oDesk, a site that will scare you off

oDesk, a site that will scare you off

“I’m making in a week on oDesk what I made in a month as a schoolteacher, and I get to spend far more time with my family.”
-A freelance copywriter in Pakistan (exempt from the Economist)
If you haven’t heard of a site called oDesk, you definitely need try this out. You have every reason to be scared this site. Whether you know it or not, everyone, especially living in the developed world, is currently being affected by this site.
I’ve been using this site for nearly 2 years now and I tell you, the more I use this site, the more I get scared. oDesk, which has boomed in the past couple of years, is a global job marketplace where you can tap into talents from all over the world. In short, it’s an outsourcing site where you can basically outsource anything. Yes, anything!
Whether you want someone to do research for you over the web, create a sophisticated database system, or create a logo, you will be able to find someone to do this about a tenth of a price you’re currently asking for if you live in the developed country. You can hire a Harvard MBA class freelancer for $20 per hour to do work for you.
I currently have a 10 person team on oDesk, five transcribers, two personal assistants, a web engineer, a image editing expert, and a translator. Nationalities include two Indians, three Filipinos, two Indonesians, a Pakistan, a Sri Lankan and a Sweden. My team’s hourly rate is anywhere from $2 per hour to $16 per hour depending on the complexity of the job.
For example, I currently teach global communications and conduct a two hour discussion session. I live stream the session and record it via Ustream. After each session, I divide this into three parts (each part 40 minutes) and ask my three transcribers to immediately work on the transcription. After 36 hours, the transcription is sent to my personal assistant who will assign a color for each participant on their comments. This takes about 30 minutes and he does it for me for $1.
You’ll be amazed when you receive a 60 page script in less than 36 hours with all the details of who said what colored. The price for a 2 hour video script with 10 participants? Only $37. I asked a Japanese company how much it would cost it to do a service like this. They said no less than $3,000. Why I have my seminars transcribed is a different story so I’ll write in a different blog post.
Another example of how I use oDesk is I decided to take two weeks off in September and go to Berlin. Since I was super busy I had no time to plan for my trip until the last moment, I put up a job posting on oDesk two days before leaving the country to have someone find me an apartment to rent out, lists of art and language schools I can go to. Here is the actual job description I posted up.
Within 24 hours, I had four persons biding for this job who said they’ll work anywhere from $4-$15 per hour. I quickly hired two locals and gave them each two hours to gather information. It all worked great. I had a nice apartment to stay and a world class art teacher with whom I took private drawing lessons. I went to a German language school and took private dancing lessons as well. I only paid $50 for this.
What scares me the most is that these people are very good in what they do. They are constantly rated so they take work seriously even though they are paid a fraction of the price. They call you “Sir” and never complain. I had one person refund me $10 (an hour worth of work) when I told her that she did it wrong. They know that they’re easily replaceable.
I keep wondering myself what can I outsource to buy time and whenever I do so, I feel what’s left in me that I cannot outsource.
According to an article by the Economist “Angst for the educated” it tells a story how a university degree will no longer confer financial security, and the three key trends for the coming decade are:
“automation, globalisation and deregulation.”
Law firms are contracting out routine work such as “discovery” (digging up documents relevant to a lawsuit) to computerised-search specialists such as Blackstone Discovery. Even doctors are threatened, as patients find advice online and treatment in Walmart’s new health centres.
And of course, oDesk for globalization. I want you not to simply browse this site but actually outsource something (i.e. a personal logo which will only cost you $10-30). Just by  interacting with these global freelancers will welcome you to the current globalized world.

Posted by Masafumi Otsuka




    Oct 18


    You’re absolutely right about the way that the world is changing. Pretty soon it will not be your education, but your creativity, expertise, and network that will be of value.

    The internet has made it possible for anyone around the world to compete. All you need is a computer, a valuable skill, and you can get to work.

    I wish you the best as you continue on with your blog!


      Jan 17

      Masafumi Otsuka

      Hi Rob,
      Sorry for the late response. Didn’t realize the comment…

      This global crowdsourcing is becoming a disruptive innovation. 4 years ago it most of it was low end skills but now I see many lawyers and consultants which will do work for you at a fraction of the cost. Also, I see more and more Americans/Europeans bidding/competing with people with emerging countries who already have a established track record (I mean hundreds and thousands of endorsed work hours/established ratings). It’s much safer to go with the latter…

      I don’t think I can compete if any of these high talents in terms of skills. But since I’ve managed over 50 projects with over 100 people (20+ countries), my project management skills have flourished and now, I think myself as a consultant who can draw the overall picture of any problem and get it done by collaborating with these talents.

      Scary world!


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