The six rules of savvy outsourcers

The six rules of savvy outsourcers

Outsourcing is an essential part of business.

But it’s easy to blow money on the wrong person for the job. Here’s how you can mitigate your risks.

1. Do the groundwork first

Don’t palm off difficult jobs and call it outsourcing. You need to be really clear about what you need done and the skills you need in someone, recommends Dan Tarasenko, founder of Next Place, a real estate search engine that outsources to people all over the world.

“I often see disaster stories from people who have outsourced a job they have no idea about, such as a non-technical business owner outsourcing their web development. That’s where the problem begins, because you’re susceptible to being sold, instead of being impressed by the talent of the person,” he says.

The founder of Virtual Elves, Kristy Smith follows a strict vetting process when seeking talent for her clients.

When sourcing her own virtual assistant, she sends candidates a set of instructions in an email. The ones that respond within 24 hours, followed the instructions and gave thoughtful answers were invited to interview.

Smith also insists on Skype with video to virtually meet the person and check out their work environment. She recommends being really clear about the tasks you want to outsource.

“Most businesses give up working with a VA because they either don’t understand how to best work with them, or simply don’t put in the effort needed to train them and make them feel valued.”

2. Write a clear job brief

The job brief is a deal breaker. If you don’t put in the time to give clear instructions in a brief, you’re doomed to failure.

The brief should be as specific as possible and use many different examples, according to David Hobson, the Melbourne City manager for outsourcing platform Elance.

Set deliverable dates and milestones for the entire project, including drafts and whether you expect unlimited revisions, he says.

“This saves headaches down the road from having different expectations to the freelancers. After all, people communicate and interpret things differently, so I recommend using these steps to write a great brief.”

  • Include a text description, outlining your brief.
  • Attach examples, such as images, documents or hyperlinks of similar work to illustrate the level you expect.
  • Use free video software like Jing to record a quick five minute screen capture video as you explain what you’re after.

“If this seems like a lot, it’s worth remembering that this can be done in 10 to 30 minutes at your desk, which is a lot faster than meeting local agencies and discussing your needs,” Hobson says.

3. Work with alternate time zones to smash deadlines

One of the great benefits of working with overseas talent is the ability to work with people in alternate time zones, Hobson says.

“For a recent writing project, I worked during AEST business hours, then at the end of the day, I would send it to an editor in New York for revisions. She would work on it while I slept, and the next day I would wake up with a finished draft, saving me 12 hours, and massively boosting my efficiency.”

This is a great tactic to deal with aggressive deadlines, he says.

“If you need research done, get someone in the UK to get you started as you head home for the day, and you can have it ready first thing the next day,” Hobson says.

Check out one of the many outsourcing websites to find talent, including Elance,, Odesk or 99 Designs.

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