Archive for the ‘work’ Tag

Why You Should Use Ziptask as Your Business’s Virtual Assistant

Friday, December 28th, 2012 by shawn@ziptask.com

© Zsuzsanna Kilian 2009

I recently read an article on Entrepreneur.com detailing the various ways in which virtual assistants can help small businesses save time and get more work done. While reading the list, it occurred to me that many of these tasks were similar, and almost all of them could be completed with Ziptask. Using Ziptask as your company’s de facto virtual assistant is preferable to going through the process of hiring an in-house worker, and will allow your company greater flexibility and more focus on important tasks.

Why Ziptask Over an In-House Associate?

Ziptask’s services are best used for small, insular tasks, which are precisely the type of work that an assistant would commonly perform. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the process of hiring a flesh-and-blood worker is an extreme headache. For the relatively small role of an assistant, the process is understandably not worth it for many businesses. On the flip side, if you find yourself in desperate need of someone to handle all the small tasks that fall by the wayside, your new worker may find themselves overwhelmed by the volume. Ziptask can easily scale up to handle any amount of work; the same can not be said about a standard human assistant.

The article I read detailed 10 services your assistant could provide you, but I found that they could essentially be distilled into three categories: data collection, data synthesis, and data organization.

Data Collection

In a thriving business, which yours hopefully is, the people up top may find it difficult to keep up with all the information they are expected to know, much less seek out new research. Ziptask can help by sending its workers out to collect new data for you. Based on what your company needs, Ziptask can research potential new clients, keep tabs on changing industry standards, or keep an eye on competitors. Provide Ziptask with a general prompt delineating what information you want collected and simply send it out once a week. You can even automate the process so you just get a simple weekly “newsletter” directly in your inbox!

Data Synthesis

Conversely, sometimes your business has the information it needs already, but it’s not in the most convenient or accessible form. An assistant can provide structure to these heaps of data, and Ziptask is similarly more than up to the challenge. Send us a scan of your date book, and we can send you back a calendar file with all your meetings and reminders perfectly squared away. Send us your fresh-off-the-press business report and a few key points, and we’ll make a visual presentation for your coworkers, clients, or yourself. Send us a pile of receipts, and we’ll transfer the values to a nice, clean spreadsheet for you. Having your data in an accessible form at all times without having to do it yourself is practically invaluable.

Data Organization

Keeping tabs on all that data is possibly the most tedious part of your job, and therefore the part that screams the loudest for you to hand it off to someone else. Ziptask can, for a start, keep your finances in order by filing away all your statements and keeping track of upcoming bills. Simply having that part of the money matters off one’s mind can be a huge relief. In addition, Ziptask could also help you build and maintain a database of your employees or business contacts, keep track of your website’s traffic and hits on social media, and even manage your email inbox.

When faced with the seemingly endless amount of minor tasks we encounter on a day-to-day basis, many people would jump at the chance to pass some of that work off to a reliable third party. Ziptask feels your pain, and we want to help. Free up your time and your brain, and congratulate yourself on avoiding the hiring process when you’re done.

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5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs Crowdsourcing

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012 by shawn@ziptask.com

Infograph from Saleschase Blog:5 reasons

In summary, crowdsourcing helps save time and money, improve quality, and make your business more flexible. Ziptask falls under the “Crowd Sourced Labor” category, and we’re ready to do whatever heavy lifting you need! Embrace the power of the crowd, and super-charge your business.

Ziptask vs. TaskRabbit: When You’ve Got a Task, Who Do You Ask?

Friday, November 16th, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

TaskRabbit is what I like to refer to as an Online Quest Board, where clients post requests for work done and users answer the requests at their leisure. Complete the request, get paid. Think of it like Craigslist, where it’s basically a big community bulletin board that can be accessed by anyone with a computer. Ziptask, on the other hand, is like a cool Dr. Seuss machine where you put your work in one end, scribble instructions on a piece of paper, feed it through a slot, and receive your completed work out the other end.

The similarities to Ziptask certainly exist, but it’s also important to note where the two platforms differ. At the most basic level, TaskRabbit provides a lot more variety in terms of which tasks they’ll post. Ziptask mainly focuses on Microsoft Office and other computer work, while TaskRabbit has been seen to complete oddball tasks like delivering someone waffles at the airport or hand-sewing a Halloween costume.

From this main difference, we see the rough pattern that the other asymmetries follow. Mainly, Ziptask offers quick, professional solutions for those who don’t necessarily want to get their hands dirty with the entire hire-a-freelancer process, and TaskRabbit is a more relaxed, community-focused environment where two parties can define the labor however they feel is appropriate. This separation can be seen in many aspects of both platforms:

Ziptask TaskRabbit
Workers are anonymous to the client. Workers have public profiles and rankings.
Ziptask determines task price and maximum possible price. Task price is negotiated between clients and workers.
Quality control is handled by Ziptask employees. Quality control is handled retroactively through community ratings and feedback.
Ziptask supervises its workers via keylogging and occasional screen grabs. Supervision is provided by the clients, or workers complete the task unmonitored/independently.
Clients and workers do not interact, all communication is handled by Ziptask employees. Clients and workers are encouraged and expected to communicate as much as necessary.
Unsatisfactory work is automatically reassigned to a new worker, and the client is not charged any extra. Unsatisfactory or incomplete work is not reassigned and must be completed by the client, reposted to the website for a second attempt, or left incomplete. The client may still be charged if the work was unsatisfactory.
Tasks are kept confidential and only known to the client, the worker, and their Ziptask project manager. Tasks are posted publicly and can be seen by anyone.

Both platforms have the important things in common. Workers are vetted by the company before they’re turned loose on the world, jobs are assigned to workers based on experience and desired work, and ranks are applied to workers depending on how well they can complete a task. Both platforms also include an iPhone app for on-the-go job posting.

The differences boil down to what you’re looking to get out of the task process. If you have the time to personally devote to finding someone to complete your task, and your task is a little out-of-the-ordinary, TaskRabbit is your platform of choice even though the procedure may take some time and the somewhat shallow pool of available workers won’t guarantee expertise. If you want a fast, professional, hands-off job done on a project that’s more cut-and-dry, Ziptask will do just about everything but trim your mustache, and you can count on the results to be up to standard.

Scalability: Congratulations, You’re Too Successful!

Friday, November 9th, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

We all define “success” differently. For an artist, finally getting their masterpiece into a prominent art gallery may qualify. Retail outlets shoot for profits, happy customers, and quality wares. If you’re a musician, you may find your goals met when you finally perform for an arena-filling sold-out crowd.

However you define success, reaching that point is cause for celebration. But what happens if, or when, you surpass that point and become more successful than you originally anticipated? It’s a great problem to have, but a problem nonetheless; how do you supply a demand that simply blows away every estimation you had for it?

Usually, it comes down to your classic business-expansion moves: increasing production by hiring more people, buying more publicity, and expanding your factories and office buildings. Sometimes you’re lucky, and your initial success has given you oodles of money and attention, making this transition easy. It’s harder if your money is tied up in investments, recouping costs, and paying back debtors. It’s practically impossible if your success was so surprising that you didn’t have a system in place to reap the benefits of your own good fortune.

This brings us to scalability, which basically asks the question, “What would happen to your business if your demand increased five- or tenfold, overnight?” Would it be poised to supply this demand and provide you ungodly amounts of wealth in the process? Or would it fold under a previously unthought of amount of pressure? Scalability is your company’s potential to rapidly expand to satisfy new or increased demands.

Ziptask is convenient for such expansions because the work our clients are required to put into it is so minimal. We’ve really worked hard on this system to make sure that it works whether our clients send in one document or one thousand documents. Sure, it may take a slightly longer time to process the thousand, but the important thing is that from the client’s perspective, that’s the only thing that’s different.

Let me toss out a scenario: you own a furniture/home decorating business that ships nationwide and takes both mail orders and online orders. The online orders are easy to process, since they go though your website directly into an Excel database, but the mail orders are harder. Since they arrive in hard copy, they have to be copied into the system before they can be processed. It’s not difficult work, but it is tedious and it is essential and it’s not that bad as long as there aren’t too many of them.

So what happens when one of your couches is prominently featured in a key scene from a breakout hit TV series? Suddenly, you’re receiving thousands upon thousands of orders for this product from all over the country, and you’re hitting a real bottleneck in turnaround speed when it comes to processing your mail orders. Crisis alert, basically. You don’t have the time or the money to hire someone just to process these orders, you certainly don’t have the time to do it yourself, and the longer you wait to find a solution, the greater the chance that one “wtf, where’s my couch, this company sucks” Tweet ruins the whole thing before it even gets started.

Ziptask is the solution. Scan the forms, send them to us, and you’ll have hundreds of hands on them starting immediately. Our pool of workers is huge; you’d have to send tens of thousands of files before we’d start to have trouble finding people to process them. With the relative ease of the work being done, a single page of instructions attached to the project is the only prep work you would need to do. And if you can drag-and-drop one file, you can drag-and-drop a thousand and one.

Being too successful might not sound like a nightmare scenario, but for those unprepared to handle the success, the windfall may end up being the blow that crushes your business before it ever gets off the ground. Use Ziptask, and other similar services, to make sure that you can handle whatever comes your way, and then get back to the real work: makin’ couches.

Pictured: the life that awaits you. Awwwww yeah.

Ziptask: The Killer App of Cloud Labor

Friday, November 2nd, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

Quite an assertion, right? You’ve gotta be pretty bold to make the claim that your service is the be-all-end-all, better than the rest, the only one worth using. But in the case of Ziptask, it’s pretty close to the truth. We pride ourselves on a “whole package”-type deal, and that’s the key factor that sets us above all the other outlets. They may provide aspects of cloud labor or outsourcing, and some of them are very good at what they do, but if you want the full package, Ziptask is the only one that’s gonna do it for you.

Of course, I couldn’t make a claim like this without some evidence to back it up. So allow me to contrast Ziptask against some of our top competitors, so you can see exactly where Ziptask fills in the gaps.

Ziptask

Just so we have a baseline, allow me to describe the Total Ziptask Package. When you send your work to Ziptask, the only other thing you are required to do is provide instructions on how to complete said work and approve a price. Ziptask’s in-house team and pool of freelancers then work together, completely autonomously, to find the best possible worker for the job, assign them the work, establish a per-minute price estimate, check progress, and assure the quality of the completed work. For the person using Ziptask, the process looks something like this: submit the assignment and instructions, receive and approve a price estimate, go do something else for a while, and pay a fee when the work is completed to your satisfaction. Completely independent and hands-off.

oDesk/Elance

Let’s get this straight; here at Ziptask, we friggin’ love oDesk. We get a ton of our freelancers directly from their pool, and they and Elance are both very good at what they do. But what they do is simply provide a space for freelancers to gather. They don’t do any hiring, work assignments, cost estimates, or quality assurance in-house. These platforms do not handle any of the interaction between the freelancer and the hiring entity. They basically boil down to an online stack of resumés, albeit an easily-searchable one.

Amazon Mechanical Turk

With Turk, we see a shift towards the automation that Ziptask users enjoy so much. Once a user creates a job on Turk and submits it, the work is done automatically by whatever users are sufficiently qualified and motivated. The actual process of the work getting done can be unmonitored and hands-off, which is nice for simple work that doesn’t need a lot of skill. The downside is the enormous amount of effort and brainpower that it takes to set up a project on the platform. Even though great leaps have been made in usability, the mTurk interface is still very clunky and confusing for a newcomer. Add that to the standard headaches of finding a way to format your assignment on their system, deciding on a “sweet-spot” price point that will attract workers without breaking your wallet, and the fact that quality assurance is not guaranteed, and many will find that Turk is too much of a hassle for anything but the most rudimentary tasks.

A Real-Life, Flesh-And-Blood In-House Worker

Just for fun. I probably don’t have to describe what an in-house employee does; you most likely are one, or have several working for you. An in-house employees can offer a lot of advantages, but Ziptask still has them beat. A worker can only take so much work in a day, of course, and scalability is rough since it requires you to actually go through the process of locating, interviewing, hiring, negotiating with, and providing office space for a new employee. Additionally, many workers are skilled in one area and not so hot in others, meaning that if it’s versatility you’re after, you once again have to go to the ol’ Resumé Well. And lastly, most workers are either salaried or paid hourly, meaning that unless you’re monitoring them for the entire time they’re at work, you’re most likely paying for them to browse the Internet at some point or another.

I may be slightly biased, but from where I’m sitting, Ziptask looks like a pretty sweet deal. I like to describe it as a “black box”, where the only things you have to worry about are the input and the output. The rest is completely automated by Ziptask’s team.

And honestly, we could all use one less thing we have to worry about in our daily lives.

Oh, and if you know of a platform that compares favorably to Ziptask, be sure to let us know in the comments!

Never Hire a Freelancer Again

Friday, October 5th, 2012 by shawn@ziptask.com

Don’t get ahead of me.

Freelancers, for many industries, are a fact of life. Media outlets hire them constantly to get fresh perspectives on newsworthy events. Programming development firms often include a revolving door of freelance or third-party programming and QA teams. And many artists subside entirely on freelancing, taking different jobs every few weeks or even every few days. According to this survey from CareerBuilder.com, one in three companies will turn to staffing/recruitment firms and freelancers this year.

But the process of employing freelancers? Sucks. No denying.

At your basest level is the initial act of simply finding a worker you want on your team. You spend money on job ads and spend time posting and responding to offers on Craigslist or LinkedIn or Freelancer or oDesk, hoping against hope to find the one useful name in a pile of thousands. And we haven’t even gotten to the interview process yet, which you can bet will involve miscommunication about the parameters and expectations surrounding the work, salary negotiations in a field that has an extremely wide range of pay scales, and inevitably wasting your time on the handfuls of potentials that simply aren’t going to be a help to your company.

Yes, the process of hiring freelancers is a huge pain in the butt. But as I mentioned, it’s a necessary evil for the industries that take advantage of it. Freelancer community FreelanceSwitch highlights the advantages quite succinctly: freelancers are adaptable, shrink your office, cost less, and (best of all) are expendable once the work is done. “[Employees] cost far more than what they actually take home: payroll taxes, health insurance and other benefits, equipment for their use, even the coffee you provide to employees are costs that you won’t have with a freelancer. When you add up all those numbers, you’ll likely find that hiring a freelancer costs less on an hourly basis than an employee with similar skills — and you don’t have to keep a freelancer on when your project is complete.”So what is the savvy businessperson to do? If you’re reading this, you may already know the answer.

Try Ziptask.

Ziptask gives you the advantages of hiring a freelancer (or team of freelancers) to work on projects involving Microsoft Office, Photoshop, graphic design, and minor programming, without the hassle of actually finding them yourself. Ziptask has a team of thousands of freelancers on-call, already vetted for reliability and classified by the type of work at which they excel; you can omit the interview process entirely. The fees are fixed and by-the-minute, completely skipping over the need for negotiations; you pay only for the work that gets completed, and you’ll never be surprised when the bill comes. And thanks to Ziptask’s hearty QA and management staff, you can be assured that your instructions will be crystal-clear and followed out to the letter, ensuring results that are professional, fast, and on-brand. I challenge you to find a freelance portal or third-party firm with that sort of guarantee.

Instead of spending hours, days, or weeks gathering a team, sorting out assignments, communicating endlessly, and sweating over budgets, Ziptask simply asks for your project files and a description of the work required.That’s it. It’s submitted, and the only thing you have to do after that is hit the “work approved” button when it’s done. And instead of blowing money and effort on a crapshoot job search for the needle-in-a-haystack chance, you pay only once your work has been completed to your satisfaction. If you measure your business expenditures in time and money (and who doesn’t?), you’ll find that Ziptask, quite simply, blows the traditional freelancing model out of the water.

So if you’ve got a new project coming up and find yourself dreading the process of signing on extra muscle to get it done… relax. Take a breath. Put down the notepads, spreadsheets, and address books, and give Ziptask a try. Your stress lines, and your bottom lines, will thank you.
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