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What challenges have you experienced when working with online freelancers?

Freelancing platforms like Upwork and Elance are becoming very popular. If you have experience using these platforms, what are the challenges you've encountered with hiring online freelancers and would you recommend using them?

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Anonymous User

Hi Pretty,
I am actually offering my services via online/remote work platforms. And this is what at least I can write from a freelancer point of view. Experience can varify off course but I believe there is set of best practises which support both employer and freelancer in mitigating any issues/risk coming from unlcear expectations, lack of communication etc.

This is what I experienced in the past
- too high level requirements - it is vital that requirements are given in sufficient level of details - this is key to articulate and understand what is that is our scope of work
- daily operations - this one is about making sure that everyone knows how is that we operate and what is expected in this area. So if the client need to have quick catch up each day just for 15 mins or so to discuss progress and plan, then ideally if this is being told on the beginning
- reporting - maybe client need some ongoing regular reporting to have? this is key as well - if client need a progress report each week or each month this need to be said at loud so it is again clear what is expected
- goals - very often depending the work which need to be done, goals and definion of done vary and is different. Hence it is very important that goals are given on the beginning (smart goals are key), and/or definnition of done is also clarified. Very often with software development type of work and projects definion of done is super helpfull, so developers understand that they not only need to provide piece of code for functionality but this also need to be internally (locally) tested and proved to be working. For marketing teams on the other hand what is helpful are smart goals, goals which can be tracked, are realistic, achieveble, time manner etc. if you need someone for social media why not say: we would like to gain twitter followers by 10 each week. This is one of the example

As I know and was told by my friends who actually hire via upwork and other platforms - communication is one of the biggest challenge. As with all remote work you need somehow to make sure that freelancer will feel that he/she belongs, that they work far aways from you, but they are introduced to the company and team in a way they feel the product/service and they want to be part of it.

I would say there are more soft type of skills in making sure freelancers do feel as part of the remote team than anything more.

I hope this helps :)

At Workhoppers.com we not only are a marketplace for freelancers, we operate with high proportion of freelancers. The main challenge we have encountered availability but for most part, we are very happy with the freelancers that work with us. We always try to have them in the same city and have a face-to-face encounter every so often. We find that this is crucial for accountability and commitment.

Anonymous User

I have faced so many challenges, first obtaining the right freelancer that can edit and carry out the work depending on what platform you have IE linear or wordpress, its a must to establish that with them first as many freelancers will just bid for the job and not pay attention to that. The other problem is finding someone that you feel knows what you are trying to achieve, its easier with a small task but if you want to establish something more complex, you have to find the right person and establish a good working relationship. The language barrier can also cause issues. The plus side for me is that you can find someone you can trust if you persevere and once you do that, its often a good idea to stay with that person as they begin to understand what you are trying to achieve, always keep yourself safe though and pay through the freelancer platform as it can be disastrous if they suggest paying another way to avoid fees and then you have problems as you are not protected.
Claire www.marcetme.com

Anonymous User


I would like to add some additional points to Ewa's excellent comment.

Upworks is in fact replacement for Elance. We used to do a lot of work (both as buyers and suppliers) on Elance but have left Upworks due to rising costs of operating on the platform.

As a web design and software development company, we have seen both sides of this situation. We have been hired as Freelancer/Contractors as well as hired Freelancer/Contractor on Elance and early days of transition to Upworks.

There are number of important issues that both the customers and suppliers need to pay a great deal of attention to, and whenever we hear of horror stories, the breakdown can be traced to failure of one or both parties in this area.

Remember SMART Management by Objectives?

- Specific
- Measurable
- Assignable
- Realistic
- Time-bound

When setting out work for contractors, it is doubly important to be tighter on these points as they are outsiders and have less understanding of your company's “norms” or “expectations”.

We see a lot of contract offers starting with “We want an attractive and exciting website … We want the new website to do everything the current website does but better!” (this is an extract from a real invitation to bid). We usually do not respond to these types of “Invitation to Bid” for a number of reasons.

This king of brief is usually written by creative marketing people without any real understanding of the project scope, so nice marketing talk but the brief is as useful as chocolate teapot. Let's just take this first few sentence of and why this is a recipe for disaster.

1. What does your website do now? If you as a owner cannot describe clearly and comprehensively the scope your current situation, how do you think someone from the outside can do it? This is really tell us “I can't be bothered to a) find out what my website does so you go and figure it out b) my time is more valuable than yours so you go and find out what I should have done!”

2. We want an attractive website! Really? I have not come across any customer that wants an awful looking website, so where is the measurable objective here. Attractiveness is subjective and one persons nectar is another persons poison, so how would we know what your mean by “Attractive”?

3. “Exciting Website”! I don't know about you, but I visit 1000s of websites every week as part of our job. I get impressed about the use of code, ingenuity of some technical solutions on some websites, and creativity of some visual effects, but excited I do not get!! I get excited when I watch a football team, or see my grandchildren, or as we get ready to go out for an evening, but excited is not what I get when I land on ANY website. If you do, then you need to get out more :-)

As a supplier we want to know:
- Functionality you need from your website (Specific)
- What KPIs do you use to measure the success or failure of your current website or the new one (Measurable)
- Example of websites your like (Specific reference point)
- Who will be contact point for different outputs such as assessment of technical solutions, decision making, supply of images, supply of content, etc. (Assignable)
- What is your budget and timescales? (Realistic – you cannot have a Ferrari at Fiat price!)
- What are the project plans and milestones including the go-live-date? (Time-bound)

Answers to these usually gives us a clue about what kind of client we will be dealing with, and whether we want to even bid.

From client's point of view, if your supplier is not asking you these questions, you really need to consider how experienced and well-seasoned they are. These are basics of technical and project deliver, and if they are not asking these questions, we suggest you move on to someone else.

Just as a last point of guidance, I used to work for a very large multi-national in the technology sector. My colleague who was in charge of development used to have a sign on his wall behind his desk as a guidance to all sales, marketing and product management teams that visited him. It simple said:

“On Spec, On Time, On Budget – Pick 2”

Simple but very true in the world of software and development, but more importantly a good guide to manage customer and sales people's expectations.

I hope this helps.

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