Offshore Outsourcing to Grow Your Business
The world is shrinking, or at least seems that way as it becomes increasingly connected both in terms of the internet and relatively cheap global transport via plane, not to mention boats of course but they are just a little bit slower. Where once companies were restricted to employing people locally or nationally, these days there are many more options open to them from recruiting internationally to farming out tasks or entire projects to companies anywhere in the world – in other words offshore outsourcing.
Reasons for Outsourcing
So called outsourcing, where a company recruits freelancers or companies to build something or perform certain tasks is a growing phenomenon in many parts of the world and the reasons a company may choose this path are in fact quite varied. Typically the natural assumption is that the reason for outsourcing, particularly offshore outsourcing, is to cut costs since it would (or at least may be) otherwise much more expensive to perform the task in-house due to higher employment costs or other general business costs.
However there are other, perhaps even more important reasons for outsourcing, for example it allows a company to expand into new areas of operation where they may not (yet) have in-house expertise and acquiring such in-house expertise is expensive and frequently not cost effective. Want to hire someone just for keyword research or even copywriting? Another reason is to enable a company to scale up their operations, allowing their business to grow faster without the expense of expanding an in-house team. Also to cope with (expected) short-term increases of workload – being able to put more workers online rapidly provides many benefits.
A concern some may have is that outsourcing means low quality but this is simply not true at all, anymore than recruiting in-house staff means low quality. The reality is that as long as you choose ‘outsourcers’ wisely and define tasks and projects correctly, there is no reason why quality will suffer and in fact you can benefit from the greater experience which your outsourcers may already have.
As mentioned, it is critical when working with outsourcers that you specify precisely what you require. Make sure to set milestones where appropriate and decide on what exactly the deliverables should be and when you should get them, not to mention of course the costs involved. Failure to clearly define the whole project, its scope and requirements, limitations and costs, can lead to problems further down the road – don’t expect your outsourcers to be mind readers, no matter how good they are.
The legal aspects of a project also need to be dealt with – things like who owns the code developed by the outsourcer, also what access they have to your data and files and what they can and cannot do with that data. Non disclosure agreements are also commonly required and in fact with many of the outsourcing platforms such agreements are built in to the system by default.
Tracking Outsourcer Activity
Knowing what your freelance or remote staff are working on, when you are paying them for that time they spend working for you, is of course very important. It’s no good paying a freelancer by the hour while he spends that time watching YouTube videos or posting on Reddit! If you are paying them a fixed fee for completed projects this is perhaps less of an issue, but even then you want your project done quickly (while maintaining quality of course) so someone that takes 6 months to complete something that could have been done in 1 month is not what you want and could be holding up your entire business for those 6 months!
Fortunately there are ways to track staff activity. This is typically done by installing some software on their PC which runs in the background and logs time worked. Such software can also take periodic screenshots and log web browser activity (URLs visited) and what other apps may be running, such as Skype, and what percentage of time is spent using those. In some cases there are also mobile apps for installing on Apple and Android devices which can even log location.
A great way to track your staff activity is with Hubstaff which is a very affordable solution for logging work done by your remote team members. Their tracking software works on all the major platforms including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS – it’s running on my Ubuntu laptop right now as I write this article. Also it integrates with various payment solutions such as PayPal, Payoneer and Bitwage, so you can easily manage or even fully automate your Payroll payments to your remote freelancers.
We actually use Hubstaff here at Womplify now as well. Since we’re a 100% remote team it is perfect for our needs. As a matter of fact we’re looking for developers now so get in touch if you’re interested! Which reminds me – another useful resource provided by Hubstaff is a free talent sourcing site. You can find remote staff all over the world or find work if you are a freelancer – you can find our jobs listed there as well.
Where to Find Outsourcers
Oursourcers, particularly in the online or digital field, range from a single freelancer hired for small to medium sized projects or specific tasks and on the higher end they include full digital agencies which can take on all aspects of complex technology projects from the earliest design to final delivery of a finished and functioning system ready to be put into action. Popular places to find the former are the online marketplaces such as Upwork (formerly oDesk and Elance), and of course the aforementioned Talent marketplace run by Hubstaff, which cover a wide variety of fields.
At the very low end for the seriously budget conscious, there is Fiverr where (almost) every project costs just $5 – sounds crazy and hard to believe you could get anything good done for just $5 but in fact you can get some decent tasks done there if you are careful and realistic about your expectations – nobody is going to develop a clone of Salesforce for you for $5 although some may say they can.. a quick bit of online research, a simple graphic, a promotional video or photograph, all these things can be easily done via Fiverr but don’t expect to get – even our logo here on Womplify was done through Fiverr!
Besides the big platforms such as Upwork, there are niche versions around such as iWriter which as the name implies, is for hiring writers. Need an article for your blog or an eBook written, then that’s the place to go. Again, you must manage both your expectations AND make sure you fully define your requirements and deliverables to ensure the writer you hire knows exactly what to do. Nobody wants to spend time working on a project only to find that it wasn’t what the buyer (that would be you!) actually wanted – junk in, junk out.
Whichever platform you use to hire outsourcers, it is always worth posting a simple test project first and hiring several people to work on it in parallel. This way you can screen out the useless ones and narrow the field down to those that not only complete the project adequately and on time, but are also easy to work with. You can even create several, increasingly complex mini projects in this way to help ensure that at the end you get the right person (or people) for the real projects. It never hurts to have a group of pre-screened outsourcers to call on should the need ever arise as your business grows.
Make Outsourcing Work
Outsourcing can be extremely fruitful for any business if done right and that means following some simple guidelines and using common sense when choosing who to work with. Make sure to do appropriate due diligence, define clear goals and deliverables, make sure the legal paperwork is in order and make sure to manage the project suitably – whether you take a hands-on approach to managing your outsourcers and each task they do for you, or whether you stand back and let them get on with the project and just send you regular progress updates, or use software for tracking their work, can depend on who you work with, the level of trust already developed, their reputation and of course the actual agreement you came to with them in the first place.
Of course although it is commonly called offshore outsourcing, there is no reason why you shouldn’t outsource closer to home as well – it doesn’t really matter where in the world they are as long as the quality and price is right for your business.
Have you tried outsourcing? How did it go? Feel free to share your outsourcing tips in the comments section below!