Outsourcing often gets a bad rap, but if your business needs to build a new website or have a brochure designed, for instance, and lacks the expertise in-house, outsourcing your project at home or abroad is often the most viable and cost-effective solution.

So where can you find qualified contractors to complete your projects? Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to not only locate talented contractors but to get them competing for your business.

Here are five websites that help businesses find contracts to outsource their projects to.

  • ELance

    One of the original outsourcing websites, I’ve hired a number of web developers and graphic designers using eLance. ELance allows you to post your project, receive bids from contractors, offers a system for managing projects and also provides a payments service with an escrow option.

  • ScriptLance

    With a focus on web-oriented projects, I’ve observed that ScriptLance tends to be a hub for lower dollar value “gigs.

  • oDesk

    When outsourcing on an hourly rate payment schedule, there is always concern that a contractor won’t put in the time her or she is supposed to put in. oDesk takes a novel approach and keeps track of the time contractors are putting in. It can even take screenshots every 10 minutes so that you can see what your contractors are doing.

  • Guru

    Guru bills itself as “the world’s largest online service marketplace” and works in a fashion similar to ELance.

  • RentACoder

    Like ScriptLance, RentACoder is primarily oriented to web projects, as its name implies. It claims over 220,000 “registered coders.”

Having successfully used some of the services above, here are a few tips:

  • Spec out your requests in as great a detail as possible. Even if you’re not capable of describing what you need in technical terms, take the time to explain what you need in depth. If you don’t, expect delays, additional costs and poor results.
  • Set sensible milestones. Quite honestly, outsourcing can be crapshoot – especially when working with a new contractor. You have to be prepared for complications. Thus, give thought to milestones so that you can get a project back on track (or cancel it) early if it goes astray.

  • Communication is key. If you have a hard time communicating with a contractor during the sales phase, you’re probably going to have a hard time communicating with them during the project phase.
  • Look local. Certain types of projects are almost always best completed locally. If you have a complex or long-term project, give some real thought to selecting a local contractor that you can meet with in person.

  • You usually get what you pay for. Even if you decide to outsource your project to a country in which contractors charge far less, be weary of quotes that seem too good to be true. They usually are.
  • Look closely at portfolios, read feedback, request references and ask questions. Treat the hiring of a contractor the same as you would the hiring of an employee. Do your due diligence!