Buying or Selling IT Services via Online Marketplaces
Whether you're looking for help for a large IT project or selling your time and expertise, there are online services marketplaces to help you find just the right situation.
By Martin Sinderman
Perhaps you're looking for an individual or a crew to help out on a large IT infrastructure project? Or maybe you would prefer to work as a contractor on someone else's project? Whether you're buying help or selling your time and expertise, there are numerous online services marketplaces to help you find just the right situation.
Nearly 14,000 IT and CE pros throughout the United States and Canada have registered with OnForce.com, for example, says Maria Battaglia, senior vice president of marketing for OnForce Inc. in Lexington, Mass. The Web site provides a business-to-business-focused forum that companies-25 to 30 percent of which are major corporations-can use to find registered technicians for rollouts, installations, repairs, site surveys, and other engagements. In today's economy, says Battaglia, most of these pros "are now booking a large part of their business through OnForce, because they find it a good platform for getting steady work."
Meanwhile, at job auction site Elance.com, "Web and programming" contract gigs comprise the largest employment category, according to Brad Porteus, chief marketing officer for Mountain View, Calif.-based Elance Inc. "Elancers" are also in high demand for design and multimedia work, he notes, with Flash, video production, and graphic design being particularly active.
The focus is also on freelance providers at Guru.com, although employers can restrict responses to their postings to companies that are registered on the site. IT-related engagements make up almost 60 percent of the site's activity, with a high concentration of jobs in programming, software development, and Web site development, according to Kristin Sabol, spokesperson for the Pittsburgh-based company.
Online marketplaces such as these generally offer services to better the odds that both employers and those seeking work get what they're after. Such services include vetting of professional certifications and backgrounds; transaction management services to ensure that money changes hands in a timely fashion after work is performed; and procedures for employers to provide feedback on the services they receive.
There are also things both employers/buyers and work-seekers/sellers can do to optimize their results. First, employers need to be specific about what they want. At OnForce.com, for example, "Buyers pay to route work orders through us," says Battaglia, "so they must be really clear in the job they are describing and price it right in advance."
Indeed, job descriptions can be problematic. "A lot of job postings don't provide enough details," says Diane Tremblay, a freelancer and frequent user of Guru.com, who heads Multimedia Designs and Development Inc. in Coral Springs, Fla. "When you bid on these jobs, you don't have enough information to provide a good bid and stick to it, so you wind up having to provide a bid on a preliminary basis." That, in turn, stretches out the bidding and negotiation processes among the parties involved.
Job seekers, meanwhile, need to focus on building good online reputations, according to Nick Dalton, an Evergreen, Colo.-based specialist in iPhone development. "Elance, like most online marketplaces, is built on a reputation system," he says, so it pays to under-promise and over-deliver on projects. "Before you have any positive feedback in the system, you may have to do a few projects at lower rates just to get started. I consciously?started with many rather small projects so I could quickly build a portfolio and gain clients that I could reference for future project work."
Being a specialist rather than a generalist will win you more success on marketplaces like Elance, notes Dalton, who adds: "Becoming the expert will also help in keeping up your rates."