The Agency’s Guide to Outsourcing Work Effectively 💪
A few weeks ago, we hosted a Meetup about how our agency outsources work – I got a number of objections. Before I get into the guide, I want to address them.
Objection 1: Low cost labor = low quality work
Yes, if you’re paying someone $3/hour, you’re going to get what you pay for. You’re not paying them to think – you’re paying them to do. Offshoring fails when you give them too much responsibility without enough information.
Objection 2: You’re hurting the US economy, you should be hiring Americans
When you’re first getting started, your biggest asset is your time. Your time only goes so far – employees can help to scale your time and maximize outputs.
Americans are expensive – I used offshore labor as an interim solution while we were building revenue. We now employ 8 Americans and are hiring more each quarter.
Our local employees would not be here without our offshore employees.
It’s a little known fact that the biggest agencies in the world have massive offshore teams. SapientNitro sold for $3.8 Billion in 2014 – a large reason for this was their team in India that would help reduce operating costs of the acquiring company (Publicis).
As with any merger of the size of the Sapient-Publicis marriage, the participants are touting the potential for cost cuts, in part by relying on Sapient’s production operations in India.
Outsourcing is a part of running a profitable agency. This guide will walk you through how to do it properly.
1. Types of outsourcing available to you
“Outsourcing” is often misconstrued so I put together a simple chart to break down the pros and cons of different types of labor:
Employee / Contractor
- Benefits: Productivity, expertise, control, growth, overall happiness
- Drawbacks: High costs (salary, training, management, etc)
- Benefits: A specialist (1 person) in the task you need, job based and easy to let go
- Drawbacks: Higher cost (in short term), communication / deadline management (often remote workers)
- Benefits:“Experts” (company) at the process you need done (i.e. payroll, accounting, SEO, etc), project based and easy to let go
- Drawbacks: You’re on their terms, communication, high cost, long term contracts
- Benefits: Low cost “expert” in whatever you need, full time control, easy to let go
- Drawbacks: Communication (language), time difference, market perception
We don’t “outsource”, we “offshore”. In other words, we don’t push off entire processes. We find, training and manage our own team offshore that supports us full time.
2. What you can potentially outsource
A few notes to help you understand what you can offshore:
- Unless your business runs completely offline (which is rare), you can pretty much outsource any online activity. We like to outsource time consuming activities social media, content creation, graphic design, email management and more.
- If you find yourself doing anything more than once, start thinking about how you can get it off your plate. Repeatable tasks can be easily built into a step by step checklist and passed to someone else to manage. These should be the first items you push off.
- Understand your industry and the important actions needed to acquire and manage customers. High impact items should be kept in house, time consuming low-impact tasks should be outsourced.
- Outsourcing works best for tasks based on execution, not planning and strategy. You want to outsource items that require time consuming work, not decision making.
3. How to outsource work properly
I’m not gonna lie to you – offshoring is a lot of work. It’s time consuming, frustrating and a flat out pain in the ass.
However, to save money, you need to spend time.
The following are my best tips on how to offshore.
1. It’s all about the process…
If you’ve seen any of my content before, you’ve heard me talk about “process”.
The only way you’ll successfully outsource work is through process, communication and organization.
Building a process is [literally] easier than it sounds…ready?
- Grab a pen and piece of paper
- Write down how you perform the task
- Organize it into a step by step process
Honestly, that’s it.
2. You don’t need to be an expert, but you need to be well read
The trouble is, you might not know how build a process for things you might want to outsource (SEO, social media, design, etc).
You need to figure it out.
There’s this tool that allows you to look up anything you want. ANYTHING…It’s crazy.
That was me being a sarcastic ass, but still – use the tools that our generation is so blessed to have. If you just Google search for “keyword research” you’ll find dozens of awesome guides that have all the knowledge you need – just steal it and format it into a process.
3. Focus on the “micro processes” within the main task
So let’s start to dig into this process thing a little deeper – let’s say you want to outsource SEO. If you put in the time to do research, you’ll find there’s a lot of moving pieces:
It’s difficult to find someone who can handle all of this, so you have you build micro processes. That means each piece of what you need done should have it’s own process and guidelines to follow.
This also allows you to hire niche talent (i.e. content writers, technical specialists, etc) as opposed to using someone whose skill set doesn’t match.
4. Before you hire, build the entire process
Everything that we do as an agency has a detailed process, checklist and tracker. Here’s how they break down.
a. A written guide in Google Docs (aka SOP). Complete with screenshots, step by step tutorials and logins (if necessary).
b. Screencast videos explaining the process in detail. We host all videos on a private YouTube Channel.
c. A checklist in Google Sheets, itemized by task so we can track progress and status of the job.
5. There’s countless free platforms to find talent
Any of the following will work:
What you’ll find is it’s less about the platform (and even the people) and it’s more about you. If you have a process, you can hire someone off the street, it doesn’t matter.
6. When hiring, be obnoxiously clear in what you need
We even have a process for posting jobs and interviewing talent.
- Include specific requirements in your job posting.
- Ask additional questions for them to answer, specifically ones they can’t Google for an answer.
- Applicants should be vetted for answers, ratings and job experience.
- The ones who meet certain requirements should be sent a direct message (copy and paste) with a link to the process doc.
We’re able to find, train and hire new offshore people within a few hours.
7. Have a test / demo environment ready for them
People lie online – there’s no way to really tell if someone’s body of work is legit.
That’s why we put each applicant through a demo to make sure they have the knowledge they claimed and are capable of managing the process.
- For web development, give them a PSD to code and get live on the web.
- For keyword research, give them a website with a handful of topics to blow out into keywords.
- For technical optimizations, give them a checklist and a staging website to audit.
We end up spending quite a bit of money to test multiple people, but this saves a lot of time and headaches to filter out low quality applicants.
8. Correct, re-train and automate
Even after they’ve completed what you’ve given them, go through and thoroughly tear it apart. We generally have to review their work monthly to ensure the quality remains as high as possible.
Build a long term schedule – set, forget and move on to the next challenge.