As mentioned earlier, I needed an extra hand to help me with some of the customer support & website maintenance work. My first reaction was to take help from friends. But very few of my friends are familiar with the kind of systems I use, plus they were busy with married life, work etc.
So naturally I started looking cheap ways to outsource some of the non-critical work. Once I started looking for freelance workers, odesk became an obvious choice.
How I went about finding a freelancer on oDesk:
In September last year, I started my hunt for a virtual assistant, by posting an Ad in oDesk.
Step 1: Post an Ad for my requirement in oDesk
This was simple. I briefly explained my needs and posted an advertisement in oDesk.
Since my company is not a big company, I received only a few applications.
Step 2: Interview the candidate(s)
Out of all the applications I received, I found one person quite eligible. He is also from a near by city where I live. So I scheduled a telephonic interview with him. The interview revolved around these themes,
- I explained my company & my philosophy towards customers
- I asked him about his previous experience
- I asked how familiar he is with gmail & Excel, two tools that he would be using if hired
- I tested his spoken and written English skills.
I found the answers satisfactory. So I went ahead and hired him for a pilot assignment.
Step 3: Review of the pilot work
I found out that despite a minor mistake, the person I hired (we will call him my VA – virtual assistant from now) was quite productive and efficient.
So I told him that I will be needing his help once in a while, when I have too much on my pate.
Step 4: Look for opportunities to outsource work
Like every entrepreneur, I too am protective about my work. So it was difficult outsourcing parts of it. But I rationalized that,
- By outsourcing non-critical, repetitive parts of my business, I could focus more on product development, launches, marketing, content creation, idea generation, collaboration and other interesting stuff.
So I started to assign work for him (roughly 2-3 hours per week, often more).
What I quickly found out is that, he is quite responsive, helpful and learns very quickly.
After 4 months, What are my thoughts about oDesk
- It took me a while to figure out how oDesk web site works. But after first 2 assignments, I could quickly find the right pages to assign work, review it etc.
- The oDesk people are quite nice too. For eg. when you join oDesk as an employer, you will be asked to confirm your credit card number. First they will charge your card twice with 2 small random amounts. Then you must confirm the amounts by looking at your statement. Usually for Indian cards, this step takes a while. So I was waiting for my card statement. But I was pleasantly surprised when I got an email that said my card is confirmed by one of their employees manually. Great business move by oDesk (they dont want customers to wait…)
- The payments are automatic. Every week oDesk would send me an email about the charges for work done in previous week. I could login and verify the timesheets if I want to. They will automatically charge my card on next Monday. So no hassle for me.
- You need to be very clear: Whenever I assign some work to my VA, I found that I have to be very specific & clear about it. Otherwise, he would take more time than usual.
How much should you pay for a Virtual Assistant?
Based on my research, I think an hourly rate of $3-$10 is appropriate for a Virtual Assistant. For this kind of pay, you can expect to get the following types of work done,
- Sending, processing, following up with emails
- Doing simple text editing, HTML editing
- Web search, Google based research work
- Basic Photoshop work like resizing images, cropping etc.
- Creation of word, excel or PDF files
- Using a relatively simple website / software to add users / invoices etc.
Have you hired any Freelancer? What is your experience?
If you have ever worked with freelance workers, share your thoughts and ideas below. Also, feel free to share your views on oDesk. Please leave a comment.
Disclaimer: If you click on oDesk links in this post & join them as a employer or employee, I will receive a small commission. I recommend oDesk because they are an awesome way to hire help.