My review of the Collab365 Microjobs
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.
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 straightforward.
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.
You can watch my video review on youtube.