Tips for Managing Remote Work on Elance

I’m in the process of researching into outsourcing and found this article to be extremly relevant.  Will share more as I discover more. 

Tips for Managing Remote Work on Elance

While some people have been conducting remote work for years, others are very new to this idea. Last week we received a request for tips on conducting business on Elance. So, we’ve put together the following tools and tips for great results when managing remote work on Elance:

Practice clear communication.
Effective and timely communication is the foundation of a great project.

So what should you use to communicate and how often should you do it? It’s simple:

If you’re hiring an elancer, ask the provider to give updates on a weekly or daily basis – depending on the nature of the project and your job requirements. The Elance workroom is built especially for this and helps both parties communicate in whatever form is most convenient: Status Reports, PMB, Elance Chat, Elance Call, etc. Remember, it’s your project, so set the standards that work for you.

To be sure your providers understand and can meet your expectations, specify the type and frequency of communication you require in your project description – that way there should be no misunderstandings.

If you’re a provider and the client hasn’t specified communication expectations… ask!  Frequency and type of communication should always be one of your first questions when you explore a working engagement on Elance.

Want a convenient – and easy to use – way to communicate on a regular basis, and document that communication? Use Status Reports, which we talk more about below.

Finally, avoid jargon or tech-speak or slang. Write to be understood and not to impress. Ask questions to make sure you both understand and are understood.

Set appropriate deadlines.
When hiring an elancer, it’s tempting to ask for a project to be completed well before you really need it to be, “just in case.” That’s an understandable temptation, but you may shortchange yourself.

Great providers stay busy and have lots of work in the pipeline. A great provider who can’t get your project done in a week, as you specified in your description, may have had time in the two weeks you actually required. And, even if a provider can meet your schedule, he or she may need to charge a higher price due to your need for a rapid turnaround.

Your goal is to find a great provider who delivers exactly what you need at a price you can afford – don’t narrow down your choices by setting an unrealistic deadline.

Use business terms effectively.
Speaking of deadlines, setting appropriate Business Terms can help you not only set final and intermediate deadlines, but also establish a payment schedule for work completed. Elance enables you to break your project down into discreet segments, either by tasks completed or by percentage of completion. Using the business terms tool on Elance helps establish clear expectations between all parties and make managing your projects much easier. For more info, check out this Elance Help article on milestones.

Keep track of project hours.
Providers working on hourly rate projects need to keep up with their hours worked in order to be paid accurately. But even if you’re working on a fixed fee, it can still be helpful to know how many hours you’ve put into a particular project. Tracker helps you formally document time spent on individual jobs. Plus it works hand in hand with another tool to let you….

Provide regular status reports.
Status Reports let you exchange information about the status of a job, including tasks performed, hours worked, journal entries, attachments and plans for the upcoming week. It also interacts with the Elance invoicing system so you can create one-click invoices. Status Reports let both parties stay in close contact about job status, hours worked, milestone performance, and upcoming events. To learn more, check out our Status Reports article and video.

Understand billable hours and hours per week.
A billable hour is an hour spent directly working on a client’s project or task. The underlying assumption is that a provider is completely focused on performing agreed-upon work for the client during that hour. So, if you spent six hours performing research on a client’s behalf, those six hours are billable – time spent on your lunch break, for example, is not.

Most hourly rate project descriptions specify the hours expected per week; if not stated in advance, make sure you reach an agreement on the maximum billable hours per week expected. Providers should make sure to not exceed that limit without prior approval, while clients should not automatically expect a provider to exceed that limit. Use business terms to set the standard, and if that standard needs to change, communicate first!

Be aware of time zone differences – and holidays.
The beauty of a virtual marketplace is that people around the world can connect and do business… but time zone differences can also create minor obstacles. Make it a point to know clients’ and/or providers’ time zones so there are no misunderstandings. Need a handy time zone guide? Try World Time Zone or What Time Is It.

Working across time zones can work for or against you, depending on the needs of your job. If you live in London, for example, you can have a copywriter in Seattle work for you while you sleep. On the other hand, if you expect a lot of real-time updates and collaboration, you may prefer to work with someone in a more similar time zone.

Also, be sure to recognize that local holiday schedules differ as well. It’s important to plan ahead (and communicate!) so that your project doesn’t lose momentum or miss deadlines due to local holidays.

Got your own tips? Add a comment below and share yours today.

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