Outsourcing your business projects can be a lot more laborious than most solopreneurs would like to admit. It sounds so simple to hire a professional to assist you with tasks that you are not so skilled in – or just want to have done more quickly and efficiently. Taking on hired help involves consistent communication and attention than you might not expect, but the process can be managed effectively if you know what to do in advance.
I earned the VID – Very Important Doer – status on Fiverr after hiring a number of freelancers for various projects over a number of months. I have learned so much from these professionals on my journey as an internet-based business owner. A few of these people stood out for their quality of work, and I have kept them on my ‘rolodex’ to hire again in the future. My experience with outsourcing has been a positive boost to my business!
If you are a business startup and new to outsourcing freelancers, you will benefit from hearing about some of the potential problems that do come up, and how to best resolve them before you spend your hard-earned money. Whether you are hiring from marketplaces like Fiverr, Freelancer or Upwork, it makes no difference where you find your hired expert. What does matter is the instructions you provide and how those instructions are being followed. Your freelance worker needs your direction and a keen grasp of what you expect from the project.
When outsourcing freelancers or virtual assistants, you will need to write out some important details ahead of time so they fully understand your business needs. No matter what your task is – lead generation, web design, graphics, sales copy, ad campaign etc. – your new hire will need to know about your vision for the project, so do not keep them guessing!
Before you begin the project there are some important questions to ask your freelance-for-hire. As you follow up on their progress you need to see how well they perform to meet or exceed your business goals. Below I outline some important steps to building a positive relationship with your freelance expert and ensuring the best results for your business.
Pro Tip #1: Decide the Tasks You Need Outsourced
Avoid becoming an overworked and burnt out entrepreneur. Rather than dedicating your valuable time on tasks or projects that you are not highly skilled in, why not outsource the work to save you time and get better results? Internet marketers have a lot of possibilities for outsourcing, and it really comes down to finding the best options for your specific needs.
For example, I had watched a number of training videos to learn how to build my own sales page for my product and thought I could do-it-myself. It seemed easy enough using drag and drop templates with user-friendly buttons. However, the project consumed weeks of my valuable time, and no matter how much I followed the training, I could not get my web page to meet the industry standard. After all the fuss, it just wasn’t professional enough to pull off. I had gotten enough feedback to figure out that I needed professional help from a web design expert.
Ideally, the freelancer you select will have much experience with the type of project that you’re undertaking. I searched for web designers who had experience with the particular web builder software I had invested in. I got a few different freelancers to send me similar websites they’ve worked on for other clients to compare from, as price was not the only consideration. I then narrowed down my selection based on their skill-level, English speaking ability, and the kinds of questions they gathered from me.
Make a list of tasks – or one-time projects – that you cannot manage alone. Pinpoint the tasks that you struggle with and that you don’t want to train for. Then decide the most important ones that you can reasonable budget for freelance help. If using online marketplaces use search ‘filters’ to help you narrow down to the best choices as there may be hundreds of people to choose from. Experience level, price, package details, customer reviews and the location of the seller will all be part of your consideration.
Pro Tip #2: Ensure your freelancer understands what your business is about and who your target audience is
This involves gathering information and typing up a document that outlines some vital elements that your hired professional should realize about you and your business. Give it a title like “About X” (your business name), and include these key details:
- Your personal name and business name
- Web address
- Short summary about your business
- The product or service your project is focused on
- Target audience description and the countries you are selling in
- Main keywords (4 or 5 will suffice)
- Don’t forget to provide any ‘login’ details if they are accessing an online account of yours. You can change the password afterwards.
Having your freelancer learn what your business does and who you offer your product or services too will give him or her a greater understanding of your industry, your product and more insight on how to best approach the project to meet your specific needs. Most freelancers will ask for some of this information anyway, and it is in your best interests to enlighten them. Make sure they visit your website and can visually see your business details there. If they are experienced with your type of business or product from previous work, then you have found a good match!
Pro Tip # 3: Provide clear written instructions in a document to define the scope and schedule of your project
• Make a list of “Requirements” no longer than 1 page that itemizes in order what you need for your project. Explain any specifications when it comes to colors, font style or size, and any text or images you want added. Anything longer than a page may become overwhelming and more difficult to follow, as I have learned in my experience.
- When providing your own work, be clear about exactly what you need revised and what needs to be left alone ‘as-is’.
- For graphic design projects do specify preferred colors, fonts, titles or names (if any), and type of images you want them to create. Allow creativity to flow here as most designers will come up with a few different versions for you to choose from.
- Don’t forget to attach any images or sample graphics you want a designer to use or emulate.
Pro Tip # 4: Follow up and follow through with consistent and clear communication
You’ll soon learn how tiresome messaging your freelancer back and forth can be. Ideally you want to give them enough information upfront before they tackle your project. Unfortunately, most outsourcing platforms do not allow you to communicate via phone or video with your freelancer. However, platforms like Fiverr do allow Zoom calls for their ‘Pro Sellers’ and for those whose work requires it. In that case, you may request a Zoom chat at the beginning of your project, and during the project, to clear up any concerns or questions you or your freelancer may have.
The advantage of speaking to a freelancer by voice or video is that you can see how well they speak English, as well as any part of your instructions may need clarity. The other advantage is that you get to emphasize the aspects of the project that are most important to you and share your ideas. If you are not using an online service like Fiverr, but an independent contractor instead, you may find arranging a Zoom or Skype chat a more effective use of your time.
You do not need to follow up with your freelancer each day of the project, but a check-in two days before the project end date is a good time to ask for a review of their work, and to see if he or she is struggling to get the project done on time. The expectations for communication and follow up is set by you, so do ensure that it is compatible with your freelancer’s schedule too. How well this person communicates with you will be a significant factor in deciding whether you will hire them again.
Pro Tip # 5: Be Prepared for Review and Revisions
Now is the time to review the first draft of the project and provide feedback before requesting a revision. Your first impression may be amazement or blunder! Do schedule enough time to thoroughly review their work without making immediate judgments at first glance. Track what part of your ‘requirements’ were followed well and any parts that were not. Let your freelancer know when you will get back to them with your review. Take no longer than a 24 hour turnaround to complete the review and a revision request.
Perhaps, your freelancer overlooked some parts and concentrated more on others. This is why having a video call can make a huge difference before the project begins so you can verbally provide your ‘vision’ for the outcome you want (more memorable than a texting message). If a Zoom meeting is not possible, you can still rely on your freelancer to get back to your messages and answer any questions you may have. They may attach screenshots of any areas that you want to check on. If something does look or sound right for the vision of the project, do jump in and have it corrected before having the person move on any further (with politeness of course).
Before you get back to your freelancer about your impression of their work, write out another list of the areas that you want further edited or modified, and how those things are linked to your original requirements and goals. Freelancers are always willing to make any changes you ask and provide revisions, so don’t complain loudly when you want to get the best work done after the first draft. Mistakes do happen and can be corrected no matter how big or small they appear to you.
Your freelancer may need to negotiate an ‘extension request’ with you if he or she cannot complete the project on deadline. It is their responsibility to keep you updated on their progress and share any difficulties they may be having (hopefully none). Most projects are time-sensitive and your freelancer should be made aware of that. You never have to renegotiate the price once you’ve agreed on the payment, but you can negotiate the length of an extension request. Always factor-in a few extra days for possible revisions before the project begins.
Pro Tip # 6: Handling Project Completion
Now that your freelancer is making strides and faithfully handling any modifications you requested, you can rest assured that they are working hard to get the results you want. When I hired five different proofreaders for my book, I could tell right away the ones that did not have the skill-level of editing that I needed. One lady stood out the most and she went above and beyond providing feedback that showed me she understood my book topic, my audience and my business goals. She was an excellent word-smith too!
I decided to weed-out the other proofreaders that I had given a few chapters to, and have this one lady complete the editing of my book. She was instrumental in producing the quality of work I needed, and for that she received an excellent customer review and tip. Some people have a real talent for their craft and stand out. She was an indie book author too and could relate to my business, and empathize with the goals I had set.
You may luck out and find a freelancer who ‘gets’ your business right off the bat. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t find the right freelancer at first pick. It takes experience from testing different ones to see who fits best with your business. I have provided feedback to my freelancers, in addition to my customer review, so they know what impressed me the most with their work, and where they were lacking. It’s never personal, and is actually in their best interests to pay attention to buyer feedback.
Here are a few questions to consider before you hire:
- What exactly is the freelancer offering in their package, and will it meet all my needs for this project or task?
- How long has the freelancer been in business?
- Can the freelancer provide samples of their work?
- How many customer reviews do they have and what is their rating?
- Where is the freelancer located? In North America, Europe, India?
- What is their time zone and how close it is to mine?
- How many free revision requests am I allowed to make?
- Can I afford this freelancer or do I have to look at cheaper options?
You should be able to gather most of the information you need from their seller profile or on their website before speaking to the person. You won’t actually know how well they perform until you hire them. The hardest decision to make is choosing from the top two or three people you’ve narrowed-in on who can do the job and have excellent customer reviews!
Pro Tip #7: The Non-Disclosure Agreement
Last but not least, have your freelancer read and sign what is called a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). This is a legal-binding agreement that protects your copyrighted work from being reproduced in any way. Should the freelancer refuse to sign this agreement, move on, as there are others that will. Fiverr has a ‘confidentiality section’ in their Terms of Service that all sellers must follow, but I take extra precautions by using an NDA, especially on literary work.
A non-disclosure agreement is a legal and binding contract in which two parties, the Disclosing Party (i.e. client), and the Receiving Party (i.e. freelancer), agree not to disclose certain proprietary or confidential information explicitly outlined in the agreement (namely your product). “Non-disclosure” simply means that your freelance contractor cannot steal your ideas, either for their own gain nor to recycle them for another client. By agreeing that such information is sensitive, technical, or valuable for commercial or other purposes, both parties can safely explore entering into a business relationship without fear of having the information leak. (Source: Legaltemplates.net)
If your freelancer can offer their own NDA form to use, great, but if not you can use a free template at either one of these sites: lawdepot.ca and Legaltemplates.net . You do not need to consult with a lawyer, or have one draw up a NDA up for you, unless you need to have very specific clauses that could affect valuable assets of your business. Otherwise, a pre-written template that you can modify will work fine.
The biggest mistake when hiring your freelancer is allowing too much ‘artistic license’ to steer the project the way he or she likes. That may sound odd to you but believe me, if you do not provide enough direction and allow a wide-open interpretation of your project, you will quickly find many of their ideas not to your liking. It is best to invite creative expression within the boundaries you set that is in the best interests of your business.
When it comes to tasks involving an ad campaign set up, lead generation, SEO traffic building or IT work to name a few, there isn’t much creativity in the mechanics of that work. It’s the ad copy, headlines, sales page design, imagery and graphics you use that has to capture your niche audience and represent your industry. These kinds of tasks need artistic ability and talent, albeit under your guidance.
You will find that not all freelancers are able to offer you the same level of skill you may have come to expect from the few that stand out. Never assume your freelancer will follow your instructions completely or that they understood everything in your requirements. And, understand that some freelancers are handling more than one client project at the same time. Again, the better they communicate with you, the easier the project will be.
If you simply cannot see eye-to-eye on the end result of the project, you or the seller can cancel the project without further consequence and move on to another freelancer. If working with a ‘team’ from an agency, you can request a new team member to take over, if necessary. Sometimes a freelancer has ideas already planted in their minds from working with past clients that they want to replicate for you, but does not match your needs for the project.
And finally, be forgiving and have patience! This is the best advice I can offer. You will at times want to pull your hair out, especially when you have multiple parts to a large project that needs more than one freelancer involved (at the same time). It can be time consuming and energy-draining to keep up with their work plus the day-to-day activities of your business. Some of the more technical stuff that I dread, I will hire a freelancer to take care of, without needing to know all the details they are handling. A major lesson I learned is that I can only handle as much as I can grasp and am willing to learn. The rest I am willing to outsource to a trusted expert.
All the best with your outsourcing!