Freejazz suggested an outsourcing section on the site, so to test for interest I have created a group (Outsourcing HQ) for anyone thats keen and am kicking off this thread with some insights I have gained along the way that I hope will be helpful to some of you.
Outsourcing can be a brilliant way to leverage the skills of others for tasks/projects you need assistance on (especially if you are able to take advantage of favourable/mutually beneficial exchnage rates), but it can also be a garunteed way to waste money and even jeopardise your project or reputation if not done correctly.
Below is the first post I made in the Outsourcing Group with some info that will hopefully help you avoid some of the pitfalls, and relates more sepcifically to online outsourcing as opposed to offline.
Feel free to add anything I may have missed or discuss anything you may disagree with
1 - Planning
Before you even think about engaging with potential outsource providers, ensure you have a very clear and structured outline of specifically what you need them to perform.
A scope document/plan can be a great way to outline this...what is in scope, what is out of scope, specific delivery requirements, how and when you need updating/questions from your provider etc.
As with most things – “failing to plan is planning to fail!”
2 - Finding an outsource provider
Once you are clear on what you specifically need, you can start to look for potential providers.
If at all possible, finding a provider through recommendations from people you trust is ideal, but if you don’t have access to those recommendations the next best place to try is one of the online platforms like oDesk, eLance, Freelancer etc.
These contracting portals provide rating systems, performance feedback etc which can help you separate the wheat from the chaff.
3 - Advertising your work.
When posting a job/contract opportunity, the more detail you can provide in terms of your specific job requirements the better.
Need specific language requirements?
Need regular communication daily?
Need a specific skill set?
Make sure you clearly outline ALL requirements!
A good tip is to ask providers in your job posting to answer specific questions when they pitch for the work - failure to answer these questions is common and shows a lack of attention to detail and can help in separating providers that may be otherwise closely matched.
4 - Selecting an outsource provider
Once you have a number of pitches for your contract now comes the moment of truth - selecting the right provider for you.
Wherever possible, a good idea is always to select the top 2-3 best candidates and if appropriate give them a similar or the same task to perform as a trial.
This will allow you to directly compare performance, accuracy, communication etc and see which is likely best fit for you to go forward with.
Once you are happy you have found the right candidate you can go ahead and engage them to do the work.
If you DONT find the right candidate, unless the job is time-critical, don’t be afraid to cast your net wider. This is your project, your money...there are plenty of options out there so take your time to find the right provider for you.
Two good tips to help save you some potential pain:
1 - Ensure you clearly outline time requirements/restrictions up front...i.e. if you only want them to work a max of 5 hours a day or have a specific budget, make sure this is clearly communicated up front.
2 - Especially when starting with a new provider, ask them to perform several hours work then to stop and show you what they have done so far to ensure they are on the right track and understand your instructions.
I have seen many examples of well-intentioned outsourcers following what they 'thought' was the employers instructions, only to find they have spent 10-20 hours working in the wrong direction. Checking they are on the right path can save both parties a lot of time and potential frustration.
Hope this helps some of you potentially looking for outsource providers