An Interview with Gary Swart, CEO of odesk.com

Usman Shahzada: Where are you from and tell something about yourself?
Gary Swart: I grew up in the New York City area and moved to the Bay Area of California almost 18 years ago. I moved to Palo Alto to work for Pure Software, and through a series of mergers and acquisitions, I ended up at IBM. After 1-1/2 years at IBM i recognized that I was happier in a smaller company environment and the opportunity to make a larger impact in the world. oDesk provides me with the ideal opportunity to have an exciting career while doing something meaningful for the world.

Usman Shahzada: When and why you started odesk.com and what was the reason behind it?
Gary Swart: I was not a founder of oDesk although I did come in very early, over 5 1/2 years ago. oDesk was started by our cofounders Odysseas Tsatalos and Stratis Karamanlakis with the goal of enabling people to work on the jobs they want from anywhere in the World. From day one we have been maniacally focused on our vision of enabling people to work from anywhere on the jobs they want, helping employers to access qualified talent anywhere in the world, and making online workers and teams just as effective as on-site, and not just early adopters utilize them.

Usman Shahzada: When you started it what was the initial response of the people?
Gary Swart: The initial response from our community was extremely positive. Our employer customers told us that they liked access to hard to find talent outside of their local geographies, guaranteed work through unprecedented visibility into work as it happens, and the ability to pay without the hassle of payroll. Similarly, our contractor customers told us they liked access to jobs and the guaranteed payment that oDesk provides, whether or not we collect the money from the employer. The positive response from our community continues to improve each year as our marketplace strengthens with more quality jobs and even more highly qualified contractors.

Usman Shahzada: How much you invested initially to setup everything? Were you able to find venture capitalists?
Gary Swart: oDesk has raised 3 rounds of venture capital to help us to build our business to where we are today providing $18M per month in payroll to over 1.4M contractors from around the world.

Usman Shahzada: How did you market your business/website after the launch?
Gary Swart: oDesk is primarily marketed via referrals from our customers. Our employers get great results and tell other employers how great oDesk is for getting work done cost effectively and contractors also bring other contractors to oDesk to make money. In addition to referrals we also leverage Search Engine Marketing, PR, and social media.

Usman Shahzada: How many teams members you have at odesk?
Gary Swart: We have 55 employees at oDesk and 170 full time equivalent contractors that we have hired from our network to help us to build and run our business. We are proud of the fact that we use our own service to get more work done.

Usman Shahzada: Do you have other businesses/websites other than odesk?
Gary Swart: I do not currently have other businesses in addition to oDesk.

Usman Shahzada: How do think makes odesk different from vworker, elance, freelancer, getacoder, guru and other online market places?
Gary Swart: oDesk is the largest and fastest growing company in the eWork space. We are the only marketplace that offers guaranteed work and guaranteed payment and as a result we have the worlds largest network of highly qualified rated, ranked, tested contractors and the most employers looking for long-term, time-based workers.

Usman Shahzada: Where do you see odesk after five or ten years?
Gary Swart: oDesk will be a globally mainstream way to hire and work. People can work from anywhere on the jobs they want.Employers can access qualified talent anywhere in the world.Online workers and teams are just as effective as on-site, and not just early adopters utilize them.

Usman Shahzada: Any upcoming and new exciting features that are to be launched in odesk that you wish to share?
Gary Swart: Stay tuned for even more continual innovation in all areas of hire, manage and pay.

Usman Shahzada: What do you think is the main reason behind your success?
Gary Swart: oDesk is successful based on the continued innovation and execution by our highly qualified and capable team.

Usman Shahzada: Any message for the newbies who want to start their freelancing career?
Gary Swart: My advice to new contractors that would like to start a career on oDesk is to recognize that it may take some time to get your first job on oDesk and not to give up too soon. Here are some tips to get started,

  1. Complete their profile including uploading a photo, adding samples of their work to the portfolio and take a few tests to demonstrate that they have the right skills and knowledge.
  2. Look through the 80+ jobs posted on a monthly basis to identify those most targeted to their strengths.
  3. Apply to jobs of interest with a very focused and relevant cover letter, clearly articulating how your capabilities will be an ideal fit for what the employer needs done.
  4. Be flexible on your desired hourly rate to get started
  5. Don’t give up!

 

A complete guide to Freelancing

There are many online market places such as odesk, guru, scriptlance,getacoder, freelancer, elance and vworker but I will focus on VWorker.com and Odesk.com only. So I will be discussing how to

  • Setup profiles on vworker and odesk
  • Comparison of vworker and odesk (Arbitration/Mediation, Escrow )
  • Fixed Price vs Hourly Jobs on Odesk
  • How to use Team Room (Odesk) and RAC Time Card (Vworker) for hourly jobs.
  • How to get your first job (Tips for getting your first job on odesk/vworker)
  • Setting up payment methods (Payoneer, Moneybookers, Western Union etc)

So if you are new to freelancing, this probably will help you setup profiles, bid on projects and earn money. You can have a look at my profiles on worker and odesk.