Once a scary proposition, relying on virtual workers is becoming the norm. Letting go of the notion that you have to sit across from someone to get the job done means you now have access to millions of talented people.
So, what skills are most in demand for virtual workers? Topping the list are people who develop mobile phone applications, build websites or know how to boost traffic through social media marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). If you know Flash and HTML 5, you will never lack for work. Today’s virtual workers rely on shared digital workrooms, real-time collaboration and video conferencing to keep in touch.
“Online work won’t be just a buzzword in 2011 -- it will be the way to do business, period,” said Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance, based in Mountain View, Calif.
I agree with Rosati. Living in rural Vermont doesn’t limit my ability to work with great people. Mavis, my amazing research associate, lives in Virginia. Michelle, my energetic marketing and sponsorship consultant, lives in Minnesota. It’s easy to keep in touch via frequent email and phone calls. I admit I was skeptical when I wanted to customize my social media pages and Michelle referred me to Brian, a web designer in Indiana.
Once I had all the graphics and photos ready to go, it took four hours via Skype to create my customized Twitter, Facebook and You Tube pages. We built the pages, which look fantastic, using the ‘chat’ and ‘share’ functions on Skype. (Check out Brian’s work
“More businesses integrated online workers into their staffing models and more professionals opted to work online instead of onsite, marking a fundamental shift in labor practices in 2010,” said Elance’s Rosati.
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In fact, in 2010, when traditional employment was suffering, Elance posted 375,000 jobs. So where are all the virtual workers? New York City tops the list of the cities with the most virtual workers, followed by Los Angeles and Portland, OR, according to a recent Elance survey. On Elance alone, virtual workers are earning about $100 million a year. Since 2006, the company has posted more than one million jobs. The company makes it easy for employers and ‘elancers,’ by establishing escrow accounts to handle all payments and issuing tax forms to freelancers.
Sites like Elance.com and Freelance Connect provide easy ways to find virtual workers. You can also post a job on Craigslist.org, Linked In and several other platforms.
But before you post a job, consider these tips:
- Determine exactly what you need done. Be able to clearly describe the project, the timeline and deadline for completion.
- Set a budget for the project. You can price it by the hour or by the project, but be specific.
- Take advantage of skills tests offered by sites like Elance.com. If you want to be sure the person you are hiring knows how to create a particular software application, check out their test score before you hire them.
- Figure out how to integrate your in-house and virtual workers. Schedule conference calls or use Skype to keep the lines of communication open. The chat and share functions let you upload files and work collaboratively in real-time.
- Start small. Try a small project and see if you like your virtual worker. If not, move on to another person.
Jane Applegate is president of The Applegate Group Inc., which provides strategic marketing and video production services to big and small companies. She’s the author of four books on entrepreneurship, including 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business, published by John Wiley & Sons. For more information, visit www.theapplegategroup.com. Contact Jane: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @janewapplegate.