Over the Christmas break this year I was caught in a pinch. We had a new series to get ready and we didn’t have any of the graphics done for it. Our practice has been to give our staff team the last week of the year off and so I couldn’t get one of our designers to help me with it. We knew we wanted the core imagery of the series to look like it was hand drawn … but I can draw worth beans! I needed to find an illustrator on the day after Christmas to help us get ready for a strong launch in January.
I turned to an outsourcing website called Elance to help me find a illustrator that could help us out. Elance allows businesses to post jobs, search for freelance professionals, and solicit proposals. You can evaluate the outsourcers applying for the job and, once a provider is selected, communications and files are exchanged through Elance. I posted the work that I needed done [click here to see the listing] and people from China, Croatia, Guatemala and a bunch of other places from all over the world bid on the work.
In the end I connected with Martina Galjan from Croatia who did a great job with the illustrations. In fact, we expanded our used of the illustrations once we saw the quality of her work! She was a pleasure to work with, she turned around the art we needed quickly and we ended up paying just $3 per illustration! I’m so thankful that Martina was able to help us through this tight spot and got us launch off into this year with new series … we literally couldn’t have done it without her and Elance! Check out this video we made that features her illustrations to communicate what our series was all about:
I’ve enlisted a number of freelance outsourcers over the years to help add capacity to our church through seasons where we needed a little extra help to get stuff done. Mostly I’ve used Elance to find these people but there are many services that do this including ODesk, Guru & GetACoder. Here are a few things I’ve learned from working with outsourcers:
- Include all the instructions directly in the task posting // I’ve been burned by not being super clear up front for exactly what I was looking for in the work. I assumed that people would understood a 30,000 foot view description of the task I needed to be completed. You cannot over communicate what you are looking for. Go out of your way in the job posting to describe exactly what you are looking for.
- Past performance is the best indicator of future reality // Look carefully at the portfolio of work they provide online. Would you be happy with that level of work on this project? As a rule I only use providers with high ratings from past clients … it’s not worth the hassle to mess around with someone who has struggled in the past. Because I’m looking for providers with high past ratings it means I generally steer clear of new providers because they have very few ratings. Typically I turned to outsourcers when we’re in a time crunch and so I can’t risk that the project won’t get done right the first time.
- Don’t base your choice just on price // You will be able to find people in developing countries that will do your task for pennies on the dollar what it would cost you to hire someone in your home town. Low prices is one the advantages of working with foreign outsourcers but don’t let price be your only driver. Look at their past work … communicate with them a few times before you settle on them to explore their use of the English language … ensure they fully understand what you are looking for and can deliver on the timeline you need.
- Walk before your run // Try a few small tasks when you first get into oursourcing. Experiment with stuff that isn’t mission critical and with discretionary budget money. Just learning how a platform like Elance works can take a few completed projects to understand. This principle is true for any given task as well … structure it in such a way that if the initial work is good you could continue to add more work with the same provider. Sometimes you might want to get two or more providers working on the same task for an initial phase to figure out which one will do a better job and then narrow down to a single provider to complete the task once you’ve vetted them.
- Ask for samples in the posting // Don’t be shy to ask the provider to give you a free sample of their work in their bid. For the task I talked about above I asked the providers to do a few illustrations from a list so we could see their work on our task. If the provider isn’t willing to give you a sample they are most likely not customer-oriented enough and won’t be flexible when you actually start working with them. Seeing their work in an “online portfolio” is helpful … but having them do a little bit of work on your task is even more powerful!
- Remember … Outsourcers are people too // These freelance workers have chosen to use these online platforms as their livelihood. Typically as a customer you are just looking to complete a task quickly … but don’t forget those are real people on the other end of the online tool! They have feelings and needs too! Make sure to thank them for the work done. Pay your invoices quickly. Let them know if there is something that isn’t right … give them a chance to make it right. Provide lots of feedback. Be nice. 🙂
Here is a list of some tasks that I’ve outsourced over the years that might inspire you with the sorts of tasks you could outsource:
- Merge data from a spreadsheet into a Photoshop file to make 75 small group leader information cards for parents.
- Series teaser motion graphics video.
- 300+ reminder phone calls for an upcoming event.
- Book 25 meetings for me with core leaders.
- BONUS: What if you hired 15 hours of a week of admin help to fuel your ministry? Talk with these guys.