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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 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.
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.