Outsource: how to work with them
Some tips for those who delegate tasks, work with contractors, freelancers and other outsource.
I often have to interact with contractors in the fields of design, copyright, sound, front- and back-end development and other related areas. I have gained some experience in this that allows me to get the expected result on time.
Here are a few rules that I try (not always successfully, but I try :]) to follow when dealing with contractors, and this results in the fact that everyone is happy with the work (both the process and the outcome).
Once, I got the following review without even working:
Olga: I didn’t have a chance to work in this company, but I communicated with its representatives. I can say nothing about what it is to work there, but the representatives are very nice and polite. They provide a rather detailed answer even to those with whom they will most certainly not work due to various reasons. I find this company quite loyal and with a pleasant atmosphere.
1. Never delay payments
Strangely enough, there are still cases when payment to contractors is delayed. And very often they say that the reason is in «still waiting for the client to pay» (or investor, or any other regular payment).
It is you (yes, exactly you) who set a task to the contractor, agreed on the price and the methods of payment. Do not blame your inability to pay on time (or pay at all) on anyone else. No one cares about it, and it doesn’t solve the problem anyhow. The agreement was exactly with you.
Do not take any obligations to pay if you won’t be able to fulfill them, no matter what financial difficulties you will have. Reserve this amount in advance and don’t touch it.
If prepayment and payment upon the finishing of work are always on time, people will be more willing to work with you, because they will be sure in you.
And do not expect that poor illustrator (designer, copywriter etc.) sits and waits only for you. Someone else will turn to him and pay at once. That’s it. You will have to look for a new executor.
2. Be sure to pass all the comments in advance
The sooner you pass all the commentaries to the executor, the less troubles you could have in further work.
Suppose, you are a project manager from the side of the client. On Friday evening your CEO has finally provided comments regarding the script of the video. Now you need to think them over, transfer into clear language and pass to copywriter. But it’s Friday, the evening, and it won’t take long to make the changes (an hour or two). This can be easily postponed for Monday morning, you think. You tell your CEO that it will be ready by Monday and start partying.
The morning. Monday. Time to pass the comments. And the copywriter doesn’t answer. He’s simply unavailable, he has his own matters and no time for you at the moment.
But if you had sent all the comments on Friday evening, the copywriter would have already asked you all the questions (freelancers are free people, they work whenever they want, even on weekends) and you would have explained everything to him. And on Monday (or even during the weekend) you would already have had the result that could have been shown to the CEO.
Do not postpone for Monday what can be done on Friday.
3. Specify the time-frame and the budget, do not ask
The contractor is often asked about the time-frame and the cost. What if he finishes faster? Or cheaper? It could save you time and money. Earlier, I used to use this approach too.
This led to selecting the executor for a long time, adjusting the timing of the whole project to the time-frame convenient for him (which still shifts eventually), often — to overpayment, because the executor would have agreed to the lower amount, but if asked, why not request more. This basically leads to lack of control.
But, as practice shows, people are more willing to work when the cost and the time-frame are known. Often, this happens to be more advantageous.
Perhaps people take up such work more often because they know that the project won’t last for a long time and the money will correspond to the time spent on the work.
Again, this is a sense of control over the situation, only this time on both sides: the customer’s (yours) and the executor’s.
4. Set more time than agreed upon
No one can predict that everything will go smoothly in the project. At times, it turns out that the archive with the source video sent to you is not actually the source video but the sequence of frames of the video. It takes time to request the source video in another format once again. Or sometimes they send the source files of the application layout and they turn out to be in Illustrator format, while the developers only understand Photoshop. Adapting the source files again takes time. Or someone gets ill, loses his passport, or his grandmother dies… Things happen.
Set more time for the work with contractor than agreed upon with him. The longer the agreed time-frame, the longer the reserve time should be.
For instance, if the executor has promised to send in the work the next day, consider that it will be sent in 2 days. If you have agreed with the designer that the whole work should be done in 7 days, then add another 3 days into your internal timing. There is no exact formula, but I often add from 1 to 10 days.
On the other hand, if you have set 10 days for the work with the contractor in your internal timing, then you should negotiate 5–7 days timeframe with the contractor himself.
If you have turned to someone for work, you’ve turned to this person, team or company just because you can’t do the work yourself. You have to admit this fact, otherwise there will be plenty of dissatisfied people on both sides, and this will certainly affect the result.
Let’s take the website development as an example. You, the owner of an online store, request its design. You turn to a professional team that knows its business. And you have a preliminary objective — increasing the sales. Everything, absolutely everything in this project now needs to comply with this objective: the structure of the website, the layout of the elements on the page, and the colors of the buttons.
But then you, as a client, tell the executor that the gradient on that button needs to be made as on the glass button. You may well have the right to do so, you may believe that this will increase the sales. But why then you turned to that company? It’s their job, their knowledge, their responsibility. The guys from this company know how to make the design in such a way that the sales would increase. Wasn’t it what you have turned to them for, for this knowledge?
Why trust? Firstly, it’s not the first year these guys are involved in online stores business and they work successfully (you did turn to them for that reason, didn’t you?). Secondly, your view over your website is far from being unbiased, no matter how hard you’d wish it won’t be. But these guys have a fresh view. It is much easier for them to put themselves in the shoes of your online store’s new clients than for you.
A simple example: you know how the teeth should look like but you don’t tell your dentist how to work, do you?
Trust. Direct, doubt, voice out your opinion, but do not demand. This will make the work go smoothly, both sides will feel easier, and you will get the better result faster.
And what rules and methods do you use when working with contractors? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org