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.