Weekend Ponderable: Eternal Truths

Way back in 1981 I was pretty much at rock bottom. I was working as a bicycle messenger in San Francisco, after wandering off the academic reservation. I can remember sitting there in the can after a shift one day: I was soaked to the bone, cold and hurt everywhere after going ass over head when my front wheel got caught in an old train track paved over by Levi Strauss.

Up on the cheap plywood that the toilet at 444 Clementina was, at eye level if you were sitting down, some graffiti. I was cold. I was tired. And this is what I read by some anonymous guru I never got to meet:

“The more shit you take, the less money you make.”

I was stunned. The corollary hit me like a live wire connected to that john I sat on as the rain beat down: The less shit you take, the more money you make.

Within 2 years I’d gotten myself a top slot in the media world: Dayside SF at UPI (think Huffpo now).

In 30 years I’ve not found one scintilla of evidence that whatever else is true in life, this is true. All the time, in all places, for all people, amen.

But it’s time to put this to new music, dance it around the room and see if it works for you:

“The more digital you are, the more money you make.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

ok – so this is ugly.

But I could use 20 seconds of your help. Do either of these HD YouTube vids play for you? After Iain’s killer post I decide to take a cannonball jump into video. Blame Iain :) :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkEqVPmupLY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gITrCFCDUC

Thanks! You should get over the shock with a few deep breaths.

(An aside: if you run a WordPress site (and who doesn’t?), check out http://pippity.com/ very very nice, and two! updates since launch a week ago.)

 

 

 

What I’ve learned about creating product videos

By Iain Dooley,
Founder of Working Software and creator of Decal CMS

Over the past year, I’ve done a bit of work producing videos and in this post I discussed the importance video has played thus far in marketing, support and training people how to use Decal CMS.

With the launch of our flagship public beta product Decal Mockups recently, I produced quite a lot of video for both marketing and training purposes and felt as though I’d really had the chance to hone my craft, especially when reflecting on my first attempt last year.

I’m by no means an expert, but I feel as though I’ve got a few simple strategies for producing video very inexpensively for your products that doesn’t totally suck.

I’m also very keen to share my experiences, thoughts and methods in the hopes that someone out there will give me some ideas on how my methods could be improved.

My tools of choice are:

The two primary purposes of product video

In my experience there are two primary purposes for product videos: marketing and training. My production strategies for each are slightly different.

Marketing videos

When I talk about marketing videos I’m talking about the video that people see when they land on your home page – the one that’s supposed to get them interested enough in your proposition that they follow some call to action (eg. signing up to use your product).

These are the ones that take me the longest to make and they require the most planning, ironically because they have to be the shortest.

I wouldn’t personally create a product marketing video longer than 1 minute and the shorter you can get it the better (Wistia’s home page intro video is only 30 seconds long).

If your video includes a piece to camera or interview I’d say that you can go (a bit) longer in some cases, however looking good on camera is really hard and screencasts are immeasurably easier and cheaper to produce.

Step 1: The message

When you are releasing a product, your natural inclination is to make a product video that demonstrates the features of the product.

This is because you’re very proud of the features – you have spent a while working on them and you think they’re totally ground breaking.

But features are totally boring to watch and your features are not your message (disclaimer: to a certain extent, this depends on your audience – but I’d say the cases where a feature heavy marketing video makes sense are the exception).

If you take a look at the very first video I made last year for Decal you can see what I mean about “feature focus” – it has absolutely no message whatsoever and is completely and utterly uninspiring:

I recently watched (and blogged about) a TED talk by Simon Sinek entitled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” which says that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”, but also states that people will buy your product for themselves, not for you.

So it’s not enough to ask why you’re making this video – you have to ask why your audience is watching it, why they’ll keep watching it and why they’re going to do what you want them to do at the end (ie. sign up to use your product).

At the beginning of this year I had just begun to get an idea about marketing message and produced 5 separate videos for the Decal CMS home page which were designed to appeal to different audiences.

I’d started to scratch the surface of what it meant to be talking to my audience, taking the focus off features and trying to deliver a message which would appeal to people’s emotions and you can see one of those videos below – however it’s still far too long and had too much of a feature focus:


I think it’s interesting to look at the progression to my latest offering for our Decal Mockups launch:


Apart from some technical improvements (which I’ll cover later) the single biggest difference is that I’ve taken the focus completely off the product features and come out with a strong message that makes a very bold statement about how this product will benefit my audience.

Jamie Zawinski puts it beautifully when he asks “How will this software get my users laid“? 37 Signals have also written a similar post about “when opening your wallet becomes a no brainer“.

Your message should focus on this: how is your product going to save people time or money, or help them get laid.

Now here’s a little secret: it’s really hard to do!

I guarantee if you’re not a seasoned sales and marketing veteran, this will feel wrong at first – because it is.

The first 2 videos I made above were pussy footing around the issue. The very first one simply presented my product and let people reach their own conclusions. The second focuses more on benefits to the viewer but the benefits are convoluted and probably only relevant to someone who’s had a specific experience with another provider.

The third video says in plain English that Decal Mockups saves you money and makes your job easier – and it felt like a lie. Not an out and out lie, but a bit of a lie.

However you’re trying to fit your message into a space that is so compacted, that if you don’t make a bold statement people will instantly tune out and stop paying attention.

So even though what you want to say is “This product will make your life easier once you’ve learned how to use it, and if you use it in a particular way then you could even save money by using it!”, what you have to say is “This product will make your life easier and save you money” without all the qualifying excuses.

Now I’m going to let you in on another little secret: no-one cares.

I was really nervous when I put that video out there – I emailed everyone I knew (only about 300 people) and I was an absolute wreck. I felt grimy and dirty as if I had told the world’s biggest lie and everyone would soon turn up at my door with pitchforks.

You know what actually happened? People signed up to use the product.

Here is a quick breakdown of the stats:

  • 81% of people who landed on the page watched the video
  • Those that clicked play watched on average 63% of the video
  • Of those that clicked play, 23% signed up to use the product
  • 19% of all people who came to the page signed up to use the product

Even for a free product, that is a phenomenal conversion rate. You know how many people I got complaining that I was taking liberties in saying the product would save time, money and make their life easier? Zero.

There are, of course, laws governing false advertising and I’m not advocating completely falsifying information but if the choice is between your waffly line of conditional, qualified excuses leading up to a statement of what benefits someone might be able to achieve in certain use cases, or just stating up front the benefits of the product in the first 10 seconds of the video, then you should definitely choose the latter.

Step 2: The Script

Now that you’ve decided on your message, it’s time to write your script. Start by writing your message in such a way that you can deliver it in 10 – 15 seconds.

It’s a good idea to state what your product actually is before you start talking about the benefits, otherwise the experience for the viewer is disorientating – but the combination of what your product does and how it “gets people laid” shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds to say.

From that starting point, you then need to reinforce your message, focusing on key points of difference and justifying your bold statement with a couple of facts about your product.

The most important thing is: don’t agonise over the script too much before you’ve recorded it and listened to it.

Don’t think of a “script iteration” as writing, or even writing then speaking – think of a complete script iteration as writing, recording and then listening back. Don’t worry about the sound quality of your recording just yet, either.

Once you’re at least 75% happy with the script (not 100% happy, remember that folks: don’t get hung up on your “perfect script” yet), move onto the story boards.

Step 3: The Storyboard

I prefer to use index cards for my story boarding rather than a whiteboard because it’s easier to re-order the “shots” and sections of your script.

The story board for my BYO Website videoI have the shot list on one side and sections of the script on the other, and I can re-order and reposition chunks of text next to “shots”.

The image to the left is the “story board” I used for the 2nd in the series of videos shown above.

When deciding what “shots” to use, try using your product whilst listening to the recording of your initial script draft and see what fits well.

You can then add a visual or textual reminder for that shot to an index card and stick it next to that piece of the script.

When considering what shots you’ll have, you want to have a good balance of things that move and things that don’t.

If there’s one thing that can really ruin your message and be totally distracting, it’s having constant talking in conjunction with constant movement.

Go back and look at the Decal Mockups video above and see how little movement there is on the screen – especially where the spoken information is at it’s most dense.

The most movement occurs when I’m talking about the “real browsable website” and the only movement occurring is web browsing which reinforces the voice over.

Also don’t underestimate the value of just printing words to the screen that are key words in the sentences of the voice over.

Once you’re 75% happy with your story board, (that’s right folks, don’t wait until you’re 100% happy), it’s time to do some actual screen capturing

Step 4: Screen capture and editing

Fire up ScreenFlow and capture each of your shots. Move the mouse slowly and deliberately. It’s very easy to edit out pauses and speed video up, but very tedious to edit out unnecessary mouse movements so the smoother and more accurate your mouse movements are in your initial recordings the more time you’ll save during editing.

Once you’ve got each of your shots, it’s time to edit them to fit in with your script. If you haven’t already, get a good reading of your script recorded.

The timing should be reasonably good – speak slowly and clearly (in fact you should speak so slowly that it feels a little bit weird). Edit out any obvious mistakes but don’t worry about sound quality, or editing out breathing or other noises – this is not your final recording.

Now edit your video down to fit in with your script. This is truly the most mind numbingly tedious part of the process. Try as much as possible to edit out unnecessary mouse movements in the screen casts and avoid using any transitions other than cross dissolve – you’ll be tempted to use one of the many other featured effects in ScreenFlow but they all suck.

I’d love to give you some ScreenFlow tips that will teach you to be a ninja at it but I’m a total hack. I just use images and text boxes to create my “graphics” – zooming to give them a bit of movement. The rest is simply screencasts.

There are a bunch of really awesome ScreenFlow tutorials around on the interwebz though so it’s probably worth boning up a bit on your techniques. I didn’t do this, and it took me 18 hours to produce the 60 seconds of video for the Decal Mockups – and about 70% of that time was spent editing or producing graphics.

I’m sure if you put some time into learning about some more advanced tips and techniques for using ScreenFlow you’ll live a longer and more prosperous life than I.

Remember: you don’t want to have things moving on the screen when you’re expecting people to be listening carefully to your words. This is really important – having too much happening at once is suprisingly confusing and they’ll either not listen to the words because they’re trying to see your product or they’ll miss your product shots altogether.

Don’t move onto the next step until you’re 100% happy – if necessary go back and modify your story boards and/or script and re-record it.

Step 5: The Final Voice Over and Edit

I’ve got a problem that you can hear in the 2nd video in the series above: my office is very big and echoey. I also live right next to a main road where lots of loud trucks, motorcycles and people with sports exhausts torment me.

This is particularly troublesome because I’m only using the in-built microphone on my laptop and I don’t have any sound mastering software or skills.

However, the voiceover in the Decal Mockups video doesn’t suffer from any of these problems. The secret? I record it whilst sitting in a closet. It’s a very small closet and it has lots of coats in it. The result is much clearer, don’t you think?

So, go and sit in your closet and record your script. You should record this speaking ever so slightly faster than the voice over you were editing your video to initially – but still slower than you would normally talk if you were having a conversation with someone (one always has a propensity to speak too quickly when recording voice over).

Do as many takes as you need to get each bit right and just leave ScreenFlow running whilst you do it. Try to do your takes in “chunks” and leave a gap when you stuff up – it can be hard to edit a good take out from 2 mistakes either side if your words or sounds are “rolling into each other”.

Once you’ve got this done, go back to your desk, stretch your legs and edit the final voice over to suit the video. Make sure you get rid of any “lip smacking” or breathing noises. You’ll find that, since you read just a little bit faster, you have some “space” now and during this final edit you may be able to cut the overall length of the video.

It’s important to leave some gaps in talking though – this gives the viewer a chance to focus on what’s on the screen, and also gives their brain some time to process what you’re saying and what they’re seeing.

Step 6: The sound track

This is kind of the fun part. You should produce a few different variations and test them on people you know. For the Decal Mockups video, I started off with this, which is me playing the Mbira:


I wanted to give an air of “magical wonder and simplicity” – reminiscent of a Hayao Miyazaki forest creature. However when I played it to a few people they found they were so distracted trying to figure out what that sound was, that they found it really hard to concentrate on the video.

I knew I had to go with something more familiar so guitar seemed like the obvious choice, but I still wanted something a bit different so I found this Gypsy Jazz version of All of Me played by Adrian Holovaty (co-incidentally, the author of the Django web framework!) on YouTube:


This was a dramatic improvement, however a few people I played it to said they found the melody line a bit distracting – also we obviously didn’t have the right to actually use it!

Luckily for me, Campbell McGuiness (one of the Working Software team) is a musician so he recorded a version of one of his songs minus any melody lines and I re-edited it to fit in with the video and that’s the final cut that we ended up publishing.

That about does it for marketing videos!

Training Videos

Training videos are kind of easier. Firstly, the constraints aren’t quite so strong – if someone is watching your training video, chances are they’re already using and therefore at least a little bit invested in your product.

You can see examples of the training videos I’ve made for Decal here:

http://www.decalcms.com/page/Support/#instructionalVideos

When I want to do a training video I write a few index cards of what I want to teach, then I record each of those in turn and edit them together, getting rid of unnecessary mouse movements, loading times and using cross fades for transitions between points.

I then simply watch the video, and type a “narration” of what I’m seeing on the screen. I do a rough recording of this “script” and edit it down to the video.

I iterate like that as required until I’m happy then I go and sit in the closet to do my voice over and come back and edit the real V.O down to the video.

The other big difference in a training video is that obviously you’re basically just showing the product the whole time so there probably won’t be any “graphics”. I also find it’s more acceptable to have a bit more movement on the screen whilst you’re talking (not too much) so long as what the viewer is seeing is being reinforced directly by what they’re hearing.

There are 2 guidelines I use to make the videos more watchable:

  1. Use zooming and panning sparingly – it can make people nauseous but is also a really effective tool for focusing people’s attention on one part of the screen (sort of like a “pointer”) – especially if you want to show a lot of detail in a smaller video resolution
  2. State the length of the video and it’s purpose at the very beginning of the video and put the key words on the screen as you say them. This orientates the viewer and prepares them mentally for what they’re about to see

That’s about it for training videos. They’re far less involved, in my experience thus far, than marketing videos.

Remember: video converts!

Creating video is hard and tedious. It takes a really really long time, but hopefully some of these tips can help you make a better product video in less time than the year it’s taken me to get to something I find acceptable.

However just remember: video converts! It’s really worthwhile taking the time to do videos and improve your skills because you’ll get more customers.

So stay motivated – I know it’s really hard (and I’m totally guilty of cutting corners here and there) but keep slogging it out.

The other piece of parting advice I’ll give you to is to avoid being a perfectionist. You can look at all my marketing and instruction videos I bet and find not only obvious flaws but flaws I’ve advised against specifically in this article.

There are only so many hours in the day and in the final analysis you’re going to be far more aware of the flaws in your video than anyone else ever will be, so try not to get trapped in some vortex of perfection.

Happy casting!
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(Thanks Iain for a great guest post! If you have something to share, ping me at bob.walsh@47hats.com.

Iain Dooley is the founder of Working Software, creators of Decal CMS. He enjoys chatting with people on all manner of subjects and would love to hear from you on iain@workingsoftware.com.au – also if you’ve read this far, you should definitely Subscribe to the Decal CMS blog via email or RSS by clicking here, follow Working Software on Twitter and become a fan of Working Software on Facebook

Ponderable: Bookfunding.

Phil's New BookPhil Simon (the Startup Success Podcast #104) is doing some very sophisticated customer discovery: Give this interview with him a read. While I am sure that Phil’s book is going to make a good read, the mechanism he’s using (Kickstarter) is a story in and by itself.

Screw traditional publishers.

Instead, give people a way to invest in specific content creation, and get in return extras that enhance the experience.

Very cool model, but Kickstarter, why stop there?

What about adding to this get big or go home funding model an investment model?

Say Fred the author is willing in to put up 40% of the post sale revenue for 18 months as equity that can be bought. He estimates, based on what else he has done, that that will be conservatively $10k. He will sell it for $5K, if enough people join the pool and pledge to buy.

Fred’s investors may lose their investment – it’s speculative. His investors decide if they want to place a bet that may lose, break even, make money or maybe lots of money.

Now, I have no idea how all those U.S. securities laws that since the Great Depression protected investors from conman financial types after the last time Wall St. raped Main Street work. Or for that matter, how the same laws got their polarity reversed so they protected the conman financial types when they raped Main Street again a few years back. Maybe it has to be some sort index fund arrangement where you invest in one fund, then divvy out your money in the fund to content you think will pay off.

Sounds like a startup to me. Sounds like just the kind of startup funding mechanism that would work. While somebody makes a few hundred million executing this idea, I’m looking forward to Phil’s new book – and I’m glad he’s not waiting for hidebound traditional publishers to allow it to happen.

 

So how are you using Google+?

Got into Google+ yesterday (Thanks Phil!) – now it’s time to start digging around to figure out exactly what a startup founder can get out of it. If you’re in, comment about how you are finding value there. If you’re not, and you’ve got a startup/Google+ related idea, tip, question – comment and I’ve got as of this moment 5 invites left (these may even work :)).

The battle of the Google+ widgets

But first, a quick suggestion and thanks. Go subscribe to http://www.googleplustutorials.com/ – they blogged about the following two widgets.

  1. http://socialstatistics.com. (GooglePlusTutorials.com link.) Sign in with your Google+ id (thats the number in the URL of your Google Profile in Google Plus). then, look for your widget in the sidebar after you refresh the page:
  2. http://widgetplus.com. (GooglePlusTutorials.com link.). Subscribe to their feed FIRST, confirm, and then you can click Get Widget and get somewhere. By the way, the various options for color etc, are in a tab interface at the bottom.

Thomas Friedman gets it. Do you?

Thomas Friedman

You may have missed this post July 12th by Thomas Friedman of the New York Times: The Startup of You. Take a moment to read it.

The gist is that the startup mindset – hyperconnected, online, and above all else adaptable – is becoming the differentiating factor whether you will get a job in this economy, whether you will keep your job in this economy.

“I think something else, something new — something that will require our kids not so much to find their next job as to invent their next job — is also influencing today’s job market more than people realize.”

Let me preemptively whack a couple of comment-moles before they appear: obviously this is not true in all cases, obviously it depends on industry, segment, age, the company, etc., blah, blah, blah.

The question to be asking is does it apply to you before this becomes the business norm? And the meta question if you will, is just exactly how will you this year, month, day become more “startupy”, more demonstrably better at executing these attributes?

Bootstrapped Lean College Startup: UpOut

By Martin Shen,
UX Guy and Cofounder of UpOut

UpOut helps you discover hip hop karaoke, flying trapeze classes, underground restaurants and other awesome things to do. It has extensive filters, customizable profiles and much more, but it started as just a side project between college and our web design firm. However, it’s that busy schedule which forced us to launch quick/often and enabled us to bootstrap our startup. This is a quick story of our experience.

After our first startup failed, my roommate and I started a small web design firm. Around the time we got the idea for UpOut, the web design firm was finally taking off and schoolwork was piling on. We decided that in February, we’d take a week off of client work and school and build a prototype for UpOut to demo at a student entrepreneurship conference in NYC.

Fueled on energy drinks and seaweed snacks, we pulled a few 72-hour sprints to push a minimum viable product. We focused on building a simple user interface consulting our friends every step of the way.

Demoing Prototype 1: Day 3 of No Sleep

People loved the prototype. From the few hundred people who saw the glimpse of UpOut, we took their feedback and planned the real product. This time, we pushed back some client work to give us a more relaxed 12-day window in early April to work on the next version. We ended up spending a little over two weeks but redesigned the entire site to post up on HackerNews.

Screenshot of UpOut

We got a several thousand hits alone from HackerNews encouraging us to go at it full time. We quickly decided to close up the web design firm using the proceeds from the last jobs to give us a 5 or 6 month window. In May, we closed up the vast majority of the client projects, I graduated and we packed up our things to move to San Francisco.

Now we’re in SF. We’ve picked up interested users every step of the way. We earned enough through web design consulting to give us a runway to really try doing a startup. We’ve learned the importance of constant user testing which is helping us improve the product every day. We’re now testing the latest build for UpOut and would love to get some feedback and suggestions. Feel free to reach out to me at martin@UpOut.com or even drop by our loft in SoMa.

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UpOut helps you discover events, places and activities worth doing. Find amazing parties, hidden bars and other things to do in your city. You can also follow users and tags to get a customized stream of the best things to do. Check it out at UpOut.com or follow @up_out.

Note: Martin is Cofounder of UpOut.com and is now based in San Francisco. If you’d like to share your lessons learned, domain knowledge or relevant product (translated out of Marketize), how about doing a guest post for 47 Hats? Email me.

Something to fear or embrace this weekend…

Ben Pieratt

Ben Pieratt

From Varsity Bookmarking, the tumblelog of Ben Pieratt:

“The internet, at this time in history, is the greatest client assignment of all time. The Western world is porting itself over to the web in mind and deed and is looking to make itself comfortable and productive. It’s every person in the world, connected to every other person in the world, and no one fully understands how to make best use of this new reality because no one has seen anything like it before. The internet wants to hire you to build stuff for it because its trying to figure out what it can do. It’s offering you a blank check and asking you to come up with something fascinating and useful that it can embrace en masse, to the benefit of everyone. […]

“The internet kills all middlemen.”

What if he is literally, precisely, right?

Outsourcing 101 for Startup Founders

By Aymeric Gaurat-Apelli
Founder, Task Army

Many people are attracted by the idea of outsourcing but starting outsourcing can be quite daunting. Where to find the right people? How to make sure they will produce the results you expect? How much to pay?

I will try to answer these questions in this (lengthy) post.

I. Where to go to find a remote contractor?

There are different approaches you can take, all with pros and cons.

I.1 Local forums
You can post your job to local forums. For example, if you are looking for someone in the Philippines, you could go to local Filipino job forums.

Pros: cheaper, there is no middle man.

Cons: it is riskier because you have no way to access previous customers feedback and ensure the provider will be good. You will have to spend more time making sure the provider is qualified.

Example of websites:

I.2 Placement services
You can use placement services that will find a the right service provider for you.

Pros: Quality is usually higher.

Cons: Expensive because of the overhead of finding the providers for you.

Example of websites:

I.3 Outsourcing marketplaces
On these websites, you post a job and service providers submit their quote in some kind of auction. Quality varies from a marketplace to another. Elance tends to be best to find quality providers but is more expensive. These platforms can be a bit overwhelming because you receive 100s of applications that you have to filter through.

Pros: Many service providers for a wide range of skills. It is good for bigger projects when you want to ensure the quality of the service provider and to make sure the provider has the right skillset.

Cons: Unnecessary and overwhelming hiring process for smaller tasks.

Example of websites:

I.4 Micro-job marketplaces
You can buy services like if you were at the supermarket. The services offered are well defined and small.

Pros: Depending on the size of the task you need done, this is a good compromise between removing the overhead of finding the right provider and yet not adding a huge extra cost.

Cons: Works only for smaller tasks.

Example of websites:

  • Fiverr (be careful with what gigs you buy, you might get penalized by Google)
  • TaskArmy.com (focuses on tasks that will improve your website and online sales)

Note: TaskArmy.com goes one step further by manually approving the services and service providers to remove all the crappy services.

I.5 Niche websites
Some websites focus on a specific kind of experts or services.

Pros: They usually make the process much easier or the quality of the providers is much higher.

Cons: If you hire more than one contractor with different skillsets, you will likely have to manage them across different platforms.

For writers

For designers

For developers

  • ODesk is usually the best place.

II. Hiring process

II.1. Favourable criteria
Country of origin: Based on my personal experience, I tend to prefer people from Philippines for general assistance and from Eastern Europe for development: you have a higher chance to get someone reliable and honest.

Responsiveness is essential. If someone takes two days to answer your emails, it will slow the project a lot. Timezones are already challenging, having someone who is not online most of the day is an unnecessary pain.

English skill. Depending on the type of task, you don’t need perfect English (except for writers). You just need to make sure they understand your English, ask them to re-explain what you have given them to work on in their own words.
For a writer, be VERY picky with their English. If they don’t capitalize their “I”‘s (as in “i am” instead of “I am”) for example it is a big red flag. Also, if you can find typos in their conversation with you, it is another red flag. A good writer must be anal when it comes to typos and good grammar.

II.2 Outsourcing the hiring
Hire one or two people from Philippines for $3/h to help you hire someone. Ask them to post your job on the different websites I cited above and to filter the good from the bad based on the criteria you give them.

I found my own Ruby on Rails developer this way and we have been working together two months and I canít be happier. It costed me $20 to get two people look for a developer for me.

II.3 Some more tips on how to hire

  • You can decide to pay the service provider to take a specific test on oDesk. They have a wide range of tests for all disciplines.
  • Verify they have done similar work or that they have the skills required
  • On Odesk, you can look in the history of closed jobs. You can find closed jobs similar to yours and approach people who got a good feedback directly
  • Give a mini project. The mini project should be totally independent to not have to give away too much and yet should be useful to you. It shouldn’t be bigger than a week worth of work though to waste any time if youíd decide not to go ahead
  • Go with your gut: if you feel the provider isn’t responsive or you have a bad feeling, move on, you are probably right.

III. How much should you expect to pay?

I assume here that you outsource offshore:

What How much
General assistance
(link building, customer support, web research, etc…)
$3/h up to $10/h
Developers from $12/h up to $30/h for great developers
Designers Outsourcing design is tricky because usually you want Western web 2.0 style (a la 37Signals) and it is hard to find someone offshore. This is one thing that I would consider doing onshore.
Writers Articles you buy at $5 won’t get you natural links from the readers but will help with organic traffic from Google. To get better quality articles that readers will actually like, it will start at $20 per article up to $120. The higher the cost, the more following the writer should have to help promote your content.

IV. Recommended virtual assistants to start outsourcing now

If you want to try your hand at outsourcing, Iíd recommend starting with small tasks to slowly acquire the outsourcing mindset and make it second nature. Karissa and Joni are two virtual assistants on TaskArmy that I recommend if you want to start outsourcing.

Any questions?
I will be following the comments so please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions in the comments.
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Aymeric is an French entrepreneur based in Sydney (Australia) who has founded TaskArmy.com in 2009 to make outsourcing online easier. If you’d like to share your lessons learned, domain knowledge or relevant product (translated out of Marketize), how about doing a guest post for 47 Hats? Email me.

The end is near…

 

Sale ends Monday at Noon (PST)

…at least for the MicroConsult with Bob Walsh sale. MicroConsults will be returning to their normal highly competitive prices Monday at noon (San Francisco time).

So who went for the sale? Well, for starters…

  • A New Yorker who wanted to become more productive (bought the 3 for 2, came back for 6 for 4),
  • Another New Yorker who after a bit of brainstorming found their “secret sauce” to turn their side project into a real, fundable, startup.
  • A Russian CS/math whiz looking for ways to productize some amazing algorithms and make the right Silicon Valley connections.
  • 2 founders building a disruptive market creation startup,
  • A Southern Californian blogger back for another session on making the WordPress pain go away,
  • A New Jerseyite who’s made more progress in the week after their first MicroConsult than in the preceding 2 months,
  • and 5 other startup founders, microISVs or productivity-challenged people who needed someone to get behind them and push.
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    How about you? :)