There are a number of outsourcing Web sites – such as Elance, Odesk and others – where a global army of talented, eager workers is ready for you to outsource your work to them. But how do you use them effectively? I’ll explain here how to make the most of the opportunity, as well as how to avoid common traps and pitfalls.
Outsourcing is feasible, attractive and affordable – because these outsourcing sites (also known as “talent markets”) bring buyers and sellers together. It’s tempting to view them as a pool of on-demand resources for one-off jobs, but that can be very frustrating. A better approach is to take a more long-term view, and use them as a starting point for finding people with whom you can build long-term relationships.
Choosing the right service
Some sites specialize in certain types of services – such as graphic design, coding, or Web site development. If you can choose one of these sites, so much the better.
There are financial factors to consider as well – such as your budget (some sites have a minimum fee per project, others tend to attract providers who charge higher fees) and the method of quoting prices (fixed price rather than hourly rate, or vice versa).
The best advice is to (eventually) use the one you’re most familiar with, and use providers who have done good work for you before.
The most important thing you can do is to give enough information for them to provide a reasonable quote. If your project description is vague, your providers will be forced to bid high in order to allow for unknowns.
If you’re posting a similar job to one you’ve posted in the past, use the same provider you used before (assuming they were good, of course).
If you haven’t used a provider before, ask all bidders for samples of past similar work. Also, if possible, don’t have a tight deadline; otherwise, it’s difficult to allow for delays – or even switching providers.
There are a number of ways to assess the responses to your proposal:
- Make sure they have responded to you specifically, not just a generic cut-and-paste.
- Look for samples of past similar work.
- Look for testimonials/comments from past clients who have requested similar work.
- Price matters, but don’t automatically go for lowest price.
- Experience (longevity) matters, but just because somebody is a new provider doesn’t mean they aren’t experienced.
- For some jobs, location matters (e.g. time zones, standard of written English)
Managing the project
When you start working with a provider, you might need to send them an additional project brief, which might be more detailed than the initial project description. Be as clear as possible, and check with your provider that they understand the brief.
For all but the smallest projects, set intermediate milestones during the project, so you can review their work as it’s progressing. This helps you both, because you can detect problems and misunderstandings early, rather than only discovering them in the final product.
Offer to pay in instalments, and pay promptly.
After the project is finished, publish honest but fair feedback on the site, for the benefit of other customers. On most of these sites, providers rely on this feedback to get future work. They really value “five star reviews” (or the equivalent), so unless something went badly wrong, be generous.
If something did go wrong, assess whether it was partly your fault, and don’t penalise the provider if that was the case.