Monday, July 27, 2015

Using ELance for Hiring Offshore

I have been using ELance since 2002.  I know there are other sites out there but the ELance service is excellent and I've never had a need to use any other.

Think of ELance as being like EBay, except that instead of connecting buyers and sellers for the purpose of exchanging goods, ELance connects clients and providers for the purpose of exchanging services. 

There is a lot more to using ELance than what I describe below - this is just an overview of how to get started.  To begin, you simply set up an account on  You can start posting jobs immediately, and you can browse through the providers.

Posting a Job

Posting a job on ELance is easy.  Posting a thorough, complete and understandable job description which is likely to yield good quality bids takes a little more time and effort.

To initiate a job posting, select "Post a Job" under the "Hire" menu.

Give the job a meaningful name.  That is important, but not as crucial as having a great job description.  In your job description include:

  1. A high-level list of deliverables.  Request that the quote include estimated completion dates for each deliverable.  
  2. Your detailed design document (attachment)
  3. Your data model and sample data (attachments)
  4. The desired/intended technologies
  5. The intended audience (ie. is it a stand-alone application, an application shared across a network, an intranet, an extranet)
  6. The intended platform (ie. is it required to run in multiple browsers, on smart phones)
  7. Qualities and qualifications of your desired provider  
  8. A description of your intended development process (ie. communication methods, bug tracking processes)
  9. Project deadlines
Select the category of work and specific skills required.  This will help your job posting reach the most relevant providers.

Set your work arrangement.  See my "Recruiting Offshore Providers" article for my perspective on what kind of work arrangement I prefer.  You can modify the settings in "Location, Privacy and Other Options" if you wish, but I generally take the default.

When your job is posted live on ELance, you receive an e-mail and when you start getting bids on the project, you also receive e-mails.

Selecting a Provider

See my "Recruiting Offshore Providers" article for detailed information about how to best utilize
ELance for short-listing providers.  Once you've chosen a provider (or providers), you simply click the "Select" button.  If you're selecting multiple providers, you simply click the "keep the job open after I select a provider" box.  You can then select another provider.  For each provider selected, ELance sets up a separate "work area" for you for managing your communication, milestones and payments.


When your job is in progress, selecting that job (from under "My ELance" menu) takes you immediately to the messaging area for communicating with your provider.

When your provider sends you a message through ELance, ELance forwards it to you as an e-mail, and to respond you don't have to log on to ELance - you can simply reply to the e-mail and ELance:

  1. Adds it to the Messages list in your project workspace
  2. Forwards it to your provider

Skype Messaging is a great tool for real-time communication with offshore resources. In my
experience it is the preferred communication tool for lots of offshore resources and they ask to be added to your contact list to open a line of communication.

For more official communication or sending instructions, I stick with my formal method of communication. I tend to send messages through ELance - my service provider for hiring offshore resources. But for answering questions, providing clarification, and brainstorming solutions, Skype Messaging works great.


Payment for your project is handled via ELance.  How it works depends on the work arrangement you selected:

  1. If you selected an hourly arrangement, your provider will issue an invoice each week and you pay the invoice through ELance.
  2. If you selected a fixed-bid arrangement, you pay the full amount up front into ELance's escrow account.  You pay out the full amount to your provider only when the project is completed to your satisfaction.  This provides a level of peace of mind that you're not paying for something that never gets delivered.

In order to make payment through ELance, you have to connect at least one financial account to your ELance account.  You can attach your PayPal account and make payment that way, or you can attach a credit card.  When attaching a credit card, it takes a few days for ELance to approve the account.  They issue two small charges to your credit card, which show up on your statement.  When you see the charges on your statement, you enter them into the ELance system to prove to them that you hold the account entered.  ELance reverses the two small charges within a few days.

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