How do I find an outsourced contractor?

If you're an outsourcing newbie that watched Tuesday's Tech Talk you probably said, "Kate, these are great ideas, but can you tell me a bit about how to actually find an outsourced contractor?" Sure, I'd love to! Sites that Make Outsourcing Easy There are lots of sites that make outsourcing easy. I've used ELance, ODesk, HireMyMom and Fiverr all with varying levels of success. The truth is (at least in my opinion) that it doesn't matter where you outsource from as much as it matters how you list your project and then vet the applications that come in.

How to Create a Budget for Outsourcing There are two options for posting projects on outsourcing sites: (1) List your project without a budget and see what comes in or (2) List a budget and get applications from people that can work within that income frame. Essentially, you can post a logo design project with a budget of $5 or  you can post your logo design project with an open-ended price and get an average quote of $125. I have posted a variety of jobs -- content, design, development -- both ways and, I'm here to report, gotten great work both ways.

If you're just starting out with outsourcing, I actually suggest posting a series of small projects both ways to get a feel for pricing, quality of work, turnaround time and adherence to project descriptions. In essence, don't make your first-ever outsourced project a major undertaking. Instead, start with smaller projects (content creation, small graphics, etc.) to get a feel for things. Then, work your way up to bigger projects.

Reward and Rehire Good Contractors If I have a contractor that produces particularly exceptional work, I sometimes add a few bonus dollars on before closing the project and always make a point to rehire when the opportunity arises. I've got one illustrator on oDesk that I'm wild about right now and I've got her working on things that have been in my "someday" pile for a long time because I simply didn't have someone to execute the work at a price that I could afford. It feels great to be getting this done. But, there is no guarantee she'll be on oDesk or available for work forever, so I also like working through this list now just in case she disappears one day. Because, people do come and go from these sites. Active one day, inactive the next.

Never Take Anyone's Word for Anything This is the pessimist in me coming out, but my general rule of thumb when outsourcing is to never take anyone's word at face value. Someone was recently supposed to customize an already-existing plugin for me. They accepted the job and then decided a completely custom plugin at 5x the hours was the "better route." I did a little research, bought a $20 premium plugin and then ended the contract with the other person.

You need to be your own advocate and quality-control supervisor when outsourcing. Particularly if you are an un-tech-savvy person outsourcing an extremely tech-savvy project, you need to make sure you've done due diligence and researched enough about that will be happening to make smart decisions for your project.

Know When NOT to Outsource Not everything is outsourceable. Sometimes you need to fork over the cash so that a more experienced professional can not only provide you the service that you need, but the insight and advice that you typically don't get from an outsourcer. In my experience, most people you hire on outsourcing sites complete your project to a T. BUT, they aren't going to tell you if something that you are asking for is totally whicky whack. They are just going to do it. They aren't getting back extra to complicate the project and add more time on. There is no incentive for them to provide that extra level of service. Contrast that to a "full price" consultant that you would hire and you will see that hire level of service.

The fact of the matter is that it totally depends on your business. What is outsourceable in my business isn't necessarily what's outsourceable in another digital consultant's business. It takes time, energy and practice to figure these things out. And, for that reason, the key to outsourcing it patience and diligence.

Kate's Tech Talks: The Art of the Outsource

Welcome back to another week of tech talks. This week we are talking about my top three strategies for mastering the art of the outsource. Whether you need to outsource design, copywriting, development, administrative tasks or other business functions, this tech talk has three general -- but insanely smart -- strategies that will help you get the most out of your outsource experience.

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The most important thing I want you to take away from this tech talk?

The point of outsourcing is to make your life easier -- not harder.

If you find outsourcing exhausting, disappointing and generally unhelpful I strongly suggest (re)watching this video and making sure that you are following these strategies:

  • Be clear about expectations and goals
  • Test out multiple contractors
  • Keep extra hours available for perfecting work

The #1 way I see people goofing up the outsource process is by accepting unfinished or unpolished work. They think, "Oh I can just finish it myself." Unless you specifically request work delivered in that condition, stop accepting work that doesn't meet your standards. The point of outsourcing is to save you time and streamline your processes -- if you just need to spend more time on the work anyway, there's no point in paying someone else!

And, to keep it real about outsourcing... Anyone that has outsourced regularly in their business can share stories of both amazing successes and total failures. I can name two in the past month: an adorable and just-what-I-asked-for icon of the Duomo for a redesign of my personal blog from a great illustrator on ODesk. A failure? Paying another ODesker to customize some CSS, having them tell me after 3 hours it's "not possible," and then doing it myself in an hour. I tell you these two anecdotes because even after years of outsourcing and following my own strategies to a T, there are still hits and misses. By following the strategy workflow in this week's tech talk, however, I've been able to keep the misses relatively low.

P.S. I hope you'll excuse the "bare bones" look of this and next week's videos. I'm setting up a pretty recording area in my new apartment and need a few weeks of transition time to get things just right.

Finding Photos for Your Website: 3 Rules for Stock Photos

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In our last tech talk we discussed the three ways your photography might be killing your website. I could almost hear you all yelling at me: well, sometimes stock photos are the only option. Alas, I know this to be true. As such, today I'm sharing my three rules for using stock photos when finding photos for your website. Finding Photos for Your Website: Stock Photo Rule #1Avoid anything that's been downloaded in excess of 500 times. Seem like a lot? Many of the most popular photos on sites like iStock have been downloaded 10,000+ times. That's a lot of other places that folks can find the photo you want to use. Stick to photos that don't have many downloads -- this means more in-depth searching, but from a branding perspective it's worth it!

Finding Photos for Your Website: Stock Photo Rule #2Monitor big impact photos once a month. If you decide to buy and use a stock photo in a BIG way -- your main banner image, the lead slide, on your most popular page, etc. -- then you need to monitor that image once a month. What happens if that image suddenly gets really popular? You're are probably going to want to change it to main your unique brand position. When you use stock photos, there is no "I had it first" line. Everyone has equal rights to it. Checking a link once a month takes about 10 seconds and it is time very well spent.

Finding Photos for Your Website: Stock Photo Rule #3Familiarize yourself with the models. Does that sound really creepy? I apologize. But, the fact of the matter is that many of the models that you see in stock photos for your industry also pose for photos in completely different settings and environments. Do yourself the favor of researching where else this person pops up. Conveniently, many of the most popular models tend to stick with one photographer, so you can typically browse and filter that photogs portfolio.

Anyone else want to share their stock photo rules?

 

3 Tips for How to Find an Affordable Freelancer

Earlier this week in my Tech Talk, we chatted about how to spend a small website budget. I hope it was helpful to many of you as you decide how to spend your hard-earned (and hard-to-part-with) business investment cash. In that spirit, today I'd like to share my thoughts on how to find an affordable freelancer. Let me give this warning early...

You get what you pay for.

#1 Tip for How to Find an Affordable Freelancer: Reach for the Stars If you watched the latest tech talk and took my advice of really assessing what you can and can't do for your business, you should have a pretty solid list of outsourcable items that will get you a lot of ROI. When you have a really drilled-down list, you can "think big" about who you ask to submit a proposal.

I suggest picking your top one or two items and reaching out to a few freelancers that you've bookmarked, pinned or dreamed about hiring. Tell them a bit about your site/project, be specific about what you need and ask if this is a type of project that they  are interested in. I said it in the Tech Talk and I'll say it again, I would take one amazing blog header from someone that knocks it out of the park than a bunch of piddly crap from random people that aren't at the top of their game. You might be surprised to know that with a focused game plan you can afford your top choice.

#2 Tip for How to Find an Affordable Freelancer: Consider In-Kind Word It's not unusual to find someone in need of the service that you offer and you in need of the service that she offers. If this happens, you may find yourself in the fortunate position to trade work with another qualified professional.

Don't hesitate to cast your net into professional groups and say something like "I'm a coach that specializes in helping female business owners and I also happen to be in need of some custom coding in my site's footer. If you are a coding whiz interested in trading work, shoot me an email." Again, be as specific as possible with what you need.

Fair warning: proceed with caution and always have a contract -- even if it works out that neither of you are paying for anything.

#3 Tip for How to Find an Affordable Freelancer: Outsource It Online OK, I've listed this tip last because I do think it should be something you only consider if you have a very clear picture of what you need. If you want to use a site like ODesk or ELance you need to go into the process with a fully spec'd out project -- even for the smallest of items.

In my experience using these sites is totally hit or miss. I've had freelancers knock it out of the park on the first try and I've abandoned after three failed attempts because people couldn't actually do what they advertised. Hit or miss, I tell you. Sometimes you get the cash back, sometimes you don't.

I see a lot of people go the online outsource route thinking that it "saves" them a ton of money only to have to spend 2x or 3x as much later to fix something that wasn't done right. Again, there are really great people on these sites but you need to (1) have a very detailed idea of what you need (2) a discerning eye...ignore people that don't actually respond to your specific project and instead send general proposals and (3) don't immediately jump on the cheapest option. Is it neat to think someone will do your coding for $5/hr? Sure, but a lot of the time you get what you pay for.