5 Essential Outsourcing Lessons I've Learned The Hard Way…What Have You Learned?


"I've spent thousands and thousands of dollars on outsourcing, and hundreds of hours of time wasted…" says Ben Brandes,  affiliate manager for leading multi-tool platform FusionHQ

"I'm going to give you the 5 best tips I have learned over the years so I can help save you a ton of time and money."

My very first outsourced project was an online website with an integrated affiliate system and lead generation software built in. It was a huge learning experience for me.

I actually paid someone $1000 to help make sure that it was completed with the least amount of resistance. I was told she had a lot of experience working on projects, so I thought it’d be wise to get her help rather than starting from scratch.

I spent hours writing scopes, videos, flowcharts and was told the project would all be completed in 10 days. Long story short, 3 months later, I had gone through 3 different programming teams and the project was still not completed.

I ended up ditching the project as it was getting too complicated and costing more than I’d like. All up I invested about $4000 in that lesson. So after 3 months of pulling my hair out, what did I learn?

1. Be absolutely clear on exactly what you want done

I'm primarily visual so for this project I actually went and bought some wrapping paper, then drew on the back of it. I drew all the pages I wanted created and their design. From there I could take photos and record it using video. This helped me get clear on exactly what I wanted.
When writing the scope its best if a 9 year old could understand it. Write it as though you’re telling a 9 year old what you want. Make sure you use screen shots if possible.

If designing a site or online system it’s very beneficial to find a similar system to “model”. This saves a lot of explanation and removes a lot of room for error due to mis-communication.

To avoid mis-communication early on, it is best if you –

2. State your expectations up front

Before they start any work it’s important they understand your expectations and terms. After talking with them and negotiating the price I then state all the terms in an email and make sure they agree to them.

One time I spent 3 hours explaining a project with someone, only to find they weren’t going to charge me $300 (like they said on the quote) they decided they were going to charge me $1600.

From then on I always spoke about terms and expectations for a project before I explained the whole scope to make sure they understand it.

In the terms email I say “so I will pay you $___ paid on completion of the project. I expect a daily report on what you do sent via email every night so I can keep track of the progress. I also require you to be on skype while working in case I need to contact you. Do you agree to do that?”

Now obviously it all depends on the situation, for example if you’re hiring a virtual assistant you don't say “paid on completion”. You usually work out a monthly fee then decide on the payment method and whether they’re paid weekly, fortnightly or monthly.

Every situation is different, for all my outsourcing my preferences are they are paid weekly via Paypal, they send me a daily report and they’re on skype. Also usually working from 9am to 5pm (depending on the type of work I am getting done).

IMPORTANT: If you’re using ESCROW (which is where the money is held while the project is being done) make sure you document all important changes within the ESCROW system.

The paid on completion through ESCROW is based on what has been communicated within the system.

So a good idea is to organize it on Skype then tell them you’ll send them it within the outsourcing system you’re using and get them to agree to it. That way you cover your ass for having to pay for a job that isn’t complete.

When it comes to explaining the project, it’s important that you

3. Make sure they understand

When you first explain the project to the person make sure they understand. Asking “Do you understand?” is not good enough! I like to ask “What questions do you have?”

After that I will then get them to explain it back to me. That way I am sure they actually do understand it.

I found that a lot of the time people say they understand and then they try and figure it out later. By the time I see their work, it’s obvious they didn’t understand. Communication is key – get them to explain the job back to you, it’s well worth the time to avoid major mistakes on the project.

4. In the scope use a secret word

This is a tip that has saved me lots of time, energy and money! When you post a job you will find you get different types of replies.

Most of them are automated messages that could not have possibly read through the scope.

You want to make sure that the person offering to do your project read the scope and hopefully understands it.

So how do you make sure they’ve read it?

That’s easy, at the very bottom of your scope, in big green text write the following “If you understand this scope and are ready to do this, please reply with the secret word “ready” to let me know you’ve been through the scope.”

It amazes me at how many people don't actually get to the bottom of the scope. When you get a whole heap of bids, only consider the replies that have your secret word in it.

This saves a lot of time because you can identify the people who have read the scope and you cut out all the people who didn’t read it.

5. Get a daily report

In the past I used to just trust my workers to work. I found that if I didn’t keep on top of them they would either slacken off or not do the work at all.

It’s important to check up on them daily to ensure they’re doing the work correctly and efficiently. Remember to give lots of feedback, especially early on. That way they know their work needs to be accurate and will get it right in the future.

Make sure you actually do check their work! In the past I’ve just assumed it was correct and had to go and re-do a lot of it.

Outsourcing is an amazing skill to have, when you master outsourcing it means you can master implementation. When you can implement ideas and get things done, that is when you get results.

Outsourcing allows you to leverage other people to get more done and free up your own time. These outsourcing tips have been learned the hard way.

Have fun with it and be persistent!

Id love to hear about any other advice you guys have out there…

Ben Brandes is an affiliate manager for the leading multi-tool platform,  FusionHQ

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Filed under Working with a Virtual Assistant by rhoda_pearl.
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