My Outsourcing Review (with real examples and costs)
By now you have probably heard of ‘outsourcing’ which is basically a generic term for assigning the work you don’t want to/don’t have time/can’t actually do to a third party. In this post I outline all the times I have used this process. As you will see, some of it was a hit, and some was a definite miss.
Right now ‘remote outsourcing’ is all the rage for a number of reasons:
You don’t need to talk to your contractor face to face (use Skype, phone or email instead)
You can hire a staff member from anywhere because the work is remote
It can make your work a whole lot easier
I first got the idea for outsourcing my time consuming projects via Tim Ferris’s book ‘The Four Hour Work Week’. I did try to contact a number of the companies reviewed in the book but due to the success of the book they took too long to respond to my enquiry or weren't taking new customers. That’s when I stumbled across www.elance.com which allows you to post a description of your job (for free) and let people from around the world offer their services and give you a quote. Elance is ridiculously easy to use and after my first experience I was hooked, however as you will see from the following outsourcing review – things didn't always go to plan.
The Great Outsourcing Experiences
Research Assistant – I wanted a comprehensive list of the newspapers in Australia (including small community papers) with contact details and names and information as to if they ran a particular column in their paper. I hired Annika De Bruijne and outsourced this job to her.
Seriously one of the best hiring decisions ever. To be honest I don’t think she really knew how much work the project would entail when she signed up for it but she delivered outstanding results. This cost me $100 which was ridiculously cheap when you consider how many hours she must have logged to get this done for me. After pitching to these papers I got a number of publicity opportunities so I made excellent ROI.
Proofreading/Editing Assistant – I use an editor and proofreader every time I write selection criteria for a client as a second set of eyes. Because I never know how much work I have on, I list the work in batches rather than hiring a regular assistant. All my experiences have been positive. My favorite to use is Stephen Weiner. Based in the USA he is fast and accurate and easy to work with. He usually gives you a quote based on how many pages the document is.
Logo Creator – I really wish I could remember who I used for this because the guy was bloody brilliant. He provided me with 6 versions to choose from and unlimited edits and formats. True talent but now I can’t find his contact details to share with you. This cost me $60.
Reception Services – Another absolutely awesome, would be lost without her outsourcing decision. Customers used call me all the time to enquire about my resume and selection criteria service. The problem was I would have to stop the actual resume or selection criteria I was working on to answer the phone and before I outsourced this, it was consuming about 50% of my time. I googled virtual reception companies but most of them were based overseas and I wanted another Aussie to answer my phone. Enter Laura from Red Apple Virtual Reception Services.
Her small team handled all my customer enquiries and can do a bunch of other stuff as well like SMS my customers, handle faxes for me and book appointments. She answered with my company name and handled all enquiries including FAQ’s. People always mistook her for an actual ‘on site’ receptionist – meanwhile she worked in another state and handled a whole bunch of calls for small business owners just like me for less than $300 a month. I was devastated when she moved on to other projects.
The Bad Outsourcing Experiences
Resume Writer – At one stage I really wanted to hire somebody to help me with the resume writing side of my business. However this really did not go well. When hiring somebody on a long term basis (not just a once off project) I like to give them a paid trial first to make sure they can do what they say they will. Although this guy was new to Elance and didn't have any references he had excellent resume samples on his site.
I gave him a paid trial and the work was suburb so I hired him. Huge Mistake! It turned out that neither the samples, nor the trial he did was actually his work. He had poached the samples from somewhere and got a friend to do the trial for him. The work was terrible, it wasn't anything I could salvage and although we had agreed it was his responsibility to contact the client to complete the questionnaire before starting the work (and had factored the cost into his payment), he never contacted the client at all and when questioned said it was because his phone had been disconnected. The experience was so stressful for me that I now do all my own work and only outsource admin and IT stuff.
Formatter – After the resume writer experience I still had a lot of orders to fill and needed to find a way to fit them all in. Although I did all the writing I hired somebody to assist me formatting the actual resumes, as this generally takes me about 20-30 minutes per resume although the job itself is very simple. Again, I got the freelancer to do a paid trial which went very well. We settled on an hourly rate and I started sending her the completed resumes to be reformatted. The quality was excellent but over the course of six weeks I noticed that the time it took her to do a reformat gradually increased from 20 minutes per resume to 6 hours per resume! When I called her on it, she said she wanted more work and since I didn’t have enough for her had been stretching out the time it took to do things. In other words – stealing. Needless to say that was the end of that working relationship and of me outsourcing the formatting!
Other Stuff I’ve Outsourced
SEO Manager – I really don’t have much of an idea about SEO so I did hire somebody to help me with it over a three month period. The guy had great reviews and my traffic did increase but it wasn't paying traffic so from a business side of things, this experiment actually ran at a loss. It cost me $300 per month but I didn't get one paying customer from the SEO because the keywords were not what my paying customers were searching for. Also I did get a number of complaints about ‘spamming’ people’s walls which kinda upset me since I had asked for only ‘white hat techniques’ to be used.
Adwords Manager – I had a general idea about adwords and had been running a pretty successful advertising campaign since I started. I wanted to see if hiring an ‘expert’ could help me increase conversions and get more ‘bang for my buck’. I hired a woman who was Google Certified and had good reviews but my conversions actually went down 25% for the month so I went back to doing it myself. I could tell she knew what she was doing, but I guess because I had more of an idea about the key terms my clients were searching for, I was able to do a better job. This cost me $328 for the month.
Write Articles/Press Releases – Again this is something I outsource on a regular basis. I have hired a number of writers to work on various projects and they have all completed the work to standard. It depends on the word count as to the cost.
Set up a Squidoo Page for my business - I can’t remember who I outsourced this to, but they did a great job according to deadline.
Research POD Services – I hired someone to research print on demand services for me according to a specific set of criteria. They did a good job. Total cost: $87
Add Tracking Code to Website – I’d been beating my head against a wall trying to get this done but being technology illiterate just could not work it out. I posted the job on Elance and got it completed within two hours for a cost of $20
Supplier List – I was looking for some suppliers of a tie dye product I wanted for a personal project but no matter how much I googled I could not seem to find the exact product I wanted. I posted the job on Elance and within 24 hours had a supplier list for the product I wanted for a cost of $22.
Form Creator – I needed a simple drop down form created and at the time did not know how to do it. Again, I hired off Elance and had the form I wanted for $20 within 24 hours.
I've also used www.fiverr.com for a number of projects. I wouldn't say I outsource to Fiverr but occasionally I can’t help myself and just have to order something. (Fiverr has a whole bunch of weird, wacky and wonderful services for $5). For example I have ordered a guy to voice over a radio advert for me and once I ordered twins to film a 30 second commercial for my resume service (both did a great job but I’m probably never going to run a radio or tv commercial). Fiverr is fun but be warned you can easily go on a spending spree and order a whole bunch of wacky service you will never actually use.
As you can see from my outsourcing review it can be a bit of a hit or miss operation, however the majority of my experiences have been exceptionally positive. My advice is to always read the reviews (it was one thing both my horror stories lacked), do a paid trial if it is for a long term relationship (although this is no guarantee) and try not to commit to any long term contracts until you are sure they are the one for you.