Why I’m drinking the oDesk outsourcing Kool-Aid

The promise of outsourcing has been with us for well over a decade, but for smaller startups and sites, outsourcing has never been an easy field to play in.

I know startups here in Australia that use outsourcing for development very well. Even there though, there’s a ton of leg work, and some serious money changing hands to get it right. For the rest of us it has been pot luck, and over several years I’ve had the same experience, some jobs working out sort of ok, but the majority ending poorly.

oDesk has been around for several years, but I’ve only used it on occasion. Recently though I decided to give it another shot, particularly since as The Inquisitr has grown (and by extension, been noticed) my workload has increased. Long gone are the days I can spend dealing with email or code. I still do both now (and the last site refresh here was my way of taking two days off) but I needed help.

About a month ago I hired two people. One was a virtual assistant (VA) from the Philippines, the other an iPhone developer from China. Both have been brilliant. Melanie, my VA sends me a spreadsheet of my inbox every morning, and I fill in a column with responses. That doesn’t mean that I necessarily get to every email (and after being away for 5 days, my “follow up” folder is way too full), but it means that 85% of all emails are actioned before I get to them. I’ve recently started to get her to reply as well (before that it was archive, follow up, forward etc…) It doesn’t relieve me of email, but it certainly makes it far easier every day. She also does research work for me, so if you see a list post under my name, she’s done the base work.

Our iPhone application designer was brilliant. We had a range of application for a job, but he was the only one who promised to do it in a week. I was skeptical, but he delivered. The only delay was my slackness is working through the tweaks.

Just last week I’ve hired a second assistant in the Philippines who is primarily doing our syndicated content. If you don’t read this site much, we have deals with two outlets on syndicated content (into celebrity and US News primarily) similar to a newspaper site, and it’s copy and paste, add a photo, tag, category and publish work. I found half my days were spent doing this, but now I have someone to do it for me. It’s not perfect, for example I sent her an article yesterday while I was at an airport that was unfairly negative towards Mormons (sorry Louis), but she does all the grunt stuff for me, and it makes life that much easier.

I’ve had some bad experiences though, for example trying to get someone to deal with our server has failed three times running. But that aside, the experience is positive. It seems to me that the best use of outsourcing is when you know what the problem is and you can define the answer before you start, as opposed to asking someone to look themselves.

There’s a very strong internet marketing meme around at the moment around outsourcing. They want you to spend to know how to, and having not seen the content I can’t judge fairly. But what I do know is that there are opportunities out there, more importantly affordable opportunities out there to get stuff done through outsourcing. I’m not even remotely considering all our work in that direction, but if you have basic work you need help with, you’d be surprised by how well it can work.

I should note though as to why oDesk (and they’re not paying me for this, let alone contacted me on this post), but what I’ve found with oDesk is both a depth of available help, and a mostly honest rating system. The quality is better, as is the consideration/ review process.