Giving out work to freelancers has tonnes of great benefits and can really help ease your personal workload. However, if you outsource work online work to the wrong person, there is that stinging headache that comes when bad work is delivered. Things like poor quality, late delivery, wrong formatting, last minute cancellations etc. can be really demoralizing.
On the flip side, there is a heavenly feeling that comes when you outsource to freelancers and they do exactly what you asked them to or better. That’s priceless. It can help you deliver all your work on time, increase your income and even give you enough time to handle other things.
So, when outsourcing, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?
Start creating a team early
Plan to start recruiting your team early. In fact, if you’ve never outsourced, start preparing right now. An early start will also ensure that you do not start looking for people when you’re in an emergency. You will already have a database of qualified people whenever you need to outsource.
Why should you start creating a team right now?
- Because life happens. You may just get a serious emergency. Instead of losing your pay when you’re away or engaged. You can simply delegate the work to your qualified freelancers who deliver as good a job as you would.
- Because you want to earn more. You can easily increase your income through outsourcing. For example, as a writer, you may only be able to deliver 5 articles of 500 words per day. If you’re paid $10 per article, you end up earning $50 per day, right? However, if you have a team 5 writers doing 5 articles each, you’ll deliver 25 articles per day. If you pay each $5, you’ll earn $250 and pay $125. You’ll have increased your income from $50 to $125. Just like that! However, you will need to be smart on how you balance marketing and outsourcing to make this.
- You may simply need to get time to do other things e.g. attending weddings, playing with your children, hanging out with friends etc. These are things that you wouldn’t have been able to do with a heavy workload.
I have talked to a few people who say that they cannot outsource work. They are afraid that the recruits will mess up with their deliveries, quality ratings etc. However, if you hire quality freelancers who deliver excellent jobs, you will still maintain your quality ratings, but still earn more.
Give a clear job description
Whether you will decide to look for freelancers in a mailing list, a forum, a job board or a freelancing website, make sure you give a clear job description. This should include exactly what you need done. Create a bulleted list of what you need delivered so that they are clear and precise.
Feel free to mention your budget and what you expect to achieve with the project.
Vague descriptions will get too many applications. Most of these will not really be the people you want to work for you. Some will overlook your job advertisement, assuming you pay less. Others may quote prices that are too high. Others may think they can deliver what you want, but they can’t: since they actually do not know what you really want.
Very specific job descriptions will get you quality prospects – applicants who understand exactly what is needed of them.
Check for reviews
People express mixed feelings concerning reviews. The thing is, you are the only one who can give a quality review about your work, right?
That’s understandable. However, the fact that someone has been doing a good job to many more people in your field increases chances that they will also give you quality work.
Don’t only go for those with the highest reviews. Some may charge more than you can afford. Others are probably too busy on too many other projects that they will not give your work the kind of attention it deserves. Also, there may be some fresh people out there who can deliver better work, for a long time.
Each freelancing site has a reviewing system so you can be able to easily see the reviews of your applicants. If you’re sourcing from a forum or a Facebook group, you can ask other group members to recommend freelancers who usually do a great job. They will tell you who their go-to guys are.
Checking for reviews will help you make a wide selection. Remember to also give a chance to new guys.
Ask for samples
“But they will just ask their friends for samples and give me.”
That’s what some people think.
However, not everyone is crooked. There are many who will submit a sample of their real work. At the end of the day, most people are decent guys looking for a way to make ends meet.
How do you deal with the bad ones?
When asking for a sample, state that in case the sample does not meet the quality of work delivered, the working relationship will be instantly terminated. This should weed out anyone who wanted to be malicious. This may still not really help you avoid the headache. Once you get the samples, make sure you test their skills.
Give a test
Now that you got the right people applying and have looked at some samples, test those who you’ve shortlisted.
With tests, you’ll be able to see:
- Who sends work fastest
- Who is the best communicator
- Who is the best at following instructions
There are many ways of testing. Below are my suggestions:
Test #1: Give a short task
This should be a task that should not really take up much effort from your prospect. For example, if you’re looking for an article writer, give a 150 to 200 word test (just a few paragraphs). If you need a transcriber, let them transcribe 2 minutes of audio. A short test will give you a clearer picture of the quality of work you’ll get.
Test #2: Conduct an interview
You can interview your prospect either on the freelancing website’s messaging system, Skype, Google Hangouts or any of your preferred communication tools. Try to ensure the interview is done in a way that you’re given instant answers to questions.
This can paint a better picture of what to expect. Just make sure you structure your interview questions in a way that the answers will show you more about your prospect’s expertise and mastery of the subject.
Test #3: Give a paid test
This is the best of all the above tests and it will make it easier for you to make a final selection. However, this requires a small budget for recruitment. If you don’t have a budget, you will need to be able to make edits to all submitted works to make them usable so that the payment does not go to waste.
Give them some real work to do. Carefully check their submissions, delivery times, professionalism, and communication among other important factors. You may get that some of your prospects are actually excuse makers, late deliverers, poor communicators etc. weed them out.
With this, you’ll have gotten your final list of online workers that you can get started with. Note that some people may pretend for a little while then true colors start to show. Therefore, have a couple of lists somewhere:
- List A of your most preferred workers.
- List B of your backup workers who in case the first ones fail you can reach out to.
- List C of those who applied late, after you had already interviewed and selected the above but still look usable in future.
Never give actual deadlines when you outsource work online
Now that you have your guys ready, it is expected that you will have a smooth workflow and great working relationships.
However, there are a few potential things that you must plan for. Your freelancers may get real problems. They are human beings who may get sick, have internet problems, experience power blackouts, give birth, have technical computer issues among many other problems that human beings face.
Therefore, to be safe, always give a deadline equal to half your delivery time. For example, if you need to deliver the job in 2 days. Tell your freelancers to deliver early, latest in one day. The earlier, the better. That way, in case one of them has genuine issues, you can always reassign to another as you wait for them to sort themselves out.
Insist on client-ready work
If you’re paying someone else to do some work, then you should not take long hours editing the work. You need people who send you client-ready work (work that you can forward to the client without editing, and still get a high rating).
In the first few submissions, make sure you go through each and everything they deliver. You may have to stop working with some, especially if their work needs lots of edits. Remain with those who you can safely use their work with as close to no editing as possible. Those who you can confidently forward all their work to clients, or make use of their work if you’re the end client.
Personally, I like having a very small team of freelancers. One that consists of people who only deliver 100% client ready work. Whenever I get one of these, I can stay with them for years and always strive to improve their working conditions so that we grow together.
Set proper profit margins
This is very important. When outsourcing make sure you price properly. Many people just pay out half of what they earn. For example, if the job is paying $100, you pay your freelancer $50 and get a $50 profit. Some even pay much lower rates than just but 50% is a good maximum payout. The one you pay to your best freelancers.
What this simply means is that if you want to outsource your work, you should look for clients who pay you so well that even if you give out a maximum 50% to a freelancer, you still make some profit.
The reason many people insist on getting such high margins of up to even 80% is because of the risk element. If you source for work, outsource it, deliver and your client somehow does not pay, you still need to be able to pay your freelancers; especially if they delivered the desired quality. They can’t take responsibility of the fact that your client didn’t pay.
If you’re the end client, still make sure you have realistic profit margins. For example, if you’re a blogger and you hire writers to write your blog posts, ensure that your blog makes enough to pay them without affecting your own revenue.
Another trick is simply to research on what the market rate is, and always make sure you source for work that pays way higher than the market rate. For example, if transcribers in your target market usually get paid $30 per audio hour, you can source for work that pays $100 per audio hour. They will still be very happy if you pay them $35. Here, you’ll still be their favorite client even if you’re bagging 65% of the amount!
Don’t pay lower than the market rates; that destroys the industry. Also don’t pay so high that you end up with so little or nothing.
Be careful about where you source the work
If you source for work from a risky place, you’ll get messed up and so will your freelancers.
Outsourcing is not for everyone. It always depends on various factors. Below are some examples of situations where I do not recommend outsourcing:
- Don’t outsource work that pays too little. You’ll hardly people who will give you quality and people will keep quitting on you.
- Don’t outsource if the client strictly insists you work alone. They will know when someone else does the work since they know why they specifically chose you.
- Don’t outsource if you’re unclear about your client’s credibility. It may lead to a double loss; you not being paid by the client but still having to pay your freelancers.
- Don’t outsource jobs that take too long to pay. The client will end up holding so much of your money that they can destroy your career if they don’t pay up.
Make proper payment arrangements with your clients
The best jobs to outsource are POD (pay on delivery) and PBD (pay before delivery jobs). Here’s how these arrangements work.
- Pay-on-delivery jobs: The client pays immediately you deliver. You can then set up a payment system for your freelancers e.g. weekly on a certain day. This way, your client will not hold a lot of your cash at any one time.
- Pay-before-delivery jobs: The client pays you before you deliver. In such arrangements, you will need to be able to give full refunds for jobs that don’t meet the client’s expectations. You can set up a system where the client orders with a payment – or use existing systems. Existing ones include sites like Fiverr, iWriter and Upwork. In sites like Upwork, make sure the client sets up an escrow payment before you start.
In case you make a pay on approval arrangement, where the client pays when they approve, make sure they are completely trustworthy and as said above, that they don’t hold too much cash at any one time.
End clients, who are the end users of whatever work they outsource need to make sure they have enough savings somewhere that can afford to pay all freelancers when they deliver.
Of course, you should always pay your freelancers for any approved work. Plan yourself properly and be extremely disciplined. Don’t use freelancers’ money to sort out your personal emergencies, such that you have to keep postponing their pay. Simply, never delay or touch the money allocated to their payments.
Aha! Here’s a bonus tip
This is a bonus tip that involves outsourcing a skill that you don’t have experience in. This is a strongman’s game and not for everyone. It is guided totally by business sense and marketing expertise.
For example, Bill’s Dealership (fictitious) may sell cars but they don’t know how to make cars, right? You can do this too online.
Here is how.
Start by doing market research. Look for profitable skills that are in high demand. At the time of writing this, these skills may include transcription, article writing, sales copy writing, email marketing, web design, eBook cover design, mobile app creation etc. See how much people are averagely paid for these jobs and where the best clients for these jobs can be sourced.
If you have absolutely no idea about how the job is done, look for an editor or a professional in the field. Search for the high paying clients and brand yourself properly. Also search for the best freelancers who you can pay a quarter or less of what you get. The other quarter or less will go to your editor/professional and the rest will be your revenue.
Your client should be able to pay enough for you to still pay all the above well.
This may require a lot of branding and marketing. Once the clients trickle in, use the above tips to make sure good work is delivered. Only that in this case, your editor or professional should always be there to help you when recruiting. Once you get freelancers who deliver client ready jobs, you can cash in on this skill.
As I said above, this is a strongman’s tip. Don’t use it if you’re just starting out. It takes months of preparation and will need top-notch research. It will take high class marketing tactics such as creation of websites, ads, sales copies, getting affiliates, video marketing, media exposure etc. It will require quite some time and budget to set up. In short, it needs a person who is already relatively wealthy.
You can even consider creating your own freelancing platform that works like iWriter, Fiverr, Freelancer, GreatContent, Upwork and the rest. You never know, your site could actually be the next best thing.
Outsourcing work online can help you increase profits or to just get you a list of go-to people who can help to keep your job flowing when you’re in an emergency.
You can outsource work through legitimate freelancing websites, forums or even Facebook groups.
If you get the right workforce and remain professional in your dealings, you will not only make a big difference in your own life, but also in the lives of many others. If you’re disciplined, many people will make a living because of you. It is good for you and good for humanity. Use the steps above and start making a difference today.