Outsourcing with oDesk - a review

Outsourcing is the capacity of businesses to contract out their projects, with exchange of services and payments. It has now become a trend in the world of businesses which indeed has been very useful to both contractors and employers because of the greater income it offers.

Outsourcing works when one company signs a contract with the other, usually from one country to another to render services that are frequently done by in-house employees. It is practiced mostly by large companies such as the call centers, and has now extended to websites, in which oDesk.com is one.

oDesk.com is a site that offers a podium for contractors and buyers to negotiate with each other. It is made for the purpose of allowing buyers/employers to outsource the projects of their businesses, with a payment in return.

oDesk review
Figure 1: oDesk Homepage
Becoming a member in oDesk is very simple. Either you are an employer or a contractor, the very first thing to do is to sign up for a free account in oDesk. Once you become a member, you have to personalize your profile, having with it your picture, your company’s work history if you are an employer and resume for contractors.

There is a uniform display for the site’s page for the employers and contractors. What differs is how you sign up as a member. Once you sign up as a contractor, you can never post job for it is the primary tasks of employers. On the other hand, if you sign up as an employer, you cannot apply for jobs but only post jobs and do tasks of employers.
oDesk user profile
Figure 2: workers profile with rate, history and feedback

oDesk Freelancers/Workers

There are various types of jobs posted in oDesk which are divided into categories- Web Development, Writing and Translation, Customer Service, Software Development, Administrative Support, Sales and Programming, Networking and Information Systems, Design and Multimedia, and Business Services. These 9 categories are then divided into subcategories which make it easier for job finders/freelancers to search for a specific job which they think their skills fit into (Figure 3).
job categories
Figure 3: Job Categories
Jobs posted are classified into hourly or fixed priced. Hourly jobs pay you in every hour that you have worked in a project, basing on the approved rate per hour. On the other hand, fixed-priced jobs refer to tasks where the pay you will receive as a worker depends on the approved bid rate, regardless of how much time you used on finishing a certain task. It is a convenience for those who have a long-term contract with their employers, with others who sometimes give a bonus for tasks being finished ahead of time. However, the situation depends upon your agreement, and working for a fixed-priced job does not guarantee you of a pay as compared with the hourly basis.

Once you get hired with an hourly job, you are required to track your time using the oDesk Teamroom under the group/company name to which you are hired. This teamroom serves as your virtual office, where you can see who your teammates are, check whether they are working or not on that specific time, and even have a conversation with them through chatting. For further learning, a picture (Figure 4) of a teamroom is given below with respective labels.
team room on odesk.com
Figure 4: Sample screenshot when you log-in with the teamroom
team room on odesk.com
Figure 5: Screenshot of a teamroom with labels
Also, through your teamroom, your works are recorded with screenshots-each composed of your 10-minute work. Your screenshots can be seen in the Work Diary section, with the activity level on the side of the shot, indicated by a green color. This is rated from 1 to 10, depending on the number of mouse clicks and keyboard taps that you have done. Under the activity level is a circle which indicates your status, your memo at the top, and your active window note just below it (refer to Figure 6). Once your weekly limit is consumed and you still continue your works with a screenshot, its connection indicator appears in a red color with the activity level still green. You can also add offline, indicated with a yellow color in case your teamroom does not function well for that certain time. For times that you do not work, your display will appear in gray color. Also, option for deleting your screenshots is there, which in turn lessens your time of 10 minutes per deleted shot (Figure 6).
team room on odesk.com
Figure 6: Sample screenshot with its parts
team room on odesk.com
Figure 7: Work Diary section showing different work status
As with the payment, either for a fixed-priced or for an hourly job, a summary of your daily work can be seen in your Timelogs under the Reports section. This section shows how many hours you have worked in each day, with the details of what you have done that day.
In case your employer wants you to return their payment to you, you can send it through the “Give Refund” option under the Contracts section.
At the end of the week, you will receive a notification of your weekly timelog which entails your overall work and income for the whole week. This weekly timelog summary can also be seen. You can withdraw then the amount of your income on the specific schedule given by oDesk.

oDesk Job Poster/Manager

oDesk allows employers to post jobs in the site and search for potential workers of the jobs they have posted. And when posting a job, it is important to take note of every process that it requires since it is not easy to do so if you’re still not familiar with it.

*Posting a Job

As mentioned, jobs are divided into 9 categories, each with different subcategories that’s why it is important to think first of who your targets are and what you really need to post your job appropriately. Posting your jobs in the right categories and subcategories gives you an easy way of finding potential contractors.

Upon posting a job, you are given the option to post it in the General Marketplace, or in the Group which is composed of classified members. After that, you are to choose your category as well as your subcategory, which is said as a very important part of posting since it is what determines of getting your audience.

Your job post should have its Title, followed by the job description that is limited only to 10,000 characters, with details of the skills you require for a contractor. Remember; no contact information should be requested in the post. It is also important to choose whether your job is a fixed-priced or an hourly rate with an estimated end date and budget, and duration and workload respectively. Either of the two, you will be charged by oDesk with a 10% rate from which they get their money.

For any applications sent by potential contractors, a notification will be sent to you together with their cover letters, right after they have clicked on the submit button.
job posting examples
Figure 8: Example of a Job Post

*Interviewing

After reviewing all of the applications you have with you, you can then choose potential contractors and even send them invitations. It is now then that you can request for any of their contact information (Yahoomail, Gmail, Skype, etc.), and ask them for any sample of work related to your job post to see if they will really work out on your job. You can also hold interviews via the message center of oDesk.

*Hiring

When you have come to choose the best employers based on your interviews, hiring even just one of them follows. To hire, just go back to your Job Postings and follow the steps until you reach the “Confirm Hire” option.

Being the manager of the project, it is your duty to check on your contractor. When your contractor is hired for a fixed-priced, checking up on them through mails and conversations is a great way to follow-up any improvements of your job. As with the hourly rate, work is very simple since your contractors will be having a screenshot of their works in which you can check what they are doing.

There are times that contractors encounter some problems with the teamroom and cannot track their time while working, which gives them the option to add offline. But, there are also other contractors that are so wise, who adds offline without doing their jobs well. For this case, you as an employer can request your contractor to delete their work diary, and if it cannot be done because it already reached the timelog, you can file a dispute and ask them to return to you the amount they have taken without working.

*Ending the Contract

Once the job is completed, through communication with your contractors, you can either continue or end the contract for good, or to start up with another one.

Ending a contract with your contractors is easy. And upon ending, you are to give feedback rated from 1 to 5, with 5 as the highest. Giving high-rated feedbacks is a good way of getting workers for your soon-to-be job postings.

odesk review video
Figure 9: oDesk learning center for new contractors and employers to learn more

oDesk Outsourcing Pros and Cons

The good thing with oDesk outsourcing is that, you are assured of having payment equivalent to what you have finished. A lot of freelancers have become victims of employers who promised to pay after doing the job but then left after receiving the output of the project. However, the case is applicable only to hourly jobs that’s why some contractors hesitate to work on a fixed-priced job, and sometimes ask initial payments from their employers.

Another good thing with oDesk outsourcing is the way it reveals each employer and contractor’s capacity. This is done through the tests offered by oDesk which assesses the abilities, skills, and work habits of each one. Information on a specific company or person is also provided through a work history or resume respectively. On the contrary, new contractors have lesser chances off grabbing work opportunities since contractors are being searched based on the number of contracts being done, as well as the total number of hours that they have worked. The system is also prone to abuse by a lot of contractors who are adding offline without any works performed.

Furthermore, oDesk outsourcing is considered by a lot of companies because of the minimum wage law that they have which is an advantage for both parties (employers and contractors). The law states that the rate that should be paid per hour should not be lower than 3USD. But again, this hourly wage rate rule is applicable only for job postings. Meaning, when a project is started already, employers can control the wages they set for their employers. This hourly wage rate rule has been an issue and said to be just an “attention catcher” for contractors. With all the cited benefits and flaws form oDesk outsourcing, still it is considered as a good site for people who want to outsource their projects, as well as a source of income for job seekers. And though the site gets a 10% commission, their services are however rendered with a free membership, which is just fairly enough to be considered.

Job Worth

It has been known already that job posts are divided into categories, which are then divided into subcategories. These jobs have different rates, depending on its level of difficulty. Under Writing and Translation, some employers offer these jobs as a fixed-priced and there are also some who offer it in an hourly rate. If it is in a fixed-priced, wage amount depends on the employers’ view, on how they assess the level of difficulty of their projects. But when it is in an hourly basis, wage rate ranges from 5USD to 10USD per hour.

As with the SEO Optimization, jobs under it require a lot of time but are not as tedious as with the Writing and Translation. Rates of the jobs in this section range from 3USD to 7USD.

php/html-programmer requires both time and effort- time in doing it and the effort of studying and learning how a certain program will work. Because of its level of difficulty which is considered as really hard, its wage rate ranges from 10USD to 20USD per hour.

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