Our Guide to Properly Outsourcing and Offshoring Work
I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's BEST internet marketer. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate.
I thought long and hard about if I should post this on our agency blog, or my personal blog.
“Outsourcing” is generally frowned upon in our industry, especially if you’re using low cost labor to deliver client work.
Ultimately, I chose to publish it here because we’re committed to creating an open, honest and transparent agency.
We offshore work – I don’t want to hide it, I want to discuss it.
The remainder of this post will break down exactly how we’re doing it.
- Why you should consider outsourcing or offshoring work.
- What you could potentially outsource (examples of how we offshore work).
- How you can find, train and hire the right offshore people to help you out.
A few weeks ago, we hosted a Meetup about offshoring – I got some objections that I feel the need to address.
Objection 1: Low cost labor = low quality work.
Yes, if you’re paying someone $3/hour, you’re going to get what you pay for. You’re not paying them to think – you’re paying them to do. Offshoring fails when you give them too much responsibility without enough information.
Objection 2: What you’re doing is Un-American and you should be hiring Americans…
When you’re first getting started, your biggest asset is your time. Your time only goes so far – employees can help to scale your time and maximize outputs. Americans are expensive – I used offshore labor as an interim solution while we were building revenue. We now employ 8 Americans and are hiring more each quarter. Our local employees would not be here without our offshore employees.
“Outsourcing” is often misconstrued so I put together a simple chart to break down the pros and cons of different types of labor:
|Employee / Contractor||Productivity, expertise, control, growth, overall happiness||High costs (salary, training, management, etc)|
|Freelancer||A specialist (1 person) in the task you need, job based and easy to let go||Higher cost (in short term), communication / deadline management (often remote workers)|
|Outsource||“Experts” (company) at the process you need done (i.e. payroll, accounting, SEO, etc), project based and easy to let fo||You’re on their terms, communication, high cost, long term contracts|
|Offshore||Low cost “expert” in whatever you need, full time control, easy to let go||Communication (language), time difference, market perception|
We don’t “outsource”, we “offshore”.
In other words, we don’t push off entire processes. We find, training and manage our own team offshore that supports us full time.
Now, let’s talk about what you can offshore.
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A few notes to help you understand what you can offshore:
- Unless your business runs completely offline (which is rare), you can pretty much outsource any online activity. We like to outsource time consuming activities social media, content creation, graphic design, email management and more.
- If you find yourself doing anything more than once, start thinking about how you can get it off your plate. Repeatable tasks can be easily built into a step by step checklist and passed to someone else to manage. These should be the first items you push off.
- Understand your industry and the important actions needed to acquire and manage customers. High impact items should be kept in house, time consuming low-impact tasks should be outsourced.
- Outsourcing works best for tasks based on execution, not planning and strategy. You want to outsource items that require time consuming work, not decision making.
In the next section, we will cover the items we offshore and exactly how we do it.
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I’m not gonna lie to you – offshoring is a lot of work. It’s time consuming, frustrating and a flat out pain in the ass.
However, to save money, you need to spend time.
The following are my best tips on how to offshore.
1. It’s all about the process…
If you’ve seen any of my content before, you’ve heard me talk about “process”.
The only way you’ll successfully outsource work is through process, communication and organization.
Building a process is [literally] easier than it sounds…ready?
- Grab a pen and piece of paper
- Write down how you perform the task
- Organize it into a step by step process
Honestly, that’s it.
2. You don’t need to be an expert, but you need to be well read.
The trouble is, you might not know how build a process for things you might want to outsource (SEO, social media, design, etc).
You need to figure it out.
There’s this tool that allows you to look up anything you want. ANYTHING…It’s crazy.
That was me being a sarcastic ass, but still – use the tools that our generation is so blessed to have. If you just Google search for “keyword research” you’ll find dozens of awesome guides that have all the knowledge you need – just steal it and format it into a process.
3. Focus on the “micro processes” within the main task.
So let’s start to dig into this process thing a little deeper – let’s say you want to outsource SEO. If you put in the time to do research, you’ll find there’s a lot of moving pieces:
- Keyword research
- Link building
- Content generation
- Technical analysis
It’s difficult to find someone who can handle all of this, so you have you build micro processes. That means each piece of what you need done should have it’s own process and guidelines to follow.
This also allows you to hire niche talent (i.e. content writers, technical specialists, etc) as opposed to using someone whose skill set doesn’t match.
4. Before you hire, build the entire process.
Everything that we do as an agency has a detailed process, checklist and tracker. Here’s how they break down.
a. A written guide in Google Docs (aka SOP). Complete with screenshots, step by step tutorials and logins (if necessary).
b. Screencast videos explaining the process in detail. We host all videos on a private YouTube Channel.
c. A checklist in Google Sheets, itemized by task so we can track progress and status of the job.
5. There’s countless free platforms to find talent.
Any of the following will work:
What you’ll find is it’s less about the platform (and even the people) and it’s more about you. If you have a process, you can hire someone off the street, it doesn’t matter.
6. When hiring, be obnoxiously clear in what you need.
We even have a process for posting jobs and interviewing talent.
- Include specific requirements in your job posting.
- Ask additional questions for them to answer, specifically ones they can’t Google for an answer.
- Applicants should be vetted for answers, ratings and job experience.
- The ones who meet certain requirements should be sent a direct message (copy and paste) with a link to the process doc.
We’re able to find, train and hire new offshore people within a few hours.
7. Have a test / demo environment ready for them.
People lie online – there’s no way to really tell if someone’s body of work is legit.
That’s why we put each applicant through a demo to make sure they have the knowledge they claimed and are capable of managing the process.
- For web development, give them a PSD to code and get live on the web.
- For keyword research, give them a website with a handful of topics to blow out into keywords.
- For technical optimizations, give them a checklist and a staging website to audit.
We end up spending quite a bit of money to test multiple people, but this saves a lot of time and headaches to filter out low quality applicants.
8. There’s nothing too “complicated” to outsource
We own and operate an ecommerce store that sells shoelaces for sneakers. Day to day management and marketing is handled by a single person in Pakistan.
Here’s an example of the process he uses to build social and blog content for the site:
- Go to the top sneaker news sites and grabbing the top headlines about “sneaker releases”.
- Save images to your desktop, then upload them directly to the LO Facebook Page, creating a video slideshow from the images.
- Schedule the posts to go live on the FB page every 3 hours.
- Copy the headline from the site and use it as the title of the post.
- Download the video created by Facebook, upload it to Schedugram to push to the LO Instagram account.
- Schedule the posts to go live twice a day.
- Title it “Sneaker Name” Release Date, Pricing Info & Where to Buy.
- Embed the Facebook video into the blog post.
- Paste the link of where you found the headline into the body of the text for the writer.
- Open the Photoshop blog header template and replace with image of new sneaker – upload to WP as blog image.
$2/hour x 2/hours a day = $4/day, or $80/month.
All of our (WEBRIS) social media accounts are automated using processes and offshore labor. Since the content is much more in depth than Laces Out, we needed to build a different process.
- Our local team built a social media content calendar.
- We built a content calendar with dates, types and posting times.
- The file gets passed to a graphic designer (Pakistan) to create images for each post (Facebook and Twitter).
- A copywriter (Philippines) gets assigned to write the copy for each update.
- Once completed, our agency assistant (Pakistan) schedules the posts via Facebook, Buffer and HootSuite.
Even advanced technical items get pushed overseas. We hired someone who was well versed in Analytics and technical SEO, then trained them on our audit process.
- We built a checklist of items to review on a website. Each line item has a short video walking through exactly what to check.
- Our technical specialist (in Belarus) goes through each item and builds out the file as pass/fail.
- Each “fail” item gets summarized into a new tab.
- The summary tab is passed to a developer to make any and all changes.
We’re able to deliver affordable, advanced work that other agencies charge tens of thousands for. Plus our markup on the labor is insane (he costs $8/hour).
9. Correct, re-train and automate.
Even after they’ve completed what you’ve given them, go through and thoroughly tear it apart. We generally have to review their work monthly to ensure the quality remains as high as possible.
Build a long term schedule – set, forget and move on to the next challenge.