Small Business Saturday: oDesk Fails to Deliver

It’s official folks, I’ve decided to throw-in the towel with oDesk after far too many failed attempts. oDesk is a service that I’ve been using for over a year now and while I’ve had many initial successes, I’ve found it absolutely impossible to find anyone that can keep-up the work and provide steady, reliable services. Here is a recent example. For one of our sites we hired someone to spend 20 hours/week posting videos from You Tube that matched a particular criteria that our site is focused on.

When we posted the job listing we received over 100 candidates and since oDesk let’s anyone apply, spent about two hours turning-down the candidates that did not meet the criteria specified in our listing. This is one very frustrating thing with oDesk, you specify in the “Advanced Options” section of your listing that you want someone in “North America” only, however oDesk doesn’t actually do anything to make this happen. So many of the applicants that apply have specified countries outside of the US as their location, you would think it would be easy-enough for oDesk to just prevent these from coming through if as the hiring manager you have selected North America-only, but they don’t.

This means that you have to go through a ton of filtering to get your applicant pool down to the people that match the basic requirements of your listing. Huge time-sync here but after a while you can get a list of applicants that have at least met the bare minimum requirements. After we had discarded all the people that just auto-replied to our ad the list was down to about twenty people. From there we narrowed it down to ten potential candidates and began interviewing.

After a few days of interviewing candidates we picked someone that seemed like a perfect fit. They started working for us and everything was going smoothly, we were paying them for 20 hours a week of work and they were putting in the time and the results were just what we were looking for. Then we got too trusting and took our eye off of them for a month, when we went to check-up on their work we noticed that while they were charging us for twenty hours the quality-level had dropped considerably. I decided to look at the screen captures to look at what they were doing during the time they were billing us. What I saw was pretty disappointing, our workers was billing us for twenty hours, but most of the time as I could clearly see on the screen captures, they were working on other projects for other clients. Obviously we fired them on the spot.

I wish I could say this is an isolated case, but it’s not. Whether we’ve hired from the US or abroad with over 15 different employees we’ve had very similar experiences. Either the employees start-out doing well and then decline or they just don’t deliver at all. Since oDesk doesn’t allow us to filter the listing we also have to sort through a ton of people applying for our job that don’t meet the criteria we’ve specified so I’m not sure why oDesk even has you bother specifying your minimum requirements.

Now we’re looking at and I’m interested to know if any of you have experience with them. Guru looks like they will allow us to specify US-only and then won’t pass along all the applicants that don’t meet our criteria. We are looking at paying somewhere in the $30-$50/hour range so are going to be using both Guru and Craigslist as it may make sense to have someone here in LA that we can interview in-person as well.

We have completely given-up on oDesk and for those that want to get real work done and not waste their time sifting through low-quality applicants I suggest you ditch oDesk as well. When you’re running a business one of the hardest things to do is find good people. When we launch a new site I immediately focus on finding someone to run that site, that’s how my business has been able to grow to the point it’s at today. Right now I do have a good team overseas that I’ve hired through various forums, blog readers, etc. as well as some great people in the US. As I continue to expanding finding good people is absolutely critical, the question is – where to find them?

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Tim Smith May 21, 2011, 1:24 pm

    Having the same challenges here Morgan. Still trying to use oDesk for small projects but have had great success using TeamLauncher and Jodi Chamberlain. Little more cost than if I managed myself but absolutely great people, great skills, and no troubles.

    Worth the bit extra to avoid all the time-drain of doing it myself.

  • Domain Michael May 21, 2011, 7:55 pm

    Hey Morgan,

    Unfortunately, that issue is not oDesk specific. Especially, if you pay hourly, I usually go with per project bases.

    I’ve done a lot of work through, but as service provider not as a client. However, killed their service with new website design they put in place. They used to have hundreds of projects every day, but they’ve made the new interface so buggy, that no one wants to use them anymore.

    I’d suggest to look at, you can filter US based applicants. Although, if your business is big enough, I’d suggest to also hire a project manager, to check on everybody on daily bases.

  • Rob Docherty May 22, 2011, 4:37 am

    Morgan, post your offer for free up on my site. It’s all US-based and I’m spending some money on it within the next 14 days.

  • John May 22, 2011, 7:27 am

    Hi Morgan,

    I have been regularly following your blog and have always found it very informative. I am into domaining and also doing SEO work. If you are looking for someone to work part time on doing SEO and you haven’t found one yet I’d like to submit my application if you are interested. I am not from North America but I am very well versed in the English language as well as knowledgeable when it comes to SEO . Anways, just shoot me an email in case you are still hiring or if you have some questions. Keep up the great work on the blog and godspeed!



  • Chris May 23, 2011, 3:13 pm

    Hi Morgan, check out, the search RFP stays true to its promises!

  • Jerry May 25, 2011, 12:16 am

    Morgan, have you thought about hiring a permanent virtual assistant? If you have steady work it seems like it would be worthwhile to find someone that you could trust to handle your different projects long-term.

    • Morgan May 25, 2011, 7:29 am

      @Jerry – yes, already have one! 🙂

  • Marius July 22, 2011, 4:17 am

    I’m getting some jobs through odesk as contractor, previously had experience with guru, elancer etc. What I have found out with oDesk and other services of this kind. The ratings are not showing the exact performance of contractor and client. And the worst thing with this you must out compete people who are ready to work for dimes. This is not big problem though, now I’m getting jobs on average rates that pay the bills. Do not expect quality job for nickels. Person needs to earn money, and still have time to invest in learning new skills. Also due to failure with quality. You need to check and re-check your contractors work on daily basis, as most are even taking breaks on your account, on the other hand if you paying nickels how do you expect someone to deliver quality. Also investing some time in spec writing can save you a lot of headache. And the worst thing possible here, and on all sites of this type is reselling of jobs. Was doing job for really reputable companies through oDesk, but they were resale jobs so no direct contact with client. This is the main factor which kills websites like this one. Hate when after getting hired you realize that someone overcharged the client and now undercharge you.


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