One of my colleagues
suggested to me that I should try Collab365’s MicroJobs and then write a review
about it. I subscribe to some Collab365 mailing
lists, they have daily summaries of all the important news and blogs, and they organize
some great conferences. It’s one of the
few automated emails from outside my company that I read carefully every day, motivated by FOMO.
The newsletters and
the site mention MicroJobs all the time and I keep thinking that sounds like a
good idea but it’s not for me. But my colleague
insisted I should do it and Fraser Beadle of MicroJobs joined her in gently
coaxing me to try it.
I’ve been working in
the SharePoint and Office 365 space for over 10 years. I run a SharePoint product company with all
sorts of SharePoint experts working for us, I give talks at conferences, I
write blogs, I Know What I’m Doing. Any
issue that comes up I can just search for some blogs and follow the
instructions. I don’t need hand-holding.
And yet when I tried
to think of current nagging problems that might be solved in 30 minutes, I
could think of several of them. I couldn’t
decide which one to try, so I signed up for two of them, very different types
of problems. In both cases the format was
a 30 minute Expert Call. MicroJobs
offers a whole range of other formats, and a lot of fixed-price deliverables, for in all sorts of Microsoft areas, but for me the short Expert Call format was what suited me best.
Can the problems
really be solved in 30 minutes? If not,
the site has a useful feature, “Custom extra” where I can ask for more time if
required. Bad news for them, good news for
me, in both cases the experts solved my problems in a few minutes, walked me
carefully through the solution, and then had time left over within
the 30 minutes to solve a second problem.
The first problem I
had was for an internal SharePoint site, used by our company's Marketing and Sales staff,
with one list in particular where they wanted to change the order of the
columns in the New and Edit forms, and to hide some columns. I don’t think it’s a good use of company resources to use our developers’ time or our client support staff to do this sort
of thing for our marketing and sales staff, which would mean they have less time for our
customers. Typically Sales & Marketing fend for
themselves or I do it for them myself.
I had tried to do it
myself. There were complications and the
usual way to do it didn’t work. Sometimes
they use Modern view and sometimes they use Classic, so that limits how it can
be done and there were issues with content types and site columns.
I could have
researched it myself and spent a lot of time reading blogs, found solutions for
slightly different problems that may or may not apply to me, or looked up some relevant
conference slides or a YouTube video.
But why do that when someone who wrote the blog or gave the conference
talk or recorded the video is probably on MicroJobs and willing to do this for me?
In this case an experienced MVP was willing
to do this for less than what I would pay a taxi driver for the same amount of their
time. I don’t know why they do it. When I was a freelance consultant, I charged
a lot more than that and I wouldn’t have agreed to do 30-minute assignments,
not worth the overhead. Take advantage
of it before they realize they should charge more!
I headed to jobs.collab365.community and gave it a shot.
The MicroJobs site is
easy to use. I use other freelancer sites
for other things, and this one is easier, and the level of experience of the freelancers
on the site is noticeably high. Log in using
a Microsoft account, or LinkedIn, or Google, or Facebook, or an email. Then search for what you’re looking for. You’ll see offers that some of the experts
have posted. You can also post a request
and have people offer to help you, or you can find the right person first and
ask them whether they could do the task that you need done.
I contacted Nick
through the site, which has a handy chat interface. We discussed it a bit, then set a time, and
later on we changed that time a bit. The
MicroJobs site has a built-in videoconferencing and screen sharing tool (based
on Jitsi Meet it looks like) that works really well right in the browser, and lets you talk and share your screen.
I shared my screen and
Nick understood right away what I wanted to do, a list of about 10
changes. It had to be done in classic
mode. We ran into a couple of small
difficulties, which reassured me that the problem was not obvious, and they were solved right away.
I’m not particularly fast in doing the "click there", "type this", and yet we were done in 15 minutes. Pro tip: have a second problem ready. OK, I said, if there is more time here is
something else I was planning to do: add a new content type to the list, with a
subset of the columns and the ability to promote a record from one content type
to the other. That turned out to be a
bit more difficult. None of the columns
were site columns but this would have to be a site content type. No problem.
Nick guided me in creating a site content type that inherits from the same
parent as the other, then modifying its instance within the list. He reassured me that we could omit a required
column. Within a few minutes we were all
done and had 5 minutes left to test that it worked for new and edit forms in both classic and
modern mode, and that we could promote an item to a different content type.
Verdict, on a
tricky problem that I couldn’t figure out, we got twice as much done as I
expected, and I had to compromise on nothing.
The payment gateway released the money when he and I agreed that the
work was completed. After it was all
settled, the invoice came straight from the expert, not the site.
The second problem was
one that had to do directly with one of our products, so I am being be less
specific as to the details. For our machine
translation product for modern pages, we provide instructions as to how to call
it from a Power Automate flow so that a page can be translated as soon as it’s
published. But I wasn’t sure whether the
instructions we planned to provide would follow best practice in terms of
security and good governance. Through the MicroJobs site I
found Matthew, an expert in Power Automate, another MVP, who also knew a lot
about Azure app registration including the less common authentication method
that we were using.
Chatting with Matthew
prior to giving him the task, he seemed to understand quickly and he asked me
whether I knew about a different feature of Power Automate, and said we should
have a chat about it. I knew a bit about
that other feature and I didn’t think it applied to this. I dismissed the
suggestion. I didn’t want to change the
software, I just wanted best practices for deployment. Perhaps we could look at that other feature
later if there is time.
Matthew accepted the job, he set it up with Teams and we started the call at the
appointed time. He started out saying "I
just want to show you this feature, I think it will help you." OK, I thought, let’s have a look at it for a
few minutes and see why he’s so keen on it.
It turns out it was exactly what we needed. We didn’t have to explain away the security
issues, this just solved them and we didn’t have to change a single line of
code. It was also a lot more flexible and
scalable. This is way beyond my
expectations. This is why it’s useful to
speak with experts, they don’t just answer your question, they solve the
underlying problem, and combine their knowledge and experience to analyze it
and to think of the best way to solve it.
I would never have thought of this by just Googling answers to my how-to
questions. We started implementing his
advice right away.
Just before the part
where he was showing a sequence of steps with a detailed example, Matthew asked
whether he could record the part of the session so he could send it to me. Very thoughtful, I can use it for later
reference if I forget some of the steps.
This MicroJob had a significant
impact at very little cost. This is
definitely something I would do again.
You get to rate the freelancer. These ratings are made public. The freelancer also gets to rate you. That is not public as far as I know, but
might be available to other freelancers.
Apparently I’m “laid back” and “easy to work with”. Nice to know.But
what happens if things do not go as well?
Thanks to my mistakes I got a tour of the dispute resolution and order
cancellation process. Apparently, I
ordered the same MicroJob twice. Not only
that, but I marked it as delivered twice, I convinced the consultant to mark the second one as delivered, thinking that he
had forgotten and it was the same job, and I even paid for it twice.
I don’t think anyone had
ever done all of that before, so when I contacted the freelancer to cancel it after
realizing my mistake, he wasn’t certain how to fix this, and tried the dispute
resolution mechanism is nicely thought out and goes to the dispute resolution
team. In this case, they apparently
thought there was a better way to handle this.
They cancelled the dispute to reinstate the job and then the freelancer
initiated a cancellation by mutual consent.
Cancellation by mutual consent is very straighforward.
I received an email, followed the link to the site, and consented to the
cancellation. The money was immediately
refunded to my credit card.
The final verdict is that the process is well thought out, the people and service are high quality, it is a bargain, and it is essentially risk free. Some day they will figure out that they could be charging higher rates, but for the time being take advantage of it.
Disclaimer: I am not being paid for this review, but the people at Collab365 encouraged me to try it and to review it. They offered to reimburse me for my first MicroJob but I declined.