Elance Blog

From Idea To Execution: How To Hire the Right Contractor for Your Job

Elance can be a great resource for anyone that has a project for which they need help. However, finding the “right” contractor is crucial to a project’s success and can be tricky to come across if you are not a proactive client. Luckily, there are tricks to getting the most out of the system so you can find the right contractor the first time you post a job.

The first time I posted a job on Elance I decided that I would go through the top contractors in a particular category and only invite those contractors that listed the skills I needed. I only invited about 15 contractors and received 3 bids total in response—not a large pool to choose from. Finally after I got a chance to ask each contractor some questions, none of them ended up being what I was looking for either. So, there went a week of my time. My major mistake was that although I was interested in hiring these contractors, they weren’t necessarily interested in taking my job and I had closed myself off to other contractors that would have done a fantastic job but weren’t at the top of the search results.

I decided to post my job again. This time I decided I would not invite any contractors at all and I would just open the bidding as a free-for-all. I got a ton of bids but, again, none of these contractors were really what I was looking for. This time I realized my mistake was that I was not very clear in my job description and when I finally spoke to contractors I was interested in, they were no longer interested in my job.

So, at this point I had spent two weeks of my time trying to find a pool of contractors for my project. If I just really paid attention to my posting and used the tools Elance provides to make the hiring process easy, I would have already been two weeks into my project. The hiring process is pretty straightforward. You post your job and then wait for bids to come in right? Not quite. Here are some tips on how to get the most qualified and motivated contractor for your job:

  1. Make sure you’re posting your job correctly: Describe your job thoroughly and accurately. It’s better not to sugar-coat how difficult a job can be and scare off contractors that are looking for simpler jobs than it is to weed out contractors that really can’t do your job. If you can’t figure out how to do that on your own, Elance has a new Job Templates wizard to help you define your job.
  2. Detail, Detail, Detail: When you post a job, you have several different fields that you can fill in such as skill groups and category of work in addition to your description. Fill in each and every one. The more details you can add to your job, the better the pool of contractors you’ll have to choose from. The idea is that you want a contractor who wants to work for you, and feels that their skillset matches what you’re looking for.
  3. Cheaper isn’t always better: Also, the reverse is true and the most expensive contractor isn’t always the best contractor. Elance provides several ways to check out a contractor. When reviewing contractors, go to their profile and see what they say about themselves. The description they provide can be very telling about their grammar, spelling skills and attention to detail. If they missed a major spelling error in their profile while they’re trying to sell their skills to potential clients, who is to say that they’re going to be more detail-oriented with your job?
  4. Look at their portfolio: Any contractor that can do your job will have relevant samples of their work in their Elance portfolio. Whether it’s research, programming, or admin skills, there’s a way for the contractor to show you what they’ve got before you pull the trigger and hire that person.
  5. Don’t let one bad review scare you: If a contractor has a ton of good reviews and has one out-of-character review, it could indicate that the contractor and the client just didn’t see eye-to-eye on a project and isn’t necessarily a reflection of the contractor’s skills or work ethic. Reviews are highly subjective and you shouldn’t always just be looking at the point score. Really read what other clients have to say about the contractor. There are some clients who feel they can never give perfect ratings even though a contractor has met all of the client’s expectations and time constraints. Also, there are some clients who only give perfect scores.
  6. Don’t be afraid of new contractors: After all, the contractors that are the most in-demand were at one point brand new to Elance as well. You may need to do a little extra screening of these contractors but, you may find a great resource at a great price who you can call on for future jobs. If they’ve filled out their profile completely and taken skill tests, their expertise will show.
  7. Use the invite contractor option as a “wish list” rather than a sole resource: Remember that this process is a two-way street and contractors are screening you just as much as you’re screening them.
  8. Have a minimum price: You have a budget and contractors have a bottom-line price; somewhere in the middle is where you’re happy to pay the contractor and the contractor is happy to do the work. If you have a contractor that is “under-bidding” a job, don’t necessarily discount them immediately; it may take some questions back and forth with the contractor to decide if they don’t really understand the job or if they’re just really hungry for work. With hungry contractors I’ve found that if I have a minimum price and they’re under that price, I’ll raise their bid to my minimum price. The contractor immediately wants to do a better job for you and feels like you’re not out to take advantage of them. This can be a huge boost to their work.

These are just a few of the tricks that I used to finally get all of my jobs fully staffed. I have had the same roster of 4-5 contractors working for me for several months and I couldn’t be happier with their work. It may take a little more work up-front but, in the long run, these tips have saved me a lot of wasted time and money instead of dedicating valuable time and resources for something I couldn’t use.

About the Author
Sara Abbott is a corporate paralegal by day and an avid Elancer by night. Sara started with Elance over 2 years ago as a contractor and has built a small business through working with her clients. Now Sara is solely a client looking to hire Elancers for a number of ongoing jobs. With the help of Elance Sara has managed to continue to grow her business and still have time to spend with her family and friends.


Sara, I couldn't agree more. I just went through the bidding process for editors on a current nove. I received 24 bids and then started the weeding out process. Prices ranged from $1000.00 to $200.00. I checked out their refrences and narrowed the list down to six. I sent each of them two chapters to edit to check out their styles. That narrowed the field to three. It was a very difficult decision as each had their own style and thoughts. I finally made a decision and moved forward. In the end, the one I chose didn't stand "up to muster." It didn't diminish my hopes. I still plan on using ELancer in the future. It's just difficult to make an educated decision without the face-to-face meeting. We learn every day.

I'd like to add that I really see it as a plus if the contractor is new, or has little reviews. Why? Because they'll need you as much as you need them. Contractors with lots of resources, experience, and great reviews can botch your project, or not take it as seriously when completed. I see these firms as churn and burn, get and complete as many one off projects as possible. Finding and picking the right contractor is something we've battled with for nearly 6 years, when you find a good one, stay with them and use them as repeat customers through the invite function.

Nice article, Sara. I'm having trouble finding a good contractor that I'm confident in. This will help me. Thanks!

Good tips for buyers, Sara.

because if you're looking for an editor and your job description starts off with "Writer who knows how to create stories that make an impact and leave a lasting impression with a variety of audiences. Here's what you need to know" then most of us longterm editors on elance won't read past that. If you can't describe what you need better than that, we don't want to work with you.

Kelly Andersson


"sent each of them two chapters to edit to check out their styles. That narrowed the field to three."

Did you now? You sent elance providers who'd bid on your project some chapters to edit for free to "check out their styles" ??
Did they all respond to your request with free samples of edited chapters?
That's REALLY interesting.

Have you read the elance TOS ?

Very nice article to read - Thanks Sara!!

Being a contractor (worker) on Elance, I agree with you especially on "Cheaper isn’t always better", most of the time new clients posting jobs get impressed by the cheap prices which they have never thought of and find themselves entrapped with low quality services and performances.

Many thanks
Vijay Sharma
SEO Management

This is very educative I must say. Being a new contractor myself, I am extremely motivated to produce nothing but excellence in any kind of job I do for a client. Thanks for this article.