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Friday, January 6, 2012

Free Spreadsheet - Elance Contractor Analysis and Selection

Hello there. I have good news for you...

I have decided to give you all my spreadsheets freely!

I plan now to post my spreadsheets here on this blog for you to use and enjoy. Some of them are not totally finished, however, you will find that every one of them will be fully functional. Some of them are put together in confusing ways that only I really understand, but I will try to simplify and streamline them for you and make them understandable and include brief instructions over time, if not right away.

These are valuable items to me that I created, used, and still use now. Most of the spreadsheets I post here for you will be tools related to the Freelance world. I have found that these spreadsheets made complex or confusing tasks much more simple. Take a look below at one of my favorites, ECAS. If you are a regular Elance Client, you will probably like this one the most.

Please know that due to it being posted here on the web, there may be certain features and items missing or some text might be out of order. The original version is much more complete. If you want that version, just sign up as a member of this site and leave a comment with your email address included. I will mail you a complete copy. Also, I will try to improve things over time (the look, function, and usability of all spreadsheets).

Other than that I hope that you will please enjoy these creations. I really feel rewarded putting these items together and would feel even better if a lot of people find them useful for their own work / professional tasks. That is one reason why I ask that you feel free to donate so that I will be able to afford spending much more time putting these items together and improving them for you.

Lastly, if you have a request, I am willing to listen and consider fulfilling it. All I ask is that you sign up for membership to this site and then let me know in a comment what type of spreadsheet you would find useful. Those who Donate will really get my attention (after all, doing this type of thing can often be fun for me, but it does take time and energy to do it well. So I need some encouragement and compensation). Leave a full description in your comment. If possible, I will put an item together for you and post it here in the blog. If you also leave your email, I will send you a personal response and the finished spreadsheet if I am able to create it.

Ok, that's enough reading for you now. Get what you need using this spreadsheet instead!



Elance Contractor Analysis and Selection (ECAS) v1.05
 
Intro
 
First of all, thank you very much for your interest in the ECAS - v1.05 analysis tool. This product was designed out of my own personal need to select the best candidates for my Elance projects.
That is why plenty of thought and effort has been put into the ECAS - because it is something that I myself use to make an accurate analysis of contractors. It is now in your hands as well.
 
In brief summary, what the ECAS analysis tool does for you is that it quickly and methodically compiles an analysis of the most important stats associated with an Elance contractor.
The ECAS allows you to combine 3 main factors - Level, Rating, and Number of Jobs - into a single Score so that you instantly and accurately decide who is really the best candidate.
ECAS is best designed for Elance but can give you rough Scores of contractors from other sites by using Presets on the Data sheet to estimate what Elance Level any freelancer should have.
Example: If I find an oDesk Contractor whose profile says they have worked 34 jobs, I would roughly estimate their level to be 7 based on the "Expected # Jobs" column in the Presets table.
 
But isn't selecting the best already easy enough? Since the Elance Level system takes a variety of factors into account, you might assume that the person with the highest level is the best.
However, this would be a mistake. Just like with anything else you do, it's just not that simple. When considering all important factors, a level 5 could be much more valuable than a level 7.
 
Don't get me wrong, the Elance Level system does have significant value, which is why it is included as a main factor for the Score calculated by the ECAS analysis tool.
However, level is rather limited in its reliability. Most presumably, Elance Level is more likely to indicate the contractors' value to Elance rather than to the Clients that seek to hire them.
 
Even though many of the factors which influence level are of value to Clients, after doing some research I found that there are some factors that are almost solely of value to the Elance website.
It only makes sense that if factors that are really only of importance to Elance are given considerable weight, then that can greatly reduce the true value you get when hiring.
 
Simply put, it is perfectly logical that Elance gives some extra Level points to contractors who make them the most money. Not necessarily the contractors who provide the best service.
Well, business is business, right? And, after all, Elance is a business, isn't it?
 
I am sure that is what Elance thinks.
 
However, if you don't want to rely on their potentially inaccurate assesments as to who is the best contractor for you, then you will have to explore options other than those that they provide.
 
Report Board
 
For the most part, the Report Board is where you view results, not where you enter information. It combines the useful elements of both Reporting and Dashboarding -
by giving vital information for your consideration and also by guiding you as to what your best options are. Hence, the name "Report Board."
 
The end result is a unique and versitile tool for data comparison and analysis. With the exception of criteria for percentiles, you won't give any input on this sheet.
This is where you read the vital info that you need to make your selection. You can use the Report Board to view contractors in order from highest to lowest score and visa versa.
You can also view contractors based on Level, Rating, and etc. Just click the Radio buttons below the titles. Futher comparison is provided in the form of stat percentiles for each main factor.
 
Indicators are displayed in each row telling you if an entry falls above, below, or is equal to the percentile you set. Percentiles can be customized by entering the values you personally prefer.
See the lower right area below the main chart. Please note that the High and Low percentiles should add up to be 100%. Example: if you set theHigh for 25%, you will set the Low as 75%.
This means that if you have 20 entries total, the 4 highest values will be indicated as "High" (25% of 20 = 5), and the remaining 16 values will be indicated as being "Low" (75% of 20 = 15).
Each of these are set to 50% by default.
 
Data
 
The Data sheet is where you enter stats and information of contractors. If you wish, you may only enter Level, Rating, and Jobs. This is enough to do a full calculation.
Any other information is for your records or convenience. There are Presets below the main chart. There you can adjust values for the expected number of Jobs for a given Level.
Please know that these settings have a significant effect on the calculation of Score and you should leave them at their default settings unless you are sure your input is more accurate.
 
Calc
 
The Calc worksheet displays raw, unformatted information that is referenced by the Report Board. You can look at it if you wish to see the numbers in plain text.
 
Current Version - 1.05
Version Updates:
* Minor edit to the Score formula to make the values occupy a smaller range (usually single and double digit numbers instead of double and triple)
* Changed Score values to include decimal numbers to make small, nearly matching scores unique
* Instruction Sheet changes - placed some additional descriptive information, made minor formatting changes, and updated contact details
* Added a logo image that contains a hyperlink to a newly created blog that is related to the ECAS Tool - http://excelelance.blogspot.com/
* Repositioned the Score columns on all sheets to appear as the second column within its chart
 
Contact
 
If you have any questions about the spreadsheet, don't hesitate to ask. I won't give out any formulas, but I will help out in just about any other way that I can.
Please feel free to send me your comments and suggestions also. I would love to know what you think.
 
email:millskevin14@yahoo.com
ym ID:millskevin14
skype ID:millskevin14


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Find the Best Freelance Contractor - 4 Steps

First of all, choosing a freelancer is something that should be taken just as seriously as any business decision. Before you begin, you should already have well thought-out steps and procedures and be committed to following them.

If you don't have your own successful methods or if you have failed in the past, try this:

#1
Carefully plan and write out a job post. Read other blog entries here to see how it should be done - Attract the Best Freelancers

#2
Make your post on Elance, Odesk, Guru and throw in about 2 more freelance sites of your own choosing.

#3
Once the proposals and applications are coming in, you will need to use a predetermined criteria and have a set of expectations by which to judge and distinguish them.

1st - First of all, you will be looking at the application that they submitted. You will want to know if it is just a form application that they have spammed to dozens of other clients, or if it is well thought out and personalized just for you and your project.

2nd - Next, you will want to know if they followed any instructions that you might have given in your job post (such as stating a keyword, or giving a quote on their price, or any other request that you would have made).

3rd - After checking over the proposal, you will then want to check out the freelancer who submitted it. You can do this by looking at the freelance workers' profile and stats. I highly recommend the use of analytic tools in order to help rank individual contractors with a scoring system. I use such a tool and can provide you with it as well. Elance Contractor Analysis and Selection

This is a tool particularly designed to sort through Elance contractors so that you don't have to. The most sensible thing that one can do is use an analytic tool to rank freelance contractors from best to worse based on their statistics. After that you can use your judgement and take into consideration any special needs that you might have for a particular project. By using tools along with human judgement, you will quickly and easily work your way down any list of freelance contractors.

#4
If you followed the 5 golden rules of submitting a proposal, you should have attracted several suitable contractors from each of the 5 freelance websites you posted on.

Rule 1
State Your Needs Clearly

(Rules 2-5 will be posted to this blog later, come back soon to see them)

Now, you will start the hiring process.

1st phase of Screening - you will judge the applications on each site one at a time and exclude the undesirable freelance contractors. This means that you will generally have about 10 or 15 well qualified freelancers to make your choice.

2nd Phase of Screening - you should select at least one from each freelance website and hire each of them part-time. There are several important steps to take in doing this correctly. Read my Using the Right Hiring Technique post for more details.

3rd Phase of Screening - you will want to work with you part-time hires for a short time and observe who has the best potential. You will then hire this person full-time. Read my Using the Right Hiring Technique post for more details.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Using the Right Hiring Technique

On a previous post, I gave the advice that when hiring a freelancer you will want to make a post on about 5 websites and select 1 person as a part-time hire from each site. That will be 5 workers. I would also like to add a little more advice to doing this effectively.

Even though you should hire your initial contractors part-time for a test run, it is probably not a good idea to let them know it's a test run though. If they know, they will be on their "best behavior." Just like with a photo, you want to catch them while they aren't looking. In your post, say you need a part-time worker for a short, important project. Also, mention that future work is possible.

After working with the contractors, you will know who is the best. That contractor will be your full-time hire . But don't burn your bridges with the other contractors. If you see a few good ones then tell them that you won't be needing them any further, but also let them know they will be on your list of contacts for future project.

After you are finished, you could even make another post. Find more good people. This is how you can build up a larger list of good contractors and even find a better contractor. If you run into someone who is better than you original selection, you can let your contractor go and hire the new one - if you think it is worth the risk. When letting them go, put them first on your list of go to guys and let them know that you will contact them again if necessary.

The above advice assumes you are doing a long-term job. This is a process that many people don't use. If they did, fewer people would complain about bad experiences.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Be Resonable, But Don't Be Cheap

Some people seem to think they are justified in offering extremely cheap prices for the work, goods, and services they purchase on freelancer sites such as Elance, oDesk, and etc. I have also heard someone say that it is the contractors who are really setting the price.

If you are, for instance, a writer in oDesk, you would know that statement is not true. In fact, it isn't true of any site. First of all, most buyers set a max and min price for as their budget. That means it is they who set the range within which bidders compete with one another. They control the bids before bidding ever begins.

That alone is factual and refutes the idea that the bidders have the real choice. But in addition to that you have to consider the fact that in almost every job post there will be contractors who don't bid based on the jobs' real value, but who scramble to out bid everyone - almost always driving the bid prices down far below the original budgets' maximum price.

Even if a job has a $500 fixed price value and the budget is set to match, you will surely get plenty of bids that are only $100 and below. And, before you blame the bidders, there are plenty of buyers who actively encourage this process.

You will see all caps saying "WILL REJECT ALL BIDS MORE THAN $1 /hr!!!!." Or, on a more subtle note, you will see them saying "Low bidder wins the job." Or, even more subtle than that you will see "Our budget is very small..."

This is the standard language for buyers posting jobs on oDesk and other freelance sites. On the other hand, in over 2 years as a freelancer, I can count on one hand the number of times I heard a buyer say "Price is not the most important factor so long as the quality of work is excellent" or "Will pay top price for the best work possible." Instead I see postings saying "Looking for a Superstar to join our team" while their $3 /hr Budget Maximum lets you know that they are really only building a sweatshop.

I know is a very old and worn out cliche, but it is still around only because it is true. You really do get what you pay for. So, don't try to trade in your copper pennies and expect to get Gold Bullion back in return. Be reasonable, but don't be cheap.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How to Attract the Best Freelancers - Tip 1 of 5

1 - State Your Needs Clearly

If you don't tell a contractor what you need, then don't expect to get what you want. The smart Clients do this extremely well already, and I applaud them for their professionalism. However, it is an unfortunate fact that there are still plenty of Clients who do not.

For those who do not, I only have the following statement to make: Despite the feel and appearances of the matter, the Elance website is not a fast food drive-thru window where you use one sentence to casually mouth out a simple order that is processed hundreds of times daily the exact same way for everyone.

If you think so, what you are really doing is treating your own project like a plain, unimpressive, cookie-cutter style venture. If you don't show due respect for your own project and your own needs, then simply don't expect anyone else to do so either.

On the other hand, you could take the more advisable route and think before you post. Even if you think it is a painfully simple project/task, you will still be better off taking the time to at least briefly brainstorm, summarize, or/ overview the goals and scope of your particular project. That way when posting you can give a detailed communication of all your wants, needs, and expectations.

That's all for now my friend. Come back soon to find out what the second and equally important tip will be! Subscribe to this blog in order to have post updates sent to your email automatically.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Elance Solution - Contractor Analysis and Selection (ECAS)

If you don't want to rely on their potentially inaccurate assesments as to who is the best contractor for you, then you will have to explore options other than those that are provided by the Elance level system. Below are a list of features you will find within the ECAS Tool and their descriptions.

Report Board

For the most part, the Report Board is where you view results and not where you enter information. With the exception of criteria for percentiles, you won't give any input on this sheet. This is where you read the vital info that you need to make your selection. You can use the Report Board to view contractors in order from highest to lowest score and visa versa.

You can also view contractors based on other factors such as Level, Rating, and etc. Futher comparison is provided in the form of stat percentiles for each main factor. Indicators are displayed in each row telling you if an entry falls above, below, or is equal to the percentile you set. Percentiles can be customized by entering the values you personally prefer.

See the lower right area below the main chart. Please note that the High and Low percentiles should add up to be 100%. Example: if you set theHigh for 25%, you will set the Low as 75%.

This means that if you have 20 entries total, the 4 highest values will be indicated as "High" (25% of 20 = 5), and the remaining 16 values will be indicated as being "Low" (75% of 20 = 15).
Each of these are set to 50% by default.

Data

The Data sheet is where you enter stats and information of contractors. If you wish, you may only enter Level, Rating, and Jobs. This is enough to do a full calculation. Any other information is for your records or convenience. There are Presets below the main chart. There you can adjust values for the expected number of Jobs for a given Level.

Please know that these settings have a significant effect on the calculation of Score and you should leave them at their default settings unless you are sure your input is more accurate.

Calc

The Calc worksheet displays raw, unformatted information that is referenced by the Report Board. You can look at it if you wish to see the numbers in plain text.

Click on the link below for a closer look at the ECAS tool.


Elance - Selecting the Best Freelancers

Isn't selecting the best already easy enough without using some sort of analysis tool? Since the Elance Level system takes a variety of factors into account, you might assume that the person with the highest level is the best.

However, this would be a mistake. Just like with anything else you do, it's just not that simple. When considering all important factors, a level 5 could be much more valuable than a level 7.

Don't get me wrong, the Elance Level system does have significant value, which is why it is included as a main factor for the Score calculated by the ECAS analysis tool.

However,  level is rather limited in its reliability. Most presumably, Elance Level is more likely to indicate the contractors' value to Elance rather than to the Clients that seek to hire them.

Even though many of the factors which influence level are of value to Clients, after doing some research I found that there are some factors that are almost solely of value to the Elance website.

It only makes sense that if factors that are really only of importance to Elance are given considerable weight, then that can greatly reduce the true value you get when hiring.

Simply put, it is perfectly logical that Elance gives some extra Level points to contractors who make them the most money. Not necessarily the contractors who provide the best service.

Well, business is business, right? And, after all, Elance is a business, isn't it?

I am sure that is what Elance thinks.

Click on the link below for a closer look at the ECAS tool.