Anyone that hasn’t heard of outsourcing by now must be either hiding in a cave or not working in the service industry. Call Centers are front and center, but it seems outsourcing is spreading to every nook and cranny of the economy. On a recent trip to Manila in the Philippines, a job fair for Call Center employees was held for 65,000 vacancies in Call Centers. Other statistics are just as shocking. India is set to emerge as a $17 billion knowledge outsourcing destination by 2010, which states a new industry study. (Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) May 2005 ) Three-quarters of U.S. companies outsourced some or all of their information technology activities in 2004, and that percentage is likely to increase this year according to Global Outsourcing Report March 2005.
Outsourcing is seductive with skilled and educated native-English speaking labor available for $4 or $5 per hour. Many newcomers to outsourcing or contracting out, have the naive idea they can just ‘throw it over the fence for $4 an hour’ and are predictably disappointed. Indeed, the big boys are having difficulty as well. In a recent study, ‘Calling a Change in the Outsourcing Mode’ surveying 25 large organizations with a combined $50 billion in outsourcing contracts found that 70% a more cautious approach. One in four companies has brought outsourced functions back in-house and nearly half have failed to see the cost savings they anticipated as a result of outsourcing.”
Outsourcing, using freelancers and contracting out is still a very viable strategy that can reduce costs and increase productivity substantially. It just isn’t quite as easy as ‘throwing it over the fence!’
In general, the more important the service is to your business, the better to have it in-house. If SEO/SEM is mission-critical to your business and you already have qualified people on staff, outsourcing would be a mistake. If you don’t have SEO trained staff, developing SEO capability from scratch is a long road. The learning curve is steep, and like most skills, the very competent people are the experienced ones, who have been doing it for years. You might want to hire an experienced person to work for your company and have them train others as part of their job.
This can be difficult as well because generally people hired into this kind of situation will keep the secrets to themselves. In addition to the perennial problem of SEO — the really good ones make too much money on their own so keeping wonderful people is almost impossible.
The is another other option, though — Outtask rather than Outsource.
Outsourcing vs Outtasking
Outtasking is where certain tasks are contracted out and the main function is kept in-house. This option, with effective management, can give the best of both worlds. Examples of tasks that can be Outtasked are Link Campaigns, Article Writing, Directory Submissions, and Article Submissions.
Tips for Managing Outsourcing Partners
– Develop relationships. Pay a fair amount or on the high side. Use the same person and develop and train them.
– Spell out what you want. The more detail and the more specifics you can give a freelancer of what you want, the better the finished product will be. Freelancers have no imagination and no way of knowing what you want. They are in a different country and culture — all they have to go on is what you tell them.
– Keep in touch. Ask for progress reports and updates. Unless you have worked with someone and then hired them full-time, freelancers are juggling different contracts. Keeping in touch keeps your contract at the top.
– Move forward in stages. First, do contracts. Then, all going well, regular contracts. Next part-time. Finally, after you have developed a relationship, offer full time.
– Tell them what you want and offer to pay a slightly higher fee in order for them to do it. Writing articles especially is difficult to get exactly what you want in exactly 500 words. And if it’s a longer, more in-depth article, that’s a bonus and more likely to be syndicated.
– If you are contracting for articles, you have to specify in advance that they will be original. And when you receive the completed work, check for plagiarism.
The more time YOU put into it, the better the project will be. Outsourcing doesn’t mean you just give the whole thing to someone else in the Philippines or in India. The more time you spend managing the project the better the result.
When I contract for 10 articles, I spell out exactly what I want including, target audience, education level, tone, type (information or how to) keywords, suggested title, and length. When I get them back I read them over carefully and edit them. If I don’t like them, I ask for a re-write.
Overall, it is cost-effective, but it still takes time.
Outsourcing or Outtasking is still working. It is just not the same kind of work. Do it properly and you learn a valuable skill that can reduce your costs substantially, and increase productivity.