Do more by outsourcing some outreach tasks to freelancers

Expand your outreach capacity with multiple media, multiple languages, new sites and apps, and other features by hiring freelancers. Here’s an overview of marketplaces we’ve successfully used at IDEA.


In our global world, there’s no excuse for staying limited to English speakers, especially when there’s greater need for education in non-English places. Even if you have multilingual staff, most translations will be better and more cost effective if you outsource. Professional translators are efficient, and skilled at adapting idioms and phrases. They tend to be detail-oriented, soft spoken individuals.

ProZ – Text translations of any size, e.g., articles, reports, books. ProZ also has interpreters. Quality translation into a Western language costs $0.07-$0.15 per word, languages from developing economies cost a bit less. Target the upper range, e.g., €0.10 EUR per word if you were going to French. If you know a native speaker, have them review a few of the most promising applicants’ samples. The workflow is that you send the translator your text, and they email you back the translation. If you have large volumes, a translator can translate 30k words a month, going up to 50k if you have bursts of work. Over 300 thousand translators represented.

ICanLocalize – Software translations, such as the short text labels which are part of any web site or app. Little texts like “Back,” “Next,” “Go to article.” We recently used them to translate our WikiNodes app into 18 languages. The cost is $0.10-0.15 per word, including their 20% commission and a 50% fee for peer review. Your programmers first consolidate all the text blurbs from your app into single files (“localization”). Conveniently, you can upload many common formats to their site, and then download them back to put in your app a few days later. Their translators are savvy to the nuances of software localization, and will know that “back” is navigation, not the region between your neck and your buttocks.


Voice123 – If you are creating a radio advertisement, podcast, game, or need narration for a video, and you want a specific kind of professional voice, there’s an infinite world of voiceover artists. Voice actors have a range of styles, from youthful to movie trailer. Voice123 has had 220 thousand voice talents sign up, giving 3.1 million audition samples, since being founded in 2003. There are a few voiceover marketplaces, is another option. With both sites, voice actors — with a diverse range of prices and skills — will give you short samples to listen to. These professionals have studios (microphones and audio software) in their office, and can often send back short recordings within a matter of hours. A ~1 minute recording (e.g., voice track for a video) could cost $50-100. But the price is not linear, so 2 minutes is not 2x the cost of 1 minute.

Simple, repetitive tasks

Some tasks need a person to be involved (i.e., can’t be done by a computer), but don’t need a highly skilled professional. For example, reviewing thousands of blog posts or comments for spam or abuse, categorizing posts or photos, retyping entries from print or PDF into a spreadsheet, or looking up thousands of web sites or Twitter handles for your members. Workers can be paid around $3-10/hour, typically paid 5-10 cents per task. You never know who the workers are, it could a a retiree in Montana, or a 19 -year-old in Delhi.

CrowdFlower makes these tasks easy to manage. They deal with the details of hiring remote workers, and charge a commission for serving as an intermediary.

If you want to go straight to the source, check out Amazon Mechanical Turk (which CrowdFlower and others use as their backend). With Mechanical Turk, you define small tasks, called a “HIT,” (e.g., looking at a photo from your site, and assigning a category), upload the task as a spreadsheet file (each spreadsheet row is a different photo URL). Depending on the price you set, you may have none, or dozens of workers working on different rows from your spreadsheet at once.


Converting audio to written text is tedious. Several services will manage the details of finding transcriptionists, and managing them. (Behind the scenes, these services often use Amazon Mechanical Turk).

CastingWords is one of many transcription services. You email audio or provide URLs, and 1-10 days later, you receive a text file. Price depends on speed. $2.50/minute for 1 day turn around, $1/minute for slow turnaround.


There are two main sites for hiring web programmers for defined tasks like creating web sites, writing simple blog posts or making web graphics. These can also be a good way to find an ongoing part time web master, if you first hire then for a small, defined task.

ScriptLance is the best site for freelance programmers, and has good management features. No need to pay extra for a ‘featured’ project.

vWorker  is a bit more cumbersome, has fewer users, but tends to have slightly more technical workers. There’s no harm in posting jobs to both sites. (Previously called “RentACoder”)

Local help

If you need local help, or need to work in person with the worker — take a look at your local Craigslist and Idealist.

Everything else

From accounting to data entry, writing to design, transcription to programming, the Coke and Pepsi of outsourcing are eLance and Guru. We tend to have a slight preference for eLance, but they are similar. Both sites are focused on web sites, ecommerce, programming and databases, but also include creative tasks, administrative support, and accounting and legal (e.g., drafting a terms of use for your web site).

Below, this map from eLance shows where their talent is based. Darker blue is more common:

eLance – Claims over 68 thousand jobs posted in the last month, over 1.4 million registered contractors, and nearly $550 million in projects to date, with $43 million in 2011.

Guru –  Guru touts that over 1 million users have completed over 3 million tasks, working on over 150 million dollars in projects (average of $50 per project, though project budgets can often go into the $thousands). Today they have 4716 open jobs. – A slightly smaller community, but could be worth posting here also. Over 3.5 million freelancers registered.

Specific skills

oDesk – Specializes in buying time from workers on an hourly basis. Their workers tend to be more highly skilled, so expect higher hourly rates — in the $20-100/hr range. But if you have a specific technical task, this can be a place to fine workers who are not on the other sites. Some other sites (e.g., Freelancer) are expanding into hourly work also.


Designers and other creatives can be challenging to track down because the best designers tend not to use the above sites. Here are some options:

Sortfolio – Created by 37Signals (who created BaseCamp project management software), provides a convenient way to browse portfolios and filter by budget ranges and location. Has a lot of good designers on board.

Coroflot and Behance – Browse portfolios for various kinds of creative work, and then write personalized emails to a few designers praising their work and inviting them to work on your project. Both sites also have full time job boards. Coroflot has 1.4 million images of creative work, from the portfolios of over 150,000 creative professionals and students. Behance has 10.6 million images, 1.6 million projects, and recently raised $6.5 million in funding from investors including Jeff Bezos.

Other marketplaces?

Do you have experience with other marketplaces? Share them in the comments…

7 comments on Do more by outsourcing some outreach tasks to freelancers

IDEA » Do more by outsourcing some outreach tasks to freelancers « Outsourcing Yes

31 May 2012, 10:57 pm

[…] original post here: IDEA » Do more by outsourcing some outreach tasks to freelancers Comments […]


Scott Yates

10 Jun 2012, 10:14 am

One other great outsourcing service is Blogmutt. "We work like a dog to fill up your blog!" We serve organizations that have blogs, but are just too busy to write their own blog posts. We charge $79/month and you get your choice of your favorite post once per week from our crowd of excellent writers.



18 Jun 2012, 1:59 pm

One additional programmer freelancer site:


Sirkka Sistonen

17 Jul 2012, 8:29 am

Wow that is really a well done info,in outsourcing things i can say that IT outsourcing in Finland is one of the "best" a lot of people in the world already been proven that in some part of Finland like Helsinki IT services and IT outsourcing are one of the best.



08 Aug 2012, 3:39 am

Thanks for compiling. It makes a whole lot easier for all of us for outsourcing tasks.


Kristoff R.

19 Dec 2012, 10:31 pm

Great resources, I’ve been into outsourcing for years now and tried hiring on different sites. I personally prefer to outsource tasks on independent contractors rather than in companies. One thing you should keep in mind when looking for someone to hire, you should test them first before hiring. This is a good way to see their potential to do the task. I’ve recently hire a programmer at where I conduct an interview and have a 10 hours trial before I hire him.


IDEA » What is Crowdsourcing? And how does it apply to outreach?

19 Feb 2013, 10:32 am

[…] is paid. Simple tasks are often paid at hourly rates below $5/hour. See a prior blog post on outsourcing some outreach tasks to freelancers. It tends to drive towards the lowest common denominator, so it’s best for tasks that are […]


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