How do you track your outsourced worker's time?

47 replies
Hey guys,

Just like the title says, what tools or strategies do you use to track your outsourced workers time?
#outsourced #time #track #worker
  • Profile picture of the author guptaarun
    I could not understand your question, so please explain your point.
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  • Profile picture of the author Marketing Cheetah
    I estimate the time of work myself and then give a little bit more than that time to the outsourcer. This works fine.
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    • Profile picture of the author AlexHoug
      I am asking like what tools do you use to track the time they have spent working and what they have done. Things like: Toggl or TrackLabor
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  • Profile picture of the author alexei_aus
    you can use oDesk or VirtualAssistant and get them to log everything they do. I even heard about a system where you can watch their screen
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  • Profile picture of the author O0o0O
    Another way to go would be to take the number of minutes he works per day and dividing that by the number of minutes he takes to complete a simple task - From there, you will get the number of tasks he should be doing each day. If one day the number of tasks he completes is far below the number of tasks he should be doing, then he is probably slacking on his job.
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  • Profile picture of the author johngibb123
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    • Profile picture of the author TLCarroll
      I don't micromanage. I could care less if the worker gets paid for 4 hours, the work is completed to my satisfaction yet it only took 3 hours.

      OMG, the worker made more money! So what? In my opinion, that is smallminded thinking.

      If I'm paranoid enough to stand over someone's shoulder to watch them do something then I might as well do it myself.

      The whole idea behind outsourcing/hiring employees is to free up my time to do other things. I love it when workers produce work before my deadlines. Let them keep the extra money/time as a bonus. It builds good rapport.

      The "Big Brother is watching" mentality has ruined many a business. It's insulting to work under those conditions and breeds contempt.

      Your mileage may vary, of course.
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      • Profile picture of the author Sandra Martinez
        Pay by task, not by time. Outsourcers have already figured out how long it takes to do something.
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      • Profile picture of the author stevenh512
        Originally Posted by TLCarroll View Post

        OMG, the worker made more money! So what? In my opinion, that is smallminded thinking.
        Exactly! One company that I really love and almost ended up working for recently (GitHub) openly states that one of their core philosophies is "Hours are bull****" (the CEO's exact words, but he didn't censor it like I did lol) and you should be judged by the quality of your work, not the number of hours it took to get it done. Seems to be working for them, they're insanely profitable and their product is used by a lot of big companies (including Facebook and Microsoft) and hundreds of thousands of opensource projects.

        I think this is especially true with outsourcing. If you find two people whose work is more or less equal in quality, are you really going to pay less money to the person who gets the job done faster? That just encourages him/her to be lazy and take their time with it.
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  • Profile picture of the author fated82
    Don't go by the hour. You will spend alot of time worrying whether your staff is slacking or not. Outsource based on project and they would work fine for both of you
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  • I own, run and manage a 5-year old ICT outsourcing firm here in Manila...

    I constantly formulate hiring/training/management methodologies...
    I formulate implementation processes and workflow systems...

    I carefully analyze results...
    I formulate daily quota standards in terms of work output quality,
    volume and employee motivation...
    I implement these daily quota standards...

    If you lack expertise in doing the things above:

    Identify tasks necessary for completing each of your specific campaigns...
    Classify task sets requiring expertise commonly found in one professional,
    i.e. relevant tech skills expected from a software programmer, relevant
    visual communication expertise from a graphics designer, relevant
    communication skills from a writer, etc.

    Learn each of those tasks on your own...
    Do snippets of those tasks and time your progress...
    Study your output quality, volume and completion speed...
    Determine the output quality, volume and completion speed best for your
    business results...

    Compare against industry standards for each profession covering each
    task set, including wages...
    Figure out, based on the data above, the most appropriate daily quota of
    each person being paid $X/month doing specific tasks...
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  • Profile picture of the author Alexandre Valois
    I love timedoctor.com, it's currently free while in Beta but the rates announced are very interesting so I'm sticking with them even after the beta phase.

    More limited, but teamlab.com is a complete project/team management system that also includes a time-tracker... did I mention it's free?

    Enjoy!
    Alex.
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  • Profile picture of the author Chris Thompson
    Lots of good advice already given here. Hire people by the task rather than by the hour, or get someone you can trust to bill honestly and deliver good quality work. Or simply evaluate them on "are they making you money"?

    I blogged in DETAIL on this exact topic:

    Should you track your outsourcer's hours?
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    • Profile picture of the author Dave Rodman
      Banned
      If it's an actual job, from start to finish, then it makes sense to get a quote on the whole job.

      But if it's ongoing work, it's a huge pain to pay someone by the task. Everytime you add another task that really doesn't take much time, it's expected that you'll give them more money for it. In the long run, it probably ends up costing you more.

      I just do the job myself, get an estimate, and then communicate that to the person. Realistically, I think people are MORE honest when they are working from home.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alexandre Valois
    Also one of the reason I don't like to pay "per project" is that I like to capitalize on the human element of my team as much as possible. By having a steady income and a fixed schedule, even if they're not actively working on a "task", my team members will still go ahead with their own research, their own training, and often generate new ideas for growth or ways to improve our systems.

    That's a very important element you can't bank on if your whole business model consists of freelancing and hiring people as "per job" contractors.

    Alex.
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    • Profile picture of the author Sandra Martinez
      Originally Posted by Alexandre Valois View Post

      Also one of the reason I don't like to pay "per project" is that I like to capitalize on the human element of my team as much as possible. By having a steady income and a fixed schedule, even if they're not actively working on a "task", my team members will still go ahead with their own research, their own training, and often generate new ideas for growth or ways to improve our systems.

      That's a very important element you can't bank on if your whole business model consists of freelancing and hiring people as "per job" contractors.

      Alex.
      That´s a different level on the outsourcing game.
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  • Profile picture of the author myeanne
    We require our staff to send daily report to their clients. Giving them timesheet to breakdown all the tasks they did per day. That includes the number of minutes or hours they finish a particular tasks.
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    • Profile picture of the author trishworks4u
      I never have. I've always gone with the "team concept" ie - you're a part of my company, on my team, a grown up. Act like it.

      I have 3 full time "employees" in the Philippines and I know when they're slacking and when they're hustling. I decide when to do something about it and when to issue bonuses and rewards.
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  • Profile picture of the author NicoleBeckett
    Personally, I've never understood why people pay outsourcers by the hour. But, if you choose to do it, it's important to hire people that are professional, that you can trust. Remember, outsourcers are supposed to save you time. But if you're spending alot of time trying to keep track of what they're up to or wondering if they're *really* working, you're not getting what you should be out of them.
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    • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
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      Originally Posted by NicoleBeckett View Post

      Personally, I've never understood why people pay outsourcers by the hour.
      Neither have I. I've never employed any outsourcee on that basis for my business, and never been asked by anyone to be paid that way, either. Including someone I've been employing (very part-time) for nearly 2 years, among a large number of others.

      I don't care how long they take to do anything. And I don't want to have to think about that, at all. Why would I? :confused:

      Like anyone paying to have a job done, I want to know what it's going to cost me to have it done, of course.

      The idea of doing it myself first and seeing how long it takes me and then estimating from that "how long it should take anyone else" seems to me to be absolutely ludicrous. Why on earth would I want to do that? There's a free market out there: I'm perfectly capable of deciding what it's worth to me to employ someone to do a job, to compare quotations, and so on. Call me a skepchick, but it seems to me that there's quite a bit of nonsense talked about on this subject by people who probably have very little - if any - real experience of actually outsourcing stuff, themselves.

      Originally Posted by AlexHoug View Post

      what tools or strategies do you use to track your outsourced workers time?
      None.

      Their time is neither relevant nor interesting to me. Why would it be?
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      • Profile picture of the author Mike McAleer
        Originally Posted by Alexa Smith View Post

        Neither have I. I've never employed any outsourcee on that basis for my business, and never been asked by anyone to be paid that way, either. Including someone I've been employing (very part-time) for nearly 2 years, among a large number of others.

        I don't care how long they take to do anything. And I don't want to have to think about that, at all. Why would I? :confused:

        Like anyone paying to have a job done, I want to know what it's going to cost me to have it done, of course.

        The idea of doing it myself first and seeing how long it takes me and then estimating from that "how long it should take anyone else" seems to me to be absolutely ludicrous. Why on earth would I want to do that? There's a free market out there: I'm perfectly capable of deciding what it's worth to me to employ someone to do a job, to compare quotations, and so on. Call me a skepchick, but it seems to me that there's quite a bit of nonsense talked about on this subject by people who probably have very little - if any - real experience of actually outsourcing stuff, themselves.



        None.

        Their time is neither relevant nor interesting to me. Why would it be?
        I agree with that totally! The whole point is to get the job done! Paying by the hour causes issues because the worker may try to make it seem like they worked longer than they really did!
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      • Profile picture of the author Dave Rodman
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        Originally Posted by Alexa Smith View Post


        The idea of doing it myself first and seeing how long it takes me and then estimating from that "how long it should take anyone else" seems to me to be absolutely ludicrous. Why on earth would I want to do that? There's a free market out there: I'm perfectly capable of deciding what it's worth to me to employ someone to do a job, to compare quotations, and so on. Call me a skepchick, but it seems to me that there's quite a bit of nonsense talked about on this subject by people who probably have very little - if any - real experience of actually outsourcing stuff, themselves.
        None.

        Their time is neither relevant nor interesting to me. Why would it be?
        It sounds like you have a limited view of outsourcing. You don't pay people by the hour for designing wordpress themes. You pay people by the hour for ongoing work and for doing all the loose-ends that you don't want to be bothered to do.

        Can you imagine in the offline world trying to hire people and pay them by the task? You'd pay some dude and pay him by the number of people he rings up. Then you'd pay him a few bucks for when he shovels the sidewalk out front. Then you figure a rate for when he helps stock shelves. It'd be a total mess.

        haha.
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    • Profile picture of the author Dave Rodman
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      Originally Posted by NicoleBeckett View Post

      Personally, I've never understood why people pay outsourcers by the hour. But, if you choose to do it, it's important to hire people that are professional, that you can trust. Remember, outsourcers are supposed to save you time. But if you're spending alot of time trying to keep track of what they're up to or wondering if they're *really* working, you're not getting what you should be out of them.
      I don't understand. Paying people by the hour is not really a new concept. It's more efficient to pay people by the hour instead of trying to break up tasks into little pieces and trying to establish a dollar value for each task.

      Who says you have to spend a lot of time? You have them send you a log at the end of the week to see what they accomplished. If it's not enough, then you fire them.

      Besides, it's not uncommon for tasks to be based on their hourly rate. So what's the difference?
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      • Profile picture of the author NicoleBeckett
        Originally Posted by Dave Rodman View Post

        I don't understand. Paying people by the hour is not really a new concept. It's more efficient to pay people by the hour instead of trying to break up tasks into little pieces and trying to establish a dollar value for each task.

        Who says you have to spend a lot of time? You have them send you a log at the end of the week to see what they accomplished. If it's not enough, then you fire them.

        Besides, it's not uncommon for tasks to be based on their hourly rate. So what's the difference?

        No, it's certainly not a new concept, but out on the world wide web, you have no control over what they're doing with their time. They're not in the same office as you; they may not even be in the same continent as you. If you hire the wrong people (i.e. people that take their sweet time in an effort to "pad" their working time), you're going to wind up with a headache.

        If you're comfortable with firing them if they don't live up to your standards, that's fine (and a good idea ).

        However, from the looks of some of the questions floating around on this very subject, there are alot of people out there who aren't that cut-and-dry. Instead, they are spending a whole lot of unnecessary time wringing their hands, worrying, and trying to physically keep an eye on everything. That's not what outsourcing was designed to do.
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        • Profile picture of the author Dave Rodman
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          Originally Posted by NicoleBeckett View Post

          No, it's certainly not a new concept, but out on the world wide web, you have no control over what they're doing with their time. They're not in the same office as you; they may not even be in the same continent as you. If you hire the wrong people (i.e. people that take their sweet time in an effort to "pad" their working time), you're going to wind up with a headache.

          If you're comfortable with firing them if they don't live up to your standards, that's fine (and a good idea ).

          However, from the looks of some of the questions floating around on this very subject, there are alot of people out there who aren't that cut-and-dry. Instead, they are spending a whole lot of unnecessary time wringing their hands, worrying, and trying to physically keep an eye on everything. That's not what outsourcing was designed to do.
          I don't think people are worrying about it, I think they're just looking for a way to keep track of it. I happened to just use a really basic method (spreadsheet), but I can look at any given day and tell you what my people get done.

          Believe me, I've done it both ways. It's preferable to pay people for performance and be done with it. But things are not always that easy and you need different approaches depending on what the employees function is.

          My buddy owns a fence company. He pays his installers by the yard of fence they install. That's all they do, every single day they work, is install fence. So that's something that is EASY to put a dollar value on. They can take a long lunch and lolly-gag, they get paid less. The goal is specific and measurable. No gray area. The people in his office get paid hourly. They do it all...they schedule appointments, they confirm appointments, they make bank runs, they place the advertising, they schedule the salespeople, and they deal with suppliers on day to day matters. There's no way to pay them by the task...it'd be ridiculous.

          I think the whole thing about not knowing if they are working is totally overblown. In my past corporate jobs, I've had jobs where I literally sat right next to my boss. It didn't stop me from working on my internet businesses half the day.

          Personally though, I'm not there to be a task-master to people that work for me. If they are reliable and dependable, I don't care if they take a personal phone call and still "charge" me for it. At the end of the day, it's not that much money and it's hard to find people that are reliable. If you treat people with respect, you'll get people that will work hard for you. I have the reports, I can see what they are doing. But I've never had a problem with it in the past.
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  • Profile picture of the author SEOJJ
    I pay for what they deliver, not the time. I think it's the best way to do it as they cant "cheat".
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  • Profile picture of the author mmixon
    I never had very good luck trying to keep track of my Filipino employees on the clock. I switched to production pay. I checked how long it took my best employee to write an article, construct a wp blog, transform a public domain book into a kindle book, etc. I computed how much the employee was costing me an hour, and how long the task should take, and computed how much it cost me for each product produced.

    That was the price I would offer each employee for the product produced. I also offered a bonus if they produced more than the expected number of items in a week.

    I was amazed. The productivity went up over 25%, and most of the employees always made more than their quota so they could claim their bonus.

    It was good for me because I got more products in less time at a reduced rate, and the best thing was I never had to try and keep track of their time again.
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  • Profile picture of the author robjones3030
    I manage a team working on multiple continents, but they're editing on a database I can query and the pay is based on a $/unit basis, or if it's a special project it might be a lump sum paid after completion and delivery. That I can track, and it's Management 101 to be able to inspect what you expect.

    Anyone that pays an hourly wage to worker they can't physically supervise might as well let a dog guard their sandwich.
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  • Profile picture of the author Saiddon
    If you are looking for specific tools you might consider HiveDesk -> HiveDesk.com - Remote Team Management Made Easy

    It will not only track hours worked but also provide the employer with screenshots of outsourcer's computer.
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  • Profile picture of the author robjones3030
    @Dave - Depends on whether you want to try and change human nature or be beaten to death by it. Paying someone by the hour encourages them to do as little as they can to get by with and still stay employed. Paying them by the item completed encourages them to utilize the time spent on your behalf as productively as possible cause they can get a raise simply by being more efficient.

    When you are paid by the piece you can have a raise anytime you want... it becomes effective when you do.
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    • Profile picture of the author Dave Rodman
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      Originally Posted by robjones3030 View Post

      @Dave - Depends on whether you want to try and change human nature or be beaten to death by it. Paying someone by the hour encourages them to do as little as they can to get by with and still stay employed. Paying them by the item completed encourages them to utilize the time spent on your behalf as productively as possible cause they can get a raise simply by being more efficient.

      When you are paid by the piece you can have a raise anytime you want... it becomes effective when you do.
      That's a simplistic way to look at it. You act as if there is no check on that system. YOU are the check. If they aren't getting enough done, then you fire them.

      And you act as if there is not a way for employees to manipulate the pay for performance system. Say you hire someone to go get links for you. If you pay them strictly on quantity, then they can just go out and get crappy links all day long. So then you have to specify the type of "quality" links you want, which is a total grey area.

      Instead, you're better off laying out the process you want followed. Having them execute. And then monitoring their results. It's cheaper in the long run and takes less time to manage.
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    • Profile picture of the author Alexandre Valois
      Originally Posted by robjones3030 View Post

      @Dave - Depends on whether you want to try and change human nature or be beaten to death by it. Paying someone by the hour encourages them to do as little as they can to get by with and still stay employed. Paying them by the item completed encourages them to utilize the time spent on your behalf as productively as possible cause they can get a raise simply by being more efficient.

      When you are paid by the piece you can have a raise anytime you want... it becomes effective when you do.
      Wanna know my secret?

      Try hiring passionate people instead of deadbeats

      Give them what they need so they don't have to worry about putting food on the table and give them a nice playground to toy around with new ideas, and you'll be amazed by the results.
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      • Profile picture of the author trishworks4u
        I completely understand the other point of view here (in paying by the task) and not having hourly employees but I think that, on the whole, it's overly simplistic to look at it that way if you literally have a "hundred different things" for people to do.

        Just getting my team trained in their various tasks and in my procedures took months and was a full time job for me alone for awhile. Trying to put a price tag on every single task would be utter insanity. would production go up? for them maybe! certainly not for me as i'd be spending all of my time assigning tasks with units attached to them.

        The whole idea in the first place was that I didn't have time for that anymore.

        are they working to their full potential? not a chance. i already know this - but the labor is inexpensive and work is getting done without my constant supervision. that is the key.
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        • Profile picture of the author Kay King
          There are many outsourcers who work on an hourly basis - elance has added to their tools on the site to help track hourly labor.

          Seems to mainly design or other technical detail work that uses the hourly model.

          kay
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      • Profile picture of the author robjones3030
        Originally Posted by Dave Rodman View Post

        That's a simplistic way to look at it. You act as if there is no check on that system. YOU are the check. If they aren't getting enough done, then you fire them.

        And you act as if there is not a way for employees to manipulate the pay for performance system. Say you hire someone to go get links for you. If you pay them strictly on quantity, then they can just go out and get crappy links all day long. So then you have to specify the type of "quality" links you want, which is a total grey area.

        Instead, you're better off laying out the process you want followed. Having them execute. And then monitoring their results. It's cheaper in the long run and takes less time to manage.
        Shoot the dogs, feed the tigers
        Any system can be gamed, that's why I choose the one that rewards productivity.
        1. The team I'm working with would not accept getting paid the same amount as some guy that didnt perform as well just because he worked the same number of hours.
        2. Pay by the piece lets those that want to take time off for themselves do so with a clear conscience.
        They're the masters of their own time, not slaves to a clock or a schedule. Pay based on production rewards the overachievers and frees the less ambitious to do as much or little as they wish. If someone hits burnout it costs me nothing, they can recoup as long as they want and be welcomed back with open arms. It's a win-win.

        Originally Posted by Alexandre Valois View Post

        Wanna know my secret?

        Try hiring passionate people instead of deadbeats

        Give them what they need so they don't have to worry about putting food on the table and give them a nice playground to toy around with new ideas, and you'll be amazed by the results.
        As most of our crew did the same task as volunteers elsewhere beforehand...
        It's safe to say they're passionate about what they do. The most productive people would rather be paid what theyre worth than what someone else gets paid. Anyone accustomed to paying people by the hour might try letting them get paid based on what theyre worth instead of paying them the same as someone that shows up and does enough to not get fired.

        Pay per peice rewards the guys that deserve to be rewarded. I'd rather police quality control than underpay my best and brightest contributors. They make things happen, they should be paid accordingly.
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        • Profile picture of the author Dave Rodman
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          Originally Posted by robjones3030 View Post

          Shoot the dogs, feed the tigers
          Any system can be gamed, that's why I choose the one that rewards productivity.
          1. The team I'm working with would not accept getting paid the same amount as some guy that didnt perform as well just because he worked the same number of hours.
          2. Pay by the piece lets those that want to take time off for themselves do so with a clear conscience.
          They're the masters of their own time, not slaves to a clock or a schedule. Pay based on production rewards the overachievers and frees the less ambitious to do as much or little as they wish. If someone hits burnout it costs me nothing, they can recoup as long as they want and be welcomed back with open arms. It's a win-win.
          If my people were unloading trucks, I'd pay by the piece. But things aren't that simple and jobs aren't that mundane and narrowly focused. Especially if you're talking about semi-professional work.
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  • Profile picture of the author Adie
    I pay my writers on per article basis giving them targets per day. I do not pa per hour. For my link builders, I set their daily schedule on what to do. if you did these things before, you'll know how to estimate the time vs output on particular jobs.
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  • Profile picture of the author robjones3030
    Originally Posted by dave rodman

    If my people were unloading trucks, I'd pay by the piece. But things aren't that simple and jobs aren't that mundane and narrowly focused. Especially if you're talking about semi-professional work.
    Semi-professionals eh? No doubt the ones on my team with medical degrees would be impressed.

    Hey, if you want to pay people by the hour knock yourself out. Your argument clashes with my experience, but I'm sure we each plan to do it our own way regardless.
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    Well, if we weren't *supposed* to shoot at 'em... why the hell did they name it "tourist season"?
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  • Profile picture of the author Joe Motion
    The feature on oDesk that lets you take a picture of there screen every few seconds is awesome. I've gotta admit though - I turn it off a lot for outsourcers that I trust - I find it a bit rude as crazy as that sounds!
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  • Profile picture of the author celente
    Make sure you put your foot down and get them to report at the end of the week.

    I make them use excel or proper hour roll call program.

    If you do not track them, they can get away with murder.
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    • Profile picture of the author trishworks4u
      Originally Posted by celente View Post

      Make sure you put your foot down and get them to report at the end of the week.

      I make them use excel or proper hour roll call program.

      If you do not track them, they can get away with murder.

      I actually do do this. We have a weekly "Friday Report" that is formatted as to "tasks completed for the week" (by day). I also ask if they worked 40 hours for the week and if not, why and what they plan to do about it. Finally, they need to tell me if there are any roadblocks that are keeping them from doing their jobs that I can help remove. (needing a new laptop or a puppy don't count - but I've been asked ).

      This seems to work well for us - they don't get paid until I get this from them and it lets me know what their pace is and if I need to step in and make any changes. Most of the time, I don't.
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  • Profile picture of the author TimRuswick
    I usually outsource by project, and not by hour, so no need to monitor time.
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  • Profile picture of the author jessiem
    Tracking your outsourced workers' time is too complex if you are just depending on the screenshots and the time logs from your software. For me, it would’ve been complete if you have all the options to trace whether they are just browsing non-related sites or focusing on their tasks. In addition, a software should also generate efficient daily/weekly reports on how well your workers are doing so far and on how they manage their time during the day. Out of several reviews I read from different blogs I found out that this time management tool (Time Doctor) is the best software to use in monitoring your outsourced workers.
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  • Profile picture of the author uniquecontent
    Outsource your work based on the project and give them a specific deadline. If you will spend your time in calculating their hours of working whats the use of outsourcing then?
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  • Profile picture of the author Lisha5684
    oDesk does that.
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  • Profile picture of the author therichb
    Timedoctor & freshbooks are two ways I prefer & use them on frequent basis....

    My main task is to keep managing their times & bring down my costing... So i do have integrated a project management app by some means & that helps a lot
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  • Profile picture of the author DesmondTan
    Originally Posted by AlexHoug View Post

    Hey guys,

    Just like the title says, what tools or strategies do you use to track your outsourced workers time?
    i don't. the company that you use like odesk or elance tracks the time using their software provided you choose the billing hourly route
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