Last week I laid down a few reasons why outsourcing can be a great help to your business. I think most of us have probably dipped in to a site like Elance at some point. If you’re working on your own, there’s only so many hours a day you can commit to work until you start glancing sideways for somebody to lift the burden. By getting smart and outsourcing parts of your typical working day, you can free up more time for the creative decisions that shape whether you ultimately succeed or fail.
Many affiliates are reluctant to outsource because they see it as falling in to a black hole of having to shave down their margins. The truth is, you’re probably selling quite a few berries already, right? You can afford to spend a couple hundred bucks on the chores that stop you from moving in to that next big money niche. I know a lot of affiliates are just getting started, and if that’s you, fine. You should probably focus on learning the ropes yourself before you start managing somebody else.
For the rest of us, the Internet is a gaping hole of opportunity when it comes to recruiting talented freelancers. I slag off the Warrior Forum and Digital Point at least once every two posts, but in this case, I’m gonna have to go out on a limb and recommend them both for picking up some good talent. These forums might not know shit about affiliate marketing, but they do have skilled professionals who are often willing to work for very competitive rates. Wicked Fire, as you’d expect, is a good starting point for finding 85% of everybody who’s ever installed a flog.
If you visit a marketplace like Sitepoint or 99 Designs, you can go one better and post a contest. Crowdsourcing, as it’s called, is the process of setting a fixed price for a piece of work (usually design based) and then letting a bunch of willing freelancers submit their best efforts. You only pay for your favourite. This is great if you’re looking for a logo or a banner, but it’s not the best idea for a full landing page design.
Beyond the social networking landscape, you have a few dozen subscription based outsourcing sites. These are dedicated entirely to connecting freelancers with people looking to hire. Oh and they’ll nip a percentage of your project fee in return. You can attempt to swipe a contact’s email address and run your transactions through Paypal, but they will generally suspend your account if they catch you asking for it. So don’t be a retard and go hunting for AIM screennames after just depositing $5000 in to an escrow. I’m pretty sure they’ve got a “search, find and destroy” button to outlaw that shit. I’ve listed a few of the big sites below:
Elance – Probably the biggest and most respected site for outsourcing. You can pick up some quality freelancers with rates varying from competitive to fucking outrageous. Elance also has a structured membership system which prevents any old mope from applying to your posting. You can require that only gold members have access, for example. And these are the guys that are paying however much per month just to be a god damn member so they must be earning something. My favourite site for outsourcing.
Odesk – Okay, I’ve had limited experience with Odesk. But from what I can tell, it’s an absolute crapheap. Most projects are awarded on a “pay by the hour” basis. So instead of candidates bidding a set project fee, they will usually post their hourly rate and leave you to play ip dip sky blue over who’s best equipped to get shit done. Odesk also uses some bizarre remote desktop like application to record your minions while they slave away. I don’t know about you. But I didn’t outsource the work so that I could watch it being done in all its 4 frames per minute glory. Give Odesk a try if you want. I’m still pissed off from paying out a month’s wages to a chick who was working on shit that I didn’t even know about.
Get a Freelancer – This site is budget. Everything from the homepage design to the freelancers I’ve worked with through it. I can’t imagine it’s earned anybody more than a bowl of rice. If you want to have 400 articles written for $20 in 24 hours, this is the place to come. And yes, you do get what you pay for.
The success you have on any job hiring site will boil down to how you carry yourself and your business. Before I got in to affiliate marketing, I used to write a lot of articles for various contractors. I wrote full fucking ebooks for peanuts before it clicked in my head that marketers were selling on my work for many times the fee. While my rim still aches from the exploitation, that’s just the way this business goes. I’ve come a full circle but I’m proud to say that I haven’t forgotten where I arrive from.
Some contractors are cheeky enough to demand legit samples before they even award a project. I can understand the temptation to “try before you buy” with some random unknown service provider – but it’s not something I agree with personally. If you’re requesting design work, and you want some guy to submit creatives to you, you should be paying him. It’s that simple. By all means request some samples of his previous work. But expecting work for nothing? Get off your high horse.
Many workers in India will happily work for nothing in the hope of securing your services. I’ve never allowed this. If somebody’s going to submit even a single 500 word article to me, I’ll pay them for it. It’s time out of their day. You might be willing to take on some third world kid at no risk of your own, but I haven’t descended so far up my own arse that I’ve forgotten what it feels like to work for these kind of cerebral dickheads.
If you’re that worried about your margins, go ahead and cut the corners. Get some kid to work for free. I think it’s bullshit personally, but your business is your own. You reward good work with a bonus, right?
Bonuses are so few and far between with contractors these days. It makes me feel like a digital Mother Teresa when I start jacking out freebies for good work. I’m not saying a bonus goes hand in hand with a job being completed to spec. But if you want to build good long term relationships with your freelancers, you should be willing to go the extra mile and recognize good work.
I have a bunch of writers and web designers who are always happy to hear from me when I need to outsource. I’ve noticed that if you treat a freelancer well, he will often repay you in work that exceeds your expectations and increases its own value in the process. That’s a priceless commodity to have.
If, however, you’re the kind of dickhead who shotguns his email replies with “boss from hell” demands and a general overtone that says fuck you, you work for me, well…good luck getting the most out of your workers. They’re going to be looking for shortcuts whether they mean to or not. The ironic thing is that most of the demanding (and easily agitated) employers are the ones that don’t take enough time to prepare a decent brief. They expect shit delivered to a spec that was only ever properly defined in their own head.
Putting together a good brief for your freelancers is not a ten minute job. I can’t think of one successful project I’ve outsourced that only took me ten minutes to brief. And you know why? Particularly in this business, the art of a good project brief isn’t so much saying what you want done. It’s describing what you don’t want done.
I recently outsourced a Craigs List posting project. If you’ve ever engaged in mass-scale Craigs List advertising, you’ll be aware that it’s the sort of data entry task that needs a few brains behind the wheel. You need to avoid manual deletions, “ghosting” of your ads, and you’ve gotta have a guy running the project who can rewrite without fucking up your message beyond repair.
I must have wrote over 15 seperate briefs, and nearly all of them failed. It was only when I sat down for half a day and wrote out every single fuck-up that I got a little closer to expressing what I really needed. One of the biggest outsourcing mistakes is the same common problem that gets you shitty conversion rates on your landing pages: You assume.
You assume that because you’ve got a colourful image in your head of what you need to obtain from a project, some kid in Asia is going to read your mind and translate it to HTML. You don’t take the time to sit down and translate your thoughts to text. And if you don’t do that, you’re going to receive bad work. It’s not necessarily bad because the writer was bad. It’s bad because you never really laid out what you wanted.
Classic example, one of my friends outsourced 20 product reviews for his SEO affiliate site. What did he get back? 20 extremely negative damning verdicts of why you’d have to be blind, deaf and stupid to buy said products. Honest and genuine as it was, they weren’t gonna do shit for an affiliate’s pay cheque. If he’d bothered to convey what he needed, he wouldn’t have rinsed $200 on 10,000 words of friendly drivel. Instead he blew his gasket over the writer being such a loose cannon liability that he could never work with him again. You think the Average Joe Patel knows to lie between his teeth like the average affiliate?
Whether you’re outsourcing to India or to Indiana, it really shouldn’t make a difference. You should still treat these guys with respect and the time of day that it takes to give them proper direction. Without direction, you’ll be the one to get burnt while they’ll still be getting paid.
The upside, of course, is that if you can get your shit together and outsource well – your business breaks free from the one man mentality. You can achieve so much more and expand in to new niches overnight. It’s worth the pain, but don’t expect your visions to be delivered on a plate. Just as in all walks of affiliate marketing, you’re gonna have to bust your balls ’til they’re blue to get there.