Good indicators of maturing markets are acquisitions and mergers, and a major merger is underway in the freelance employment industry as oDesk and Elance are joining forces. Contractors and providers who regularly use these two online services may speculate on the overall merits of the merger, but from the “big picture” perspective, it’s a measure of how far the online freelance and virtual assistant industry has come in recent years.
For quite some time, business owners have been turning to Elance and oDesk to outsource various tasks. However, when we look at all the avenues we now have for online outsourcing, there are four different levels of services we can tap into.
Don’t immediately head to Elance, oDesk, iFreelance, or one of the others with all your outsourcing needs. Understand these level of service providers, and their specific benefits and drawbacks, so you can wisely choose the one that best fits your current requirements.
#1. Buddy, Can You Spare Five Bucks?
At the bottom of the cost structures is fiverr. Freelancers from around the world are willing to provide you with a wide variety of services for $5 a shot. Obviously this isn’t a service that you can depend on for longer-term, ongoing projects or needs, but it can be very useful in specific situations.
For example, if your website or blog needs a nice-looking animated graphic, you can get it done here. Maybe you would like your company logo rendered in one of those cool “quick draw” videos. Fiverr is a great source for very low cost marketing tools.
Current categories at fiverr are:
- video and animation,
- graphics and design,
- programming and tech,
- music and audio,
- fun and bizarre,
- online marketing,
- and writing and translation.
I haven’t had the nerve to explore “fun and bizarre” yet and I wouldn’t recommend trying to get on the good side of your lover this Valentine’s Day with a $5 fiverr gift.
#2. The Big Guys
At the top of this article I discussed many of the major online players who are in the business of connecting people and businesses with freelancers. Other names I should drop in this conversation are Guru.com and Freelancer.com. They vary slightly in their approach. For instance, Elance has a minimum hourly rate of $3 while oDesk does not.
There are differences in fee structures. Some charge freelancers a monthly fee. Others take a percentage of the contract.
The scope of services available is much greater than fiverr and many clients and providers establish long-term relationships through these sites. You can get almost anything done through these providers. One drawback is that you’ll probably have many, many proposals to sift through before you find the right freelancer.
#3. Simplifying the Process
If we consider companies like oDesk and Elance as “middlemen” there’s another kind of intermediary in the business. These companies have pre-screened freelance providers so they can somewhat guarantee the services they offer. This gives you an added level of assurance going into the process.
They also get rid of some of the headaches you encounter when you contract directly with freelancers. You won’t have to screen 50 freelancers. How much is your time worth?
If you do a web search for “virtual assistant providers” you’ll find a lot of websites specializing in this area, such as Ask Sunday, Worldwide101, and many others. Find one that provides services in all the areas where you think you might eventually need help so you can stick with one provider.
The downside here is that you may pay more than if you contracted with a freelancer on an individual basis.
#4. Dealing Direct
Many excellent virtual assistants are in business for themselves and they offer their services directly to the public. It’s a wonderful and popular home-based business that should give you a lot of talent from which to select.
Networking with business associates may be one of the best ways to find the “free agent” freelancer who can give you the help you need. An Internet search will also provide you with lots of leads.
You’re dealing with a smaller “universe” of freelancers here than you have through sites like Elance. You will probably pay more, but you’re much more likely to develop a personal relationship with a savvy assistant who could benefit your organization greatly as your business grows.
Finally, smart business owners will probably tap into more than one of these “levels” of freelance help and might even be employing two or three of them at the same time, greatly enhancing their company’s horsepower.
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