Lots of people will assert that it’s easy as pie to pop up a website and start telling folks about your business. Anyone can purchase a domain name and get it hosted on a server easy enough.
But if you’re building a website for the first time, you’re going to run into a snag here or there. (OK, that’s putting it nicely; there have been times I wanted to pull my hair out over some detail that seemed so simple…changing a font in WordPress, for example. It’s just not my thing.)
The real truth is that a simple website — even one created in Yahoo SiteBuilder or Blogger — can be a lot of work; period. “Three easy steps” later and you find you want your new creation to DO more, BE more, ATTRACT more visitors, etc. (if you’re not ready to give up completely.)
Getting those ongoing improvements accomplished might require a little extra help — computer-related, administrative, or otherwise. So this post is all about how we go about getting that help.
A Case Study
In spite of what some people claim, it’s not always easy to pull everything together. Here’s an example: Your website needs a web form to capture email addresses. “It’s easy to do,” you’ve heard. But you’re far from an HTML expert, and a quick search of web form code presents a daunting project — one that could take days to tackle yourself, if you started from scratch.
If you’re a do-it-yourself-er, maybe you take the plunge and try it. There are plenty of guides and Q&A forums to consult if you get stuck.
The upside? You learn something by the end of the project, and you’ve spent no money.
The downside? Hours lost — not something the sole owner of a business wants to hear.
So if you are simply too busy to learn enough HTML code to get the job done, what do you do?
Hire someone else to do it.
There are people who can code a web form in their sleep, and make it exactly the way you want it. In fact, you can easily find an expert to do just about anything you can’t or won’t do:
- Write a press release
- Design a book cover for a free report
- Re-size photos for your website
- Transcribe an interview
- Make it so that your web post’s pictures scroll across the screen on the front page of your WordPress blog; etc. (These are all actual projects we’ve hired online.)
Where do you find these wonderful folks who can make all those little pieces of your dream come together?
Try an online work-sourcing site like Elance. Guru. ODesk.
Here’s how it works:
- Usually you can browse for free, and look at the profiles and portfolios of all the thousands of individual creative people or firms who can provide you with the expertise that you sadly lack and sorely need.
- You sign up, many times with no money upfront until you actually request a job. Just to ensure that you’re a serious hirer, at the time you request work you may need to fund at least part of your project. Elance calls it “escrow.”
- You decide what criteria are important for the job and then post it, including your time frame for completion, any milestones you’ll need as the work progresses, and the price you are willing to pay. You can even invite a provider or guru to bid on your project, based on his portfolio, experience, feedback, or terms and conditions.
- Now the bidding starts. You may be amazed by the range of quality and prices you are offered. The more specific your project, the fewer applicants. A broad, easier project will bring more bids.
- Time to choose. This can be difficult because you may not see one clear winning bid that stands above the rest. (I narrow my choices down to three, then get a second opinion from my business partner.)
- The expert is notified and you communicate your exact requirements to him/her on the work-sourcing website itself. On most sites you can keep track of all communication on a job’s history log. This helps clarify the hiring person’s requirements and the service provider’s terms if there’s ever a problem between the two.
- Most workers require a portion of the payment up front before they start on your project. You will have already decided on the percentage. (That’s the nice thing about these sites; very few surprises. The quality and professionalism of many work providers is fairly high.)
- You receive the work by the date you’ve established, hopefully.
- Do you like it? Did you test it? No revisions are required?
- When you’re satisfied, you make the final payment.
- Leave feedback. If you’re super-impressed by the end result, the unexpected special service, or excellent communication of the professional you chose; do him a favor and leave positive feedback. He’ll get more jobs that way. On the flip side, if something went terribly wrong, warn others. At the very least, be fair. If the scope of your job changed, or if at the outset you didn’t clearly communicate the work you wanted delivered, you shouldn’t torch the provider’s reputation with negative feedback.
I hope this helps. I encourage you to reach out for the help you need, no matter how small. These websites have saved us many headaches and hours of teaching ourselves new tricks.
More on hiring online help in a future post. And feel free to ask any questions about these sites in the comments section. I’m happy to share my experience, both as a hirer and a provider.
Written by Jen McGahan