So, you’re an entrepreneur and you have too damn much stuff on your plate and you realize you need to hand stuff off to other people. Awesome! This post will show you how to not end up crying like a 3 year old after hiring outsourced / remote workers (ask me how I know ;-).
You’ll wish you would have done it earlier
So… you’ve never really known how to effectively outsource the right way?
You need to make this decision…
- Do you hire an in-house employee full or part-time?
- Do you find an outsourced person… in the states or overseas doesn’t really matter
Both can be great… and both can really suck if you do it wrong.
So… here’s my 3 biggest “can’t live without ‘em” tips based on growing 3 companies with a 100% outsourced and remote workforce on how to outsource effectively… specifically tailored for small to medium businesses, internet marketers, coaches, and online companies.
3 Things I Had To Learn The Hard Way When Outsourcing
There are a few things I learned when I first started hiring people to do things for me.
- Don’t assume other people actually do know what the heck you’re talking about (people can’t read your mind)
- Don’t assume people will ask questions if they don’t know what you’re talking about (they can’t read your mind but most people sure do try
- Make crazy detailed processes and very clear expectations on everything
If you follow those 3 simple guidelines… you’ll save yourself a ton of time and headache to start.
So, my first big “can’t live without it” tip for how to effectively outsource anything… outsource marketing, outsource web design, outsource support, outsource graphics, outsource accounting… anything… is…
My 3 Line Daily Update Email To Crystal Clear Expectations and Tracked Results
When I hired my first “outsourced” worker… a stay at home mother in New York named Christina Lemmey who came in to help me with content distribution and managing the editorial calendar for my first successful website (Christina now handles 100% of the content and newsletter in that site which gets 35k visitors a month that’s been hands off for me) I was nervous as heck because I didn’t know what to expect.
The biggest fear for me was of course first… the cost… I hadn’t taken on an expense that big (was big for me at the time, now I wish that was my biggest expense ;-)… but right behind that was that I didn’t know how the heck I would actually make sure things were getting done without me having to constantly look over her shoulder.
So, a good buddy of mine who runs an overseas outsourcing company gave me this HUGE resource… his 3 line daily update email.
Here’s what you have that new outsourced worker email you every day they do work for you:
Subject: Daily update [date]
- What did you get done today?
- What challenges or obstacles came up?
- What questions do you have?
Of course this is more for someone who is doing ongoing work for you… it may not apply as much for a simple project you’re outsourcing just that one-time.
Have the person doing the work for you email you that each day so you can see what they are (or aren’t) doing… and it forces them to think each day about what questions they really have that you could give insight on.
That was the big key for me… actively having people think about and send me those problems and questions so we could take care of them right then and there and not waste any time on that issue anymore.
So, thats #1… put the Daily Update email into your process and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it earlier.
Now, as you get to know that person and their abilities better you can get rid of that process (like I did with Christina) but I always start new outsourcing relationships with it.
Simple WordPress Based Online Training Center
Most people underestimate the need for training. What I always like to say is… unless you want to be on the hook to personally train new people as they come into your company or if you want to be stuck doing things yourself… you NEED to create a central training platform for people.
We created our first one a couple years back… now we have them for every company I own.
The key with training is to keep it simple so people use it… and to train people to create processes as well… so you don’t have to create the training processes anymore
What we came up with is this simple training template we use… and the cool thing is it’s 100% FREE
Here’s what you need to do today if you don’t have a training area for your team right now:
- Go into your hosting account, go to Fantastico (if you use Cpanel) and create a new WordPress installation on your server. We just put our training sites in a sub-directory like “training.yoursite.com” or something like that.
- Use any plain ol’ simple blog theme (one of the default ones is fine) that has 2 columns.
- Go to the Category tab in your WordPress admin and do a brain dump and type in all of the areas in your business that you guys do stuff in. Use sub-categories too, that way the info will be better organized when people go in to find what they’re looking for.
- Go create a new blog post and make that post be just the quick instructions for how your training site works. This will direct new people who go there how to find stuff and how to add new processes.
- Download a “sticky posts” plugin and make that blog post you just made “stick” at the top of your blog all of the time. That way it’ll be there all of the time and new processes will publish below it. Here’s one we use <<
- Start uploading your processes.
We do a lot of video for our processes since we’re an online based company. For those we use either Jingproject.com (free, but only does 5 minute videos) or Screenflow and upload them to a Youtube account just for your processes.
For your processes keep them simple and make them all the same format. Here’s what we like to do:
- Quick 1 sentence intro on what the process is about
- A “Time to Complete” note so everyone knows how much time that task should take to complete (this is a play on human psychology… we’ve found not suggesting how long it should take often increases the amount of time a task will take by 30-50%. So, put a fair but challenging time on there… it’ll help make everyone more productive
- Video (if it makes sense to do a video, if not, do screenshots)
- Then write the process in steps below the video so someone doesn’t have to go watch the whole video every time they need to do that task. Maybe they just forgot one step… give it to them so they save time rather than sifting through the video to find it.
- Any resources that they’ll need to complete that project.
Simple but crazy effective.
THE FIRST training process you should upload is a process on how to create processes. I know, it sounds funny… but thats when you really start to set yourself free from those repetitive tasks… when you train your team how to train themselves. Pretty powerful!
Make Communication With Outsourced Workers Easy Peasey
Usually when we have problems with people we hire who work remotely it’s a communication issue.
Either there’s too much of a gap between communications (i.e. – it takes them 2 days to answer my email… then takes me a day to answer theirs… next thing we know it we’re 5 days later and just now connecting), communication is hard, or there’s no clear expectations for how we should communicate.
Usually its a mix of all three.
So, make it easy to communicate and set specific scheduled times you talk each week and then have some ways to connect quickly between those times.
Weekly Successes, Progress, Questions, and Projects Call
Every week I have calls with our remote staff to go over things for each different company. The start of the week is best… Tuesday for us was way better than Monday because we’d find we’d come into the call Monday morning and not be 100% prepared because we were having fun during the weekend So having it Tuesday gives us Monday to get things squared away for the call on Tuesday.
Try to keep it to less than 30 mins… and if a meeting isn’t necessary that day… don’t have it. Nothing I hate more in business than meetings where there’s no real goal or agenda… so if you don’t need it just cancel it that week.
Then, between the weekly calls I like to have 1 way to get a hold of our team immediately if we need to… Skype for me is the best for that. And, anything that doesn’t need an immediate response we’ll usually use Basecamp… the project management software we use (we have the $24/mo plan).
That’s it. Simple:
- A scheduled call time each week (same time each week)
- A “quick access” way to get a hold of people (Skype is perfect)
- A “main” place to communicate (we use email and Basecamp)
Communication is a biggie when you outsource your marketing, outsource your support, outsource your website design… anything.
In the end, none of the stuff in this blog post about how to effectively outsource is fun. But, neither is getting bogged down in the crap of your business… which is repetitive tasks that you shouldn’t be doing.
So, don’t let outsourcing scare ya. It shouldn’t.
Yes, you will probably run into outsourced people who are terrible. Just be slow to hire and quick to fire.
But, more times than not… the problems with outsourcing aren’t 100% the fault of the person you’re hiring… a BIG PART of the success or failure is in your lap.
How you control the relationship, how you give them direction, how you give them boundaries while at the same time giving them freedom, and how clearly you outline what you want done.
So, take a day this week and set up the training site (it’ll take about an hour max)… and make sure that every process that is going to be done more than twice in your business is put in a process and uploaded to the training site.
It may seem like a pain now, but the bigger pain would be if all of the knowledge on how to do a specific job or task was stuck in your head or the head of your outsourced worker… and something were to happen to you or them… you’d be up $hit creek… and you’d be the one paddling your butt back to shore.
With processes, someone could hop right in and take over where the other person left off. It creates true freedom in your business and makes growing a business a heck of a lot more fun for everyone
Here pretty soon I’ll show step by step how we outsource most of our website design work for my companies… and what we do now (didn’t always used to be this easy for us) to get the EXACT RESULT we’re looking for on our websites down to the pixel every single time… for 50% less development cost. It’ll be a solid post for ya!
Hit me w/ your own fears of outsourcing below… I’d love to help you any way I can.
Also, hit me w/ anything that’s worked great for you to effectively outsource tasks in your business.