I’m Michael and I am not typing this - one of my Upwork contractors will be. I’m speaking this out into my handheld voice recorder. An extremely fast typist in the Philippines will type it up. Then, an up and coming copywriter will edit my work, make me sound smarter than I am, and make sure the grammar is all accurate.
From start to finish, it will cost me about US$50. As soon as I upload the file and email it off to my team, I’ll be having lunch. So for about twenty minutes of thoughtful, fun work, you get to read this polished, insightful blog-post. What’s even more surprising is that I probably won’t even proofread this, because I know my team will get it right on the first time.
How do I choose contractors on Upwork?
Hiring people on Upwork can be a massive boost to your productivity if you do it well, but you’ve got to know what you’re doing. You’ve got to be aware of what the hazards and hidden traps are. You need to treat people in a way that is fair to both them and yourself. Doing anything less than those things will hurt you in the long term. With the right attitude and the right skill-set, you can double or triple your productivity and scale your business at a speed you otherwise just couldn’t do.
What tasks can I give away?
The sky is the limit. I’ve used Upwork for transcribing, research work, marketing work, business strategy consulting, video editing, data entry, photo-editing and statistical analysis. I’ll use it when I publish my new book. The work ranges from highly technically skilled work to basic data entry and there is a world of people who are happy to take work off your hands and get it done fast and affordably.
How do I choose the right person for the job?
This is where it gets tricky. You need to put up a very clear, very specific task description of what you need done. Ask pointed questions and require solid answers to those questions from candidates who apply. The biggest tip is to make sure you ask questions that only someone with solid skills would be able to accurately answer well, and all within two or three sentences. Then, interview candidates over Skype so you can see if they are understanding you. You can read people way better face to face (or on Skype) than you can through email or over the phone.
Give them work in small chunks with clear time frames, especially in your early days of working with a contractor. Once you have a contractor you are happy with and whom you are starting to build a relationship with, treat them courteously and considerately. Often they will become a wonderful team member and stick around.
Tips for Communicating
Whenever possible, communicate via video chat — Skype or Google Hangouts. But to the very least, communicate using audio. Do not resort to emails until you have a thorough track record of success with a contractor. Emails take ages to produce and you can easily end up in back and forward exchanges that take up to a week. Some people feel under confident so they hide behind emails, but it means that they never really learn what their contractors are capable of and when their contractors are not up to a task. You need to be personal.
Red Flags— How to avoid disastrous contractors
Some big tips…
Refuse to work with people who will not do a face to face online meeting with you. It’s usually their way of hiding poor language skills or a lack of technology, which is going to impact their work. Avoid people who are just starting out on Upwork because they tend to need a lot of guidance and have often not yet committed to the contractor lifestyle. Avoid anyone who is sending you grammatical errors in their written communication, even if the task you require doesn’t need terrific language skills— it's an indicator that communicating with them is going to be an ongoing struggle.
If you start working with someone who does not deliver things on time or who does not communicate regularly, cut them from your team early. They’re in the honeymoon phase, and if they are not going to be an amazing contractor in the first fortnight you are working with them, imagine their performance when they aren’t trying as hard to impress you.
The ethics of using overseas contractors
There are two lines of thought on the ethics of using contractors from third world (developing) countries. Some people see it as exploitative to pay them significantly less than someone would earn in a western country. The alternative viewpoint is that you are paying them significantly higher wages than they’d receive, if they found a similar job in their own country.
For me: Everyone wins. The employer gets what they need at a very affordable rate, the contractor gets the income they need, and are usually delighted with the rates one is willing to pay.
Because I have time, I end up building relationships with contractors and of start chats by asking about how their wife and kids are doing. After a couple of years, it starts to feel like they're in the office next door. Because I choose to treat people the way I would want to be treated, I believe I’m making a positive contribution to the way the world is operating.
How much do I pay someone on Upwork?
Different tasks warrant different levels of pay. There is a big difference between how much you would pay someone for data entry versus how much you would pay someone to create a marketing strategy for you. Different Upworkers ask for different rates. Remember, the rates they are asking for are very optimistic. You can see from each candidate's profile how much they have charged for similar work in the past. That’s always a great guide for how much the market is currently paying for their skills.
What alternate platforms to Upwork should I consider?
There are so many different platforms you could choose other than Upwork. Fiverr.com is one example and Freelancer.com is another. Many people left the Upwork platform when they increased their fees about a year ago. Upwork used to take 10% of what you pay, but then increased it to 20% for the first few hundred dollars for each client.
As you can tell, I am still using Upwork. As my profile on Upwork is full of feedback from people who have worked for me, who give me ratings that are phenomenally high, it became easy for me to find quality contractors at reasonable prices. If Upwork ever closed down, it would take me less than hour to set myself up on a different platform. Don’t be attached to the platform. The strategies and techniques to find the right people wil always apply.
My biggest tips on Upwork
Hire fast and fire fast. I usually hire two or three people, give them a test case and stick with the right candidate according to the quality of work. It means I’m ending up with the best people. You need feel no further obligation to people who are not performing. When you put a job on Upwork, choose a candidate who has responded in the first six hours. It tells you that they are fast communicators, they work in a timezone that will work for you, and they are likely to be quick to reply.
How you treat your contractors will come back to you. I would almost walk on hot coals for any of my long term contractors. They have helped me out many times with difficult projects at short notice. I really value that, because I view them as people, not robots. These people would go above and beyond for me because in the past I have always treated them with courtesy and respect.
About Michael Clark
Michael Clark is the founder of About to Fly, and specializes in helping business owners get greater profits while minimizing their time in the office. He believes that businesses should serve their owners, instead of owners being slaves to their businesses.