Thinking of Outsourcing? Read this first
There are hundreds of sites and countless articles to read online about this and other pertinent topics in today's digital circus and I know I never have time to read everything I want to, even with the best of intentions. So I'm going to make this as succinct as possible whilst being as helpful as possible, in the shortest time possible. I'll cover digital outsourcing for websites, design, project management and administration. Some things you'll know, some things you may not and if there's something I need to know, I 'd love to hear from you.
For years it has been known that there are a vast number of skilled digital labourers available for hire in countries such as India, Brazil, China and Eastern Europe. The likes of Scriptlance.com will allow you to post a project and wait for programmers and designers to “bid” on your project with a cost and promised delivery date. If you need a logo design you can try LogoTournament.com to see what designers worldwide will come up with.
The vast majority of agencies are already outsourcing digital work and around two-fifths (42%) of agencies said that the primary reason for this was because it is the “most cost-effective way to manage fluctuations in work stream”. (Source: E-Consultancy)
The costs and administration burden will undoubtedly be lower than hiring a in-house freelancer/consultant, but is it worth it and should we trust our valuable projects to an invisible person sitting on the other side of the world?
First things first though. Here are some basic questions to ask yourself before you decide to outsource:
1) Is outsourcing the right move for your business? Would it be be easier to hire an extra member of staff if the work requires a lot of in-house interaction?
2) Have you taken all the costs into consideration? If this is a long term project, do you have the funds in place?
3) Can you bridge the cultural difference between your company and the outsourcer? Will they really understand your brand and its placement?
4) How will you define success on this particular product/ project?
Outsourcing could have an enormous positive impact on your business, but make sure you're not jumping into trusting strangers with your product before you check them out properly. Here are the basics you should have in mind when considering outsourcing to a third party:
1. Clearly define the scope and schedule for your project from the start. Be clear from the outset so they can give you a realistic price and timeframe for completion.
2. Evaluate a service provider in the same way you’d hire a full-time employee. You wouldn’t hire someone who never replied to your emails so why compromise for an agency?
3. Look for specific experience fit. Take the time to look at their body of work. Do you like it?
4. Don’t choose a vendor based solely on price. You’re looking for quality and reliable ongoing support, not cheap rates and disappearing designers.
5. Start small. When using a company or freelancer for the first time try to test them out with a smaller project first to get a feel for how they work and the quality of their service.
6. Negotiate ownership of your work. It’s safer to always own what you pay someone to create for you. It gives you the freedom to go elsewhere for alterations should you ever need to.
7. Opt for people who offer support services after the completion of your project.
8. Get it in writing. Make sure you have records and/or a contract stipulating the time constraints and payment for the work requested.
There are many sites on which to post your needs or look over freelancer CV’s. Here are just a few:
Elance: You'll find tons of freelance writers and designers on this site.
Freelancer Now: You'll get services quickly on this site.
Guru.com: Post individual projects on this site and have professional bid on them.
RentACoder: You can literally rent a Web coder from this site.
Scriptlance: You can post a project on this site, which lists bids in a neatly organised list.
Workaholicsforhire: Find people 24/7 on this site people by "a team of workaholics who have a compulsive need to work at odd hours, drink too much coffee, and love meeting impossible deadlines."
iFreelance: Post your project for free to receive bids from hundreds of professional service providers.
Agents of Value: This Webmaster staffing company specialises in finding full-time programmers, graphic designers, journalists, researchers and link builders to help your business grow.
Once you’ve decided to outsource its advisable to allocate a manager or member of staff track the progress and monitor the results of the third party working for you as you are still accountable for the work they produce, as with any regular employee. Projects that require team interaction or brainstorming don't work too well; self contained tasks or projects are more suited to outsourcing.
If you're looking specifically for designers here are a few sites to get you started. But remember, make sure you're all clear on who owns the designs after completion. if you need a brand logo designed for your company, it follows that you'll need to own it, not your designer.
AG Design: http://www.allgraphicdesign.com/jobs.html
Graphic Design Freelance Jobs: http://www.graphicdesignfreelancejobs.com/
Freelance Designers: http://www.freelancedesigners.com/
Graphic Design Jobs: http://www.graphicdesignjobsandleads.com/
Creative Pool: http://www.creativepool.co.uk/employee/jobs/design-jobs.php
Project management can also be dealt with using sites like Basecamp http://basecamphq.com/ or Assembla http://www.assembla.com On sites like these you can collaborate on projects, manage your contacts, organise your business and chat with your group. Sites like these are relatively good value but may have add on costs for extra users or packages. Other sites include:
Zoho Projects: http://projects.zoho.com/home.na
Easy Projects.net: http://www.easyprojects.net/
I could go on but here are a few more all in one:
Virtual PA's or Assistants provide administrative, creative and/or technical support and are a rapidly growing phenomenon online. They work on a contractual basis via online communications and can handle all the things an onsite PA would, looking after your schedule, your online files or your customer database. Here are a few options for you to browse:
City Office: http://www.yourcityoffice.com/virtual-pa.php
Virtual Resources: http://www.virtualresources.co.uk/
My PA: http://www.mypabusiness.com/
Versatile Assistant: http://www.versatileassistant.com/
Business Exchange Virtual Offices:
Virtual PA Central: http://www.virtual-pa-central.co.uk/
Whatever you need to outsource, it may take time to find the right people or companies that work for you. However, once you've found the right recipe for your company and sourced people to work with that you trust, who share your work ethic and understand your brand, product and aims then you're cooking.
Given all the above, the best tip I can give you, whether you're just starting out or you've been outsourcing for a while, is: if you can, sit down and have a good old chat with your potential supplier, even it it mean a little travelling. That’s right. By having a coffee with the person in charge of the team you are considering to outsource to, you’ll be able to learn far more about them and their business ethos than you will after many calls and reading their CV's. For example: how good are their language and communication skills? How polite, approachable and professional they are? Are they trustworthy? Are they who they actually say they are? Do you like them? You’re putting your company in their hands, you need to be able to do it with confidence.
The problem is you can’t sit for a coffee with an offshore-based company unless they have a home-based contact. And this is the most important point of the article. I would not recommend anyone outsourcing digital work to a company that does not have a person responsible near home - I learned my lessons the hard way: when programmers left holes in programmers to copy confidential information or get more work, disappeared into thin air or people simply delivered work that appeared to have been done by my 3-year old niece.
When you’re speaking the same language everything suddenly becomes simpler. Make life easier for yourself if you’re looking to outsource. Ask around, get recommendations, research well and choose a company you can talk to and build a relationship with. It’s your business and your reputation so be confident you're choosing the right people for you.
Want to know more about outsourcing digital? Please feel free to get in touch, maybe even for a coffee.
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Bravo Media: Director - Managing the production of web projects including websites, online media, creative and bespoke technical solutions - Developing proposals, liaising with the production team, managing client meetings and working closely with creative and tech teams Read Bernardo's full bio
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