So, there has been a lot of toubabou about outsourcing the last months. Therefore I´d like to share some of my experiences and failures with the warrior forum. I´ve written that post for the war room, but it seems that it didn´t make it there, so I just publish it on the main forum...
First off all, be aware that we are talking about outsourcing. When you need one or two logos designed, just have a look for companies like logonerds (not affiliated with them, as well as all other providers I´d mention in my first thread) in the WSO section. You are not looking for freelance work, but for something like an virtual assistant, who will help you reducing your work load or getting to the next level or somebody that will create you a software or website with ongoing maintainance.
I avoided buying all courses about outsourcing, as most of them where to expensive (why should I pay John Reese 2.500US$ only for learning how to find some stuff for 200US$ a month?), but attended the so called Outsourceretread by John Johnas on the Philippines, as my 13th chinese visa was about to expire and the Philippines are next to China, where I´m living since years. It was the first seminar I ever attended (related to IM and outsourcing), so maybe my expectations where to high, so I dropped out after day two, to spend my last day on beautiful Boracay Island with my girlfriend... I was sitting one day next to a dude from Australia, that seemed to be pretty nice, until he tried selling me his rubbish and make me vanish ;-)
Also I avoided buying a membership to his so called replacemyself.com program, as it is, IMHO, pretty expensive. Here is why: I checked the contents from the sales page and decided, that I could create my own training with PLR products that I am actually selling to my customers (I bought a bunch of high quality PLR, which are only collecting dust on my harddrive because my internet connection in China is way to slow for uploading it to Amazon S3 [I only upload the training sections I know my stuff needs right now]). I´ll use them to train my stuff and prepare my own private knowledgebase, based on the experiences and questions my stuff has had. As I said I haven´t bought the access to replacemyself (97US$ / month or 697US$ one time payment [which I would recommend, as the contents would be dripfeeded over 12 months otherwise and you would end up getting billed for years to come!]), so I couldn´t evaluate the contents. But as I said I have a bunch of high value PLR products from fellow warriors and from other sources, that fulfill my and my employee(s) needs. If you´d like to sign up for replacemyself just drop me a line and I´ll send you an aff-link via PM (just kidding).
So who do I hire? I used Odesk with some success, but would recommend you reading the following threads BEFORE posting any job offers:
- http://www.warriorforum.com/main-int...-forum/116209- have-you-used-odesk.html (liked the comment from TPFLegionaire about paying some additional money and, especially when you plan to hire sbdy. from the Philippines, paying an extra month per year, splitted up per quarter)
- http://www.warriorforum.com/main-int...odesk-not.html (Andy Fletcher made a good point when mentioning a code word. I actually use two code words and you won´t believe how many providers will use only the first on, while there is another one, which I really expect, mentioned in the last paragraph ;-). Also ramone_johnny has had some strong points, after leaving a pissed comment about the fact, that the question was asked to many times. Everybody has a bad day, haha. I like the service he mentioned in the thread English Test, Online Language Grammar Test and are using it for my own hiring process now. It costs a little bit, but hey, you aren´t looking for somebody, that would make you look like a fool when communicating with your customers, aren´t you? I don´t agree with is point no. 5, that you should ask for free work. This is up to you, but IMHO nobody should work for free and it is only peanuts for me for figuring out if sbdy. is nuts or not).
- http://www.warriorforum.com/main-int...ack-forum.html After calming down fellow warrior ramone posted another nugget, that includes his working agreement. I´m using a slidely modified version of that and also agree not to start anything before I have it back on my computer. It is a petty that he posted it in the main forums. This is something worth posting it in the war room!
Pay peanuts and you´ll get monkeys? Depends.
Like you can see with the Bic Mac index (what are the real costs of a Big Mac in a country, compared to salary and other costs of living) there are countries where the cost of living are lower than in other countries (I´m living in China since 4 years and are paying arround 1.2US$ per sm² rent per month, whereas I paid more then 150US$ per sm² while living in London a couple of years ago). What does that mean for you? Have a look first and then desire who to hire. If somebody seems to have a really good reputation, there is nothing wrong with paying him a realy good salary! But, the other way arround, nobody will blame you for asking for a lower rate per hour. As Mike Filsaime said in his Butterfly Manuscript, you might have a look for the cents and the dollars will come from alone (or not, but there is a STRONG relation between your costs and your profits [why I love doing IM ;-)]).
I also prefer paying on a per hour basis, as project prices only lead to some problems, if the VA or outsourcer figures out, that he priced to low. You get what you are paying for ;-)
What do I avoid?
As mentioned in one of my job descriptions, which is also available in my thread, I don´t like dealing with outsourcing companies, but individuals. Why? Have had some bad experience. I hired freelancers for specific small tasks and all I got was the same "Sir, I don´t understand the problem Sir" answer all the time, when asking about the progress of my projects, which where scheduled for one week and already took 2 months. Afterwards I ended up finishing it on my own and dealing with complaints like that I tried to scam them while only trying to get my money back from sites like freelancer.com.
So how do I manage my projects?
As I´m not using replacemyself, I don´t have access to the project management solution that is included. I´m also not quite sure if it would fit for my needs. Im using nearly everything from Simple small business software, collaboration, CRM: 37signals for managing my projects. Why? Their tools are plain simple and fit totally for my needs. I used some overwhelming project tools in the past, paid and free, but what for do I need Gantt charts, when I only need somebody to check the newest postings on WF and send me a short summary of what is going on there?! So I´m using Project management, collaboration, and task software: Basecamp for my project management, Highrise: Small Business CRM, Web-Based Contact Manager for my CRM, Intranet, Group Calendar, Small Business Organizer: Backpack for organizing files and Intranet, Group Calendar, Small Business Organizer: Backpack for ongoing communication related to actual projects (for me everything is considered a project that takes more than one hour or more then one step until it is completed ;-)). Again, this is not some hidden advertising and you can also use free tools, like IRC chats and so on, but I don´t mind spending some money for having less stress! 37Signals are also offering free plans for most of their projects, which have some limitations I don´t like. If so, they mention it below the huge payment plan signs. Just have a look there...
Short hint, there is also a realy nice book available, that is about getting projects done fast: REWORK: The new business book from 37signals. (free if you are reading it online)!
Training your outsourcers and VAs
So how do I train my staff? As mentioned several times before, I am using PLR video products and some tutorials and ebooks I´ve bought before. I´ve stored everything in my S3 account. I´m finishing this task in a couple of weeks, when I´m back in Germany and will connect everything with a "membership site", which I am running through Nanacast.com. The cool thing with that? I can track who has watched my videos (I´m also using the easyvideoplayer from a fellow warrior, which has build in tracking) and my stuff isn´t able to share the videos. They don´t know that I can track IPs with Nanacast and get an immediate notification when some of my videos are streamed elsewhere and, if I have to discontinue working with them, I am able to lock them out forever. As I said I´m also sharing some WSOs and other stuff I bought over the years, so blame me for violating any restrictions, but IMHO it is ok to share it with MY fellow colleagues. I´m not saying that I´m spreading it out over the internet ;-)
Where do I hire? There is onlinejobs.ph, which I haven´t used yet, as I don´t like the 49US$ per month price tag, only for looking for some qualified stuff (thought about getting some pre-screened workers, but I still like doing this on my own, but it is sometimes a PITA). I hired some workers from Odesk.com, where I used a very long job description, that helped me sorting out all the fluff upfront (just post a short description and you mailbox will explode within an hour after sending), easyoutsource.com, which is FREE and where I found some golden nuggets for programming (they have members for nearly everything and you could still train them), craigslist.ph for sure or, what I never shared before, might have a look for couchsurfing.org ;-) The last site is an incredible and totally untapped ressource, that I figured out on my own, while planing our trip to the Philippines, haha. You get a good idea about a future employee while reading his self-desciption and comments of other guests on his couch...
For sure you could also use Google, for getting some decent forums related to your subject. Just use a querry like .ph forum php programming - Google Search and have a look. Hint: If you, like me, don´t speak the local language, just use Google Chrome and it will offer you to make an on the fly translation ;-) Contact members that seem to have the right skill set and discuss anything further via PM. Haven´t hired somebody in that way yet, but it should work!
Must it be the Philippines? No. I have had freelance work done in Eastern Europe (Rumania to be more specific) and only missed my first employee by 2 days, as he just accepted another job offer, while I was thinking about hiring him or not. In India there are, IMHO and no offense, to many outsource firms, that gave me a bad experience before. I also heard that Indians are much more after getting things done on there own and disappeard about a good amount of free training, only to show up with their own website afterwards. THIS IS NOTHING I EXPERIENCED ON MY OWN! I know that their is a good bunch of fellow warriors from India and that they have a population of 1.2 Billion and growing. There are bad dudes just everythwere, so again, no offense here. Just give it a try. Individuals from India are expected to be hard working, so give them a chance.
Why haven´t I hired sbdy from China? Good question, so let me answer it in a short paragraph. My girlfriend (fionse) is Chinese and my mandarin better than my english, so it would be no problem for me to hire a bunch of Chinese for 1-2 hundred dollars a month. BUT: We have had a pub for nearly two years and my experiences where at the worst. I actually fired more then 25 waitresses (could be even more), after telling them more then 3 times what to do. My girlfriend, which is really independent (she is also self-employed and is running a small but growing chain of fashion stores), blaimed me for expecting machines, as I was only looking for sbdy. that is a) friendly and b) would be able to do a good job, without micromanaging him.
Good topic: Micromanaging. As I joined John Johnas workshop on the Philippines, he said he is not monitoring his stuffs working hours at all. It is cheap labor, so is there no need to have a look what they are doing all the day? I thing there is. I´m not paying somebody for browsing facebook all the day without having him explicit told him to do so. With some of my workers I´m using Odesk, but I dislike their 1984 features. I´d rather have them installed tools like rescuetime.com, where I´m using the paid version, to monitor the over all performance. If somebody falls behind, I may ask him to go to Odesk, to give him the feeling that Big Sven is watching him. But I won´t do so at all. If I have some concerns, I would tell him and let him go if it continues. My time is valuable.
Communication: As mentioned in my job description, I expect a report on a daily basis. Fail once and I´ll remind you for sending it in, fail twice and you are out. Also I ask them for getting back to me every time when they are struggling with a given task. It would only waste time, if there skillset and motivation don´t fit within a given task. I´d rather spend a couple of minutes for looking at what project they have a better fit.
Am I outsourcing everything? Nearly ;-) But I also use some sophisticated automation tools, for tasks that are so low level, that a computer could do them for me. Why? Computers are cheap, and I´ll set up 3 small "core locations" in Germany with dotzens of computers and are will use Win-Automation and my "own" IM-automation software, but don´t feel comfortable posting a link here (actualy I just purchased the domain name and have to set up the site, but this isn´t the WSO section of the forum). You might have a look at the thread about WinAutomation here in the warroom, which is pure gold and the WSO thread for uBot (50US$ discount if you buy it there), which is another great tool. To be hounest, I would rate both tools over my own automation software, but they cost more ;-) Also computers don´t take days off and couldn´t get ill!
Does my stuff have holidays? Yes. And I pay them. My team has 2 work weeks paid holidays per year, which is, compared to Germany, where you can expect between 20 and 30 working days holidays per year (plus puclic holidays!) nothing and I ask them to take a day off from time to time. I don´t like the idea of overworked stuff, that isn´t actually able to concentrate on their tasks.
Anything else? Get the4hoursworkweek by Tim Ferres. The bible for an online marketing life style and don´t forget why you are doing it. It is not about getting rid of your day job, but about having more time for doing some more meaningful tasks.
And here, last and least, my sample job description: I blanked some points out, as they would lead you only on my hidden trails, but feel free to use it whenever you need it (and drop me a line if you find some major grammar mistakes, as said my Mandarin is becoming better than my English. Damn it!)
I need one individual virtual assistent for the following task:
First off all, please type in my keyword, that is yes18709 in you application. This is only to ensure that you are human. If your application doesn´t include the keyword, I´ll feel free to press the reject button. Otherwise I would waste your time and mine.
Second: I need somebody with decent english, so you IF I consider you for an interview, I´ll send you an invitation for an grammar test. I´m paying for that service, so take it serious. If you accept and pass the test (I have a percentage rate that doesn´t mean that you have to be a native speaker, but that you are able to write some good english), I´ll send you a small task. Which is
Third: Writing some small articles for different topics. Topics and length of the articles might vary. I´ll use some tools like copyscape and will reject everybody that sends me an plagiat. Don´t mind, you´ll get paid, but don´t take this as an invitation for sending me some BS.
Forth: We agree a small interview via phone. The task, which will be mentioned soon, doesn´t include cutomer service via phone yet, but maybe in future and I also want to ensure, that we are able to communicate with each other. My prefered medium is skype.
Fift: If I decide to hire you, I´ll give you a task for 2 weeks. If you make it through that 2 weeks, than welcome to my company. I´m looking for some long term relationship, which is the reason why I spend so much time on hiring. But as the saying goes, I hire slow and fire fast. If you do a good job, I don´t mind giving you some bonuses. But that totally depends on your performance.
What am I looking for?
As told above, I´m looking for somebody who is able to speak some proper English. Your first tasks will be the following:
1) Go to a specified forum, create new logins and make a note in an google spreadsheet. Afterwards send PMs to forum members of a specified target group and invite them to join a survey. Don´t ask about more details, as I´m only willed to share them within my team. If the survey is completed, the member gets a reward. I´ll give you all blueprints for doing so.
2) I´m reading quite a lot of internet marketing related forums and other stuff like ebooks or blog posts. I need you to go through the specified sources and, if you think it is interesting, need you to summarize the main points. If there are some other products mentioned, I need the cheapest reliable source for it available in a specified region.
3) Later on I need you to do customer care, which is mainly via email for my paid products.
4) I receive a bunch of emails every day, that have to be opened and include a link, that has to be clicked. This isn´t the most compeling task, but it has to be done.
AND: I´m looking for an individual and not an outsourcing company. I have had loads of bad experiences with the last. Don´t mind if you don´t have that much feedback here and give it a shot. Everybody starts out and it isn´t that easy to get a job when you just started. If I figure out that you are only looking for a quick buck and are opening accounts every few days, I´ll press the reject button immediately.
Depending on your strenghts, interests and weaknesses, this my vary or I´ll give you another task in the future.
What do I expect:
1) I´ll send you a working agreement. Before that isn´t filled out and send back to me, we won´t start anything. This agreement contains all specified tasks, your payment, when you´ll get paid (and in which way) and which timelines I expect per project. This working agreement is subject to change, as your tasks could change in the future.
2) Hounest commnication. I´m relying on you, so I expect a daily report what you have achived. Also I´d like to know if you have had some problems in fulfilling your work, so that I have the chance to give you more input or give you a new task, that is more suitable for your skillset. If you are missing that reporting more than once, the cooperation will have an end.
What you can expect:
1) As mentioned upon, you can expect a bonus, when you are continuisly doing a great job. Also I prefer hiring friends and family members of good colleagues.
2) Payment in time. You´ll be paid for everything you are doing for me, according to the hour rate we have agreed. Payments will be after the specified project is finished. I don´t mind paying you on a weekly basis, but will reject all inquiries about an upfront payment.
3) Training. I don´t mind spending money on your training. I have loads of internet marketing related training materials, as it is one of the markets I cover and will give you everything you need to do a good job. If you think it is not sufficient, just feel free to tell me and we figure out together what we can do do fulfill your needs.
And here is the real keyword, only to ensure that you have read everything and not only scanned the first paragraph for figuring it out: kos818eo(us,
Please use that one and not the first one mentioned for applying.
The hourly rate I offer is 1-1.11US$. If you have a reason for asking for more, tell me so.
So if you are still sitting on the fence when it comes to outsourcing, give it a shot. You might struggle in the beginning and don´t see any results in the first weeks and months, but it is definately worth doing, as it safes you time and money! Concentrate on what you like to do!
Cheers and thanks for taking your time, I´m out for today, as I promissed my fellow chinese hairdresser to watch the worldcup game (England Vs. Germany) tonight (all the best for England <-- for the British wariors, sorry for the 2:2. This wasn´t our teams fault, have posted the thread yesterday, but as said it seems that it wasn´t aproved ;-))
Sven aka kos818 (for the WF ;-))
Ps: If you have anything else you know about outsourcing and would like to share it with the forum, just reply to that thread. If you´d like to discuss something private, just shot me a PM. My VA will inform me about it and I´ll reply in time, haha.
Pps: I´m just finishing a much larger guide about outsourcing pitfalls and keep you informed (some of the paragraphs above might find their way into the guide, but it will get a proof read before I start selling it ;-)). If you want a review copy, just drop me a line. Some hounest testemonial would be great, but it isn´t mandatory ;-) Should be ready by next week! And no, this isn´t the reason for this thread. I have had it sitting on my harddrive for a while, but already forgot about it! So here it is...