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Tips on how to manage your outsourcers [PODCAST]


PreneurCast is a marketing + business podcast. Each week, author and marketer Pete Williams and digital media producer Dom Goucher discuss entrepreneurship, business, internet marketing and productivity.

Outsourcing is the topic of this week’s discussion between Pete and Dom. They talk about why, what and how you should outsource, and Pete shares some tips on how he manages his outsourcers to get optimum results.

Pete and Dom talks about getting the optimum result you want from your outsource

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Episode 026:

Dom Goucher:    Well, hello there, Mr. Peter.

Pete Williams:    How are you, Mr. Dom?

Dom:                   Very well, very well. And you?

Pete:                   I’m doing extremely well, as always. Feeling good, feeling pumped, feeling excited.

Dom:                   Oh, look at that athlete-speak, ‘pumped’. Welcome one and all to this week’s PreneurCast.

Pete:                   I’m Pete Williams.

Dom:                   And I’m Dominic Goucher.

Pete:                   We might as well introduce ourselves this week. We kind of don’t do it that often, so we might as well for all the new listeners.

Dom:                   Well, it’s not about us; it’s about the listeners.

Pete:                   Exactly.

Dom:                   There you go. Speaking of listeners, I want to get straight into it, mister. None of your triathlon, biathlon, Ironman, Superman malarkey. Straight into it this week.

Pete:                   All right.

Dom:                   We’ve had quite a few people ask about something that you are quietly a bit of a star with, and I know you’re a very big star with this stuff…

Pete:                   Is this an adults-only episode?

Dom:                   Oh, dear. Anyone else hear the dull thud as the conversation went subterranean?

Pete:                   Sorry. All right. What are we talking about? Let’s get on topic.

Dom:                   Let’s get back on topic. Look at that – 30 seconds and straight off topic. Nice try. Okay, outsourcing.

Pete:                   Yes.

Dom:                   Outsourcing is a huge topic in the internet marketing space, but it’s not just for internet marketers. This cropped up not only in notes from listeners – thank you, everyone, for the feedback, as always; appreciate it on the iTunes Store and everywhere else. Not only from listeners, but I was talking in another group of people that I work with and the topic came up because someone was saying that they had this really mind-numbing task that they don’t really like; it takes a long time.

They like the overall job and the overall business, but there’s this one task that they don’t like, or this one group of tasks that they don’t like. And I said, “Oh, you should outsource it.” And they said, “Oh, no, the loss of control! The costs will spiral!” and blah. I can bring it up later on if it’s pertinent to the actual example. But it just made me really think that it’s a pertinent topic. Rather than the usual chat, chat, chat, I’m hoping that this week you’re going to teach me something. So off you go, Professor Pete.

Pete:                   You’ve given me a very broad field to run into here. Okay, outsourcing; where do we start? The thing about outsourcing to a certain extent is I don’t think it’s worth chatting about how to go into Elance and find someone to do a logo for you because that sort of stuff is out there on the web a lot. There’s a lot of crap out there, let’s be honest about it; there’s also a lot of good stuff about how to do certain outsourcing things. It’s probably not worth covering that sort of stuff because hopefully, a lot of people have already experienced that.

And if not, hey, let us know and we’ll do another episode on outsourcing. But it’s probably worth touching on the ‘why’ to outsource a little bit, a little bit of the ‘what’ to outsource, and definitely a lot about the ‘how.’ That’s probably a good way to break it down. Why outsource? To answer my own question there, there’s probably a few reasons. For those of you who have read Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Workweek, hopefully that gives you a bit enough ‘why’ because Tim did a phenomenal job of putting together a very good argument for why to outsource.

Fundamentally, it comes down to a couple of things. Success in business is now no longer an individual game, it’s a team sport. So if you want to grow a business, whether it might be an internet-based business, which I know a lot of our listeners are internet marketers – as much as I hate that term as such, but they have a business where it’s solely marketed on the internet. Even in real-world businesses, there’s a huge reason of why to outsource. From an internet perspective, it’s about having people on your team to actually help you grow your business and get that income you want and that profit you want.

But you need to have a team to do that because you don’t have enough time to do that, and also because you don’t want to have to do all of the crappy mundane jobs that are needed to build a business. From a real-world perspective, in Infiniti Telecommunications team we have quite a few Philippine staff who work solely on that business from a range of tasks – from website design development to product managers, to a certain extent, in terms of our e-commerce side of that business.

I’ve also got some people who are now working in the accounts and the admin side of the team, so to speak, to do some of the mundane admin, data-entry roles that are required when you’ve got a multi-million dollar business and a lot of transactions going through that. There’s a whole range of things you can do with outsourcing in that space as well. The ‘why’ around all of that is geoarbitrage, it’s a great term. I think Tim really popularized that term anyway in that with geoarbitrage, it’s about hiring and recruiting A players to your team using the arbitrage and geological arbitrage elements of foreign exchange and currency.

So you can get an A player that in Australian dollars might cost you $60,000 $70,000, $50,000 dollars a year; you can get that employee from somewhere overseas due to currency arbitrage for closer to $12,000 to $13,000 a year – maybe more, maybe less, depending on the role. There’s a huge economical value of outsourcing that way, from an employee perspective, but also there’s a lot of out-tasking stuff too where you give one-off tasks like that logo example I mentioned earlier. Does that give enough overview to the ‘why’ for people who wouldn’t have got that, do you reckon, Dom?

Dom:                   That’s a really good perspective on it. One thing I would add: the other side of geoarbitrage that a lot of people don’t think about – and not so relevant, ironically, for you and Australia, talking about using people in the Philippines, but for me over in Europe. One of the great things that I find with my outsource team, depending on where they are in the world, is that if I set a task at the end of my workday, it’s the beginning of their workday.

Pete:                   Absolutely.

Dom:                   And when I come back the next day at the beginning of my workday, very often that task’s been done. So it’s a great way of almost working continually; your business is working all the time. And obviously if you have a team, there are always going to be people working when you’re not working or working when you’re working on another project. But even for the small tasks, it’s sometimes quite satisfying to get to the end of the workday, to stack up all these jobs and just pop off the instructions, come back, and that work’s been done and you can carry on from where they left off. So that’s another side. But yeah, that’s a great introduction to the ‘why’ for outsourcing.

Pete:                   And clearly there’s also the skill set thing as well. Obviously, as we’ve mentioned on this podcast numerous times, you’re my media guy. You look after all my media for a lot of projects I’m involved in. Video editing and that sort of stuff – yeah, I can do it, but I don’t do a good job of it; so that’s where you come in. You’re phenomenal at that, so that’s why I give you those projects. You enjoy it, you’re great at it, and it’s good value and it works out really, really well for all parties. That’s another reason for outsourcing too, it’s just purely a skill shortage kind of thing.

Dom:                   Absolutely. And not to digress too much at this point, but I think going from The 4-Hour Workweek to Michael Gerber’s book…

Pete:                   You love him, don’t you?

Dom:                   I do, I do. The thing with The E-Myth is it’s one of those things that as a small-business owner, let alone a big-business owner, he makes one of the most important points, which is don’t work in your business, work on your business. Because of that, outsourcing is absolutely key to that. This comes from your point: I know – and not a lot of people know this about Pete, but –- as well as being annoyingly fit, annoyingly good-looking and just generally annoyingly everything, he’s also incredibly technically skilled.

And a lot of the work I do for Pete, Pete could do himself. When you are working on your business, it’s very easy to do these things that you can do. The first thing most small-business owners fall into is doing the books themselves, doing the finances, doing things like that; it’s more obvious like product creation and things like that that people get dragged into. One of the reasons to outsource is to stop yourself getting sucked in. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should, in terms of using those skills.

Pete:                   Exactly.

Dom:                   So outsourcing that work, first of all, it stops you from doing that stuff yourself. Second of all, it stops you from getting sucked into it.

Pete:                   Yeah. You’re putting positive constraints around yourself.

Dom:                   Exactly. So it’s not just because you can’t actually do that thing, and a lot of outsourcing comes from you not having the skill to be able to do it; you go out and you buy the skill in. But more importantly, on a bigger thinking scale, it’s this idea that if you outsource it – great point, you’re putting a positive constraint around yourself. But I think that’s definitely covered the ‘why’ quite well there.

Pete:                   Yeah. Speaking of positive constraints, can you make a note in that long, long list of notes you have about episode topics? I think we should probably do a whole episode around positive constraints and what they are and how they apply, because I think they’re pretty powerful. That’s definitely something we should note. Also, I want to give you a present: I’m going to get a friend of mine, Mike Rhodes, onto the podcast one day. He is another The E-Myth… What’s the nice way of putting this, ‘fan?’

Dom:                   Aficionado.

Pete:                   Aficionado. I think he’s qualified in E-Myth something. ‘E-Myth-ery,’ is that the term? So I think he’d be cool to get on and chat, and you two can just have that episode yourself one day, and I’ll just sit back and listen to you guys talk all things Michael Gerber. But back to the topic at hand, the outsourcing-side of stuff, it’s really worth hitting on a couple things and asking a couple of questions. Again, we kind of always blend the episodes here on PreneurCast, don’t we?

Because a couple episodes ago, we spoke about questions, powerful questions to ask yourself and answer. I think there’s some around outsourcing too. ‘Why are you outsourcing?’ is probably a very good question to ask yourself very early on. A lot of people have probably tried outsourcing and it hasn’t worked for their business for numerous reasons, and the answer to the question ‘Why are they outsourcing?’ was probably a pretty poor answer if they actually asked themselves that question.

A lot of people outsource for the fun of outsourcing, let’s be brutally honest about it. And yeah, “Hey, how cool is this? I’ve got someone in India or the Philippines or overseas working for me! I’m the man! I’ve got staff and I’ve got a personal assistant in the Philippines!” It is definitely an interesting dinner conversation, don’t get me wrong. When people find out that my main personal assistant is actually based in the Philippines, it makes a very interesting dinner conversation. But realistically, you shouldn’t do that just for good conversation.

If that’s the only reason you’ve got an outsourced staff member, you’ve got a pretty poor life, and go and get yourself a hobby. I guess the point that I’m trying to make is that why are you outsourcing? Because some people outsource for the fun of outsourcing, because they want to try it, because they think it’s the right thing to do. But there’s some real reasons of why you should be doing it. One is because you can’t do the skill. If you can’t do something and it’s needed for your business and it’s really, really needed for your business, then outsource it.

That’s kind of obvious. Because you don’t have the time, because you’re working on more profitable things. Now, this is the key part to that answer: you’re working on more profitable things. So many people I see who are entrepreneurs on any sort of level, they start outsourcing stuff because they ‘don’t have the time,’ but what are they going to do with that time otherwise? Are they actually using that time to sit on the couch and watch TV? What are they actually doing with that time? To browse the web and just read blog posts? That’s not the best use of your time.

You’re better off using the time to actually do the skill rather than forking out money for someone else to do it. The only time you should be outsourcing and getting that leverage is when your time is better spent writing a sales copy, sitting in front of a video camera and doing a sales pitch, writing a sales script to give to your staff to convert more people when they walk into your retail store. You’ve got to make sure that what you’re actually doing is generating more income for the business than it would have been by doing that particular task.

So many people actually outsource too quickly because they think that’s where they need to go, and there’s no money left over at the end of the day because they start paying staff members, and there goes all the profit or a potential of profit, because it’s all been sucked out of the business; you have no marketing dollars left. So the really big thing that people have to really answer themselves is why are they outsourcing now, and are they outsourcing the best thing?

Dom:                   Awesome. Really, really good summary of that. So that moves us on to what to outsource.

Pete:                   Mechanics.

Dom:                   Ooh.

Pete:                   Outsource mechanics. There you go; that’s the podcast, let’s wrap it up.

Dom:                   Awesome.

Pete:                   Look, you and I have spoken about this for a few different reasons recently. Let’s define mechanics. Dom, how would you describe mechanics in this sense? Let me see if you can be a bit more coherent than I can be.

Dom:                   To me, mechanics of anything is anything that comes under the term ‘rote’; anything that’s repeatable. In fact, if you can write down a sequence of steps to achieve a task, that task can be outsourced, because it becomes a mechanical or systemized thing. Some of them are obvious; you mentioned one already, which was data entry. Data entry’s one thing that I think most people would identify as a mechanical, rote operation.

Time after time, pretty much the same buttons are being pressed to get pretty much the same result. And there’s not a lot of buttons and the operation isn’t complicated. But they can be far more elaborate. For example, blocking a series of webinars on GoToWebinar. That’s a mechanical sequence of things.

Pete:                   Did you just experience that in your inbox about five minutes ago?

Dom:                   Amazingly. Because you didn’t do this. I’d just like to say: Hi, Flo!

Pete:                   Yes. Flo, not to be confused with Fleur, who’s my fiancée; Flo, my PA. It’s very hard when I start typing ‘Fl’ and occasionally the wrong email goes to the wrong female; it’s quite interesting.

Dom:                   I don’t doubt that Flo would handle it quite well, whatever you send to her. She’d struggle to turn up for dinner; but other than that, I think she’d do very well.

Pete:                   It’s just when I ask Fleur to do jobs for me, she’s like, “Why are you asking me to do this?”

Dom:                   But absolutely; I just experienced that. I experienced both ends of the process. I experienced you sending the instructions to Flo, because it’s a project I’m involved in; and I also experienced Flo dealing with the mechanics of filling out, let’s say, eight GoToWebinar booking forms correctly with the right logos and the right descriptions and everything else, and getting that stuff done. And you literally just got an email back in your inbox saying, ‘Done.’

Pete:                   Yeah.

Dom:                   That’s a really good example of a slightly more elaborate mechanical job.

Pete:                   Yeah, absolutely. I think that the controversial lesson to take out of that is – and I’ll explain in a second, don’t outsource or even out-task creativity. Outsource and out-task mechanics. Don’t outsource or out-task creativity; outsource and out-task mechanics. Let me break this down. Out-tasking, which I kind of touched on earlier, is the process of getting a one-off task done. So you go, “Can you design me a logo? Can you write me this piece of software?” It’s a one-off task; it’s got a clear start, end, done.

Outsourcing is where you basically have a staff member join your team and they do something that’s rinse-and-repeatable over and over again, such as an article writer, someone doing data entry for you, web developer, whatever it might be. So that’s out-tasking versus outsourcing. Now, we’ve defined the mechanics; let me define why I’m saying ‘Don’t outsource creativity.’ I’m being completely all-encapsulating when I say creativity. I’m saying like logo designs. And you’ve probably experienced this, Dom, when I’ve CC’d you into different things with the designers that I have overseas is I get pretty specific with my requirements for something.

I’ll go off and I’ll say, “I need a logo for a WordPress theme or blah, blah, blah designed.” And I’ll say, “Here are three examples that I want. Here’s a rough sketch that I’ve done with my Livescribe pen in PDF. Here’s a scribble I’ve done on my iPad using my finger. This is pretty much exactly what I want.” And I give them a pretty tight brief. It’s not, “Hey, I need a logo; go and design it,” because I kind of know what I want, and it also means I’m going to get exactly what I want because it’s been defined. Budgets won’t blow out; timelines won’t blow out.

Another example is article writing to a certain extent, or getting someone to write on your behalf; getting high-quality articles written on your behalf. That’s sort of creativity. You want to control all the creative stuff yourself as the entrepreneur, and then let the mechanics side of stuff be outsourced. I kind of gave an example of the logo design; let’s talk article writing for a second to give you that example as well, whether it might be an article for a blog post you’re writing, maybe you’re trying to do some backlinking.

But let’s talk from a business perspective; maybe it’s a blog you’re writing for your internet marketing site, a blog article you’re writing for your real-world business’ website blog, maybe it’s an article that you’re writing for a trade journal to get some exposure in the media and get that halo effect and that market leadership positioning. What you want to do is outsource the mechanics of article writing but keep control of the creativity. That sounds a bit weird, I know. But let me give you an example.

You could – and this is what I do quite regularly, sit down and draw a mind map or a bullet-point list or some sort of mental dump of the main key points you want to touch on from a creativity perspective in the article. What’s the main topic of the article? What are the main points and arguments I’m trying to get across? Bullet-point those down. Then grab a microphone or an iPhone or some sort of recording device, and just talk your way through those bullet points or that mind map, just getting out – doesn’t have to be coherent; you can stumble, you can repeat yourself, just get those main points down in a coherent manner in your language, in your voice, because that’s creative.

You are the market leader; you are the business leader. So get that creativity stuff down and then outsource the article writing portion, which is the mechanics. That’s the transcription of that, the editing of it to make it sound like a decent article that actually makes sense. Obviously the spellchecking, the thesaurus, all that is the mechanics of that. The main core of the article, which is you and your opinion, has been done by you. The creativity part has been done by you. You want to outsource all the mechanics.

And that goes for everything – whether it might be article writing, it might be anything that needs some sort of creativity; you’ve got to own and control that and outsource the mechanics. Anything in your business that’s not that should be outsourced: accounting, the design, the installation of WordPress on your blog, the actual putting together of the direct mail piece you’re going to send out to your clients. Whatever it might be, that is the mechanics that you can outsource. Just control the creativity side of things.

Dom:                   Absolutely. Really good, actually. That, I think, might dispel quite a few people’s illusions about what to outsource. One great thing I heard, because we haven’t talked about Ed Dale for awhile; Ed said a while ago on the topic of outsourcing, “Don’t ever put outsourcing and initiative in the same sentence.”

Pete:                   Ooh, good call. Yep.

Dom:                   That’s a little bit talking to what you were just talking about and a little bit on a slightly separate topic, but I think it’s important to break that out. You’re saying, basically, that if something is uniquely you, obviously you’re the person that needs to do it. You’re the person that creates the core piece of content: the audio track that goes behind the video; the rough sketch of the logo with the Livescribe pen, which we’ll come back to; the pieces, the sequence of emails that need to be put into the autoresponder and the rough text that needs to go in. But after that, you can then outsource or out-task that job to have it professionally tidied up, being a little more common language. In a way, that’s kind of how we started.

Pete:                   Absolutely.

Dom:                   You create the core content, the bit that’s uniquely Pete, which is the voiceover track…

Pete:                   Don’t give away the secrets.

Dom:                   But Pete, you’ve already given it away in a really big, excellent video you did a while ago, sorry.

Pete:                   Oh, yeah. Okay.

Dom:                   Oh, yeah. Look on the Market Samurai site – sorry. Anyway…

Pete:                   We’ve got to get better jokes.

Dom:                   Yeah. Sorry, dude.

Pete:                   We have to get better jokes. Sorry.

Dom:                   Hey, look, you can’t be good at everything, and we’re really good at this stuff.

Pete:                   Can we outsource the joke writing?

Dom:                   Yeah, you know, we could do that, yeah. Look, some people get known for jokes, some people get known for sound effects; we just give good content.

Pete:                   Okay. As I interrupt you when you’re giving a gold piece of nugget.

Dom:                   That’s all right. But this idea of ‘Don’t put outsourcing and initiative in the same sentence’ is really, really important. And that, I think, starts to go to the how. Because part of the how, to me, is how you construct the request, what you’ve got to look out for. To me, the most important part of it is what to look out for or what to not do or how to correctly request these tasks. Can we kind of use the last bit of this podcast with some ninja tips on controlling the job, making sure the job gets done the way you want it to, making sure the jobs are the right kinds of jobs, that kind of thing?

Pete:                   Yeah, absolutely. Before I give that I just want to touch on your point really quickly and give a great quote that I heard once. I can’t remember the context in which I heard it, but basically, my advice is to train your team. As part of your team’s role, particularly if you’re getting it at geoarbitrage rates, encourage or make it a mandatory thing for your staff to spend the last hour every day learning something. Go and give them access to that $2,000 course you bought last week and say, “Go through this.” Whether it’s thechallenge.co that we’ve spoken about numerous times, Ed Dale’s awesome, awesome project; or some other project, or product, or course or program, give them access to it.

Whether it’s directly related to what they do or not, let them actually absorb the context in which you’re teaching them or asking them to do tasks. Let them actually understand what you learn, and that’ll help them grow. The question was, “Well, what happens when I train them and they leave?” And that’s a fair question. It’s a fair worry for a lot of people. “What if I invest in them now and they leave me?” Well, the awesome response I heard was, “What happens if you don’t train them and they stay?”

Dom:                   Yes, I also remember that, and that had the same impact on me. That is a very, very powerful thing. And you do need to think about that. A lot of people don’t even conceive of the fact that these are human beings. You’re asking a human being to do a job. And if you were to hire somebody to work in your shop or in your office and you just hired them in, sat them there, and said, “Do that job,” and you never trained them and never supported them in doing the job, you couldn’t realistically expect them to carry on happy, happy, happy, could you?

Pete:                   This is the thing that blows my mind: so many people hire a staff member and I agree with you, they wouldn’t think about hiring someone and then not training them. So they spend the first week training them and supporting them and mentoring them. And after that first week, they walk away. So they do train them, in that first week. How many jobs have you had where you’ve been trained in the first week and then forgotten about? It’s insane. Anyway, let’s leave with a whole bunch of brain-dump stuff. You want me to go through managing a team, monitoring a team, communicating with a team. Is that sort of just a random thing?

Dom:                   Before you go into that, though, I’d just like to say, you talked about finding people and that we don’t need to go over that because there’s lots of people out there talking about how you find an outsourcer. Let’s just clarify here. When we talk about outsourcing or out-tasking, a lot of people at the moment – really trendy topic at the moment is outsourcing to the Philippines. That’s not the only place where you can send an outsourced task, where you can find a good outsourcer.

You need to find the right person for the job, wherever they are; whether it’s somebody that is in Canada that does your logo design, you use them only when you need a logo, and maybe you pay a little bit more; but hey, they’re the best logo designer you’ve got. Whether it’s somebody in the Philippines or America or Scandinavia, there are some really good web guys in the northern European regions, for example.

Pete:                   Absolutely.

Dom:                   A lot of the iPhone app programmers come from that part of the world.

Pete:                   Yep.

Dom:                   So don’t be closeted; don’t be tunnel-visioned with where you’re looking for these people. After that, let’s hit each one of those points that you said, like sending the job out, monitoring the job, communicating. Let’s see if we can hit each one of those.

Pete:                   Okay. I’ve got a whole bunch of things; let me just try and share some off the top of my head. One of the key resources that we’ve put together as a team is what I refer to as a Work Wiki. Now, we’ve got a couple different Work Wikis. One is using a service called EditMe, which is a really cool online service. Another one we’ve just built internally for Infiniti is a WordPress install. Let me try and work out what the theme is and I’ll explain in a second while this loads.

The Work Wiki is basically an online Wiki, similar to Wikipedia, full of all the tasks and procedures, all the rinse-and-repeat stuff that our team does. Now, I’m using a WordPress theme that we will link up in the show notes. I don’t know what the actual theme is, but I’ll check with Flo and I’ll link it up in the show notes. But basically what we do is we use a product called ScreenSteps, which is a Mac product; I think it’s available for the PC as well.

Dom:                   It is indeed available for the PC as well.

Pete:                   Awesome. Basically it’s a software tool that allows you to make screenshots and steps of a process. So you do the first step of a process, click a button. It takes a screenshot of your computer, you write up a description of what had do be done in that step. Go to the next step, hit a button, take another screenshot. And it basically really quickly and easily allows you to create a manual or process around a particular task. Then you can grab all of that and upload it to a webpage really, really easily, so you have this one online digital resource that’s easily able to change and adapt as the software or the processes change for the different things that your team has to do.

So that’s one big thing we’ve built over time. Every time there’s a new process, whether it might be creating a GoToWebinar series of conference calls or installing a WordPress blog or inserting an AP invoice into our accounting software – whatever it might be; giving someone access to a membership site, creating a credit note on our software that we use from our accounting perspective. Whatever it might be, we do Work Wikis for all those so we can always, no matter what happens, go back to that.

So if a staff member’s sick and someone else has to fill in, they can do that. As you grow your team and get new staff on, they can be inducted to learn all the processes and systems and stuff like that. That’s one big thing that we’ve really, really built on quite regularly, our Work Wiki, using this WordPress theme now, which is really cool. The other option, obviously, is EditMe, which is really cool. So that’s part of the tool set that we use.

In terms of managing staff, I actually have a daily email that all of our team have to send through. Basically, that daily email has a few things on there. The first thing is ‘What were they trying to achieve today?’ What was their to-do list, basically. They list that in bullet form what all their items were for that day that they were trying to achieve and what the estimated time was to actually do each of those tasks. Then the second part of that is ‘What was achieved?’

So they simply email me through what they were able to achieve that day, which is great, so I can see exactly what was ticked off from the list. The next thing is ‘What wasn’t achieved today and why?’ So if they weren’t able to get through stuff they actually had on their to-do list, why weren’t they able to? “A previous task went over time. I couldn’t log into this particular service and I sent a support desk ticket” Whatever it might be that caused them not to be able to do that task, I want to know why. Is that a software issue or a service issue?

Is it a staff member issue? Is it my issue? Is it a repeating concern that I need to address? Is it something more underlying that they don’t get through their tasks every day? What is it? ‘What personal development steps did they take that day?’ What video did they watch, what module in a course did they watch, whatever it might be? The next thing, which is really, really important is ‘What do they need from me, and by when?’ If there’s stuff they need from me to be able to do their job or the things they’re waiting on from me, that’s basically my action list.

What do I have to work on to get my team more productive or to make sure they’re using their time as productively as possible? Then the last thing is ‘What’s the plan for tomorrow?’ So this is what they plan to work on tomorrow with time estimates against all of that. That way, I can read that and I can reply and say, “Hang on; change this order,” or “Don’t do this,” or “Do this instead.” And that last thing, what’s their plan for tomorrow, becomes their first bit the following day. What are they doing that day? It’s just a cut-and-paste.

That’s the Daily Report so I can just look at each of my staff members,’ just a quick email, run through it, reply to that really quickly with suggestions, advice, tips, congratulations, whatever it might be in that email. It makes it very, very easy to keep on top of them from a daily perspective because they are around the globe. That’s the daily check. What other things should I be mentioning?

Dom:                   The big thing for me, just to close this one down, really, is can you describe or give some tips for assigning the jobs, for actually handing over the instructions, what to put in the instructions, ways to be clear, things like that? Because I think that’s where a lot of people fall down. I hear a lot of people say, “Oh, my outsourcer, they’re just not that good. They don’t seem to really get it. They don’t seem to blah, blah, blah.” And nine times out of 10, with all due respect, you didn’t ask the right question or you didn’t set the task properly.

Pete:                   Eleven times out of 10. Don’t let people off the hook. In my opinion, it’s mostly the issues in the brief.

Dom:                   Yeah. So can you talk to that for a little bit, just as a kind of a close-out?

Pete:                   Yeah, sure. Look, there’s probably a few things. Where do I start? First thing is: give them some context. I know we spoke about this in the podcast recently. Give some context. So the first thing I will say is, ”The context here or the objective here is to create a logo that’s going to be used on a series of products, online membership sites,” and blah, blah, blah. Give people the objective and the context of what this is going to be used for and how does it fit into the grand scheme of things, particularly if they’ve been working with you for awhile.

“We’re going to create a new blah, blah, blah that does X, Y and Z that is going to be used for this sort of clientele, and it’s sort of similar to this but it’s different to that.” Just set some objectives or some context, so to speak, or the objective of the task. The objective of the result is probably a better way to put it. So what is the objective of the result we’re trying to achieve here? So describe that. Then obviously describe what needs to be done. “I need a blah, blah, blah, and I need a wah, wah, wah, and a woo, woo, woo,” whatever it might be.

Obviously that’s where you describe the thing, and that’s what most people only do, is do the descriptive bit; the “I need four articles written that are 200 words in length that are targeted for this particular keyword.” That’s all they’ll say. So you give that. Then I also recommend you give some examples. “To give you a bit of context, here’s some similar stuff that might help you get an idea of what I’m trying to achieve.” YouTube video links, article website links, examples of your competitors’ stuff, and say, “This is some similar stuff to give you some ideas.”

Then also, if you’ve got time, bullet point down what I liked about each of these; what I liked or I disliked about each of these things. Then, if you can, “Here’s a rough idea of what I’m thinking.” So it might be if you have a Livescribe pen and a notebook, write out a bit of an idea of what you’re after. Do a sketch of what you need, and actually send out along with it to give people a bit more context of what you’re after.

Then also, obviously, a deadline if you can. ‘I’d like this by a certain deadline,” or a budget or a time frame, something like that. They’re probably, I guess, a high-level sort of checklist you can work down. I know, Dom, you deal with getting a lot of briefs from people, not just myself. So what do you like as an outsourcer to actually receive in a brief, is probably a good question?

Dom:                   Very good question. Before I go to that, I’d just like to highlight that we’ve mentioned Livescribe pen a number of times. If you haven’t come across Livescribe pens, I strongly recommend that if you deal with any form or need to communicate ideas with people, you seriously look at one of these things. I won’t go into it too much, but basically it’s a pen and some special pads of paper of different sizes that you can buy. When the pen is turned on, anything that you draw on this sheet of paper is recorded electronically and can be downloaded to a computer and even turned into a PDF.

At the same time that you’re drawing, the pen can record your voice. So you can literally either hand-draw a diagram and just send that electronic diagram, which is a nice feature; saves scanning and all that stuff. But you can also annotate the diagram. So if you’re one of these people, like I am, a visual thinker, that tends to like to draw out what it is that you want and talk through your drawing, these things are an absolute godsend. Seriously look into that. That’s why we keep babbling on about Livescribe pens, because they’re a great way of getting what’s in your head on to the paper.

So, Pete, back to your question, which is what do I like to receive. Absolutely, your points are spot on. I like to know where what I’m producing is going. Sometimes it can be vitally important; sometimes it can just be nice to know. For example, if I’m producing a video clip and it’s going into, say, an OptimizePress sales page, they have very strange sizes for their videos. You really should produce your video to the final size. So rather than me exporting a full-scale, high-definition video clip, the client really actually needs it at the right size.

And nine times out of 10, they’ve hired me because scaling a video clip is not something that’s within their skill set. So my job is to give them that clip at the right size. Otherwise, one of the things that tends to happen if I don’t get that data, is they upload the clip to wherever it is they store their clips and they embed it in the page with however they do that – let’s not get dragged into that. But they say, “Oh, the clip doesn’t run smoothly,” or “It looks squiggly,” or “It’s not right,” and they blame me, because I’m the video guy and I’m supposed to give them the right thing.

So by giving me that data you’re allowing me to do the job to the best of my ability. Again, give examples. A lot of people have seen other people’s sales videos or info products – the two big things that I do, or eBooks, another thing that I do. You may have seen a style, it might be the typeface, it might be the animation style, it might be the style of the graphics that people have used, the way the text comes onto the screen, the layout of the PDF for the eBook, all those things; the best thing you can do is send me a link. Show me that video.

Because I can probably get more from seeing that video than you telling me, because it’s my skill. My skill is to work out, and I can reverse-engineer most people’s work and go, “Oh, right. Yeah, they did that with that,” or “That’s how they did that.” So I can give you a better job. And absolutely, deliverable and deadline are the two big things that are important whenever you specify a job to me or to anyone. I need to know when you need it for. And very often, what I will do is whenever you tell me you need it, I’ll ask you some more questions about that, because you might think you need it.

Like you’ll say, “The product goes live next Wednesday.” At which point I know that what you want, then, is a file with at least a few days before that deadline, because you’ve got to give that file maybe to your outsourcer that uploads things and puts them on your webpage. So think that through; if you’re the person giving the deadline, think it through. Does that deadline give you enough time to take that asset or that product, and move it onto the next step in the chain? And deliverable; well, what do you expect? I already gave an idea of one of the things like the context, why that’s important.

If you’re asking for a logo, you need to specify what format you want it in. And if you don’t know the answer to that, maybe the outsourcer can help you or the out-tasker can help you, or maybe you can find some help. But if you don’t tell somebody, then I have this phrase, which applies across everything. And just to kind of close this one out, my phrase is a kind of a twist, a little joke on the old WYSIWYG phrase, which is ‘What you see is what you get.’ Mine is YAFIYGI, and YAFIYGI applies to outsourcing more than anything else. YAFIYGI stands for ‘You asked for it, you got it.’

Pete:                   And I repeat: can we get some new joke writers? No? Seriously, that’s true though. You’re absolutely right. What you ask for is what you get. So if you don’t ask for it properly… so that’s worth asking the question, ‘What other questions should I ask?’ Let me say that again; it’s worth asking the question when you give a brief to someone, ‘What other questions should I be asking right now? What else do you need to know?’

Actually encourage them into the briefing process and get them involved in that. Because you never know; they might give you some good questions that you hadn’t thought of, some better ways to do it, some more input to define the brief better, which means you’re going to get a quicker result, a better result, and a cheaper result.

Dom:                   Absolutely. In fact, this is something that I do with all my new clients. All my new clients get a call upfront. And in that call I talk to them about their processes, I talk to them about my processes, and I try and help my clients to do as little work as possible on their part, and yet give me the most amount of content or the best product, the best input, the best source materials. I do this with my outsourcers; I ask them, “What’s the best thing I can give you? How do you want to receive the job? What assets and resources do you need to do your job the best?” And that, as you say, can save time and money.

Pete:                   That’s it, guys. Should we wrap it up?

Dom:                   Yep. Let’s wrap it up there. Cool, guys. Hopefully that was a good one on outsourcing. A slightly different type of content than you get out there with other people’s outsourcing information, from people that really do this stuff.

Pete:                   From both sides of the coin.

Dom:                   Indeed.

Pete:                   See you guys next week.


The 4-Hour Workweek – Tim Ferriss [Book]
The E-Myth – Michael Gerber [Book]
Livescribe Echo Pen – Digital recording of drawings and audio
http://www.editme.com/ – EditMe Work Wiki
WordPress Wiki Theme – At ThemeForest
http://www.bluemangolearning.com/screensteps/ – Screensteps documentation system
preneurmarketing.com/challenge – The Challenge – free internet marketing training

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