No entrepreneur can ‘do it all.’ As multi-talented and hardworking as you are, trying to take on the many different demands and skills required in a start-up business is a recipe for failure. Take it from someone who’s been there: to be successful, you need a strong team. To build a strong team, you need Elance.
Elance is an online community of freelance professionals and industry experts. It’s the perfect replacement for a business Rolodex – in other words, if you don’t know any great graphic designers, writers, or developers, Elance will help you find them. Prices are competitive and the quality is consistently excellent. Elance makes it easy to research a contractor’s history with a quick-view average feedback rating (similar to eBay’s star rating system), detailed feedback from past clients, a list of all jobs accepted, and the contractor’s skills. Contractors can even take Elance’s standardized tests to prove that they do, in fact, know how to program in C++ or design the front page of a website.
If you’ve never tried to hire a contractor before, this process can be a little intimidating, so I’ll give you an example. Let’s say that you’re designing an app that teaches kids the alphabet through interactive flashcards. You’ve got the design and the flow all laid out, but you’re a terrible graphic artist. You need someone to help you put together an amazing visual presentation for your pitch document – someone who has a good reputation and has done this kind of work before – but you don’t know anyone in the graphic design field.
The first step is to set up an Elance account. Elance has a very simple and easy-to-understand overview posted here*, which takes you quickly everything you’ll need to know when you’re looking for talent. It’s important to note Elance’s security and safety tools: money for each job is held in Escrow until both client and contractor agree the job is complete, and clients can choose hourly-rate jobs, for which contractors need to physically log their time using Elance’s own tool. You only pay for services you actually receive, and for hours actually worked.
Next up is posting your job. Advertising for contractors (or, in other words, posting what you need done so people with the right skills can apply) is completely free. Elance takes a fee of 6.5 to 8.5%, and this fee is already included in the quotes you’ll be getting from prospective contractors. On the job posting page, you’ll want to include specific and relevant details of your project to get the most accurate quotes from bidders. For example, how many alphabet flashcards will you want for pitch document? What theme should they fit? Do they need to be saved in a particular file format? The more you can specify about your project on the posting page, the closer the bids will be to meeting your expectations.
Finally, you’ll want to pick a contractor. Look through all of the bids that have been submitted on your project, and narrow down the candidates to your top choices based on cost, reputation, or any other relevant criteria. Next, take a look at those candidates’ histories on Elance, at the jobs they’ve done and the feedback they’ve been given. If you want to ask anyone more questions or clarify a point, just shoot them a message through the Elance inbox, and they will respond to you quickly. When you feel comfortable and ready to commit to a contractor, it’s time to award them the job.
That’s it! If you’ve chosen well, by now you’re paired with an excellent contractor who really knows what they’re doing. They’ll be ready to take further instructions from you and turn around those alphabet flashcard pictures quickly. You can communicate with your contractors at any time through the Elance workroom, or exchange emails and talk out in the real world. You’ll fund the Escrow account and then release the funds after a job well done. Remember to give excellent feedback for excellent work! And don’t forget, contractors are often looking for long-term partners, too. If you have a lot of good app ideas and know you’ll be needing work done in the future, don’t hesitate to ask your contractor about setting up a long-term arrangement.
If you’re a little worried about hiring online, don’t stress. I have a lot of personal experience with this process and have hired through Elance before. In fact, the eBook available on this site was edited by an Elance professional! You can find her here. And, as always, I’m happy to answer any questions you have through my contact page.