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My Top Tips For Outsourcing Work on The Internet

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My first foray into outsourcing was before I even knew anything about internet marketing. I had read a blog post on Tim Ferriss’s blog and it blew my mind that I could hire people in India to work for me…all without leaving my apartment.

I had an internship at the time for a gym down in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and one of my assignments was to create a calendar of all upcoming gym-related events. In a moment of genius (or laziness), I decided to try out this whole “outsourcing” thing to create our events calendar.

I had someone from BrickWorks India, gave them my instructions, and patiently waited for my calendar to be completed.

48 hours later, it was done — and done EXACTLY to my specifications. Which was awesome. I know that a lot of people have outsourcing horror stories (and I do as well, though that’s for another post), but my first experience was flawless. Needless to say – I was hooked.

Since then, I have outsourced hundreds of projects to people all over the world, from Romania, to the Philippines, and to India. I’ve had logos designed, websites created, apps coded, linkbuilding done, and so much more that I can’t even remember at this point.

I’ve become pretty experienced in the “Art” of outsourcing – and because of that, Michael asked me to write you guys a post on some tips for better outsourcing — how to make sure you avoid a nightmare experience, and enjoy the true benefits that outsourcing can offer to you and your business.

Know What You Want

The most important key in outsourcing successfully is knowing EXACTLY what you want. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they outsource is that they give vague instructions, and expect the person they are outsourcing to to understand exactly what it is that they want.

The simple fact is this: no one is going to understand your vision unless you tell them explicitly what your vision is. If you just say “Make it kind of look this” without providing specifics, you are likely to be disappointed with the results. This mistake usually ends with you wasting a ton of time trying to get your project right.

So, in order to avoid this, you need to figure out exactly what it is that you want done. If you want a website designed in a certain way – do a wireframe (I will literally draw it out on a piece of paper, scan it, and e-mail it to my designer). If you want an app or piece of software to provide a certain function, make sure that it is outlined completely before you ask the outsourcer to do the work. For logos, provide examples of what you’re looking for with specific instructions.

A lot of people make this mistake when they start outsourcing — and it almost always ends poorly. So make sure that you take the time to figure out exactly what it is that you want your outsourcer to do, before you ask them to do anything. And, along these lines, you want to make sure you’re very specific in your job description as to what you are looking for.

Where To Find People To Work For You

There’s a couple of great sources to find employees online, and I’ll outline a few here:

1. oDesk — While my experience with oDesk is relatively limited, I have had quite a bit of success with the employees I’ve hired from there. They are usually the cheapest, but they provide good quality work. oDesk also has internal time tracking, and will take screenshots of your employees desktop while they work, so that you know they are on task.

2. Elance — I’ve had the most experience with Elance, and out of all of the sites that I’ve worked with, it’s been consistently the highest quality. While the workers here are usually on the more expensive side, you definitely get what you pay for. I’ve never had a bad experience with anyone that I’ve hired from Elance.

3. Craigslist — While not really “Outsourcing” as Craigslist is generally local people, I still list it here as it is a very, very useful resource for finding employees. You can still get cheap work, and depending on how big of a city you live in, you can usually get responses very quickly. However, I will say that Craigslist is best for finding employees that are local (that you will see face-to-face) as Craigslist does not protect you like Elance or Odesk if you are just hiring someone to work for you online.

Some other resources for hiring that I have only limited experience with are:


Getting Started With Your Outsourcer

Before you dive in and give your outsourcer the reins to your business, you want to make sure that they are reliable, provide quality work, and communicate well with you, first. You don’t want to give them a huge project (that is important for your business) before you even know if they are legitimate or not. That is simply a recipe for disaster. Trust me, I’ve been there.

What you want to do is give them a small test project first. Something simple that is of minimal consequence to your business. For example, if you want them to eventually redo the design of your entire site, maybe have them redesign a banner or a specific portion of your site first, to test their skill.

The biggest thing you are looking for in this test, aside from actual skill — is reliability. Will they get the project done when they say they are going to get it done? I can tell you from personal experience that there are a TON of skilled workers out there to hire, however, only a small portion (I’d honestly say less than 5%) of them are actually reliable and can get things done by specific due dates.

And when you find the reliable ones – make sure that you hold onto them, as they are an extremely, extremely valuable resource to you and your business.

Keep Things Business

Another big mistake that you can make working with outsourcers is becoming friends with them. Now, that might sound a little strange, but hear me out. If you are hiring employees on a regular basis to do projects, there WILL eventually come a time when you have to fire someone because they are not getting the job done. It is an unfortunate inevitability when working with employees. I honestly wish everyone always got their work done on time, but that simply does not happen.

When the time comes to let go of someone because they aren’t getting their work done, if you are emotionally attached to them (by having become their friend), it makes it much harder for you to fire them. You might give them second chance after second chance because you don’t want to hurt their feelings. This is a mistake.

This is going to sound cold hearted – but what it comes down to is this. You have to decide which is more important to you – this persons hurt feelings, or your livelihood. If they are not getting the work that you need them to get done on time, it is THEIR fault that you are firing them, and you should not feel bad about it. They are taking advantage of you and you need to let them go.

If you are truly planning on being successful online, this is a hard lesson, but one that you need to learn early on, or it can be devastating to your business.

So because of this, it’s important to separate business and friendship – and keep them separated!

Questions? Comments?

I hope this post was helpful to you guys — let me know in the comments if you have any outsourcing or hiring questions, I’ll be here to respond.

And, if you like what I wrote here, chances are you’ll probably like our blog over at Real World Traffic. Make sure to check it out as well!

Read more: ‘What 40 Successful Entrepreneurs Can Teach You about Hiring a Virtual Assistant!’


  1. Nice article. What are the rates of pay like? Is it cost effective to outsource the job rather than do it yourself?

    • Hi fox1977, in my experience rates vary substantially based on what exactly you want to have done and where the person is located, what expertise you require and how much handholding you are prepared to do.
      I agree with David that the clearer and more specific you are on what you want to have done and selecting someone with that proven expertise, the higher your chances of success with outsourcing.

      It can definitley be more cost effective than doing it yourself IF and this is important..IF you turn around and use those new-found hours to generate revenue for your business, doing what you do best..working in your area of strength…

      When done this way..outsourcing becomes an investment not a cost!

  2. Indeed, knowing EXACTLY what you want is the most important thing when you’re outsourcing work. I think it’s all about common sense here. I hired people too and I was satisfied with the results because I always explained them well what I need and studied their profile first (past work, samples, ratings).

    How do you usually organize your time when you have so much things to do such as writing posts, outsourcing work, preparing your next product launch etc.?

    • Sherley Grace says:

      Hi Gabriel,
      When working with my clients, I tell them that when you decide to go the outsourcing route you do have to factor in some time to delegate and manage the relationship (communication, feedback, direction, etc). When you grow your business more you can hire someone on your team to manage and oversee the day to day operation and all of your team members.
      In the meantime, I have m y clients make a list of everything that is on their plate, determine which tasks can be outsourced (usually a good percentage can be) and prioritize the tasks. Delegate those items that can be outsourced based on priority and your budget.
      With what’s left, pick and focus on 2-3 items per day that will make the biggest impact or that are the highest revenue producing activities and block off time in your sked to focus on only those…turn off social media, email, phone etc.
      Hope this helps!

  3. Joshua Zamora says:

    Hey David Awesome article man! I have only outsourced once so far on odesk and it went well.

    I have yet to have any horror stories (except on fiverr lol) but i will take your tips into account as I do expect to outsource more as I want to have some apps created.

    Thanks again

    Joshua ZamuraiBlogger

  4. High-Performance PPC Management says:

    Awesome write up David! These are definitely some great resources for getting some good quality outsourcing done, and well also some great places to sign up to get some outsourced work too :>)



  5. I have tried oDesk but have seen no progress so left. I tried few other but haven’t got any huge success. So now believe to make clients and bound a good relationship with them. This really helps.

  6. Jamie Hudson says:

    Hi David, great post man…

    I’ve outsourced like 2 dozen times on freelancer, odesk and craigslist. Overall I’d say don’t go with freelancer, go with odesk.

    And if you want a full time employee at like $250-$350/month go checkout

    Always, Always outsource to the Philippines, Indian employees seem to suck for some reason. Some guy in Bangladesh just told me today he’s reusing my offer as someone offered him $100/month more than I did. Totally unreliable.

    When you find a good reliable VA, treasure it and give bonuses or they’ll eventually quit if you overwork them. Good tips!

  7. John Bakken says:

    Nice article Michael!

    Elance has an affiliate program, maybe you should check it out and earn a bit more $ off of this great content you are providing 🙂

  8. fazal mayar says:

    thanks for the tips, i think you are well placed to provide us tips on outtsourcing. I mostly outsource work to India, such hard working people.

  9. Internet Geeks says:

    Thanks for sharing the resources. I have not yet tried Odesk, but after reading this article, I will surely do this. Thanks again and have a great long weekend.

  10. Codeforest says:

    Great article.

    I am speaking from the other side of the outsourcing business (developer at oDesk).

    The problem on oDesk and similar sites is that people always look for the cheapest solutions (India, Phlippines) and that is not always good practice, as the quality is poor.

    Don’t look at the price alone. You must find the best price/quality ratio.

  11. Steve@Internet Lifestyle says:

    Great article. I have been a long time out-sourcer and outsourcing advocate.

    I have a little disagreement about the “don’t be friends” part though. While I agree with the general principle of not becoming TOO close, because it is a business and you may have to let them go at some point, I would also say that there is another side of this.

    Finding really “quality” outsourcer’s is not always an easy thing. Many may not get exactly what you want. When you do find someone who really clicks I think it is fine to build something of a rapport.

    At least a friendly business relationship. Of course, if they disappoint you will have to make the tough decisions, but if you only extend this rapport to people who do quality work consistently it is less of an issue.

  12. Hi David,
    I think your article contains the basics of outsourcing, but only the very basics. With the experience you’ve had, I’d expected more in-depth knowledge eg. how to negotiate prices.

  13. Very nice and informative post..
    Here I too want to share my experience with outsourcing.It was not a sweet experience for me.I hired people but after few days found out there were no perfect match.The project did not go well eventually….

  14. Great post on outsourcing!

    I’ve only recently got into it myself and I really like it so far. I am sure I’ll get into it more and more as I have more success with it.

  15. Clifford Enoc says:

    Interesting article David, I also concur that you need to be know what you really want and also to communicate clearly with your outsourcer otherwise there’s miscommunication, because that plays an important factor in getting what your really want.

    Also there’s Fiverr except the horror stories like Joshua Zamora pointed but I still think you can found a good one in Fiverr.

  16. We are a small startup company and have found a fantastic resource through Odesk – however…being a startup our work load fluctuates and changes direction/focus every so often which means that sometimes anticipated workload doesn’t always come through. Although I understand the reasoning behind not getting too close/friendly with the person, I have also found it difficult when I am not able to give our star Odesk worker the work that we anticipated. Beyond trying to convey how much we appreciate her work, I was wondering whether anyone had faced similar situations and had any useful suggestions about managing expectations and this type of scenario in an outsourcing context?

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