My Guide to Outsourcing and Why oDesk ROCKS!

By Leslie Samuel

One of my Goals for 2011 is to start outsourcing consistently and strategically. Why? Because it's time to stop the insanity. No, really. Running an online business can really tire you out. I've been there before and I'm determined not to stress myself (or my family) out unnecessarily. Not only that, but it gives you the leverage to grow your business beyond what you can accomplish on your own. Really, this is how you take your business to the next level, but only if you do it the right way. If you do it the wrong way, all you'll end up doing is throwing away money. So, that being said, I want to give you some tips that I believe can help you outsource effectively. Here goes . . .

First, Decide on what YOU need to do

I've been doing a lot of thinking about my business recently, and what I've come to realize is that I'm in the business of information marketing and community building. I provide information for others to consume. Information that I believe is helpful to my audience and I build community around my topic/niche.

That being said, the most important thing for me to do in my business is provide high quality content and to nurture the community that I'm trying to build around my topic. That's where I need to spend a large majority of my time. No, bump that. That's where I have decided that I need to spend ALL of my time. In other words, the tasks I need to be focusing on are:

  • Producing high Quality content
    • Writing Blog posts
    • Making Videos
  • Connecting/Networking with other bloggers
  • Actively commenting on Youtube
  • Tweeting and Facebooking

Since content and relationship are my specialty, I want my content to be second to none. Because of that, I want to put all of my energy into those aspects of my business and leave everything else to others. What's important for YOU to do in your business? Deciding that is the first step.

Outsourcing the rest

Since I know what's important for ME to do (or what I want to do), I've decided to build towards outsourcing everything else. There are so many other aspects of my business that can take a ton of time. In other words, they can take valuable time away from what I need to focus on. These tasks include the following:

  • Handling all the techy stuff
    • Design (logo, sidebar elements, graphics, etc)
    • Installing scripts (membership sites, new secret developments, etc)
  • Transcription
  • SOME content development
  • Customer Service (support tickets etc)

Outlining tasks

In the beginning stages of my business, and even up to now, I did most of the things myself. When doing that, it's a good idea to come up with step by step instructions as to how to do everything that needs to be done. In other words, writing instruction manuals. That way, when you are ready to outsource the task, it's easy to orient your outsourcer as to what needs to be done. This really comes in handy and can be done as either written instructions or videos.

Then, it's important to have a clear description of what you need each outsourcer to do. For example, I just posted a transcription job on oDesk. In that description, I let them know that I needed them to transcribe approximately 5 minutes of video every weekday. In addition to transcribing it, I let them know that I needed it edited for any grammatical errors I might make and that they should remove any unnecessary stutters, etc.

I was pretty detailed in terms of what I wanted and how I wanted them. When outsourcing, it's not good to hire someone without being able to guide them as to what you want them to do, or you'll just be wasting money.

How to find someone to hire

I've done this a number of ways, ranging from word of mouth to using sites like Elance, Scriptlance and oDesk. Now, I have to say this. I've previously  used Scriptlance for most of my outsourcing. I'd tried Elance also and it worked relatively well. However, I just started using oDesk this week and oDESK ROCKS! Seriously, my buddy Chris Deals had been telling me about oDesk for a while, but I'm usually pretty hesitant to try something new. In fact, we have this running joke that whenever he recommends something to me, I'm never impressed about it. Then later on (usually a few months), I come to him about the same service/product talking about how amazing it is.

Well, in this case, he was right. oDesk is pretty amazing and let me tell you why:

  • There are a ton of people on there from all over the world.
  • It's extremely inexpensive to hire someone, even at prices like $2.50 per hour.
  • People who are looking for work can take tests that are relevant to what you need done and you can see how they scored.
  • Their tracking system is the best I've ever seen.

The BEST thing about oDesk

I've hired a number of outsourcers in the past where I've had a strong feeling that I was being over-billed. They would quote a low per-hour price (like $2.50 per hour) and then say that the project took 24 hours of work, when I really felt as if it could've been done in 10. With oDesk, I'm pretty sure I won't run into that problem.

When someone is working for you, it tracks their activity and gives you screenshots of what they are doing at random times, including how much they are typing and how many clicks they've made in each time interval. This is great because you can easily see if they are keeping on task and being productive. If they billed you for 2 hours of work and you see that they were on Facebook for 30 minutes, you know that something's not too right, and you can dispute their charges. In other words, it's very secure.

Provide good training and feedback

Once you've decided on an outsourcer, there's still more work that needs to be done. You've hopefully put together some good training resources/instructions for them. Now it's time to provide them with the training and give them good feedback on what they have done. If they do good work, praise them. If they do mediocre work, praise the good that they did and provide them with feedback as to how they can improve. Actually, I've been blown away by the quality of response I got from my job listing and the quality of work that my first outsourcer has done.

So to recap on my suggestions for how to outsource Effectively:

  1. Decide what you need to do
  2. Decide what you need others to do
  3. Have clear written guidelines
  4. Post the job on oDesk. In my opinion, forget the rest, go with the best. However, I'm sure others would have other opinions and I'll be glad to hear them in the comments below.
  5. Provide great training and quality feedback
  • I think the most powerful bit is that before you did all of your work, and now your outsourcing that same work, so you know exactly what is expected out of the work, and how the work is carried out, and to an extend you even know how time this should take, which all helps in managing your outsource tasks.

    I outsource some of my web tasks, but I also make sure I know how to do the work or have a good overview of what is involved.

    I haven’t used oDesk, will have to give it a try.

    • Very good point Wasim. That is the way I prefer to do things. I like to have a good understanding of what needs to be done first.

      I do know of some people who did it the exact opposite way and it has worked for them. I guess you need to do what works best for you.

      You will definitely like oDesk. It’s good stuff!

  • Great article! The information is on point. Focus on content, networking, and expanding the business. I almost made the mistake of taking on a task better suited for someone who does it full-time. It would would have cost me more money and time if I had attempted to do it myself. Thanks for the heads up on oDesk.

    • I hear ya Calvin. And the thing is, you usually end up with a much better result when you leave it up to the professionals. At least that’s what I’ve found. Glad you find the info “on point” 🙂

  • Great information, Leslie! I know I need to more outsourcing, and stop trying to do it all myself. I agree with @wasimalrayes – the fact that you did things yourself gives you a better understanding of the processes required, and control of the quality.
    I’ve been nervous about outsourcing, but I know many talk about doing it and how much time it saves, and more money it makes in the long run.
    Thanks for this post!

    • Thanks for commenting Michelle,

      I used to feel the exact same way and it took me a while to do it. Now, I’m getting much more done and it isn’t costing me a lot. I’m enjoying the process too. You should try it. It will save you a lot of time if you do it the right way.

  • Great post Leslie. Ive worked in the media industry for quite some time and have always have mixed feelings with (1) outsourcing vs (2) contractor/freelancer/friend ect…

    Between the two im always balancing between quality vs quantity.

    I have found working with outsourcing companies you’re going towards the quantity side of the spectrum. Most of these guys work in a production environment and the style of execution is more towards on how fast they can do it based on a set of instructions. In doing this some quality is lost in the work being delivered. Also theres a knock on affect to project management – where more time is needed to adjust on the quality of work. Depending on where your team is based in the world you may send out some instructions in your day and in their time which is likely to different to your timezone they’ll receive this and work on your work. Benefit here is that while your sleeping there are guys are working for you. When you wake up – you’ll see the work that has just been done. Brilliant!

    If you have more money to hire a designer or illustrator, developer – I would go down this route. I have found that the quality of work is increased substantially . Its more interactive to sit down with your designer and run through the changes on do these on the fly. Communications wise it works better and your likely to get the result you want right in front of you.

    All in all it depends on what your trying to achieve which will lead you down a different road.

    For serious bootstrapped companies I would go down the outsourced route.

    If you have a little more money and something that really needs to stick out from the rest I would go for hiring someone locally (freelancer, friend, ect)

    • Thanks for such a well-thought out comment Aston,

      You raise some valuable point. You are so right in that it really does depend on what you are trying to achieve.

      In terms of the quality of work, I’ve been able to get amazing quality from the people I’ve hired so far, and can’t really think of any ways in which it could be better. The big thing was hiring someone who is good at what they do and providing them with VERY CLEAR instructions as to what you need done.

      On the other hand, I’ve hired people in the past that made me want to smack them electronically, lol. Ok, just kidding. But really, I’ve had some bad work done for me in the past that made me hesitant to outsource again. However, this time around, I’m better aware of what to look for and what kind of instruction to give.

      In terms of design and developer, it’s definitely more convenient to hire locally IF you have the money. However, there’s a HUGE difference between $25 – $50 an hour and $5 an hour. If you can afford it and you prefer having someone with you, definitely go that way.

      Anyways, thanks for your input.

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