Being a small business and getting help for website creation , software development, graphics design, or copywriting from experienced professionals is sometimes a challenge. Most small- business owners do not have the time and energy to go through the often long process of interviewing professionals to find the “right fit” for temporary contract work. A customer of ours called me the other day and asked if we knew anyone who could integrate his website with a Dotnet Nuke portal . I convinced him to look online for qualified professionals to do this work.
The market for qualified online professionals is crowded, but it is easy to find someone . Most of the time, third-world professionals are as qualified as any professional you can hire locally, but you can often use many online services to find a local person if you prefer. We in OfficeClip use online professional help from time to time to complete customized work our clients require. Here are some tips that small-business owners can follow to use the online professional market efficiently.
Write good requirements: Remember that when having an online professional do your work, you do not have the luxury of explaining the requirements piecemeal. A successful project will largely depend on how well you write the requirements. Here are some useful tips:
When requesting a bid, provide enough details for the professional to submit an accurate bid, but there is no need to write all the details at this point.
Wait for the bids to come in and then shortlist them.
Select two or three professionals and give more information about your project (at this point, you may also request a nondisclosure agreement). This should also be your final requirements document for the professional, and you should make sure that nothing is left out.
Find the right medium to work with: There are many online sites that connect the consumers (business owners) with suppliers (professionals). These include the following:
- guru.com: This site connects professionals in different areas, such as graphics, documentation, and programming, with the consumer. This website is somewhat complicated to navigate (especially if you are a new user), but it is an excellent source for many qualified registered professionals. This site’s customer service is not particularly exceptional, so it may take you some time to become familiar with all its features.
rentacoder.com: This site is dedicated to professional programmers. It is very useful when you need a small project completed quickly.
elance.com: This is another well-known site, but we do not have much experience with it.
- Select professionals carefully: Once you receive the bids, it is time to select the right professional. You can shortlist professionals based on various criteria:
- Professional’s feedback for other projects (this is available in the professional’s history)
- Professional’s resume
- Years of experience
- Bid amount
- Ask for a Proof of Concept: Once you have selected two or three professionals, you can ask them to complete a small prototype for you. This work should be simple enough so that the professional can do it without spending much time, and you can get an idea of the professional’s abilities. You can do this before awarding the project, so it should not cost you anything.
Make sure that you have Quality Assurance Capability: Most professionals work part-time, and their goal is to complete the work according to your requirements as quickly as possible so that they can also be paid quickly. Before paying the professional, however, you must be assured that you received quality service, so you must do a quality check. This can be done by you or even another hired professional.
Give good feedback: Just like ebay, professionals working through online contract sites depend very much on feedback to get new work. Unless you are certain that the professional deliberately did a bad job, give them a good feedback score. Giving a good rating will also help you in being able to have future work done easily.
- Out-source but do not Out-task: Be sure to find a professional with whom you can have ongoing relationship and not just someone you will work with only one time. This will save you a lot of time in the future, since the professional will know your specific needs.
- Use an online project tracking system: If you are paying by the hour or by quality of work, a tracking system is especially useful for efficiently tracking time worked, scheduling meetings, and tracking issues. There is a variety of web-based software that can do this for you. OfficeClip offers web-based software designed specifically for this very purpose. For details on how to use OfficeClip, go to: OfficeClip Website
Photo courtesy flickr, Creative Commons License
SK Dutta is a software architect and creator of OfficeClip Suite of products. He loves to design and develop software that makes people do their job better and more fun. He always explores ways to improve productivity for small businesses. He is also an avid reader in many areas, including psychology, productivity, and business.