Big Dude Clothing: Retailer Reinvention Through ElanceGuest_Blogger | Aug 29, 2011
In order to keep up with a constantly changing global marketplace, businesses often find the need to utilize new technologies and leverage their experts. Darrell Freeman of specialty men's apparel online retailer Big Dude Clothing discusses the challenges they were facing with their old e-commerce system and how they came to use Elance to rebuild their core business capabilities using the red-hot Magento platform.
Big Dude Clothing is a specialist online big men’s clothing company based in the UK. Having started in late 2009, our original ecommerce website was built by a local UK agency. There were various problems with the original e-commerce site, from being a disaster in the search engines, poor knowledge of the shopping cart by the agency, to high ongoing monthly maintenance charges.
In early 2010, we decided to find new partners to work with on the website. We required a highly experienced Magento specialist, with competitive fees and the flexibility to work on set projects rather than monthly maintenance. We contacted several UK agencies, small development companies and freelancers; however there was no proposal that clearly fit our criteria.
We came across Elance after searching on Google. Straight away we were impressed by the amount of specialist Magento freelancers available at very competitive rates, with fantastic feedback. We decided to start with a small Magento project to see if it was practical to work with one of the freelancers. We choose AlexChp after he impressed us with his in-depth proposal.
It was important that we used the project tools on Elance. We used the Elance Workroom for all communication and to keep all messages in the same place. This has seen us improve our project management rather than having random emails going back and forth. Additionally, the escrow payment system benefits both us and the contractor, and provides the protection that we just do not have when we work with UK agencies or developers.
After the opening project, which was basically a test, we decided to start the large project of developing a multi-store set up on Magento to allow us to operate more than one shop—but from the same installation of the shopping cart.
To get the best proposals from candidates, we produced an in-depth brief showing all the various elements of the project and a freelancer specification to ensure the project developed as expected. As part of the brief, we included several questions to the candidates on the methods they would use to complete the project; this showed us which applicants read the brief in detail and then responded to our questions. Once again, the best proposal came from AlexChp, which resulted in us awarding the job.
With such a complex project, there were a few hiccups, but we worked through them with the help of AlexChp, who was such a credit to Elance and really does know the Magento shopping cart inside out. Within the defined timescales we had produced www.supersizeguys.co.uk, which is part of the Big Dude Clothing multi-store setup. This shows how the use of skilled online workers can help to expand a company.
After completing such a complex project, we’d like to offer some fundamental advice on how to get the best out of Elance:
- Make sure you produce a detailed description about your project. This will help contractors decide whether to submit a proposal for your project and will show all the different components of the project. This can even be referred back to if there are any discussions during the project about what is and what is not included.
- When a prospective candidate submits a proposal, start a discussion with them. This gives you good insight into how fast they are at getting back to you, their communication skills andwhether or not they will be a good fit for the project period.
- Examine the candidate’s Job History and feedback. A history of poor feedback may indicate the contractor is unreliable. Also, check to see if their Job History shows similar jobs to your project—their skillset will be obvious then.
- Use the Elance Escrow payment to fund your project and set realistic, bite-size milestones if reasonable. Escrow gives your contractor confidence that the payment is safe, so they’ll likely be focused on the work at hand instead.
- Use the Elance Workroom for all discussions about the project, as this will keep all discussions in an easy to find format and be of benefit if there are problems that arise during the project.
- Finally, treat your contractor with respect and they will often be more than willing to go the extra mile for you.
About the Author
Darrell Freeman is a Director at Big Dude Clothing, an online retailer of plus size men's clothing in the UK. Established in 2009, they are now one of the major players in this field with their large range of stock, top brand names and the lowest prices for big men's clothing in the UK.