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5 Tips for How to Hire a Freelancer on Elance

Updated on March 22, 2013
Hiring on Elance? Get the most for your outsourced dollars.
Hiring on Elance? Get the most for your outsourced dollars. | Source

How To Get The Most Of Your Outsourced Dollar

Having been an Elance Provider for a few weeks, I found myself both needing to outsource some work of my own (not Elance’s) and also curious about what the Employer side of the equation looked like. Posting a job on Elance was both insightful and educational.

Employers have different goals from Providers. Generally, they want to have their work done to their quality standards, with minimal oversight and communication, and at the lowest cost that is reasonable. As a Provider and now Employer, here are my top 5 tips for Elance Employers looking to get the most of for their outsourced dollars:

Accurate and Complete Job Description

Detail truly cannot be over-stressed at this point, if you intend on getting exactly what you’re looking for… and avoiding complaints that you were ambiguous in what work was expected. Being presented with a vague job description is difficult for Provider because it’s impossible to bid effectively without a defined scope and timeline of the project. Elance abounds with complaints that Employers “added on” additional tasks after acceptance of the job, or that that the work defined in the original proposal did not match the actual expectations.

As an Employer, I was cautious to ensure that my job description was complete, and included work expected (down to the number of revisions I expected), the subject matter of the work as specifically as possible, and my estimated work hours.


As a Provider, I know that one of the skills of a good outsourced worker is managing the workflow for myself and my subordinates. Taking on too much work results in either late nights or disappointed Employers. So, when an Employer is setting a certain deadline for work, that deadline must be maintained or reasonably excused by delays (ie changes in job description, Employer not being available for feedback, etc).

In my case, my timeline was 10 business days. I cushioned this with 3 business days to allow for delays or (worst case scenario) complete Provider failure. Therefore I let my bidding Providers know that I wanted the project completed in under 7 business days.

Priorities for Proposal

Every Employer has an aspect of his or her project with is the top priority – whether its speed, quality or cost. As any good project manager will tell you, you have to choose one or two of the three. It’s rare to find a Provider who can do great quality work quickly and for a low cost!

In the case of my project, I emphasized cost, defining my project as “cheap and cheerful”, in order to give Providers the heads-up that I would be looking for the most economical proposal.

Sample Work

In the “real world” an Employer is unlikely to hire you based on promises alone, and you need to present your credentials in order to get a job. In Elance, those credentials generally consist of your portfolio, and a sampling of work that is comparable to the deliverables of the project up for bidding.

In my case as an Employer, I mentioned in my job posting that I was most likely to consider Providers who had expertise in my industry, and which could demonstrate their ability through samples of work done for other clients.


While the proposal that is submitted is a critical indicator as to the Provider’s ability to manage his or her business, ultimately the process to this point is simply sales. The best proposal in the world is only words, and the savvy Employer will look to see beyond the Proposal to the Provider’s history in matching work promised with work delivered.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the number of proposals I received for my job. In under 20 minutes, I’d received over 10 Proposals, varying from $50 to $250. Once I’d narrowed down my top 3 Providers based on their understanding of my needs, their promised adherence to my timeline, my priority (cost), and the quality of their sample work, I turned to their feedback as the determining factor. Providers who had received poor ratings, or whom previous Employers had defined as being “hard to work with” were immediately scratched off my list.

Elance is a great resource for employer seeking to outsource specific tasks and projects to a large pool of specialists. It can be a cost-effective and efficient tool when the Employer is clear about their objectives and the scope of their work, their timeline and their priorities, and the Employer carefully evaluates Providers based on samples and feedback.


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