I have tried hiring freelancers on odesk and/or elance, but it seems that I'm missing something.. I'm asking them for a high end portfolio etc.. And no one can show me the "real stuff". Is it because the real high end aren't there? If not, where are they? I'd be willing to pay a bit more (even more then a bit more, even locally) and to find only high end freelancers
My solution has always been.
1) Leverage your network but be specific in the ask "Do you know a programmer that's $20-$40 hour (likely from eastern Europe) that you've worked with and like?"
2) There so many new marketplaces jumping up focused on niches that may be worth trying (ex: http://elto.com & others).
The only other solution (if you want to spend avg. ~$100/hour) is to call a local dev shop and try and get a "bro deal" / that may work great if you live in a small town and they have capacity.
Hope that helps.
In most cases self-promotion is not the answer. But in this case the obvious answer is that you should visit Coworks if you are looking for high-end freelancers within web & apps, design and content creation.
We started Coworks because we were heavy (and happy) users of oDesk but spent far too much time sourcing quality talent. So we started an invite-only marketplace and handpicked people who are very experienced and have strong portfolios and recommendations.
After 13 years of outsourcing I can sympathize with your struggle. There are great developers to be found on elance/odesk, for sure, but it takes a while to find them. The biggest problem is actually a simple one - most of the very skilled developers will eventually 'graduate' and start to find clients in different ways over time. In other words, the best developers don't stay on those marketplaces for long. They get tired of giving up 10% of their income and having to deal with the Elance scene. The ones that do stay command very high rates and are picky about projects.
It's good that you are willing to pay a bit more to get good developers because in today's market you have to pay to get quality. There's no free lunch these days.
I have a whole consulting practice helping clients find great developers overseas, and what I see is this:
- If you have a low budget, i.e. just a few thousand dollars, then you are really best off using Elance or similar. In this case, you have to learn to attract the top developers rather than searching for them. The 'hot' developers are busy, and picky about projects so you need to present your project in just the right way to get them to respond. It can be done!
- It's really important to get total clarity on what, exactly, you need. Do you need a single developer who is self-sufficient? Can you manage them? Can you handle time/language issues? What skills do you need, exactly? What can you provide, tech-wise? The more you know about what you need, the easier it will be to find it.
- A very popular model is to take on a developer on a monthly basis. This can be very successful and cost effective, but in many case you'll need to be ready to manage the developer effectively because time goes flying by when you are on a monthly deal. Inefficiency can be very expensive.
- Another model is to hire a company that provides some management for you. This is how my company works - we have offshore developers but provide high-touch management. There is a cost for this, though.
Bottom line is that you can absolutely find great developers, and the first step is probably to start defining exactly what you need, what you bring to the table, and how you want the project/development to work. From there, you can isolate the sources that would have those types of resources and push forward.
Good luck :)
I have been on elance for over 5 years and rated in the top 30 out of over 160 000 designers. So, yes there are certainly high end designers/freelancers out there with a high end portfolio on elance. Try searching for freelancers in the category you are interested in and take a look at the top freelancers portfolios and see if they could be a good fit for your project. This is how potential clients find me. Its always a good idea to try and source the freelancers website as well to get a good feel for that high end that you are looking for.
You can find high end designers on both Odesk and Elance but those ones you need to headhunt yourself. They generally have so much work that they do not need to apply for any jobs - they get headhunted by clients for opportunities. And they are picky so make sure your opportunity sounds appealing and terms are clear.
You could also try specialist marketplace for designers, there are many out there. Just do a search on Google.
Locally, go to a networking event and you'll find many, or join a Meet Up-group for designers.
You could also search local designers on LinkedIn - you can do so for free!
Finding top designers take time and effort. If you do not have the time, consider hiring a recruiter that does the work for you. You can find numerous both on Odesk and Elance.
The best way to find freelancers may be to ask for referrals. But if you're not in a position to do that, Elance may be a good place to start looking. I've been working via Elance for seven years. Once I hit the Top 10 in the Writing category, I started to get a lot of referral work from my Elance clients, and became significantly less active on the site (So, Dave was right.) Nowadays, most of my copywriting and marketing strategy work comes from word-of-mouth, but I still do an occasional project via Elance because their escrow feature can be handy.
As to the portfolio question — let's say you're a mortgage broker and you've just paid a copywriter to create a $10,000 sales letter for you. Would you want that writer to share your letter with the next mortgage broker who comes down the pike? Of course not. That's why most clients insist on non-disclosure agreements. That's why I can't share most of my portfolio with you (as much as I'd love to!)
You may be more likely to get samples if you ask to see work that's unrelated to your niche. That way the freelancer has some confidence that you're not just going to steal the content and use it for yourself (this is an extremely common scam on sites like Elance.)
It doesn't have to be in your niche to be a good source of information. When you're trying to evaluate a copywriting or design sample, you need to know who the target audience was, what the business goal was, and what the results were. That's true for any niche.
When I'm hiring someone, I put a lot of stock in testimonials and references. As a freelancer, I actively solicit them from clients, because they're so much more effective than any marketing copy I could write about myself.
I hope that helps. If you need more tips for screening applicants on a site like Elance, or need help writing the kind of project description you need to attract top talent, please don't hesitate to give me a call.