Question: To save time and money I need to start outsourcing. Any advice for someone who has never outsourced work before?
Question by: Marc
Scour Developers on oDesk
"In the first year of our business, we kept web development costs low by hiring engineers and system admins we found among thousands on oDesk.com. The hiring system oDesk has built is robust, and we were pleased with the outcome! Tip: Many contractors are willing to do a small initial test job for free as a trial run."
Start Small to Be Safe
"When you start outsourcing, don't expect everything will just get easier and cheaper. It'll take quite a bit of investment in the beginning to find great outsourced workers who can support you and can get used to working with you, but once you've found someone good that has been able to complete smaller projects, then they can help tackle the bigger jobs to make your life easier."
Stay Connected and Clear
"Once you've found yourself a good job candidate, there are two very important things you should do: 1) give them preliminary instructions on how you want your work done and what you expect, and 2) stay connected and talk to them (Skype usually works the best here). If they have questions or issues regarding the work you've given, you can further instruct them through these calls."
Consider Which Tasks to Delegate
"When you first start outsourcing, the easiest target for where to start is the work that takes you the most time and can be done by someone else for the least amount of money. For online businesses, this is almost always technical work -- loading up your shopping cart system, maintaining your website, putting your marketing into place."
Outsourcing? Not So Fast!
"Keeping things in-house allows you to control all your projects, in terms of both time and budget. For example, you can pay thousands of dollars to have a pro photographer shoot each catalog, or you can invest $1500 one time in a great camera and light box set up, and do it yourself. This eliminates the need for proofs, and gives you a product that expresses your vision and costs less every time."
Expect Plenty of False Starts
"Outsourcing is tough, and even reputable service providers with high ratings might end up disappointing you with their initial work submissions. Your best bet is to try out companies or freelancers with small projects, engaging with them by providing feedback and giving them an opportunity to improve. Be sure to invest lots of time in writing a proper project brief and spec document as well."
Be Aware of Language Barriers
"I've been very happy using Elance.com to find freelancers in the U.S. and abroad, but my biggest tip is to be very aware of language barriers. It can be better to pay more to hire a freelancer who shares your first language. Even if you're extremely clear in your instructions, someone who doesn't have complete mastery of your language may misunderstand essential details."
Dialogue Before Hiring
"You can learn a lot about someone by sharing a couple of messages or emails with them. So before you hire anyone, ask them questions and have some dialogue. From this, you can ensure language will not be a barrier and they can communicate clearly. Also, you can see how responsive they are in terms of time and quality of response, which in my experience, is a great indicator of future work."
Run the Numbers
"Before you outsource, you need to set a value on your own time. When you know, you can proceed with tangible numbers that you can reference to make sure you are making the most cost-effective move possible. Make sure the hired individual accomplishes two things: 1) they are better at the task than you are and 2) they can complete the work faster than you can. Then you know you're saving money."
Signing a NDA is a Must
"I recently dealt with an oDesk provider who did an excellent job on my website at a great rate, and then found out two months later that they sold my intellectual property to one of my competitors. Make sure you know the person you are getting involved with and can trust them."
Set Your Systems First
"What will save you time and money in the long run is having a few systems in place to start managing your team as you outsource more work. Tools like Basecamp for managing projects and assigning them tasks. Using Camtasia or Screenflow to video yourself doing the tasks you want to outsource with explanations will allow you to delegate the work and minimize learning time when it comes time to hire."
Do Your Homework!
"If you're looking to outsource certain tasks, you should do a lot of research first. It might not always be the best decision to outsource your work to other countries to save money. Time zones can impact your work and the quality might not be up to par either."
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