Outsourcing! Such a beautiful word. It’s the magical word that can almost eliminate you from your business and make life so much easier that you’ll be sleeping on a bed of roses with money falling from the sky.
When I thought about outsourcing, I thought about uncle Scrooge from the cartoon “Ducktales” from back in the day, doing his daily swim through his money (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re either too young or too old – just kidding). That’s how it’s supposed to be, right?
That’s what I thought. Since I got into internet marketing, I’d always heard that outsourcing was the key to having a very successful business. You can leverage the efforts of others to help you grow your business faster than you could do on your own. Ever since I read The 4 Hour Workweek, it was a concept that was always very appealing to me.
On one hand, it’s very true. If done well, it can cause many good things to happen. There are many benefits to outsourcing – some of the most notable (in my opinion) being the following:
- You can get experts to do things that you couldn’t do on your own.
- You can get these experts for a relatively low cost (surprisingly low) using sites like oDesk, Elance, scriptlance and others.
- Saves you a lot of time and energy since you no longer have to do the job.
Well, I tried it and it didn’t work. I posted a job on a scriptlance to get a V.A. and it ended up being a bust. In fact, it ended up costing me money with absolutely no return on investment.
I had it all planned out. I purchased an “outsourcing package” with a bunch of training videos that showed how to do a bunch of things that would boost traffic significantly.
The person I got was really good at writing, so she seemed like a good fit. I gave her some videos on how to write articles, comment on blogs, tweet about my business, do social bookmarking, do keyword research and a few other things. At the end of the day she would report back to me and she was doing a pretty good job at what I asked her to do. She was also very affordable.
However, there was a few HUGE problems with the way I went about my outsourcing. I hired someone to do a bunch of things without a clear understanding of HOW it would fit into my business. They were doing all of what seemed to be the “right things”, but there was no significant growth to my business, and I was spending just as much time on my business before hiring them.
So now I’m at Round 2. I’ve learned from my past mistakes and decided to give it another go. However, my approach to it was totally different. Allow me to share with you how I decided to outsource this time.
Understanding Where My Business Is And Where It’s Headed
The first thing I think someone should do is look at where their business is and what their goals are. One of the main problems I had with my first outsourcing experience is that their was no clear stance and no clear goals. Round 2 had to be different.
I run a biology website. My purpose for the website is to provide others with valuable resources that they can use to understand biology better and share it with the world. My slogan is “Making Biology Fun” and I plan on changing how the world learns biology. Yes, it’s a very lofty goal.
One of the main aspects of the website is that I’m providing daily videos explaining one specific concept in biology in a way that makes it fun and easy to understand. This is the most important aspect of my site, and what resulted in people coming to the site, and hopefully sticking around and sharing it with others.
That being said, I decided to look at the tasks that needed to be done to accomplish my lofty goal of making biology fun and reaching the world. Some of the main tasks were as follows:
- Producing the daily videos.
- Uploading the videos.
- Having transcripts of the videos available for those that like to read and for SEO purposes.
- Posting the videos to the blog.
- Connecting with other sites in my niche.
- Posting on social networks and getting the word out there.
These tasks can be summarized by saying: producing quality content and getting it out there. In the future, the plan is to develop products, but for now, it’s all about the content.
Deciding What Is Essential For You To Do
Once you have a good idea of where your site is, and where you plan on taking it, it’s essential to identify the tasks that no one else can do except you. This will vary from site to site and from individual to individual. For some people, their goal is to run a 100% hands-off business. This can work. However, for me it was different.
In my business, my main asset is the content. That’s something that I don’t plan on outsourcing, although that could change in the future. I want my content to be top quality content, so I decided to keep that responsibility. I committed to posting one new video every weekday (crazy, I know).
I also decided that it was my role to connect with others in my niche. Since I’m setting myself up as a brand, I’m the “face” of my business and I want to make that face as personal as possible, while still retaining a strong element of professionalism.
Outsourcing The Rest
Once I knew what I needed to do, it was easy to see what I didn’t need to do. These were the following types of tasks:
- Transcribing the videos.
- Posting the videos with a short description and transcript to my blog.
- Making initial contact with other websites.
- All of the design and tech stuff.
If these things are done by others, it frees up my time to be able to focus on what is important – content and networking.
Providing CLEAR Guidelines
Because I had been working my business as a solo mission before, I knew what steps needed to be taken to complete the tasks that needed to be done. To make it even clearer, I decided to write instruction manuals for all of the tasks that I could write instruction manuals for. Here are some examples of manuals I wrote for my outsourcers. Feel free to download them to use as guidelines for any manuals you might need to write:
As you can see, it was done in a step-by-step manner, and I tried to give as many details as were necessary to complete the tasks. I’m in the process of writing more manuals to be able to outsource even more tasks. Almost every task, except for the technical stuff, will have a manual. This allows me to train the members of my team well, and also makes it easier to replace someone in the event that they can no longer continue.
One more thing I would like to mention on this topic – I find it extremely helpful to have a good handle of many of the tasks you are outsourcing BEFORE actually outsourcing. It’s not essential, but it has definitely helped me to be able to clearly train my outsourcers.
Why Text And Not Video
I’m the kind of guy that LOVES making videos. To me, they make it much easier for people to grab onto what you are trying to teach and do it efficiently. However, there’s something else I know. Since this is my first run through this process, I know that there will be things that I will need to tweak. In fact, there are things that I’m tweaking right now.
Because of this fact, it would make it extremely difficult to start with videos and then make the modifications as the need arises. For this reason, I opted for doing written manuals instead of videos. However, when the process reaches a period of stability and there’s little to no change in the instructions for some of the topics, I do intend to go back to my love of video
Why I Think oDesk ROCKS!
A buddy of mine has been trying to convince me that oDesk is the end all and be all of the outsourcing arena. He keeps telling me how great they are and that they are “the best”. I used to think that all outsourcing sites are created equally – that they all served the same purpose and provided the same functionality.
Oh man, I was dead wrong. I started using oDesk and fell in love. Now, I’m not going to say that they are the best, because I haven’t tried all of them. Not only that – I might find certain things valuable that you don’t, and that’s ok. But let me explain why I think they are awesome with this short story.
The first time I decided to outsource design of my site, I used one of the other sites, which shall remain nameless. I found someone on there that was really good. In fact, I was very pleased with the design I got. However, there was one thing I wasn’t particularly pleased with. I chose him because his portfolio was awesome, and his hourly rate was pretty low – significantly lower than the other bidders.
When he sent me the final bill, he claimed to have worked 24 hours on a project that, in my opinion, shouldn’t have taken any longer than 6 hours. Although his price was lower, he ended up charging me significantly more than I expected.
oDesk has a great feature where you can track how much time was actually spent on your project. Not only that – it randomly takes screenshots of their desktop and gives you an indication of how active they were during that time by providing you metrics like how many keystrokes and mouse clicks your outsourcer made during that given time period. In other words, I can always do a spot check to see if they were doing what they claimed.
Where everything else is concerned, they are pretty similar to all of the others. So for me, having that feature was definitely worth switching to oDesk.
So, In Review . . .
If you want to learn from my mistakes, here is the short version of this entire post:
- Understand where you are in your business.
- Be clear about your goals.
- Decide on what is essential for you to do.
- Outsource the rest.
- Give clear written instructions.
That’s pretty much it. So how has outsourcing worked for you? Share your experience below