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Inside e-ployment: Online staffing services put temporary labor within reach of small businesses

Christopher Null | July 24, 2013
Never mind all the stories about unemployment. American businesses are still clamoring for workers. They just may not need them for a full 40-hour week.

oDesk offers a larger proportion of business services contractors than the other sites to.

While oDesk looks a lot like its two bigger competitors, it takes a longer-term approach to work than the other big sites. The company notes that it aims to "replicate traditional work relationships," with the average project undertaken on the site lasting nine full weeks. That's a stark contrast to the work most online staffing sites handle, which can frequently be completed in a matter of days.
With just over 66,000 workers listed, Staff.commay look like a tiny operation, and in many respects it is. In fact, you can think of this service as more of a virtual headhunter operation. Recruiters find and review potential contractors, and in many cases calls a contractor personally to discuss whether a potential job is right for them. This is a far cry from the all-too-frequent bidding "race to the bottom" that you see on larger sites, with contractors undercutting one another in the hopes of landing a gig. The company's cut is 10 percent.

In keeping with this approach, focuses not project-based jobs but rather on long-term staffing--though all work is done off-site. (Most of's workers reside in Southeast Asia.) Worker profiles are very detailed and often include personal introductory videos. Looking for a steady bookkeeper or Web developer that you can count on week after week? may be just the ticket.

TaskRabbit for Business
If you've ever hired a TaskRabbit contractor to help you move some furniture or to build an Ikea bookcase for you, you know how invaluable this very short-term labor service can be for personal needs. Recently, TaskRabbit expanded into business services too, taking much the same approach as it does to more consumer-oriented jobs.

In contrast to the vast majority of other online staffing sites, TaskRabbit for Business jobs mostly take place on-site, at the employer's workplace, as opposed to off-site and online. (TaskRabbit does, however, support both types of work.) Listed jobs are generally fairly low-end: Reception work, light clerical duties like faxing and filing, and shelf stocking are the most common jobs listed on the site. The employer pays a 20 percent surcharge for 1099 workers and 26 percent for W-2 workers, making it one of the more expensive staffing options on the Web.

TaskRabbit for Business says it is proud of its screening process--which includes five different background checks, more than you probably ran on your last receptionist--and touts its workers' impressive credentials: The vast majority of TaskRabbits have a college degree, and a full 5 percent have doctorates. Be sure to ask your new file clerk about their thesis!


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