.
  • You can trust oDesk with your credit card. Just set your weekly limit to whatever you want, even down to 1 hour per week.



Katrina
Author

I'm Katrina McKinnon, creator of eCommerce University, founder of McKinnon Group and Small Revolution. I'm using my 20 years' experience in building and operating online businesses to create engaging educational materials that helps others become successful online workers. Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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