Managing outsourcers can seem easy from the outside. How many times have you heard someone say, “just outsource it?” Yet, in real life it’s almost never as easy as “just” outsourcing it. There’s a lot of room for mistakes and they can be costly. As a side note another term for outsourcing can be Virtual Assistant Services.
1. Outsourcing What Your Company Depends Upon
Never outsource the core of your business. If it’s something that will make or break your company, it should stay in house.
For example, in the early days of Zappos, they outsourced their product fulfillment. They quickly realized that they had made a fatal mistake. The life of their company depended on speedy delivery. They eventually had to move back to their own warehouse at great expense.
2. Giving Too Much Work to an Untested Person: Giving Small Projects in the Beginning Helps Both Sides
When you first work with a contractor/VA, avoid giving them huge projects. Start small and test their responsiveness and the quality of their work. Once they have been vetted you can give them more work with confidence that the job will get done. This helps both sides determine if they want to continue working together.
For example, you the business owner can find out if the outsourcer/VA is right for any new projects by asking yourself these questions:
- Was there open communication between you and the outsourcer/VA concerning your project step by step?
- Did you communicate clearly? Did the outsourcer/VA understand what needed to be done?
- Did they complete the job in a timely manner?
- Did they stay within budget?
- When asking for something to be changed did the outsourcer/VA respond in a helpful way?
For the outsourcer/VA, they will see how you work on a daily basis and determine if they want to continue working with you on future projects.
Remember, when outsourcing it works both ways. You, as a business owner want someone who understands you and can complete projects in a professional manner. For the outsourcer/VA, they want to work with someone who has open communication, knows what they want, and is kind in all aspects of the job. Open communication is a must in a business partnership. You cannot expect people to respond in a positive way if they are treated badly.
3. Underestimating Costs on an Unknown Project
When you have a project that needs to be done, don’t assume you know just how long a project like this will take if you have never done it before yourself. Some projects may look easy when in reality they take time and precision to create a quality product. It can be very hard to predict how much a project will cost or how long it’ll take without first researching and speaking to others who have done the same type of project you are looking to have completed.
For example, let’s say you’ve never done a stop motion video. You want to have an animated stop motion video for your front page. How much will it cost? How long will it take? It’s hard to tell and easy to underestimate. Talk to people who’ve done it before to get a realistic sense of what your timeline should look like and come up with a budget you can afford.
I get it, it can be frustrating if the project comes in over budget, or if something takes longer than you had originally thought. However, both you and the outsourcer/VA need to have open, friendly communication. It can be equally frustrating to the outsourcer/VA if you are not communicating what you are thinking, or if you change the entire concept halfway through the project.
Time is money for both sides. Avoid the one-sided thought that it is only your money and time being wasted. Time is money for an outsourcer/VA as well. They don’t get paid till projects are completed.
Be sure you know upfront what you need done, how much time others have told you the project will take and keep open communication between both of you every step of the way. If you decide you want to change the scope of the project, be sure to talk with your outsourcer/VA, and expect them to say they will charge more. If it’s a simple change that won’t take several hours, most outsourcers/VA will not charge extra, BUT if it means starting all over from the beginning with a whole new concept most times there will be an adjusted charge.
Look at it this way, how would you feel if you worked 20 hours on a project and were nearing the end of it, then you were asked to start all over with a new concept and not get paid for the 20 hours you already put in?
4. Choosing Someone Who Won’t Grow
Try to hire contractors who will grow with your company. For example, let’s say you’re hiring a copywriter. You plan on moving into sales videos in the near future. Is your copywriter only capable of writing text sales letters? Or can they write video sales letters as well? Can they learn the technique and grow with your company? Or are they a person who won’t adapt to the specific needs of your company? Look for people who are flexible and willing to learn.
5. Not Knowing Enough to Determine Quality
It’s okay to hire outsourcers/VA for skills you don’t possess. But you should at least know enough to know what quality looks like.
For instance, if you’re hiring an outsourcer/VA to code part of your website for you, do you know what good code looks like? If you’re hiring a direct response copywriter, do you know enough about copy to know what good copy looks like?
If you don’t know enough to spot good quality work, chances are you’re going to hire the wrong person or get ripped off.
Ask for references, read the testimonials on their website, talk to them on the phone, write up questions. Always do research when you are looking to hire an outsourcer for any of your projects.
6. Being Afraid to Give Feedback: Respect Should be a Two Way Street
If you don’t give feedback to your outsourcers/VA, and things aren’t being done right, you’re going to feel resentful. That will erode your relationship with your outsourcers/VA.
Give corrective feedback, even if you feel uncomfortable and you feel they are just small things. Not speaking up on the small things makes it harder to speak up on the bigger things. A lot of small things can be wrong, without you saying anything, and the end product can end up sub-par.
Trust me, outsourcers/VA would much rather you give feedback throughout the project, so they can improve rather than being told at the end of the project that their work wasn’t up to par. Just remember the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. Respect should be a two-way street.
7. Outsourcing Offline Tasks Online
Many online entrepreneurs can get so caught up in the habit of hiring online that they try to hire online for things that should really be done offline. For instance, bookkeeping. If you’re have a lot of receipts, it really doesn’t make sense to try and scan everything or transfer all your bookkeeping online. Instead, just have a bookkeeper come over in person and get it all done for you.
8. Hiring Low Quality Workers
One very common mistake people make is hiring the cheapest worker they can find. Yet the work they get back is often so shoddy that it can’t be used. The old saying “you get what you paid for” is very true. You cannot expect to pay someone $5.00 to do a marketing video to come back to you with a video that looks like you paid thousands of dollars.
Quality work usually pays for itself. Remember, if your customers see low quality work, they probably won’t buy.
9. Overestimating Time Savings
People often overestimate how much time they’ll save by outsourcing. They don’t consider the time they need to spend writing classified ads, reviewing proposals, writing job descriptions, communicating with workers, reviewing work and paying invoices.
Does that mean you shouldn’t outsource? Of course not. Just don’t think you can put a whole task on autopilot just yet, as outsourcers need to be managed too.
10. Managing Too Many Contractors?
If you’re managing too many outsourcers it can turn into a full-time job. Instead of making this mistake, you have a few options.
You can bring on a project manager. If working with many contractors is truly the only way, you can hire someone who understands the whole picture to manage all those contractors for you.
Alternatively, you can consolidate. Instead of working with a bunch of different outsourcers for different tasks, try to hire one outsourcer who can handle multiple tasks. For example:
- Instead of hiring a blogger, a copywriter and a video script writer, try to hire one great writer who can handle off of those tasks.
- Instead of hiring a WordPress setup expert, a server tech and a virtual system administrator, see if you can hire one person who can do all three.
- Instead of hiring someone to manage your AdWords, another to manage Facebook and a third to manage affiliate relationships, see if you can just hire one marketing person who can do all of it.
By keeping these common mistakes in mind as you hire, you can avoid some costly blunders. Whether it’s a loss of time or money, it’s easy to avoid it when you’ve got the right plan.