A Chronicle of My Odesk Experiences | The Great, The Good, The Horrible

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Lately I’ve been doing some reading about small business.  From the reading I’ve been doing, I liken outsourcing to a bee hive.  Outsourcing is the hive, and the bees are everyone who is writing about and talking about its importance.

Now, I’ve got some general reservations about outsourcing that I want to mention, and then I’ll get into my Odesk review.

General Outsourcing Observations:

  1. No one can do it as good as you.  This, of course, is not true; but sometimes it sure feels like it.  Incentive is the key for any business.  What incentives do workers have for performing their best?  The reality is that when you outsource, someone will be doing the job who isn’t as passionate about it as you.
  2. It takes a lot of time to manage others.  There is no such thing as the ‘set-it-and-go’ mentality.  Managing those who manage your task is like a cowboy herding cattle.  You spend most of your time making sure everyone is pointed in the right direction.  That’s if everything goes right.  If things go wrong, then you’ll need to commit even more time to cleaning up the mess.

Still, despite my reservations, I’ve dabbled with outsourcing certain parts of my business because it takes a lot of time to run a business, work full time, and raise a family.

Odesk Review: What is Odesk?

Odesk Review Odesk is a website that connects freelancers and contractors.  If you own a small business and you need to hire some extra help, then you might consider checking it out.

Need a graphic designer?  A software developer?  A virtual assistant?  Anything?

You can get on Odesk and post a job.  Within a few hours, you’ll have applications from individuals all around the world.

Each applicant submits her rates, and you determine who you want to hire.

You sign up with a credit card, and they takes care of all the payments to your freelancer. You get access to their time logs, and you can even view screen shots to be sure they are making the right progress.

Odesk Feedback | The Horrible

My very first experience was an absolute catastrophe.

Dear Odesk,

It’s not you, it’s me.



Since I live in a place where internet is slow and temperamental (which makes me go mental), I decided not to do my own landing page for The Secret to a Successful Budget.  I wanted to give my time to writing and not learning the skills needed to design a landing page.  My first thought?  You got it: outsource.

At that point, I contacted a few people in my network, and the quotes were more than I wanted to spend.

I’d heard about Odesk and decided to try hiring someone using their site.

I found the sign up process very simple and posting my job took no time at all.

Within an hour, I probably had 15 applications from 10 different countries.

WOW.  I was overwhelmed by the response and had to decide how to weed through all these applicants. There in, I made my mistake.  I assumed (falsely) that those who applied read the requirements, understood the requirements, and were qualified to complete the job.

I basically just sent an interview question that said, “Can you do it in 5 days?”

What went wrong

Essentially, the person I hired to do the job didn’t know what he was doing.  He took forever to do the work, and in the end, he missed the deadline.  That meant that I was up from 1 a.m. – 5 a.m. the night before I released the book trying to get a presentable landing page.  The worst part is that I did figure out how to do everything I wanted in 4 hours.  I paid someone else for 12 hours worth of work who supposedly was qualified.

Lessons I learned from my first Odesk Experience

  1. Be the boss.  I should not have accepted a person’s statement about qualification without confirming it.
  2. I entrusted important work to a stranger.
  3. Sometimes there is a reason why someone charges more.

Odesk Redemption | The Good

When I hired the person to do my landing page, I also hired someone to do banner ad graphics.  For about $30, I got some really great widgets and banner ads.  I was impressed with the work and impressed with the price.

Below is a sample of some of the headers presented for www.helpmetravelcheap.com.  I ended up using the one you see on that blog.  The total header cost was about $20.

HTC Header

HTC Header BNE and Picutres

The ads I had made for The Secret to a Successful Budget cost me about $30.  That was for 125*125, 250*300, 468*60 (with two types each).  I have included a sample below:

250x250hand 250x250book

Odesk Shines | The Great

When I started another website I needed a banner ad, and I hired a guy who had some great sample images.  I hired him to do one banner, but I ended having him do two banners and a logo.  I think I paid something like $3.50 per hour.

Final Odesk Review and Reflection

In the end, it is nothing more than a portal or network to connect you with freelancers.  As such, I can recommend it and caution you at the same time.  Your experience depends 100% on who you hire.  In my experiences, they have made sure the payments happened, allowed me to track the work – everything.  But, you need to sure you hire the right person.

If you are a freelancer and want to publish your services or a person looking for someone to hire, then you should check out Odesk.

Anyone else used Odesk?  How was your experience?


  1. says

    Hi Craig!

    Thanks for writing this. It was so valuable to hear a review of Odesk from the buyer’s side.

    My first thought was to tell you, next time, go with Elance. I won’t get into it here, but Elance is just better than oDesk, all the way around, in my humble opinion.

    My second thought was in response to: “What incentives do workers have for performing their best?”

    While I would never suggest that non-Christian freelancers don’t do good work — that would make me a huge jerk — I will suggest that some of us go at our freelance work as if we were doing if for Jesus, and really do give our best. I go at every job with absolutely 100%, and on the few times that I haven’t, due to a short timeline or sheer exhaustion, I tell you that I was haunted by it at least as much as my client was.

    I agree with everything you said. You don’t know if a stranger truly has the education or experience that he or she claims to have, but you might consider seeking out Jesus-loving freelancers. I would hope, in nearly all cases, that these folks would be honest and do their best by default.

    Thanks again for this post, and I’m sorry you’ve had bad experiences — I’ve been there! Try Elance, trust me. And yes, you do get what you pay for. Experience and expertise are rarely cheap. :)

    ~ Robin

  2. says

    Craig, I agree completely, it’s all about who you hire. I’ve used both Odesk and Elance a few times and the key is either to get a good referral from someone or spend some extra effort interviewing. When i’ve properly vetted candidates they’ve worked out great.

    Speaking of which, I’d love to find out who you used for your graphics and design work (mind emailing me if you don’t mind sharing)?


  3. says

    Craig, thank you for sharing to us your experiences with oDesk. It’s important to look at providers’ work history of carefully to make sure that past performances matches would you’d expect from a worker (and make sure their experience is in the right area).

  4. uniqueamerica says

    I do not trust anything on ODesk. They will not support you in case of a money dispute.
    I just spent over $1000 and I have a bag of trash. Their dispute resolution is worthless and I can understand why. It will cut into their bottom line. When their contractors obtain 10 cents more
    elsewhere they disappear and will leave you exposed to money gone and the need to start all over again.
    They train their contractors how to fill the time sheet so if an innocent employer disputes the charge their
    contractor will “win” the dispute. For your own sake, stay away from them.

  5. Maree says

    Hi Craig, I enjoyed reading your blog. Experiences are far the best lessons we get. I have been with odesk for 2 years until someone hired me but did not pay me. He interviewed me and said I need to do a trial test in which I would have to write 5 articles and submit them within the day! I did but after 24 hours, I did not hear back from him. It left me traumatized. It was only after 3 months I resumed freelancing. And now I have been doing it with staff.com – they work pretty much like odesk but what I like about them is their inhouse staff who takes care of my salaries and they make sure I get paid.

    • says

      Sorry for your experience. I’ve never done anything with Odesk from the freelancer side so it’s nice to have your perspective on the topic.

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