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How To Find Workers When No One Has Experience

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oDesk has many thousands of providers with an incredible range of skills and experience. That’s a key reason I use oDesk (as a buyer), and probably why other buyers do as well. If you want some programming work done on a common platform – WordPress, Joomla, osCommerce, etc, you’ll be able to pick from dozens or hundreds of well qualified, experience candidates.

Sometimes life isn’t that simple. When you find yourself working with a platform where there are few to no experienced workers, or perhaps a custom platform where the original developers aren’t available, then you need to be a bit more careful. Choose badly and you could end up with a provider who will chew through your whole budget just learning how to use the software, and maybe do a bad job at the same time.

I faced this problem recently where I needed some customization done to a less popular CMS product. I needed to use it for a client, but couldn’t find anyone on oDesk with experience with this product. What is the best way to handle this?

1. Work out what core technologies it uses. At the basics, if your product uses PHP, then of course you need a PHP programmer. That’s the easy bit. Beyond that, does it use any frameworks? For example, if it uses the xxx framework, there’s plenty of providers out there with experience in that. Likewise, if it uses the JQuery JavaScript library, there’s an army of people on oDesk who know how to use that. Why pay for someone to learn a new library if you don’t have to?

2. Look for people with experience with a range of similar packages. For example, if you need help with a shopping cart, someone who has worked with 3 or 4 different shopping cart packages will have an advantage. Their experience with those different packages will give them a good foundation in how different shopping cart packages work and experience in learning new ways of doing things. Each new package they’ve learnt makes it easier to learn another one.

3. Look for experience with associated products. Perhaps the company makes some related products, or there’s a fork of the package. There’s a good chance they use similar concepts and paradigms which will further reduce the learning time.

4. Conduct good interviews. You need to be honest with the provider about your expectations. Ask good questions about their experience with frameworks, about learning new packages, and more. This will help you find the best person for your job, as well as getting the relationship off to a good start.

5. Accept that the coder will have a learning curve. No matter how well you follow the other steps and choose well, the coder will always need some time to ramp up. This is time you need to pay for – they didn’t choose the platform so they shouldn’t be expected to learn it in their own time. This equates to more time (or with a fixed price job, likely a higher quote), so be prepared to pay extra – there’s no way around it. If you try to avoid this, you may end up with a coder who has too much confidence in their own ability and will underquote for the job.

Kirsty LaVier is editor for Shopping Cart Reviews, and loves social media just a little bit too much for her own good.

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