It’s a daunting task to find, navigate, and evaluate the best outsourcing websites from the several hundred available. This article provides everything you need to complete these activities from the perspective of hiring a freelancer to help you and your business.
Initially, we’ll analyze outsourcing in general and then walk through the best outsourcing websites by reviewing the key features, pros, and cons. We’ll conclude by sharing some final thoughts, including the best approach to start.
What is outsourcing?
Outsourcing is a business practice in which services or job functions are farmed out to a third party.CIO.com
The prospect of outsourcing work is certainly nothing new, yet the supply and demand for its implementation is as strong as ever.
Why is outsourcing worth thinking about?
If you’re an employee of a company with formally documented job duties, then it’s a very high-risk move to outsource any portion of your job. The only exceptions here are if you’re the majority business owner or if you have prior formal agreement/approval from your superiors.
On the other hand, does your situation align with one or more of the following areas?
- Building an outsourcing strategy for a particular department or function
- Exploring freelancers or contractors to assist with the delivery of a particular workstream for a project
- Exploring contractors to take on particular roles that are ongoing (i.e. not based on a fixed project deliverable)
- Starting your own business or scaling it, while working on time-consuming tasks that you’d like to delegate to other people
- Not wanting or lacking the flexibility to hire an individual or a team of domain experts permanently/full-time
To understand the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing, you can find a wealth of information including formal publications from a quick Google search. Otherwise, here are a few good articles to read:
- The Pros and Cons of IT Outsourcing
- 20 Advantages and Disadvantages of Outsourcing from Your Small Business
- Four Signs You Should Consider Outsourcing IT
Let’s get into the best outsourcing websites so you can start offloading the work you don’t want to spend your time on.
Note that the person seeking to hire is the “buyer” or “client”, whereas the freelancer or contractor seeking to sell their services is the “seller”.
The 3 best outsourcing websites
Outsourcing website at a glance
- Huge range of different services to hire
- Reputable – trusted by large successful companies
- Quick, easy, and inexpensive to search and identify talent – legitimate low rates ideal for small projects
- Freelancers offer packages for deliverables based on specific outcomes (i.e. a marketing presentation)
- Premium-level services to cater to larger and more complex needs
What’s not so great?
- Risks of low-quality results if due diligence not completed sufficiently
- Possible to game the social proof system – “fake” and generic reviews are sometimes present
- Not targeted at finding contractors to fulfill an ongoing role or duty
Plenty of services available with fast turnaround times
Fiverr easily makes it onto the list of best outsourcing websites. Leveraging Fiver can be a very smart, straightforward, and cheap investment if you need a relatively small job completed quickly. For example, fixing a front-end website (technical) issue, designing a brochure, administrative support with accounting, or social media copywriting.
There are heaps of freelancers available to choose from for many types of different services. The list of available services from Fiverr keeps growing – every month or so there are seemingly more “New” tags under the various categories available.
Read freelancer reviews fully
Although the review system is a little susceptible to scamming (via fake reviews and ratings), if we adopt a common-sense approach when evaluating a particular seller, it’s easy to pick out who’s genuine and who’s not.
Ensure we have our expectations set appropriately for the quality of work. That’s not to say we can’t find bargain cost rates and get the results we’re looking for – we can.
However, be mindful of the age-old saying “you get what you pay for”. If we see someone offering to build an Android mobile app with custom functionality for $20, then we should expect a very low-quality deliverable.
When outsourcing a service via Fiverr for a more complex or long-term project, then Fiverr Pro is the way to go. This is their elite-level marketplace where available freelancers are hand-vetted and carefully reviewed before they’re able to sell their services.
Rates are of course higher, but more often than not we’ll save money versus partnering with an agency directly.
Note: Fiverr Pro has fewer categories for available outsourced services vs. the regular Fiverr marketplace.
Recently, Fiverr has published another premium-level offering: Fiverr Business. This goes beyond Fiverr Pro, by concentrating on hiring more freelancers for our project, as a team for example. Also, there’s personalized support available to help build that team, in addition to collaboration tools and simplified views to manage everything holistically.
Freelancer packages to purchase
Fiverr’s business model focuses on freelancers offering fixed-price projects. Therefore (and unlike some other outsourcing websites), we pay the freelancer the agreed rate for the outcome of the project or deliverable. We do not pay by the hour or day, such as for a time and materials project.
Many freelancers on Fiverr offer three packages: Basic, Standard, and Premium. The packaging feature is highly effective because it provides the buyer with objective insights into what they will (and will not) get when the freelancer performs the work. If there are still areas of uncertainty with what to expect, then there’s an option to contact the seller for a quote.
Starting small with Fiverr
To start outsourcing a particular task or project on Fiverr, we can do a test run on a very small job to get familiar with how things work.
As long as we’re not blowing our entire budget initially, it’s a very low-risk strategy. Moreover, it’s most likely an astute move on our part, permitting we do our due diligence appropriately.
Outsourcing website at a glance
- Vast list of categories and sub-categories of different services available
- Used by large (publicly-listed) enterprises to post projects and source freelancers
- Time and billing management systems for full visibility to both the client and freelancer
- Big focus on “client” side features – buyer portal for posting jobs and projects
What’s not so great?
- Can take a fair amount of time to source a freelancer – need to create detailed job posts and invite or wait for job applications
- With a large number of people on the platform (globally), we can expect an influx of applications to navigate through
- Less flexibility to source for “quick” jobs and deliverables
- “Job Success Rate” on the freelancer profile is a questionable metric
Hugely popular with buyers and sellers
From the perspective of having the most registered buyers and sellers, Upwork is “the” best outsourcing website. There are two ways to interpret that statement:
- Positively: there are thousands (and thousands) of freelancers, contractors, and clients using the marketplace.
- Negatively: is there a balancing issue with supply and demand? For example, is the platform saturated with project managers or business analysts? It’s difficult to know.
Upwork was born through a merger of oDesk and Elance in 2013 – both companies were already dominant players in the e-freelancing market. Therefore, Upwork was a mammoth immediately upon its launch.
Create a job post
We have the ability to browse different freelancers instantly, but we need to create a job post describing exactly what we’re looking for before we can engage with anyone.
It a little onerous if we’re looking for something quick and easy. However, upon creating a job post fully, Upwork’s algorithm identifies a host of freelancers who they think are a good match.
Invite freelancers to apply and pay by the hour
Upwork targets sellers who offer hourly rates vs. fixed price work. The focus is to hire someone for X number of hours at X dollars per hour. When we review job applications from freelancers, we need to agree on how many hours they require (and we’re able to negotiate on this).
The possibility exists to hire for fixed-price deliverables, but it’s a lot less common.
Since there are so many freelancers on Upwork, the minute we post a job and it’s “live”, we’ll likely receive a lot of applications very quickly. This seems great at first, but we should prepare to act as an official recruiter. That’s unless we’re getting premium support via the likes of Upwork Plus or Upwork Enterprise, which have relatively similar features to Fiverr Pro and Fiverr Business.
The way around this is to set our job post as “Invite Only”, meaning people cannot apply for it. In this situation, we can search and hand-pick who we want to speak to and hire. We’re still playing the role of a recruiter, yet we have more control over the management of applications and candidates.
“Job Success” rate
Each freelancer with completed tasks on Upwork has a “Job Success” rating scored as a percentage. It can be a useful way to gauge the legitimacy of our potential freelancer, although questions surround the credibility of how Upwork derive the rating.
Once a freelancer marks a job as completed for their client, the client can rate the freelancer’s efforts as a success or not. If the client doesn’t give feedback, then it negatively impacts the job success rating (meaning the work is “unsuccessful”).
Arguably, if the client doesn’t take the time to rate the work as a success, then perhaps it’s unsuccessful. Nevertheless, what if the client forgets to give feedback or is too occupied with other work?
When you last purchased a product on Amazon that you really liked, did you write a 5-star review? The answer is “no” for the vast majority of people. Even though Upwork is different because there’s a direct relationship between the client and freelancer, it seems unjust to reduce the freelancer’s credibility if the client skips the feedback process.
A project with some degree of complexity
As one of the best outsourcing websites, Upwork is a valid consideration for hiring a freelancer to fulfill a real project or role with a mid to long-term delivery timeline. It also helps significantly if we have a firm idea of the requirements, the budget, and the number of hours needed. The more details we know, the better.
It’s key that we make the most of any provisional conversations with potential freelancers because it helps us (and them) have more clear expectations. This is important since we’re likely financing the work as a bigger effort versus a small (low-risk) task.
Outsourcing website at a glance
- World-class talent pool
- All freelancers are subject to a rigorous screening process
- Hands-on support staff to help identify the best freelancers
- Fast hiring process – introductions to vetted candidates within 24 hours
- Freelancers are fluent in English (written and spoken)
What’s not so great?
- Limited range of services – tech and finance only
- Expensive for most businesses and people
- Not ideal if only needing help on a small or less complex project or task
The name Toptal comes from “top talent”
Toptal is the superior outsourcing website for hiring high-quality freelancers. Think Fiver Pro and Upwork Enterprise freelancers, but a few levels up in terms of credentials.
Toptal prides itself in offering the top 3% of freelancers available in the global freelancer market (limited to those offering services in technology or finance roles). A fairly big statement to make, although they outline how they calculate this metric.
Either way, it’s difficult to argue with while skimming over some of the freelancer profiles advertised throughout their site. Highly educated people from top universities with impressive resumes, having worked in complex and impactful roles for top-tier companies.
An in-depth and strict freelancer selection process
Referring back to Toptal’s “top 3%” statement, a large component of this stems from the thorough application and screening process that all freelancers require to go through. The candidates have to demonstrate a lot more than just their technical competencies.
Besides freelancer qualities clearly articulated on paper, below is a list of additional qualities that can help distinguish elite talent over the rest:
- Strategic thinking and decision making
- Exceptional communication skills (written and spoken)
- Professionalism and integrity
- Perseverance, particularly when faced with challenging situations
- Understanding and appreciating the bigger picture – it’s not only about completing the task at hand
High quality means high cost
Perhaps high quality does not always equal high cost – there are freelancers available on other outsourcing websites that’ll deliver high quality at a much lower cost. However, there’s no denying the fact that we’ll pay a premium when hiring from Toptal. For example, hourly rates for a software developer start at $60.
A support team to identify freelancers and assist throughout
When using Toptal to seek and hire a freelancer, the Toptal team provides close support from start to finish.
They’re with us from the moment we request to hire which can be a considerable time saver – we don’t need to become a recruiter. Although we’ll enter the job requirements, we’ll avoid sifting through potentially hundreds of freelancer profiles, reading reviews, or looking out for special badges.
The Toptal team aims to source the best candidates for us, and they may ask us questions about our requirements for more clarity. They’ll introduce candidates within 24 hours, and 90% of clients approve the first candidate put forward.
Furthermore, their support team is available to help during and after the freelancer engagement. It’s part of Toptal’s standard approach.
Starting big with Toptal
Unlike Fiverr (excluding Fiverr Pro and Business), we should avoid pursuing freelancers via Toptal for any small or quick piece of work. It’s very likely not worth it. We’re paying a premium for the service, and so we want to get the most out of our money, ensuring the freelancer earns it.
On the other hand, if we have a strong budget and want to outsource a long-term or challenging job, then it’s worth considering Toptal’s contractors since they’re experts at the top of their game.
Final thoughts on the best outsourcing websites
Of the three best outsourcing websites for 2021, each has its pros and cons. Conceptually the business models are similar, yet they all offer unique experiences to outsourcing our work.
- Fiverr provides a quick and easy way to start outsourcing less complex project-based work at often very low rates. Assess the legitimacy appropriately, and there are potentially great results and big savings ahead. Fiverr Pro and Fiverr Business offer a route to premium-level talent if the demand is for more complex work that’s longer-term with a higher budget.
- Upwork is the most comprehensive marketplace with its vast and global talent pool. It can take longer to find someone to hire, but that might be acceptable if the project or role requires sought-after expertise. Our requirements need carefully documenting, and we’ll put on our recruiter hat to headhunt freelancers or review the likely many job applications. For a fee, recruitment support is available via dedicated Upwork Account Managers.
- Toptal predominantly outsources software developers and technology managers while marketing their freelance talent as the best there is. The result of this (unsurprisingly) is the cost of leveraging those specialist skills is expensive, with a lower number of freelancers available. Needless to say, high-quality work is as close to guaranteed as possible (without the formal assurance of course). Want an ex-Googler or ex-Microsoft engineer? We’ll likely be in luck.
How to start with hiring a freelancer from the top outsourcing websites
If you’re new to this space and interested in hiring freelancers via one of the leading outsourcing websites, then start small. Test the waters first to become comfortable with the processes.
Experiment with Fiverr initially for a project with a fixed outcome (or fixed price), because it offers a simple, fast, and low-risk route. Thereafter, if you’re happy with the experience and results, then continue with Fiverr. Use opportunities to strengthen the relationship you’ve built with the same freelancer(s), by outsourcing more work and realizing greater value.
Later, if you want to up the ante by outsourcing additional tasks or projects of higher complexities, then venture into either Fiver Pro, Upwork, or Toptal depending on your budget. Use the experience gained from the low-cost and low-risk strategy (via Fiverr), by applying the same approach and practices.
How would you rate the best outsourcing websites covered in this article? Leave a comment to share your thoughts!