Outsourcing Success is creating Win/Win Scenarios
Hiring an individual or a company to do some work for you is never fool-proof. There isn’t really a way to 100% mitigate your risk that is a win/win for everyone involved. Some people say, “Well, I’ll only hire outsourcers if we don’t have to pay them until after they have successfully completed a job.” That school of thought may seem great at first, but actually it’s terrible and most highly qualified outsourcers will not work for you. A good outsourced Solution is a reasonable balance of risk/reward ratio for both sides. If you intend for them to do all of the work and then you’ll pay them, then you’re putting 100% of the risk on them which isn’t reasonable.
I understand that outsourcing important work to people you don’t know and who aren’t invested in the greater good of your company from the onset is scary. However, if you’re going to do it, there are some things that you can do to mitigate your risk along the way. Start by making sure you hire the right people.
Before You Hire
The hiring process for finding a good outsource partner is not quite as extensive as hiring someone for your in-house teams, but it’s not entirely different either. In both cases, you need to have a process that clearly communicates what you are looking for and simultaneously weeds out candidates that are obviously not in alignment with what you’re wanting while more qualified candidates to rise to the top.
Get Clear – Like Stupid Clear
Before you hire anyone, you need to get really clear on exactly what it is that you want your outsourced partner to do for your company. Document it, and then have someone else read it and then in their words tell you what it is that you expect them to do for you. This is an important step that I hope you won’t skip because most people do not realize how much assumed knowledge they are working from. Have you ever heard the saying, “You’ve already forgotten more about your vision and goals than I will ever learn”? That mildly applies here.
If you’re like most entrepreneurs you eat, sleep and breathe your business and future goals. While a good outsourcer eats, sleeps and breathes their business and future goals, which is likely to perform well at their specific skillset that has you considering hiring them in the first place. However, being great at a specific skill has nothing to do with your vision, goals or business. So it’s very important for you to create a process that clearly articulates exactly what you are looking for and expecting them to do for you.
Many times when an entrepreneur isn’t happy with the end result that an outsource partner provided, it’s not because they didn’t do the job they were hired to do, it’s because they didn’t do it the way the person who hired her pictured it would be done in their head. They can’t get in your head, so you have to get what’s in your head documented in a clear and concise manner. This is critically important before you even begin communicating with potential candidates. If you’re not clear on exactly what you want, how can you expect anyone else will be? This brings me to the first common pitfall that I would like you to avoid.
Pitfall #1: Clear As Mud
This common frustration usually occurs sometime between the middle and end of the engagement. The conflict arises when the business owner is feeling frustrated because the outsourcer is asking for money above and beyond what was agreed to in the proposal. The outsourcer is frustrated because the business owner is expecting tasks outside of what is outlined as part of the proposal. Both sides are right.
Generally speaking, this usually occurs because the business owner assumes that set of tasks is part of the process, while the outsourcer had no idea when writing a proposal that the business owner wanted that particular piece included. Therefore, the proposal is not an accurate match for the job that is being requested. This very pitfall, ruins countless outsourcing relationships that may otherwise have turned into long-term, positive solutions.
So, what did we learn kids? In order for any potential outsource partner to provide you with an accurate proposal, they need to have a clear understanding of the scope of the project that needs to be done as well as the timeline that you expect it to be done in..
Do Your Due Diligence
When hiring outsourcers, it’s important that you do your due diligence. A little research can go a long way towards finding a pool of candidates that are more likely to meet your needs. Here are a few things that can make this process go a little smoother:
Ask Your Peers
You are likely in various masterminds, professional Facebook groups, etc. When you’re looking to hire or find new outsourced talent, ask your peers who they use and have been happy with. Don’t just ask about the actual skillset. Ask about the process they used and the communication style. Ask questions that will give you information that is important to your non-negotiable requirements when working with someone.
Ask for Referrals & Check Feedback
It’s acceptable to ask your candidates for referrals from previous clients. If you are hiring them through a crowdsourced site like Elance or Upwork read through the feedback from previous jobs that they have completed. If they are a private organization as opposed to an individual, you can research them online and look for any red flags.
Do Not Hire Solely On Price
I realize it may be tempting, especially when the company coffers are low, to hire the people providing the least expensive quotes. However, sometimes, you get what you pay for. This tip is not to tell you that you can’t hire the cheapest person, it’s just to warn you not to let that be the most important factor. Hiring the wrong person is ALWAYS more expensive in the long run.
You Hired Someone. Now What?
First of all, remember it’s extremely important that you continue clearly defining your scope and timelines with your outsourcer. In order for you to get what you, you must learn to clearly communicate your vision, goals and deadlines to your new hire. Do not be afraid to communicate to them that it’s really important to you that you’re able to clearly outline what you want. Invite questions. Right from the start foster clear, open communication.
Pitfall #2: Don’t Skip The Yellow Light!
You can avoid another common pitfall by doing a test project before you dive in for the “full meal deal” project. That gives you time to get comfortable with your outsource partner’s work and communication style. This is how you avoid another Common Pitfall. I see entrepreneurs often put a lot of time into choosing their outsourcers very well, but then once they hire them they hit go straight from a red light to the green light and hit the gas. Usually this comes with a lot of excitement of wanting to get their projects done. Instead, go from red light, to yellow light, to green.
You do this by engaging in a smaller scale project in the same vein of what you want to have done. You want to give them something that will give you confidence in their ability, but also something not so significant that if it doesn’t work out that it will severely cripple your efforts. After that “yellow light” project is finished, if you are happy with your hired help, then you can move on to something more significant.
Set Incremental Milestones With Payment Attached
It is very important to set regular milestones throughout the life of a project. One of the worse things that can happen is to not realize that the project is off course until it is almost due. That scenario can severely impact your deadlines. We always set milestones and checkpoints along the way so that any issues that crop up are transparent earlier rather than later. In addition to that, milestones that have payments attached to them are rarely missed or forgotten. When people know they need to do X by Y date, they tend to be pretty motivated to hit those milestones. It’s not a requirement to attach payments to milestones, but it can bring you some consistent benefits when working with your outsource partners.
When you set incremental milestones as mentioned above, it is creating a safety net for yourself and your company. However, it would be a mistake to only use the milestones to make sure a project is on track and to catch any mistakes. You should also use it to celebrate. Mini-wins are great for everyone! If your outsourcer is doing a great job, tell them so. Let them know that you appreciate their attention to detail or hard work. Giving positive feedback and expressing appreciation is a very important part of a successful long-term relationship with an outsource partner.
If it becomes clear that regardless of whether you like the person you hired or not, that they are not the right fit for the job, fire fast. Don’t delay. 99.9% of the time, delaying serves no good purpose for anyone involved. I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “Hire slow. Fire fast.” This is definitely no exception. I’m not saying that the moment your new hire makes a mistake to can them. You’re a business owner, you know what I’m talking about. When you look at that person and evaluate the situation and you just know it’s not going to work out, save everyone a lot of time and pain and cut it short and move on. Trust me on this one!
Finished Project For The Win!
Once the project finishes to your satisfaction, you can chalk up a minor outsourcing success. Good job! If you’re looking to create a long-term relationship with the outsourcer, there are a few things that you can do to help them look forward to working with you again.
Testimonials: Service providers tend to live and die by their reviews. Be sure to take a few minutes and write a testimonial for them. This is truly appreciated, especially by freelancers.
Bonus: If they did a great job for you, throw them an unexpected bonus. If you don’t want to give them cash, you can always give them an Amazon gift card or something else that is thoughtful.
Positive Reinforcement: If there was some aspect of your work experience with them that you really liked more than the average outsourcer, let them know. This makes it more likely that you’ll experience that again.
Shelby’s Golden Rules
There is a lot of great information in this article, but I do have a couple of tried and true golden rules that I suggest you adopt as well.
Documentation Is Your Friend
When I say get everything in writing, I mean everything. This includes not only the initial scope, but any changes you make along the way. Getting things documented not only helps protect you, should there ever be a dispute, but it also gives the outsourcer the chance to read the documentation and pose questions or objections if they feel that what you documented was not accurate. Document everything.
Negotiate Ownership of Work Up Front
I am not a lawyer, but I know that the default laws about ownership of freelance work are counter-intuitive. For instance, if I hire a freelance writer and pay in full for them to write an ebook for me, by default they own that content and can do whatever they want with it unless my contract said otherwise. Simple wording in your contract protects you from this potentially damaging issue.
Take Care of Your Outsourcers
Always pay your invoices on time. It is very difficult to stay happy working for someone if you cannot count on being paid fairly and on time. Make sure you have a process set up that will eliminate the possibility of there being delays in payment to your outsource partners. Also, respect their time as if it’s as valuable as yours. If you set a meeting time, be there on time. Show them that you value them by how you engage with them. Your people are one of your greatest assets, so it’s important to take good care of them. In my opinion, they are also one of your greatest competitive advantages.
Favorite Outsourcing Solutions
Because I own my own marketing agency and content creation company and have been outsourcing virtual assistants and services for almost 9 years, I haven’t hired too many people outside of my own organization, but I do have a few recommendations:
Content Divas – www.contentdivas.com
This is my original company. This is a great place to get written content of all kinds. We don’t only sell written content, but it is the lion’s share of the work ordered through us. Something special about our organization is that we are powered by Stay-home moms.
Ember Dragon – www.emberdragon.com
This is our Digital Marketing Agency. This is not the type of company where you would hire an outsourcer, it’s an agency for when you’re looking for a brilliant marketing team to handle your marketing needs for you.
Elance – www.elance.com
Elance is merging and will become upwork within the next 12 months, but I have had good work finding outsourcers of all kinds from this site. O’Desk is also merging under the Upwork brand, so that is a great diverse site to look at.
You Got This!
For most businesses, especially ones that are predominantly online, successful outsourcing solutions truly are catalysts for positive growth. Stay excited about it, but just know that in the beginning there will be both a time and financial expense. It’s worth putting in the time and money and doing it right in order to create a long-term outsourcing partnership and solution for you and your company.
Let The Divas Do It For You!
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get help with all of your outsourcing needs.