One of the changes that I’ve made in my business over the years is related to outsourcing work. When I first started managing my own websites and blogs I did everything myself. Over the years I began to outsource more and more of the work, and it’s helped to free up more of my time, and ultimately outsourcing work has helped to make my business more profitable.
Outsourcing can seem like a pretty intimidating topic if you’ve never tried it, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or scary. In this article I want to take a look at some tips that can help you to get started with outsourcing.
1. Decide Which Tasks to Outsource
Some tasks and projects lend themselves to outsourcing better than others. You’ll want to outsource work that doesn’t need your personal touch, things that don’t fit with your strengths, and things that can be done inexpensively.
With some of my blogs I outsource the content creation by hiring freelance writers, but I don’t do this with all of my blogs. Here are ProfitBlitz I want the content to have a more personal touch from my own experience, so I only publish posts that I’ve written myself. At some of my other blogs the personal touch is not an issue, and many freelance writers can be hired rather inexpensively, so it makes sense to outsource content creation for these blogs.
Rather than dedicating a lot of your time on tasks that you’re not good at, why not outsource the work to save your time and get better results? For example, I outsourced the design of a cover for my blogging e-book because the results were better than what I could have done on my own, and I wanted the e-book to make a good first impression. That allowed me to use my time for writing blog posts instead of spending hours trying to come up with a useable design on my own.
Bloggers and internet marketers have a lot of possibilities for outsourcing, and it really comes down to finding the best options for your specific situation. You could outsource graphic design, web design, web development and programming, blog content creation, product creation, customer service, social media marketing, email marketing, search engine optimization, PPC marketing, and more.
2. Choose a Platform
I recommend choosing one website that you will use to manage the projects that you outsource. There are a number of sites that serve as marketplaces to hire freelancers, including Elance, oDesk, Guru, Freelancer.com, People Per Hour, and many others. If you’re using a lot of different sites it can make things more difficult to manage, but if you’re only using one site it’s easy to manage all of your projects from one place.
Personally, I use Elance for most projects that I want outsource. There are other good options as well, but I tend to stick with Elance because it has a huge user base of service providers, and because it’s easy to manage all of my outsourced projects from this one location.
3. Start Small
It’s possible to outsource everything from very small one-time projects to huge on-going projects. I recommend starting small and getting comfortable with the process of outsourcing before attempting very large projects. You could start by simply hiring someone to write a blog post, or a few posts. Starting small reduces your commitment and your exposure, in case it doesn’t go as well as expected.
4. Be as Descriptive as Possible
Most sites like Elance, oDesk, and Freelancer.com work in a fairly similar way. Typically you’ll start by creating a description of your project, and then freelancers can provide you with a bid or a quote if they would like to be hired for the project.
The project description is a critical part of the outsourcing process. You’ll need to be descriptive and clear so that the freelancers will know if it’s a project that would be a good fit for them, and so they can provide an accurate quote. If your description isn’t clear or lacks details it will likely cause many freelancers to not bid on the project, and it can cause problems with any freelancers that you hire due to miscommunications and inaccurate assumptions.
Your project should provide enough detail, including deadlines and your expectations. This can also include details about the ownership or copyright of the work being done by the freelancer.
5. Consider Inviting Freelancers to Bid
Many bidding sites, including Elance, allow you to invite specific freelancers to place a bid on your project. This helps to get the right freelancers to notice your project, and it can have a big influence on the number of bids that you receive.
Whenever I am posting a new project to Elance I try to take a few minutes and search their user base for freelancers that I think might be a good fit for the project. I look for those that have experience with similar projects and portfolios that represent the quality of work that I am looking for. If your project is listed publicly other freelancers will be able to view it and bid as well, but the invitations help to ensure that you get some bids from qualified providers.
6. Don’t Automatically Choose the Lowest Bid
One mistake that many people make when it comes to outsourcing is to simply hire the person with the cheapest price. The bids that you receive for your projects will probably vary drastically, in part because you’ll get bids from people all around the world and with different levels of experience. Price is one factor that you want to consider, but it’s not the only factor.
7. Evaluate the Quotes/Bids
There are a few main factors that you’ll want to consider when you’re evaluating the bids that you receive. First, you’ll want to check the provider’s ratings and reviews that have been left by other users. The ratings and reviews will generally give you a pretty good indication of the freelance conducts his or her business and the level of satisfaction from other people that have hired the freelancer. I tend to avoid freelancers who have no ratings or very few ratings/reviews.
Another important factor is the freelancer’s portfolio, depending on the type of project. If you’re hiring a graphic designer or web designer, for example, the portfolio should be a major factor in determining who to hire. Some other types of projects may be a little bit harder to evaluate from a portfolio, but generally you should be able to see some work samples. When hiring writers you should be able to see some writing samples, for marketers you may be able to view some details on sample campaigns, etc.
When I’m hiring a freelancer on Elance I use a combination of ratings, reviews, their portfolio, and their price to determine who I want to hire.
8. Provide Detailed Communication Throughout the Process
Once you’ve made a decision and hired a freelancer your work is not done. You’ll need to provide clear and detailed instructions about the work that you want them to do and how you want it to be provided or delivered. You may also need to set up some milestones and deadlines, especially for larger projects. You’ll also need to help the freelancer by providing clear feedback to their work throughout the project. If you need changes to be made, be as specific as possible.
9. Look for On-Going Opportunities
The purpose of outsourcing is to free up your own time and to get things done in a cost effective manner. Finding and hiring the right freelancer can take some time. If you’re doing this on a constant basis you’re probably not making the best use of your time. In an ideal situation you’ll be able to work with the same freelancers on an on-going basis. When you find someone that does good quality work, that communicates effectively with you, and that is affordable, it’s a more efficient use of your time to work with this person on an on-going basis rather than posting new projects and reviewing lots of bids for each project.
Once you have a quality freelancer, or perhaps a few freelancers, that you are working with it can save a great deal of your time to pass off work to this person on a regular basis. At Elance you can choose to post your projects publicly or privately. Private projects can only be viewed by freelancers that you invite. I often choose to list projects privately, and then just invite the freelancer that I am working with on an on-going basis. This way I get one bid from the person that I want to hire and I don’t have to sort through a lot of bids and browse several different portfolios.
10. Evaluate Your Approach Periodically
If you’re working with freelancers on an on-going basis it’s a good idea to evaluate your process and your approach every now and then to make sure that it is still working well for you. For example, if you’re outsourcing content creation for your blog, periodically you should evaluate the stats and analytics to make sure that the content is having an impact. You can also evaluate how much you are spending on outsourced projects and compare that investment to what you are generating in return. If your ROI is poor, you can try a different approach (perhaps using other freelancers) or consider stopping the outsourced project all together.
What’s Your Experience?
Have you ever outsourced any work? If so, feel free to share your own tips or suggestions in the comments.