There are enough success stories out there of how outsourcing freed up time, saved costs, and brought highly experienced workers into the business to complete specific tasks. You don’t need more proof; just decide.
The most important time management tips from great leaders such as Warren Buffet, Tony Robbins and Tim Ferris revolve around delegation and outsourcing wherever and whenever possible. Outsourcing is the next step to grow your business more effectively.
Where do you start and what must you know to start outsourcing?
Here are 10 things to focus on to make outsourcing a success:
1. Know the Task You Want Outsourced
Outsourcing, like any other business aspect, requires a goal, a plan, and execution. Start with what you need to outsource. An easy and practical way to do this is to make a list. If you already have a list of all the tasks that must be done but you don’t have the time, expertise, or people to do it, then start with that list.
You already know what you are good at and what your functions are in the business. Look at the list and remove all the tasks that you should be doing yourself. If you have people that work for you, then delegate tasks to them that are relevant to their skills. You may have the right people, but the work-load is too much, and these people need to be focused on certain things. These overflow tasks are the first things you can outsource to make things more efficient. Another kind of task perfect for outsourcing is sporadic or seasonal tasks. Lastly, there are tasks that you can do but just don’t want to do. Often these kinds of tasks can be outsourced, too.
2. Identify Your Perfect Freelancer
Identifying the perfect freelancer for the task is as important as qualifying people who work for you in-house. Create a profile of what you want in the freelancer. Write down the skills required and at the desired level of expertise.
- Language Ability. What language is required? As an e-commerce business or international company, you may need freelancers that speak different languages.
- Write and Speak. What level of writing and speaking skills in English is needed? If you are outsourcing customer service, then the accent and fluency level are very important. A writer must be excellent in writing English, but speaking and accents are important for voice roles.
- Software Skills. Be clear on what software and other tools they will need to be proficient with to be successful in supporting your work. You want someone who can be effective from the beginning.
- Previous experience. What previous experience will set you up for success in picking the best fit. Do they need to understand your industry or target market. How much experience is required based on the difficulty of work you are assigning.
- Hours per Week. Before you interview the freelancer, have at least an idea of how long a task will take. Decide how many hours per week you need the freelancer for. It’s better to overestimate rather than underestimate how much time is required for a task.
- Time Zones. Outsourcing isn’t restricted to local candidates. You can outsource internationally. Keep in mind the different time zones especially if you need to communicate with the freelancer within your business hours. The benefit of time zones is you can run your business 24 hours per day.
- Your Budget. How much do you want to spend? How much is it worth to you to free up your time and to outsource tasks? Research rate ranges. Remember, you get what you pay for. Decide if quantity or quality is more important to you.
3. Find the Best Outsourcing Platform
What to save more time? Another time management tip is to leave the hiring to someone else. An important time management strategy stem from the basis of you do what you do best and let others do what they do best. Interviewing is a skill and a time-consuming process when done right. Besides, where do you find the perfect freelancer who you can trust? Like with any other worker, you want to build a relationship of trust. Due to the short duration of some projects, there’s not always the opportunity to build that kind of trust with freelancers. By the time you get to know each other, the project is completed.
Outsourcing through freelancer platforms solves this problem. They qualify and screen freelancers beforehand – so you don’t have to. You, as the client, build the relationship with the freelance marketplace.
Three benefits that distinguish outsourcing marketplaces from each other are:
- Specialization or specific region served. Some marketplaces specialize in specific industries, skillsets or service areas; for example, e-commerce, customer service, and state-specific legal writing. Countries have their own local outsourcing networks and project boards. Other networks are international.
- Screening method. The intensity of the screening methods for freelancer access differs as well. At some freelance marketplaces, the applicants go through an intense screening process. Others are more casual and instead have voluntary tests that freelancers can complete to show their competence.
- Replacing freelancers. Life happens and sometimes the freelancer needs to leave before completing the project. There are a few marketplaces who will immediately introduce you to replacements. The majority freelance platforms leave it up to you to find a replacement, however. Some may have protections in place to avoid any payment issues, while others will not provide much assistance.
4. Ask Key Interview Questions
Come to the interview prepared. List beforehand the questions you need to ask the freelancer during the interview. If relevant, ask for a portfolio of work done before.
Questions to consider are about their skills, work experience, what they struggled with, and where they performed well.
Find out when they are available. Can they work in your preferred time zone? Are they amenable to working certain days and hours? Will they be available to complete your project within a specific deadline?
Sometimes it’s more appropriate to hire the freelancer for a paid trial and decide then if the freelancer is qualified to take on the entire project.
5. Set Clear Communication Expectations
The freelancer should adapt to how you prefer to communicate. Make this clear during the interview. This way you will know in advance if the freelancer can’t comply.
- What is your preferred communication method? Do you prefer to communicate via Skype, email or phone?
- Is it important to communicate within your business hours? Is this possible for the freelancer if he or she is in a different time zone
- How often do you want the freelancer to report to you? Daily? Or only when tasks are completed?
- What kind of feedback do you require?
6. Go Over the Portfolios
The quickest way to discern if this is the freelancer you want is to look at a portfolio or ask for work samples. Previous work will immediately show you how a freelancer works and if it is in the style you are looking for.
Live links indicate more current work and actual work the freelancer did. During the interview ask the freelancer about the scope of the projects done for other clients. Freelancers may not always be able to share this information. Sometimes, what they share may not really be their work. It’s more important to focus on how they describe work done rather than physical proof that may have come from anywhere or anyone.
7. Define Ownership of Work
It’s generally assumed that when you pay for the work, the ownership transfers to you. However, it is a good practice to make that clear before the freelancer starts working on the project.
The general term used is “work made for hire.” Legally, there may be some finer points with a certain type of project. Therefore, if the project is of a sensitive nature, it’s better to get a written agreement done up, and consult an attorney if necessary.
When ownership transfers to you, freelancers need your permission to use the work as a sample in their portfolio. Especially if you want to see portfolios, consider granting this request.
8. Clarify Follow-Up Support
There are certain projects that tend to need follow-up support. Projects of a technical nature, for example. Agree on upfront with the freelancer what kind of support you want to be included in the contract. Preferably, have this in writing to avoid any future misunderstandings.
For instance, freelance projects or tasks that are of a writing or design nature sometimes need editing. Clarify the number of edits included in the rate or hours specified.
9. Make Use of Project Milestones
Milestones benefit you and the freelancer. They allow you to have specific checkpoints to:
- Review the status of the project,
- Pay for work completed thus far,
- Solve unforeseen issues and create a new plan, and
- Keep to deadlines.
Depending on the kind of project, some freelancers require an upfront payment, usually between 20-50%. With milestones in place, you have better control over tasks completed and payment schedules. Another payment milestone can be set for halfway through the project and then a final payment when it is completed to your satisfaction within the agreed upon terms.
10. Take the Step
Freelance marketplaces combined with the internet have changed the way we work. Outsourcing is the norm of the day. Outsourcing is an industry that continues to grow. The manufacturing industry outsourced about 43% in 2017. One survey reported that 65% of companies who outsource will continue to outsource and outsource even more of their business operations moving forward.
No longer is it necessary to have in-house workers for every possible need your company may have. Moreover, the skill level of freelancers is often higher than full-time workers. Freelancers have a greater opportunity to specialize and to hone their skills in a specific arena. This isn’t always possible with regular workers. Join the outsourcing trend.
Take that step today, with confidence. These 10 things above will help you make your outsourcing a success. Start small. Make your list of tasks to outsource. Find your freelance marketplace and outsource one task. Soon you’ll be outsourcing projects more than you’d ever thought you would.
Connor Gillivan is the author of Free Up Your Business: 50 Secrets to Bootstrap Million Dollar Companies, a serial entrepreneur, and the CMO and co-founder of FreeeUp.com. When he’s not bringing together hundreds of freelancers and business owners, he’s mentoring entrepreneurs through his site, ConnorGillivan.com. He currently lives in Denver, Colorado.