By Cheryl Lock

4 Fashion Must Haves  -- - and How to Care for Them

If you’re looking for skilled part-time or freelance workers, websites such as Elance and oDesk promise to help you manage your staff more efficiently.

They provide a slew of potential employees directly on your computer -- but how well do online staffing services actually work? We decided to do some digging to find out.

How Online Staffing Services Help Small Businesses

Many small business owners are finding that it’s not that they don’t necessarily need any workers at all at the moment, it’s just the type of employees they’re looking for that makes staffing a bit difficult -- namely part-time, temporary or freelance employees.

Small businesses around the country increasingly find a steady stream of freelance workers help achieve the bottom line more efficiently. It’s just a matter of finding employees skilled in the work you need done -- who are willing to work fewer hours. In the past, the easiest way to procure temporary or freelance workers would have been through a temp agency, where you would most likely have limited-to-no control over the actual employee sent to do the job, and your relationship would primarily be with the company providing the employee, rather than the actual employee themselves.

That was the old way of doing business though, and these days small business owners are finding success by taking staffing into their own hands and finding their own part-time or temporary employees to work with. “I actually run my entire business using a team I’ve recruited from oDesk,” says Ivana Taylor, a DIY marketing expert and publisher of “The biggest mistake small business owners make is thinking that they have to do everything themselves.” Collaborating on or delegating tasks to experts will save you money and allow you to be more productive with your own time.

How to Use Online Staffing Services Successfully

Instead of blindly running full steam ahead with an online staffing service to fill your needs, Taylor suggests first using these steps to get organized and go in with a plan. 

1. Make a list of the activities or tasks you need done.

2. Review the list and select the ones that only you can do; the rest are up for delegation.

3. Prioritize them and spend some time making instructions on how to do these tasks, when applicable. Taking a little bit of time up front to do this will avoid costly mistakes in the future. “I like using a tool like Jing to screen capture how a task is done and then use it as a training video,” says Taylor.

4. Post what you need done on staffing services like oDesk, Elance or Taylor suggests staying away from people who look like they do a broad range of tasks, since you’ll most likely get more efficient work with less expensive results by going with someone who is focused on and experienced at exactly what you need done.

After you’ve found your employee(s), start with small tasks and don’t share valuable company information until you’ve worked together for a while and they’ve proven themselves trustworthy. Once you’ve worked together on a couple of projects, you’re likely to find the relationship between you and your employees from online staffing services mutually beneficial -- and that’s a beautiful thing.

Cheryl Lock is a former magazine, newspaper and website editor turned full-time freelance writer. She has worked on staff at the Daytona Beach News-Journal, More and Parents magazines, as well as for Learnvest, the leading women's financial website. Her work has also appeared in Newsweek, Forbes, Ladies' Home Journal and The Huffington Post, among others.

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Making the Most of Online Staffing Services for Your Small Businesses