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What you need to know before outsourcing parts of your work

Outsourcing helped digital marketer Arianna O’Dell build her business. Here are her tips for doing it properly.

What you need to know before outsourcing parts of your work
[Photo: AndreyPopov/iStock]

When I was 13, my friend told me that she loved organizing. I, on the other hand, had a room that was perpetually a disaster. I thought to myself, “Great! I’m terrible at organizing; maybe she can help me with my messy closet.” I paid her $20 for her skills. My mother wasn’t happy that I outsourced my chores, but that experience taught me a valuable lesson. Many talented individuals are experts in the fields that you are not.

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In recent years, the popularity of outsourcing has grown exponentially, and an increasing number of entrepreneurs are using the services of freelancers. When I became an entrepreneur, I put into play what I learned from my cleaning project. To run my business, I’ve enlisted the help of talented individuals around the globe from Spain to Korea. They work on the areas of my business that aren’t my strong points.

If you find the right people and train them well, outsourcing can help you to expand your business. Unfortunately, every attempt at getting your work done by individuals sitting hundreds of miles away isn’t always successful. When I ask colleagues about their experience with outsourcing, they share many horror stories. Whether it’s receiving substandard work, freelancers not meeting deadlines, or contractors who pass on assignments to others, many of them have abandoned outsourcing all together after one negative experience. But with the right approach, this doesn’t need to be the case.

How do you delegate tasks to contractors and yet remain in control? What are the techniques to get the best out of your them? Here are four points to keep in mind before you take the plunge:

1. Know your requirements, and be sure to communicate them carefully

I am not a designer, but I’ve created over 1,000 designed products for my e-commerce store. I found the talent through freelance marketplace Upwork. When I started outsourcing design, I contracted a designer to create a dog design for a yoga mat. I wasn’t happy with the first design I received, but I’m glad I didn’t give up there. I’ve learned that often, it’s not always the contractor’s fault. They might not have delivered because I rushed through training them or didn’t thoroughly explain the task at hand.

Before you engage a new freelancer, make it a habit to have a quick 15-minute video call. This will serve as an introduction and set the stage for working together. However, when you have to convey details, you should do so in writing. Be as specific as possible. What exactly do you want the freelancer to do? Do you want progress reports, or would you prefer to receive the completed project?

Remember that communication is critical to the success of outsourcing. Don’t just assume that the freelancer understands your requirements. It’s up to you to spell them out and monitor progress.

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2. Give feedback, but do it politely and constructively

When you received the first completed project from the freelancer, what was your reaction? Was the work outstanding or mediocre?

It’s always good practice to provide detailed comments for each job. What did you like, what’s missing, and what could they do better? As a creative person, my feelings are often bruised when someone doesn’t like my work, so I take this into account when I give feedback to others. Rather than start with criticism, I point out what I love first, and then I ask if it’s possible to make small tweaks to get the work closer to my vision.

Don’t make the mistake of redoing the work yourself. It’s up to the freelancer to deliver what they promised. If they can’t do that, you may need to find someone else–and that’s okay.

3. Don’t always choose the lowest-priced option

One of the primary reasons for outsourcing is to cut costs, so it can be tempting to select the least expensive contractor. However, this is a shortsighted approach. The saying “you get what you pay for” couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to paying for creative services. Remember that the person who bids the lowest for your job might deliver inferior work and require additional training than someone with a higher rate.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t think about cost, but the freelancer’s rate shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when making a choice. Which brings me to my next point.

4. Be picky about who you select

There are dozens of platforms on which you can create an account and post jobs. Some of the more popular ones are Upwork, Guru, Freelancer.com, and Fiverr. Recently, I started making music with talented musicians on Fiverr. New to the song creation process, I wrote song lyrics and then found vocalists and composers on the platform to help me make my musical dreams a reality.

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Using search features on different platforms can help you select the right person for your project. Looking for a vocalist? Make sure to check that box on Fiverr and read each profile thoroughly. Searching for an animation designer? Make sure to type specific search terms like this into the search bar of Freelancer.com instead of a vague term like “designer.”

When you put up a job, it’s likely that you will get dozens of applications. To ensure that you select the best candidate, consider the following:

  • Experience: Has the freelancer done similar work in the past? Can they provide samples?
  • Ability to commit to your project: How much time would you like the freelancer to devote to your work? A highly sought-after freelancer could have a jam-packed schedule. It’s best to clarify this point at the outset.
  • Availability to hold discussions: This could be an issue if the freelancer is located in another time zone or works at a full-time job.
  • Communication: Can the freelancer communicate clearly in your language?

Outsourcing gives you the ability to hire top-notch talent to help you with tasks and projects that aren’t your strong suits. But it’s necessary to keep a close watch on the person you hire. If you do this and monitor their work carefully, you can make a success of your outsourcing efforts.

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About the author

Arianna O'Dell is the founder of Airlink Marketing, a digital design and marketing agency helping companies create digital programs that drive results. When she’s not working with clients or traveling, you’ll find her making fun gifts at Ideas By Arianna.

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