My first introduction to outsourcing was from Timothy Ferris's book, The Four Hour Work Week. Since then I've gradually increased the amount of things I outsource. While I'm still not to the point where I would like to be, I'm very comfortable with the process and have been successful in identifying some of the tasks in my world that should be outsourced. In my own view I still have a long way to go but recently a friend commented on how much he appreciated my success in outsourcing and wished he could get started. I write this article for anyone who wants to explore this but isn't sure where to start.
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To Outsource or Not to Outsource
In order to determine if you should outsource something you need to answer three key questions:
1. Would it take more time for me to explain what/how to do it than it would for me to do it?
2. Based on how much my time is worth, would I lose money by doing this task myself?
3. If I regain the time I would have spent on this task by outsourcing it, can I fill that time with something equally or more valuable?
Question two of course implies that you know what your time is worth. If you haven't already you need to have a clear sense for what one hour of your time is worth. Calculate this by taking your annual take home revenue and dividing it by the total number of working hours.
What to Outsource?
About any task you can think of can be outsourced. Anything from online research, business PowerPoint presentations, online shopping, data entry, programming, graphic design, responding to emails, and much much more. The key for you, based on the above questions, is to identify the tasks that take your energy and limit your total output per hour.
For me I focus on outsourcing several key activities.
All Data Entry. All Programming/Coding. All Research.
Where to Outsource?
There are several good resources you can draw on in starting your new outsourcing lifestyle. First, there are many organization that specialize in certain types of tasks. If you need mostly personal assistant stuff (buy things, send flowers, research travel) you can go to someone like YourManInIndia.com and their group will take care of you. If you need mostly business and professional tasks (sales decks, reports, market research, business plans) you can work with someone like BrickWorkIndia.com. These types of specialized groups are going to have more consistent quality, deeper resources, and faster execution. They will demand a premium price.
If you want to start small, or aren't sure where to go you can try one of several different freelancer websites like, elance.com, freelancer.com, odesk.com, and post your project for all the various freelancers in the world to bid on it. This is my method of choice. It gives me options, guarantees competitive pricing, and allows me to meet talented people I can rehire in the future for similar work. This is how I have found my best designers, programmers, and writers.
How to Outsource?
Quality experiences and quality task completion at or under budget happens only when you know how to work with your freelancer. The key is in project description. Here are some tips:
1. Always error on the side of being overly detailed and clear in the project/task description.
2. Always ask the freelancer to check in with you a few hours into the project so you can confirm they are doing what you asked how you want it.
3. Whenever possible give the freelancer an example of something similar to the desired outcome.
4. Read reviews and ask for references.
5. Ask the freelancer to provide a quick sample or to repeat back to you in their words what they understood as the task.