overwhelmcrowdsourcingWhen you’re running your own business from home, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of things that have to be done. You can muddle along for a while, but eventually it will get the better of you and the time will come when you realise, maybe it’s time to crowd source.

But how do you go about it, where do you start?

I had heard about the various methods of crowd sourcing for many years before I actually put it into practice. I had explored the possible avenues but really wasn’t keen on handing over any aspect of my day to day business activities to anyone, especially a complete stranger. Being the control freak that I am I of course didn’t think anyone could do a better job than I.

But, a situation occurred that left me with no choice. On one of my food websites, a site with over 20,000 pages of content of which 2,500 have images, the sponsoring website who allowed me to use their images in exchange for advertising and promotion, had a change of heart and said that if I didn’t pay a licensing fee for the 2,500+ images on the site I’d have to replace them and they gave me three months to do it.

At the same time, I was also working on relaunching  another site under a new brand name and new focus and also working with two clients to launch their websites. Overall, I was already working 16 hour days seven days a week. Unless I didn’t sleep, there was absolutely no way I could source, resize and optimise over 2,500 images in three months and replace the ones on the site with them, I needed help.

Although I knew of some crowd sourcing websites, I did some asking around with colleagues and friends as to which ones they’d heard of or used. With the results of my research, I chose a site and posted my first job. Within minutes I had applications for the position, and after sifting through I actually found not one, but four people whose skills I could see I could use straight away, so I decided to give them all a trial task to see how they performed.

Having almost ridiculous expectations of others based on my own work ethic, I knew I had to go about this in a way that wouldn’t scare the bejesus out of my possible new contractors, so I employed my teaching ethos instead and this is how I briefed and have continued to brief my now incredibly loyal, trustworthy and efficient team of crowd sourced contractors.

  • I broke all the work I had to get done into individual tasks that once put together was a job spec in itself.
  • For each task I created a basic written guideline but then also recorded a screen capture video showing my contractor EXACTLY how and what I wanted them to do. I also recorded and uploaded the video in actual recording dimensions (I didn’t resize it for the web or use zoom and pan key frames). The reason I did this was twofold…
    • It’s much easier for the viewers to see exactly what you’re doing so therefore no room for misunderstanding and mistakes and,
    • There’s virtually no editing required of the video. Because you’ve selected to produce the video in recording dimensions, there are no automatic key frames added and it’s just a matter of clicking produce and saving the file. This saved me enormous amounts of time and I could literally record and produce an instruction video in a matter of minutes.
  • I then uploaded the video to my website and sent the written instructions along with the video link to the contractor.
  • They would then review the video and do just one hour of work and send me back what they’d done. I would review and make sure they understood my brief and visual instructions, then give them the go ahead to continue the task.
  • Once they’d mastered that part of the project, I do the same for the next piece of it.

The number of tasks I outlined would depend on the complexity of the projects I needed doing. But regardless of that, all my contractors delivered outstanding accurate work in record time and I estimate in the time frame I have been using them, they have done what I could never have achieved on my own.

Since I started using contractors however I have also refined my job posting method, based on some advice from a mastermind colleague and it has proven very successful.

When I post a job, I make it extremely detailed, outlining exactly what tasks will be required, what skills the applicant will need to have and because all the work I outsource is computer and internet based, what software they would need to have to do the work.

I will often give them a sample of what I need done and ask them to supply the completed sample with their application, along with a code I put in the brief that they have to quote. This serves two purposes…

  • If I receive an application without the completed task or quoted code, I know that the applicant has not read my job description and therefore their application is auto generated based on keyword criteria they’ve set up from their end, and
  • If they didn’t follow these instructions in the job brief, chances are they won’t follow subsequent instructions when hired. It’s a good way to sort the wheat from the chaff.

I always set a deadline for applications to be submitted and don’t contact any applicants until the deadline has passed. Then I sort through each applicant and read their profiles and select the ones I want to interview.

Interview is always a verbal chat via Skype. Why is this important? Many of the applicants on these crowd sourcing websites may not be from native English speaking countries, and although say they can speak and understand English, many cannot. If they cannot understand your instructions, the room for error in work and thus wasted time and money is high. I learnt this the hard way and so requesting a voice chat via Skype will also sort wheat from chaff because those that cannot speak English well will shy away from this type of interview.

One I’ve interviewed them and decided to give them a try, I then set up the trial where they have to complete 1 hour of the task (I pay them for this) and from there I can see whether they’re going to be able to do what I need doing.

So far, I’ve only had two contractors who didn’t work out and they were two of the first I engaged. I’ve learnt a lot since then.

I now have five ongoing contractors who do all my repetitive and administrative work every week, they are based in the Philippines, Kenya and Australia. I communicate with them via email, Skype and video and at the end of every day, they report in and show me what they’ve achieved that day. I can monitor their work while they’re online doing it via the website platform that I book them through and I also have an iPhone and iPad app so I can do same when I’m on the road. I can also message them directly via both.

It has saved me an unbelievable amount of time and energy and allowed me to focus on the skills I actually get paid for rather than the day to day grind stuff that just has to be done in every business big and small.

I would never have crowd sourced had a situation not arisen where I had no choice and now I’m wondering how I managed on my own for so long. No wonder I went grey overnight.

Just a few extra things however I would stress you keep in mind before you consider crowd sourcing…

  • Make sure you actually know how to do the task you want to outsourced. If not, there is enormous room for error and undue expense. You really must know back to front how to do the task yourself so you can firstly ascertain if the person your hiring has the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to do it and whether or not the hourly rate you’re paying is justified and the time they take to do it. If you don’t know, ask someone who does that you trust and get them to help you write the brief and interview the contractors.
  • Don’t outsource sensitive content. Leave that to people you know and trust.
  • Only give access to your social media accounts (twitter, Facebook other social media platforms if your using people for social media management or research) for the length of the task, then change your passwords. If you’re giving access to Facebook, have the contractor LIKE your business page then make them an admin, rather than give them your login details, you can always remove the admin privilege when the task is over.
  • For contractors that do a great job, reward them every now and then with a little bonus. Usually send them a money gift via PayPal just to say thank you, you’d be surprised how much loyalty it generates.

If you’re thinking of crowd sourcing and would like any further information or advice,  contact me, or register your interest for my soon to be released online program ‘I Need Another Me‘ launching soon.

Portal I use to crowd source and manage my contractors: http://www.odesk.com
Screen capture software I use: Camtasia