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Hiring Remote Workers: Can you get apps done with Upwork?

October 06, 2018

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Joshua discusses hiring and using remote workers, specifically from Upwork. In this episode, we walk through a little bit of experimenting on Upwork to see whether it’s feasible and, if so, what you need to be able to get apps created using people from Upwork or similar services.

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  • 00:18

    Hey there. Check out that new intro. Isn't that shiny and professional?

  • 00:22

    Okay. So maybe I'm not the world's greatest voiceover artist, but uh, I thought it was. Okay. So I'm gonna stick with that for a little bit.

  • 00:30

    Today, we won't talk any more about me and my vocal talents. What I did want to talk about is Upwork in particular.

  • 00:39

    Uh, I've had a lot of clients come to me in the past asking me about hiring a team of developers... Low cost overseas developers, and my advice has always been kind of mixed because I've seen some really amazing work done for ridiculously low prices by some of these groups. And I've seen some work that really wasn't amazing and wasn't good value.

  • 01:02

    So I always put a lot of caveats on it and I wanted to find out if there was a way that I could either recommend or wholesale not recommend going through something like Upwork or it used to be called Elance. And there are a lot of other services that provide people almost as a service.

  • 01:21

    So what I decided to do was set out on a little experiment with upwork and I posted a handful of jobs, all of them with very similar descriptions for work that I had already done or I'd done in house. And that meant I knew how much I'd have to pay for them to have them done in house as well as what kind of quality I was hoping for and knowing that upfront allowed me to kind of have something to measure against.

  • 01:47

    So I went onto Upwork and I posted these jobs. I put in fairly straightforward specifications that were largely complete, but I kind of left a couple of gaps in there. And then I asked for an estimates and I invited questions and I sent it out.

  • 02:02

    And I was kind of hoping that the results I would get would be... I assumed they were going to be mixed, but I was hoping that I'd get a fair number of people who came back and asked reasonably appropriate questions. I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but I wanted to know that first off they knew that they didn't have enough information to estimate and then they could ask the right questions, give me a rough estimate that I thought was appropriate so that I knew ahead of time whether or not I was getting into something that was worth getting into.

  • 02:31

    Because obviously when you're working with remote workers and you're giving them jobs, you can't be on them all the time. You can't manage every moment of the day and I don't want to do that anyway. I want people who can manage themselves, so I think that was very important.

  • 02:44

    There was a lot of value in not telling them everything to see what kinds of questions they ask because even when I interview real employees, potentially I like to hear what questions they ask because sometimes the questions people ask and tell you a lot more about them than the answers to your own questions from them.

  • 03:01

    Now I will admit, usually when I'm interviewing an employee, I'm a little bit more forgiving because obviously they're going to be growing with us as a company and I'm going to be able to help them learn some of the things that I... something that I might expect the freelancer to be able to do straight away because they're obviously running their own business. They need to be able to estimate work. They need to be able to do these things and I expect them to be able to do that if they're going to be able to work with me and be providing value to me.

  • 03:27

    So the responses I did get and I got a lot of them. For every posting I got nearly a hundred responses on proposals and pitches and everything else and it was a mixed bag.

  • 03:37

    Some of them really didn't answer the questions that I asked. Some of them were trying to be efficient and not actually customizing it at all and I understand that I in their situation, given it wasn't a big chunk of work, I probably wouldn't customize it myself either and that's fair enough.

  • 03:56

    But there were a handful and actually it was quite convenient that I was able to weed out a lot very quickly because there's 100 of them that's a lot of different proposals to read, but for each of them there were probably about half a dozen that actually sent reasonable responses with questions and responses to my questions, that made sense to me and kind of fit in line with what I was looking at.

  • 04:16

    Now, the interesting thing I discovered here was Upwork gives you some facilities and they're almost like Amazon reviews people or products. That's kind of scary, but that's basically what they are giving you.

  • 04:27

    Reviews from previous customers who have explained what they did and how good the work was or bad the work was or whatever it may be as well as a job success rate. So for every job that they successfully complete, it goes into a ratio and some of them will have a 99 percent job completion rates, some might have a 10 percent and I suppose to help you decide whether or not this person is going to be able to do the job and I think it probably does do that much.

  • 04:53

    But what I found was the quality of the work that I was getting from these didn't correlate at all with that and it didn't correlate with price either, which is probably a good thing to exactly the way it worked out. Some of the best work I got was some of the cheapest work, but at the same time some of the work that I paid top dollar for it to get people who had this 99 percent complete rate or 100 percent complete rate and lots and lots of great reviews and good looking portfolios really was kind of lackluster.

  • 05:22

    I wasn't impressed at all. And, and that was kind of a takeaway that I wasn't really expecting. I thought that the caliber of the higher priced with good reviews and lots of completed jobs would be at least on par with some of the lower cost ones and when it came down to it, most of them were just good at completing the job. They weren't necessarily good at doing a good job and even within that, some of them didn't manage to complete the job on time and weren't that great with communication and all sorts of other things that I really would have expected from people who were rated so highly.

  • 05:53

    So the takeaway I got from that is it is absolutely possible to get really good value from these places and from remote workers, but you need to know what you're looking for and you need to know what questions to ask and you need to know what they should be asking as well so you can decide whether or not they are actually qualified to do the job, were qualified to give you estimates.

  • 06:16

    The other things that I realized is it's good to chunk the workout into small pieces because that reduces the risk overall. If one of them goes wrong and things don't pan out, it's not as big of a deal as if you give everything to one person and they completely botched the job up and you lose a lot of money or time out of the deal.

  • 06:33

    So I certainly would recommend splitting up tasks and jobs and this can work out well anyway because certain people are going to be so suited to certain jobs. You might want to get a designer to do some of the design pieces.

  • 06:46

    You might want to get a hardcore coder to work on some of the algorithms and things like that that are making your backend work really well.

  • 06:53

    You might want to find somebody who specializes in infrastructure to help you set up your servers or whatever else you need to make your app run and, equally there's testers and there's all sorts of different roles that you can find on there and that's really great way to chunk some of these out.

  • 07:06

    But even within those, if you've got a lot of design or a lot of back end code that needs to be done, I would chunk those out as well and keep them all small. Or even if you do go to the same person, keep the specific tasks quite small, less than a week, depending on the scope of your project, maybe even a day and Dole them out in small pieces. That way if any one of them goes wrong, it doesn't hurt your end result.

  • 07:28

    The other thing that I took away from this because of that is if you're going to do this on your own, you really do need to know how to manage a project and how to keep track of all the moving pieces and make sure everybody's on target and everything is going to complete together and mesh nicely and if you can't do that, you really do want to find somebody who can help you with that.

  • 07:47

    You don't necessarily need to be highly technical to do it. You can find people and work off reviews and all the rest of that to make sure that you're going to get some reasonable level of quality, but I, again, would really recommend if you aren't technical and you're building a technical product, find somebody who is technical to help you that you can trust because when it comes down to it, it's very easy to get lost in all the different things that are going on.

  • 08:10

    But when it comes down to it, as I say it is absolutely possible and I think my recommendations to people who ask me about hiring a team of overseas developers or even local remote developers at lower costs through services like Upwork is going to be that, yes, absolutely they could do that.

  • 08:26

    But only if they can manage it or they know somebody who can manage it because there's a lot of stuff going on in there and it could go wrong so easily.

  • 08:35

    But that's all the time I've got today.

  • 08:36

    I will toss some transcripts up

  • 08:39

    Please be sure to check out my personal website to learn more about me and why you should pay any attention to me at all.

  • 08:46

    And don't forget to subscribe to the podcast and check out our website.

  • 08:50

    If you have worked with people on Upwork or if you work on Upwork, please drop me a note if you've got any great stories or just want to share or talk to me about this, I'd love to hear from you.

  • 08:59

    In the meantime, I think I might go hit up upwork to see if I can find somebody to do the voiceover for my intro because well I'm just not that good...

  • 09:09

    Until next time, thanks for listening.