How to Outsource

“It is vain to do with more what can be done with less.” – William of Occam

Please Note: This article promotes utilizing outsourcing as a tool to make your job easier, not to completely remove yourself from it. Outsourcing is often seen as a tool that companies can employ to reduce overhead. However, outsourcing can be used on a more personal level to make life easier.

Globalization and the Internet has made it possible for anyone to tap talented workers in emerging economies at a low cost. Why pay for a job in dollar figures what can be done remotely for rupees. Today, virtually all large companies outsource portions of their business development to other nations.

Thanks to the Internet, outsourcing is now available to the rest of us as well. I know of many startups and individuals, like myself, who have had considerable success outsourcing. I have integrated outsourcing as part of all ongoing projects – and recommend it to any individual or business that hasn’t done so yet. When done right, outsourcing will save significant amount of time, money and stress.

There are risks involved, however; micromanaging an incompetent employee living in an inverted timezone can be stressful. Or worse yet, there is a risk of getting stuck with an employee who stalls the project until it ends up costing more money than it was meant to save.

These issues, however, are not problems with outsourcing itself, but rather with the orthodox approach used to manage an outsourced project. The tips suggested in the following paragraphs will help you develop an outsourcing strategy to get quality work done for less.

10 Tips on Outsourcing Online:

1. Check Employee’s Background

Choose someone with a high credibility and at least a dozen projects completed on the site. Websites such as, Elance, RentACoder, and ODesk have expert rating tests service providers can take to prove their credibility.

2. Start with a small project

Unless you have worked with a coder before, start with a small project. Remember, you cannot outsource passion. Your employees don’t share the same enthusiasm as you do for your project. So communicate expectations and divide the work into small chunks so that they may stay motivated and demand less micro-managing.

When hiring, prefer workers who ask questions to those who do not. Questions show they are interested and already thinking of your needs. Those who do not ask usually end up chucking half baked work at you; ‘guessing’ instead of ‘knowing’ what you need without really caring.

3. Don’t let the lowest bid intimidate you

Plan your project and work out your priorities. While it is great to negotiate costs, when you are finally hiring, be sure you are hiring the right person for the job. Do not let a low bid lure you into hiring.

4. Claim Intellectual Property

Make sure the project contract includes the ownership clause that tells the employee that you own complete rights to the work once it is paid for. RentACoder and Elance have a default clause written into the contract. This will avoid potential copyright complications later on.

5. Provide the big picture

It is your job to share the project’s vision. If you are able to clearly communicate the project goals things would go far smoother than they would if you were directing a project from the seat of your pants.

6. Set a schedule for status reports

With preset status reports, you can keep track of the project’s progress and it is then easier to keep the outsourced employee motivated. Time saved for them is time and money saved for you as well.

7. Clearly define what constitutes completed work

Test and retest the deliverables before you finally pay the employee for the work. When possible, work out a support clause with the coder for help after completion of the project.

8. Follow the rules

It might seem easier to just chat with the coders you hire and get your point across but sites like RentACoder.com insist you correspond everything you agreed upon through your project thread. If your correspondence is not in the arbitrating website’s record then do not expect them to take your word for what was agreed.

9. Time zones can make or break your sleep

When choosing a worker, it is important to keep the time zones in mind. Make sure there will be times when you can communicate with the coder in real time if necessary. Prefer someone from the same time zone as yourself (for North Americans,  hiring someone from South America makes good sense).

10. Prefer freelance workers over outsource firms

Freelance workers are better motivated since they are working for themselves, and they are not top heavy as most Indian outsourcing firms turn out to be. Outsourcing firms will bid for projects their teams are incapable of finishing; many will brute force their way into finding a project by spamming potential employers with irrelevant samples of work.

Freelancing coders on the other hand are more likely to only take up work they can complete; plus, they remove the non-technical middle man.

Conclusion

I have outsourced everything, from copy writing and marketing to software development and graphic designing. The research material for this article, for instance, was compiled for by my virtual assistant. Surprised? Don’t be. I would be surprised if the likes of Timothy Ferriss wrote the entire book, The 4-Hour Workweek, without the help of an outsourced editor.

If you have a great idea, don’t let your lack of skills, or even time, stop you from executing it. Yes, outsourcing can be challenging, but the benefits far outweigh the potential risks once you know how to use it to your advantage.

Notes:

* Popular websites for outsourcing include, RentACoder (now called VWorker), oDesk, E-Lance, LivePerson and GetAFreelancer, YourManInIndia. I personally recommend RentACoder.com for its cheap, but disciplined labor force.

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