I am often asked about the role outsourcing plays as part of my graphic design business. Do you take on a job from a European or American client, employ an Asian freelancer to do it and sit back and take the profits? Er, no!
I have been outsourcing projects for years now and there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to do it. If handled correctly, outsourcing can increase your profits while maintaining or even improving the service you provide to your clients.
I’d love to hear what you think about my video (my first talking to camera!) where I discuss what projects to outsource, how to charge and what to tell the client.
What jobs should you outsource?
It is essential you understand how to do a job before you outsource it. Never outsource the whole of a client job. I have seen people outsource website creation and get into a whole heap of trouble. Trust me, it’s not worth it.
There are two occasions when I outsource:
- The first is when I know how to do the work but I don’t want to do it because I don’t have time
- The second is when I don’t know how to do the work but when it’s only a part of a job
You will only benefit from outsourcing if you use it sparingly in your business – especially at first.
How do you find the right person for the job?
This is the most important part of outsourcing. There are many people out there that will do a great job for you. However, there are even more people that will say they’ll do a great job but won’t. Your skill of finding the best candidate for the job will be crucial to the success of the project.
If you are looking on oDesk, for example, always click the Advanced Search link. (There are similar features on Elance, you can also filter search results even if you don’t do an advanced search but the important point is to filter the results).
Here is an example of how you may like to search/filter candidates on oDesk or any other outsourcing website. As you can see, I try to narrow down the results to those people who have good feedback scores and lots of recent activity. I also don’t want to hire someone who is too cheap or too expensive.
The above is an example of a candidate who has good feedback over a number of jobs (feedback is measured on oDesk by zero to 5 stars – so look for an average of 4 stars and above). If this candidate has the skills you are looking for then you can get in touch with them and start a conversation about the job.
The next few exchanges with the candidate are very important. You can be messaging a number of candidates at this point to see which one provides the best answers.
Provide a detailed description of the job along with links and files. You will easily be able to see which candidates understand the job by their comments or questions.
So, engage in this two tier filtering process before hiring somebody on oDesk or Elance:
- First, filter the results to the candidates with the best and most recent feedback
- Second, filter the few candidates you then contact by evaluating their initial responses to your project
How do you quote the client?
When deciding how much to charge a client I always advocate calculating the number of hours a project is likely to take in the worst case scenario and multiplying that by my hourly rate. This is no different with outsourcing.
If you expect the work on the project to take you 10 hours and the outsourcing work to take 10 hours, then you should quote the client for 20 hours times your hourly rate (plus the time spent finding and managing the outsourcing staff).
If you don’t know how many hours the outsourcing task should take – you shouldn’t be outsourcing it and charging it on to a client.
The hourly rate that you pay the outsourcing site may be much less than your hourly rate – this is immaterial. If something goes wrong with the outsourcing you will still be expected to complete the job on time and on budget.
Do you tell the client?
No, the client employs your company to do a job by a certain time for a certain price. The client shouldn’t be concerned with how the job is done. However, if you do have a contract it’s as well to mention it. I have a contract template that includes a clause under the heading “Assignment of Work:” which states:
Consultant reserves the right to assign other developers or subcontractors to the Work to ensure quality and on-time completion.
What you can do
Remember, the whole point of outsourcing is to increase your profits while maintaining or improving your quality of service to the client.
Ask yourself these questions: Are there any tasks that you could successfully outsource? How could you write a brief for candidates to ensure that a project could be effectively completed? Would I be able to “rescue” this job if the outsourcing goes wrong?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.