Do you need more help for your business, but want to keep costs down? If you can’t afford to hire local employees, outsourcing roles to workers overseas may be a solution (if a controversial one). You can often find extremely qualified workers in countries like India and the Philippines who are willing to work for a fraction of what you’d pay U.S.-based workers, since money goes much further in those countries.
Outsourcing overseas can be a great cost-saver, but if you aren’t clear in your expectations and communications, you may find that the savings isn’t worth the hassle. Here are some tips for ensuring a smooth relationship with an overseas vendor.
1) Use a reputable agency. You’ll pay a bit more to contract with overseas workers through an agency than individually, but most agencies will provide quality guarantees, and will simplify the billing process so you can pay online via credit card. Elance, Odesk, and Vworker are well-known options.
2) Research potential service providers. Look at ratings and references from past clients, and get examples of vendors’ previous work to ensure their skills are in line with your needs. You’ll want to be sure that the provider you select is fluent in English, or you may face serious communications problems down the line. Many virtual worker sites allow clients to solicit bids for projects, but you’ll likely find better results by seeking out the prospective vendors that best fit your needs and negotiating with them individually.
3) Ask for assistance with a service that’s well-suited to an overseas worker. Your business’ branding and presentation are important, so marketing and customer service tasks that can’t be closely monitored may not be the best fit for international contractors. Tasks such as web development, data entry, and other “back end” projects that don’t require significant day-to-day interaction are better bets.
4) Start with a small project. Although you may really need someone to do a large task like a complete website overhaul, test out your preferred contractor with a small job worth a few hundred dollars first. If he does a great job, give him the big project — but if not, you won’t have wasted much of your money.
5) Set up milestones for larger projects, and clearly communicate every step. When outsourcing a larger project, break it down into smaller pieces, each with its own specific deadlines. Offer clear written feedback for each step of the process, and outline your expectations for the next step. If you need to go over something in more detail, pre-arrange a call with your vendor via the VOIP phone service Skype.
Have you outsourced work to overseas contractors? Share your suggestions for better international vendor management in the comments.