Outsourcing Tips ‘n Tricks

Continuing on from my eBay Tips ‘n Tricks post, I figured I’d share some titbits on effective outsourcing (ala “best practices” and all that yucky corporate spiel).

I’ve generally had good experiences with outsourcing, although there have been some occasions where things have been lost in translation, or where the output wasn’t quite what was in mind. The main stumbling point is that it’s all too easy to assume that the other person perfectly understands what you’re on about.

I’ve found it a real boon to use screen capturing software to record videos that explicitly demonstrates exactly what it is that I would like done. Here is an example video that I recently used (I’ve sped it up to mask my voice):

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Here are some other tips & tricks:

  • Essentially anything that can be performed on a computer can be done by someone else (design, coding, and data entry are firm favourites). The only thing that cannot and must not be outsourced is activities that draw on your our own expertise.
  • By all means use a NDA if you’re concerned about disclosing trade secrets. However, be aware that it’s likely to put off potential bidders. Plus, are you really going to take action against anyone who breaches the agreement? You’re best bet is to skip the NDA and instead be deliberately vague in your project brief, only then to divulge the specifics to the chosen contractor.
  • If you’re not sure who to pick, then pick them all. Have a group of contractors work on a sample part of the project (eg. 1-2 articles for a 50 article site). This will become cheap and highly effective screening process.
  • When posting a project on an outsourcing platform, state that the project is quick and easy to complete. This helps set expectations to bidders, driving down the price.
  • If you’re clueless about programming and worried about the quality of the work produced, why not hire another party to perform a QA of the code.
  • Always make sure you have a clear agreement in place that spells out how owns the finished output and what the rights are for the contractor.
  • After working with someone for a while, begin to hire them from outside the platform. They’ll appreciate bypassing the commissions paid to the platform, and you’ll benefit from more dedicated attention.
  • Once you’ve found someone super good, keep your hands tightly around them so that they’re kept busy and don’t drift off. Even consider putting them on the payroll so that they’re not tempted to work for someone else.
  • Another top tip that I’ve recently had great success with is to not only use video to train your freelancers, but also ask them to provide you with videos when they’re performing the task. This way, you can QA their work and provide feedback before they commence on larger parts of the project.
  • If you’re getting a coder to upgrade an existing script, consider using a version control system (such as Subversion) to help track changes made – allowing you to see the quantity of changes made.
  • If you ever get to the stage where you’re using multiple freelancers, consider hiring a team leader. Then you’ll only have to deal with one person who can take ownership of delegating tasks and managing multiple relationships.
  • Consider using an open ended brief for one of the early tasks with a new freelancer; this way you can test their creative freedom and see if they can add value to your business beyond just what you’re able to envisage.

Update: Another tip added.

Update #2: Another tip added.

Update #3: More and more advice has been added. Consider this to be a ‘living’ document.

Happy outsourcing.

 Tags: Business, Internet   Published: 12th September '08

7 Archived Wordpress Comments

Dennis Yu

Wow– 44 seconds of chipmunkery! Do you have the original– would love to watch that one!

Keith Mander

Hehe… afraid not, deleted the raw file long ago I’m afraid. I didn’t really say that much to be honest, just walked through what needed to be done and any problem areas that they might expect to run into. Definitely helps to hand hold someone through the process with a video than try to write up an explanation and then do continual Q&A down the track.


But one thing is clear, the discussion of such a possibility happening is not the same as condoning or approving of such a thing. ,

Aymeric (taskarmy.com)

> When posting a project on an outsourcing platform, state that the project is quick and easy to complete. This helps set expectations to bidders, driving down the price.

This is a wrong recommendation. You are setting wrong expectations to the bidders and encouraging them to push their prices down is not a good solution. Neither for the freelancer not for you the client because he won’t have the time to pay attention to details.

Keith Mander

A fair comment. Diminished quality should be anticipated when efforts are made to drive down costs – and so this should be done delicately. The crux of what I’m trying to suggest is that the employer can make use of subtle language to help set a tone whereby it’s clear that the employer is not necessarily cost conscious, but has a clear understanding of what the expected is to be, and is therefore a more savvy buyer. This increases their balance of power which may well lower cost. I think that’s a pretty standard way to negotiate and to get the best return on the dollar, rather than just bullying coders to squeeze prices.

Keith Mander

I like what you’ve done with taskarmy.com – feels like a crossover between fiverr and elance.