Ever since Tim Ferriss wrote The Four Hour Workweek, the small business owner market has been aware of outsourcing and its benefits. Find a virtual assistant or contractor of just about any flavor and your work life will be easier.
That’s the promise. The reality is a little different. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right person (as in regular employment), and it often takes more management than you expect, especially when the person is working from a remote location. However, I have used several of these services as a business owner and can attest to their value.
If you know you need help in marketing, in technology (think programming) or with administrative issues, but really don’t know how to get help, this review is for you. It is for small business owners that want to find contractors, not employees, who can work locally or remotely to get the job done.
For many jobs, you need a full-time employee, but for some projects and tasks you can get work done faster and more cost-effectively with an independent contractor. Each of these services offers a way to get a job done through a contract, and they often offer 1099 tax services, too. Unless otherwise noted, none of these sites charge a fee to list a job or project opportunity or to look for a freelancer.
Guru.com is one of my favorite outsourcing services, hands down. I’ve been using it for years and still have two great virtual assistants that I use via their service. I find it fast and easy to use. Guru.com handles your 1099 tax service and let you pull reports on who you paid and when.
Elance is another service I’ve used and really like. If you already manage a variety of contractors, their business solutions package is worth a serious look. It is a contractor management tool that lets you automate invoicing and payments.
TaskArmy is well organized. I really like how they organize and showcase their freelancers (via portfolios). Beyond the standard “how it works” type button, they have very specific calls to action for those trying to get their heads wrapped around outsourcing. This is one of the buttons above the fold: “Start with a small task: One of our freelancers will find the contact details of 30 bloggers in your niche for $5.” Great suggestion, and I’m sure lots of business owners give it a try for that small fee.
oDesk is another of the heavy hitters in outsourcing and freelancer communities. The site is easy to navigate and also has robust contractor management tools. As with the others, you can post a job and keep it private to only those you invite to the bidding process.
Rent a Coder is the place to go if you need a tech person. Need that Facebook or iPhone app built? This is the place to post.
TaskRabbit is a terrific concept in the freelance, temporary and outsourcing marketplace. Instead of focusing on remote workers, they focus on local people in your area who will do small and large projects. Need your drycleaning picked up? Or maybe you need a desk built and a computer set up? TaskRabbit vets each person on the service and then matches you with the right person. You post your task; they find someone nearby who can do it. The big downside is TaskRabbit is currently only in six major cities.
Freelancer.com is one of the largest outsourcing marketplaces for small business. The site touts “over 2,753,810 employers and freelancers globally from over 234 countries and regions.”The average job is just $200. From coding to writing, they have a wide range of skill sets available.
ScriptLance is another great outsourcing company if you want to focus on computer programming and need tech help.
It might surprise you to see Craigslist here, but despite some risks in payment (meaning there is no escrow service like most of these Web services), you can still find some great people locally. It is a convenient and easy place for people to look for and receive work. That’s both a positive and a negative.
Amazon Mechanical Turk is a marketplace for work that entails what they call a “human intelligence task.” I’ve used Turk a fair number of times and if you don’t mind managing a lot of details, for simple research or data collection it can’t be beat. If you want to use it and really make it sing, then you have to use Smartsheet. You’ll pay a little premium to use the online project management tool, but it is worth it.
I’ve used it for tasks such as cleaning data, collecting website information and phone numbers, categorizing items, creating and moderating content, or getting relevant feedback, such as product feedback. Feedback Army, which I’ve mentioned in other posts, is built upon Turk. You need to like spreadsheets, though, if you’re going to do it all yourself.
PeoplePerHour.com caught my eye because it is one of the first sites I’ve seen to have a Facebook or LinkedIn login process. Like the other services here, they make it easy to post a job and start receiving bids right away. The average job gets approximately 16 bids.
Tim Ferriss certainly didn’t start the outsourcing trend, but I’m thankful to him for motivating me to go out and find my first virtual assistant. If you’ve been waiting for the right time to try outsourcing, try one of these services and let us know in the comments how it goes.