A Guide to Getting Started with Outsourcing and Making the Most of It

July 28th, 2015

You have many options when it comes to running your business and optimizing processes, including outsourcing.

Though the sky is the limit when it comes to outsourcing corporate practices, many business owners seem to be reluctant.

And who can blame these business owners?

Finding and managing talent, communicating across time zones, and overcoming language barriers present very real challenges for any business owner.

In this article, we will show you how to overcome these challenges so that you can make the most of the outsourcing opportunities that come your way.

Is outsourcing right for your business?

Which aspects of your business should you outsource?

How do you find the best professionals to execute the tasks you need completed?

The following guide will acquaint you with everything you need to know about outsourcing and how to make the most of it.

The Benefits of Outsourcing

First, it’s important to examine the numerous benefits outsourcing will bring to your business.

Here at Time Doctor, we have managed to scale our business from me and my co-founder to an organization of over 50 employees across the globe using the principles found in this guide.

I’m certain that if I can use outsourcing to grow my company, it can do the same for yours.

The first benefit to outsourcing allows you to hire talent at the best possible price. Let’s face it, every business has tasks that need to be done, but it might not be worth paying $40,000 per year to complete that task. Outsourcing allows you to find highly talented workers at a discounted price. This will dramatically reduce your overhead.

Second, outsourcing allows you to offload tasks so you can manage your time better. As a marketer or a business owner, you’ll get to focus on the most pressing tasks at hand. Somebody else will be taking care of the basic tasks, allowing you to focus on strategic development.

Finally, outsourcing is beneficial if the particular region where your company operates is suffering from a talent shortage. Professionals from all parts of the world will be willing to give you assistance, helping you find highly experienced experts without being forced to spend a fortune on the process.

What to Outsource

You can outsource just about every corporate process. Some of the most common practices and activities that companies tend to outsource include:

  • Article and general content writing
  • Search engine optimization
  • Graphic and website design
  • Marketing
  • Market research
  • Data entry
  • Lead generation and customer service

Depending on your needs and the specifics of the company, you’ll be free to outsource any other activity.

Now that you know the benefits and some of the business functions that you can outsource, now you need to know where to find highly qualified candidates to outsource your work too.

Where to Find Professionals

Getting started with outsourcing involves a very important first step — finding the right professionals for the job.

You can rely on multiple websites and online platforms that facilitate the interactions between freelancers and clients. These platforms guarantee the quality of the interactions and decrease the likelihood of coming across a scam.

Upwork

Formerly known as Odesk, Upwork is one of the most popular platforms for outsourcing tasks. Odesk changed after the company owning this portal merged with Elance — another popular platform.

UpWork is characterized by several key benefits that you’ll get to enjoy as a client:

  • There is a money-back guarantee in case you aren’t happy with the interactions
  • You can choose among a large talent pool
  • Ratings help you figure out which freelancers have the best reputation
  • The hiring process is simple and efficient
  • There are automatic payment options
  • Communicating with contractors is also very easy via the platform

Staff.com

A remote staffing marketplace, Staff.com will make it very easy for you to discover the right professionals for all of your outsourcing needs. Experienced workers from all parts of the world are Staff.com members, which gives clients diversity and cost-efficiency.

Should you be choosing Staff.com as your platform of preference? Some of the unique advantages that the website brings to the table include:

  • Great for the companies interested in full-time hires
  • Skill tests simplify the task of choosing qualified contractors
  • You can find professionals for many jobs (media monitoring, design, administrative assistance, customer support, marketing, content writing, video production and many others)
  • Excellent customer support
  • Staff.com has a very high reputation due to the quality of service that it delivers

Fiverr

If you have some inexpensive tasks that you’d like to outsource, Fiverr will be the right portal for you. In essence, the website features gigs that can be purchased for five dollars. Many people are willing to write articles, design a logo or do small administrative tasks for this minimal payment.

Some of the Fiverr biggest advantages include the following:

  • Incredibly inexpensive in comparison to other platforms
  • It’s possible to find very skilled workers
  • Intuitive website design

Keep in mind that Fiverr isn’t the best place to find highly experienced workers for complex tasks. You can’t expect to pay five dollars and have somebody write an ebook for you.

Still, if you have some small administrative or technical tasks that you simply can’t handle right now, Fiverr is a great pick.

PeoplePerHour

This platform has been gaining some popularity lately and although it doesn’t have as many freelancers as Upwork, for example, PeoplePerHour is characterized by very high quality. Be prepared to spend more but you can certainly find experienced and reputable workers there.

Here are some of the reasons why you should choose PeoplePerHour over the other platforms:

  • There are guarantees you’ll get quality
  • Rating systems enable you to assess the reputation of freelancers before hiring
  • Automatic payment options and facilitated invoicing
  • A relatively big talent pool to choose among
  • Most of the freelancers that choose PeoplePerHour are serious and very experienced

Craigslist

If you don’t want to look for outsourcing opportunities through freelance platforms, you can always rely on the good old Cragslist. Depending on your requirements and location, Craigslist can be particularly helpful:

  • You can look for freelancers in a certain region
  • Publishing a Craigslist ad is incredibly simple
  • There are highly experienced designers, developers and writers using Craigslist

Still, you have to be very careful about such arrangements. The payment is going to happen through a freelance platform, which means you don’t get a money back guarantee. Assess the reputation of professionals carefully before hiring someone. Otherwise, you risk losing a lot of money.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Hiring Experienced Outsourcing Professionals

This is one of the most challenging aspects of outsourcing work. Finding the right professionals for each task is all about developing specific requirements, assessing experience, and ensuring that a particular freelancer is the right person for the job.

Determine What You Really Want

Get as specific as you can with the project description and the requirements for the professional that will be doing the job for you. The more characteristics you can think of, the easier it’s going to be to pick the ideal candidate.

What’s the process and what should the outcome be? Are language or analytical skills more important? The requirements you’d need for someone uploading blog posts are going to be less strenuous than those needed for a professional responsible for your company’s SEO strategy.

Draft a Very Detailed Job Post

No matter which platform you’re using, the quality of the job post and the information that it contains is directly proportional to the number of highly qualified outsourcing professionals you attract.. Once you’ve developed a list of requirements, it’s time to start drafting the listing itself.

Most of the websites used for hiring freelancers have categories and sub-categories. Writing, for example, could be the main category. There will probably be sub-categories like blog posts, technical writing, academic writing, etc. Choose the right category to reach a crowd of qualified workers.

The title itself should make it clear right from the start that you’re looking for a certain professional. Don’t title your post with “Marketing Professional.” Choose something more descriptive like “Marketing Professional for Startup Social Media Promotion.” The title will tell potential workers exactly what you need and it will make people having the right qualifications apply.

Once you have a category and a title, you can move on to writing the job ad itself.

List the absolute requirements that every candidate should meet. These could include education, certification and past work experience. You may also choose a few characteristics that aren’t mandatory. These will help you identify the top candidates that have all necessary experiences but these characteristics aren’t an absolute essential for the completion of the project.

Some websites like Upwork also allow you to add more conditions to the ad. You can choose candidates from a certain part of the world, professionals that have listed particular experiences in their profile, professionals that have the best client feedback (you can make the ad available solely to freelancers that have a score of at least four out of five stars) and professionals that have worked a certain number of hours through the platform.

The freelancing websites also allow you to indicate a certain budget by telling potential workers how much you’re willing to spend on outsourcing a task. The budget range will discourage very low or very high bidders from replying to your ad. Make sure that the number is realistic. Don’t expect exceptional quality if you’re only willing to spend a minimal amount on the execution of the task.

Narrowing Down the Candidates: How to Communicate Effectively

It’s very important to narrow down the initial list of candidates and only communicate with the ones that are a good match for the project.

Each candidate should provide you with a motivation letter indicating why they want to work for your company. Pay close attention to these letters to ensure they are relevant to your job listing and seem sincere about their desire to work for your company.

Personally, if I suspect that a motivation letter has been copied and pasted from one listing to the next, I immediately disqualify the candidate. People that use general, template responses to correspond to all job ads obviously haven’t dedicated time and effort to responding. Shortlist only the individuals that have written a relevant letter

Avoid the applications that feature blatant grammar and language errors, even if the task isn’t writing-related. This is a sign of sloppiness, and in my experience, makes communication with the freelancer particularly difficult.

Always look for attached documents, portfolios and professional websites that demonstrate the experience of the candidates. This kind of information will help you assess whether the individuals applying are qualified enough to work for you.

Finally, pay attention to the communication style. Is the letter put well-together? Does it make logical sense? Do you think you’ll find it easy to get your point across and be understood by the particular person?

Once you go through all of this information, check the score and feedback each freelancer has received. Read comments left by previous clients. These can be enlightening, especially if numerous people have made the same comment about the worker.

At this point, you should have five to six finalists that you’d interview and get to know a little bit better. Correspondence with these finalists is of utmost importance. This is your chance to ask questions, get the answers that you need and make sure that you’ve picked the right person for the job. Some of the essentials to inquire about include:

  • How their experience corresponds to your job ad.
  • How many similar projects they’ve completed in the past.
  • Whether the contractor has understood all of your instructions
  • Whether the contractor will be capable of meeting the project’s deadlines.

The speed of response and communication style are of utmost importance. If you feel misunderstood, you believe the contractor is rude, or you find it impossible to trust that person, then you should keep on looking for somebody else.

Working Together and Making the Most of the Process

Now that you’ve chosen the contractor for your outsourcing task, it’s time to start working together.

As exciting as the opportunity may be, it’s very important to manage the progress and make sure that you’re getting exactly what you need.

The beginning could present a learning curve for both you and the contractor as you get to know each other. It’s up to you to ensure that the quality is high, the task is completed in a timely manner, and the output corresponds to all of your requirements.

Freelance websites like Upwork give you multiple options to track the performance of freelancers working for you. One of the tools to familiarize yourself with is the Upwork time tracker. In essence, this is software that freelancers install on their computers and use to log hours of work. The tracker keeps record of online activity. You’ll get number of keyboard strikes and mouse clicks for a certain period of time. The tracker will also make screen grabs at random times. This way, you’ll get to know what’s going on and whether the freelancer is working or playing a game and charging you for it.

Communicate through email and Skype, as well. The best freelancers are responsive and they’ll give you regular updates about progress they are making. It’s up to you to respond in a quick manner to inquiries, as well. Freelancers may have questions about the execution and the details of the project. If you don’t give feedback immediately, you will not see the end product within the specified time frame.

While it’s not a hard and fast rule, I’ve found that I maximize the ability of freelancers by delivering payments regularly. To do this, simply schedule a number of small milestones that will be provided for the execution of each task. Your freelancer will rest assured that a payment will be received and you’ll also be confident that you aren’t going to get ripped off.

Finally, remember to leave the freelancer feedback at the end of the project. This will be one of the keys to building a stable and mutually-beneficial partnership that will continue in the long run.

Advanced Techniques for Boosted Outsourcing Productivity

The guide has already taken you through some of the ways to hire the right freelancers and to get the most from your interactions with these professionals. If you want to take it a step further, however, you’ll need to master a few additional management techniques.

Testing Freelancers

Instead of just hiring the person that you fancy, you can make the contractor go through a trial project. The completion of this test project will give you tons of information. You’ll learn about the skills of the freelancer, their ability to deliver within the specified time frame, their communication style, and whether they’re capable of following instructions.

You should always pay for the trial project. Clients that ask for free samples generally have a bad reputation. Such clients can never attract top talent. If you’re looking for the best workers, you’ll need to value their labor.

Alternatively, you may want to create a small test that the contractors will have to complete before getting the job. It could include questions about their past experience, their competences or the manner in which contractors are going to address the tasks at hand. many online platforms like Upwork and Freelancer.com have their own tests but these tend to be a little bit generic. Use your own set of questions to get the most information from contractors.

Providing Detailed Instructions

Even the best specialists will be confused if you can’t provide detailed and clear instructions. Remember that outsourcing is a process that involves two parties. The contractor is responsible for executing in a timely and efficient manner. You’re responsible for providing all of the information that the worker is going to need to do a good job.

To make the instructions fully-useful, you’ll need to follow a few simple steps.

Don’t Assume — Just because you see something as crystal clear doesn’t mean that everybody is s going to understand what you mean.

Describe each task in great detail and don’t skip any of the information. The more details your freelancer has, the happier you’re going to be with the outcome.

Provide Information about the Company — Let the contractor know a little bit more about your business. Many business owners avoid mentioning what the company is, what it does and what customers it attracts.

Knowing a bit more about their employer can help freelancers create the right strategy for the execution of the task. This is why your project instructions should always start with a brief business overview.

Step-by-Step Instructions

These instructions produce the best results because they leave no room for error. Tell your contractor what you’re expecting and how you want it to be accomplished. . Leaving a task open to interpretation will only lead to confusion in most cases.

Make the Language Simple

Even if your company deals with complex tasks and activities, it’s imperative to keep the instruction language basic and easy to understand.

Keep terminology and jargon out of the project description, unless you have a really specialized task that requires certain skills. The simplicity of the language is particularly important if you’re working with contractors who aren’t native speakers.

Use the Right Project Management Tools

Tools can help you track process, especially if you choose to work with your contractors outside of the freelancing platforms. The good news is that there are dozens of online tools to help you boost accountability and productivity of your freelancer.

  • Time Doctor — This is a time tracking software that you can use instead of the one integrated in platforms like Upwork. It will increase accountability and help you make sure that contractors are focused on their job and that they’ll deliver the expected outcome within a reasonable number of hours.
  • Wrike — Free project management software that will enable you to assign tasks, make sure that your contractors have all of the details and that they know when the deadline is. Wrike provides reminders to all team members, simplifying the task of project management.
  • Google Docs — Another excellent tool you should try. Sharing documents and creating tables is incredibly easy through the use of Google Docs. In addition, you’re making sure that all of the team members have access to the information and they can modify it from their location.

Dealing with Poor Performance

Some clients feel bad about criticizing their freelancers, which is why they settle for mediocre performance.

A few mistakes are normal in the beginning. Every professional needs a bit of time to adjust to the new professional dynamics and requirements. If you provide feedback and you keep on seeing the same mistakes, however, it may be time to move on.

Give your contractor a warning each time you’re dissatisfied with the quality of the outcome. There should be enough information about what went wrong and what you’re expecting to see. If you still don’t see improvements, you’ll simply need to start looking for somebody else.

Taking It a Step Further

The final aspect of outsourcing we’re going to take a look at involves taking the process a step further.

For a start, you can make other people responsible for choosing the right freelancers. Your company’s SEO manager is totally capable of finding virtual assistants, copywriters and individuals that will handle link building. It’s pointless to get involved in such processes, especially if you have professionals that can handle team building in a quick and efficient manner.

You may also want to choose freelancers as team managers or project managers. Having Skype interviews with such remote professionals will enable you to build trust and learn everything about their history that you need to know.

Outsourcing saves you time and money. It increases efficiency and flexibility. The beginning may be tough — you’ll need time to find the right people. Still, don’t give up on the prospect. Know what you’re looking for and where to find it. Sooner or later, the right experts will come your way.

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