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Outsourcing Is Not Just For Global Companies

by David Iwanow on January 21, 2013

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Last week the web was buzzing with news about “Bob” who was caught outsourcing his job to China and paying someone less than a fifth of his salary to get the job done. The interesting insight is that “Bob” had always received amazing performance reviews for his work over the past several years and did not lose his job because of his or his contractor’s quality of work. You don’t need to think that outsourcing is just for US employees who want to watch cat videos like Bob or large financial firms. Even small business should be considering how to use outsourcing to streamline their business activities. I wanted to highlight some of the many platforms available to everyone that allow you to get the largest or smallest tasks outsourced, so you can focus on running your business and starting from $30.

Elance

I have personally found Elance to be easier to use once you get used to it, so I have mostly used Elance for outsourcing tasks but have admitted that it can be a bit of trial and error finding quality suppliers from open proposals. My advice for Elance is to open an invite only project and then manually invite the top 10 outsources from the relevant category or skill set, and I usually select a preference for companies over individuals. I have found the response to project invites to be fairly quick and there are plenty of options around budgets and recommend selecting the fixed cost option.

Freelancer

Based in Australia, Freelancer.com is one of the best known crowdsourcing and outsourcing marketplaces with over $1 billion in projects posted since it opened in 2004. Similar to 99designs, Freelancer.com allows businesses to launch contests to get a range of entries to compete for your project. But looking at the open projects it appears that a majority their projects are still submitted via their standard post a project feature. Their platform is well known for IT & Development freelancing projects but I’ve seen that they have been successfully expanding their freelancers specialising in design, media and content. Unlike the other outsourcing platforms Freelancer.com has built in some gamification into their platform via project badges that freelancers are awarded as they complete more projects, this can be useful to find quality partners.

oDesk

They are marketed as the largest online workplaces in the world with around 350,000 businesses using their outsourcing platform which is supported by their enterprise solutions platform for custom-built programs. oDesk has a smaller and more structured category list than the other platforms as seen below:

  • Web Development
  • Software Development
  • Networking & Information Systems
  • Writing & Translation
  • Administrative Support
  • Design & Multimedia
  • Customer Service
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Business Services

oDesk has a simplified product offering  built around 3 core product offerings:

  • Hire on-demand – build a flexible workforce
  • Manage the work – work-in-progress screenshots, time sheets, daily logs
  • Pay with ease – safe payments with oDesk guarantee

99designs

While mainly known for logo & graphic design, 99designs offers the most unique solution for outsourcing your projects via own “design content” where thousands of designers compete to create your perfect design. The benefit for businesses is multiple designs are submitted for review with a 100% money back guarantee and sometimes dozens or even hundreds of entries. The downside to their platform is the turnaround time is often a little longer to judge multiple entries and await enough entries to make the project viable. They have also launched a “logo” store that allows you to by ready-made logo design templates for just $99 which is great for small hobbyists or one off events you might be running.

CrowdFlower

This platform is focused on giving businesses a on-demand scalable workforce by enabling workers to undertake simple micro tasks. You can think of CrowdFlower as a managed version of Amazon Mechanical Turk where they take some of the risk and hassle out of creating and managing hundreds of workers. Some of the more popular pre-defined tasks are:

  • Customer & Lead Data Enhancement
  • Content Moderation & Curation
  • Better Search Results
  • Content Generation
  • Sentiment & Opinion Analysis
  • Surveys with digital consumers
  • Categorise products, videos, events
  • List Enrichment
  • Build Your Own Crowdsourcing Projects
  • Build Big Custom Solutions

GetACoder

This platform is perfect if you are looking to outsource programing, testing or development tasks. They make it fairly easy to post a task for free and then start to receive bids for your project. You can also search through existing projects to get a guide on prices and projects currently available. Like most platforms they offer the ability to search provider’s profiles from over 234 countries & regions around the world.

Copify

Copify is one the newer content outsourcing platforms and only recently launched into the Australian market. They system is simplified down to 4 steps starting with select of content job type (6 options). The next step is important as they offer two options for writers “standard” or “professional” your selection depends on your budgets and the writing task. The last two steps involve create of brief and payment options. You can usually get a writer to respond within a few hours and usually get a draft within 1-2 days which is much faster than most other platforms I have tried. Copify also offers a WordPress plugin so you can order and publish copy directly from your WordPress dashboard to streamline content production.

Textbroker

Just like Copify the Textbroker platform is best suited to content production tasks and offers support for multiple languages around the world. Their platform is based around a fixed cost model ranging from 2 stars for legible content to 5 stars for professional content writers. They now offer language support for French, German, English (UK), English (US), Spanish & Dutch. They are slowly rolling out niche verticals starting with financial writing services offered as premium. Their platform can be very cost effective for content production but I have found it a bit clunker than Copify for ordering content.

Outsourcing is not for everyone

Like most jobs you are currently doing yourself, it can be a tough decision to give up control but by preparing a decent brief you can get some very specific tasks completed. Another insight I have found is that it’s also easier once you have trialled a few freelancers/outsources is to keep using these known and trusted providers, but always have an eye out for a backup provider should something urgent come up and they are unable to assist. Depending on the task being outsourced you may find that the cost varies but it’s often possible to get far more done far quicker with a decent team of outsourcers.

Marketing.com.au would like to thank David for taking the time to share this with us. If you have any feedback or questions, please let us know below.

 

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  • http://www.optimising.com.au/ James Richardson

    All good sources you list there David.

    I think the biggest thing to say is only outsource if you have a need, rather than if you think you should be outsourcing.

    Too many people I hear who have ‘VA’ have read the four hour work week and think they should be doing it, when all they are doing is inventing work to get done…

    I think outsourcing elements of work such as repetitive tasks can be a great idea if used correctly.

    Just my two cents…

    • http://petermeadit.com/ Peter Mead

      Hi James,

      Great point about the four hour work week. I am pretty suspicious about anything the preaches getting loads of money for doing nothing at all.

      Saying that, I can see how if managed well, you can make terrific profits from outsourcing. But yeah, I bet it still takes a little longer than four hours a week…

      Cheers, Peter Mead

      • http://www.optimising.com.au/ James Richardson

        Don’t get me wrong, I actually like the book and have read it several times – some great ideas in it.

        Outsourcing can be used really well, but getting them to do things like answer your emails, find flights for you…its just a bit of a waste IMO ;)

        • http://petermeadit.com/ Peter Mead

          Yeah, just seems like that for me too. I just can’t figure out how they will do a consult with a client for me?

          Also, there will always be certain skills you are good at that only you can do. Others may disagree but…

    • http://lostpr.es/ David Iwanow

      Thanks James it’s probably something you should consider if you are finding you are running out of time in the day or some tasks that are taking too long or you are just struggling to get done properly…

      Certainly outsourcing random tasks for the sake of it can be expensive but also a great way to get more free time to relax and get a better work/life balance :)

  • http://petermeadit.com/ Peter Mead

    Thanks David, great insights into the different agencies and websites.

    Perhaps, outsourcing is best approached just like employing any staff member. So, we hire staff when we need them to meet demand or when we want to expand our business.

    I think the pitfalls can overcome if your hands on with them and build some trust, just like with any other staff member.

    Perhaps some people throw the work at them without specific detailed requirements, and then are disappointed when it may not be up to par?

    • http://lostpr.es/ David Iwanow

      Yes peter it’s only the start really but the employees/resources on demand is a whole new strategy that makes scalability possible for anyone… The upside if you are working with a team of outsources you can request a new member to work on your projects if the work is not up to par…

      The other benefit for outsourcing is you can hire specific subject/task experts that are ready to start on your project today…

      • http://petermeadit.com/ Peter Mead

        Hi David, I went to a workshop all about outsourcing, and now I have a better idea of how this will work in my business. I think I am just going to start with some general tasks like, documentation, content writing, etc. then see how that goes.

        I am pretty suspect about it all though… :)

  • http://www.bizsugar.com/ Heather Stone

    Hi David,
    Thanks for sharing your post with the BizSugar community. It should also be noted that many businesses outsource and always have…and that outsourcing does not always involve off-shoring (or hiring workers from overseas.) If you are a small business, you have probably always used an outside accountant and outside lawyer instead of hiring people in-house to do these tasks. Plus, if you’ve ever hired a marketing agency or an independent public relations representative, isn’t this outsourcing? Hiring others to do the work outside your expertise so that you can focus on your core competency will only make your business better. It always has.

    • http://lostpr.es/ David Iwanow

      thanks for the comment Heather, I hope it promotes more discussion around the outsourcing topic

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