It’s funny we’re often defined by our profession. Every time I meet someone new, as soon as they find out that I’m self-employed and I run an online marketing business, I get one of two reactions: pity or envy.
Some folks believe that self-employed is actually a synonym for broke-and-lazy, but other people – mainly those who are also trying to get out of the whole 9-to-5 scene also and take matters into their own hands — are actually pretty impressed.
They seem to like the fact that I’m doing what they want to do one day. People who fall into that second category generally start hurling questions at me, as if the fact that I’m completely supporting myself makes me some kind of expert.
Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little ego boost, and I’m a pretty helpful guy, but I’ve got to be honest: I don’t know how to do everything, but I have a little secret. I know how to hire people to do things for me. This is often called outsourcing.
You Don’t Know How to Do Everything
There’s a reason I go to the dentist’s office to get my teeth cleaned but visit my chiropractor if I throw my back out. Dentists and chiropractors are both doctors, they’re both licensed professionals, but they’re at total opposite ends of the spectrum.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a personal trainer, if you run a lawn service, or if you work from home as a graphic designer … no matter how good you are at your job, you don’t know how to do everything.
That’s why it’s absolutely crucial that you find someone who does know how to do things correctly when you want something done, but don’t have the expertise to do so.
Take that lawn service example … let’s say you want a website for your landscape company. You probably have a computer and a digital camera at home, but do you have any idea how to create a website, let alone one that looks good and helps you attract new clients? Probably not, but the hypothetical graphic designer I just talked about could help you out if you hired them to do the work for you.
Outsourcing is a Necessity for Many Businesses
Lately the term “outsourcing” has gotten a bad rap because it makes so many people think of calling a customer support number and dealing with a representative who barely speaks English.
The truth is that most of the small business owners I know all agree that outsourcing is a necessity. It gives you the ability to get top-notch work to take care of things that you don’t know how to do or don’t want to do yourself, which frees up time for you to concentrate on the aspects of your business that you are comfortable with completing yourself. It’s might even be a way to possibly save some money.
On a personal level, I wouldn’t be able to travel through Europe right now if I didn’t have outsourcers handling many aspects of my business.
I’ve never made the claim that I know how to do everything myself. When I need help, I’m not afraid to get it. It’s the best way I’ve found to manage my business while not getting bogged down in the mundane, day-to-day details.
Now I don’t claim to be an expert on outsourcing. But, there are a few things I’ve learned about how to hire an outsourcer and a few tips for managing this process:
#1- Decide if it’s Worth Outsourcing
If you have an online store, you may have to update certain things fairly regularly, such as product photos, prices, and shipping information. This is probably fairly tedious work, but it’s a necessity to run your business properly. It might seem easier to just hire someone to work as a virtual assistant for a few hours per week than to continue doing the data entry yourself.
Before you decide to outsource something, you have to first make a determination if it’s worth doing. If the process isn’t that bad, and you’d rather have control over that aspect of your business, you may want to keep doing it yourself.
#2- Where to Find Outsource Workers
Once you’ve made up your mind and decided that you’re going to outsource a project, you need to determine where to advertise your needs. Online marketplaces which connect freelancers with “employers” are a popular alternative to classified ads in the newspaper, which is pretty dated and pretty limiting.
Two of the major freelance websites out there are Elance and Guru. These sites give you the ability to post ads for jobs you need completed, and people can then offer to do the work for you for a certain price. You’ll be able to go through the list of potential “employees” who are interested in working for you and “hire” one to do the job. You could also try finding people through Craigslist or Twitter, or simple word of mouth.
#3- Use an Escrow Service
I highly recommend the use of freelance websites because they provide you with the safety net of using escrow services. If you wind up finding someone to complete a project for you for a certain amount of money, you can place the proper funds into an escrow account. The freelancer will see that you have put money up front, but the website will hold the money in escrow until the project is complete.
This is a display of good faith on your part—proof that you’re actually going to pay up for the work you want done—and it also prevents you from finding a freelancer who wants to “take the money and run” and leaves you with nothing. Sadly, that does happen, so be safe.
Once you’ve established a business relationship with someone, you may feel trusting enough to skip the escrow and pay them directly, but initially escrow is your safest bet because it protects both parties involved.
#4- Be Ultra-Specific About the Task
Be very, very specific about jobs that you need done. It’s the easiest way to get what you want. It’s important to be as detailed as possible when describing the project you need completed, even if it feels like you’re writing out directions for someone in kindergarten. The first time you’re working with an outsourcer, you want to make sure that you’re clear about what you want. Don’t leave room for interpretation.
Let’s say you own a restaurant and need a new menu designed. Don’t post an ad exclaiming, “MENU NEEDED!” without also explaining that it’s an Italian restaurant which serves pizza, pasta, and beer. Otherwise, a designer might come up with an absolutely awesome menu … that has pictures of hamburgers and French fries dancing up and down the margins. Not exactly the message you want to get across, right? So be specific.
#5- Try to Find Individual Workers
It’s important to find out if you’re dealing with an individual or a corporation. You are trying to outsource some work, but your “freelancer” may be doing the same.
It’s not uncommon for agencies to create accounts on freelance websites in order to get jobs and pass them along to others, which can be a bit misleading. If that doesn’t bother you, that’s fine, but if you’d prefer to deal directly with an individual, be sure that you really are dealing with an individual.
#6- Find an Outsourcer with Related Experience
I recommend you choose a freelancer who has experience related to what you need done. Otherwise, why not just do it yourself, right?
Someone may be a great fiction writer, but that doesn’t mean they’ve ever authored a cookbook. Well, it also doesn’t mean that they couldn’t write a cookbook, but you might not feel comfy being their guinea pig.
Bottom line…just be realistic in your expectations. Most freelancers have portfolios available online so potential clients can look through work that they’ve done in the past. Take advantage of the opportunity and look at the samples. If they don’t present samples for you, ask to see them.
#7- Start Out Small
If you remember my Italian restaurant example … it would be a good idea to hire someone to create a menu before hiring them to create a menu, coupons, flyers, and business cards.
Get one thing out of the way, see if you’re happy with the results, and proceed from there. If you had a good experience and you’re comfortable in working with the person again, by all means hire them to continue. If you aren’t too pleased, you won’t feel funny canceling part of the project.
#8- Price Isn’t Everything
Always remember that price is important, but it’s not everything. You’re most likely outsourcing some of your work in order to save yourself time and money, but choosing one person from a list of ten simply because they offered to do the project for half the price of everyone else may not be a good thing.
Experience has taught me that discarding the highest-priced and the lowest-priced bid is usually a good idea. A freelancer that offers a balance of good value and good quality is what you’re after!
As I’ve mentioned throughout this site, I use outsourcing for many aspects of my online business. In fact, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be able to make a passive Internet income if I didn’t have the help from some extremely talented people.
So if you’re at a point where you feel like you don’t have enough time, but want to move your business forward, then I highly recommend you follow this 8 point plan for hiring that perfect outsourcer.Take Action. Get Results.