Whether you’ve already outsourced writing work and are looking for tips to improve the performance of your contractors, or you’re thinking of doing this for the very first time, congratulations! You’ve made a decision to let others do what is not in your toolbox of “competencies” or is less important than your main efforts.
The first thing you should consider is that an outsource is not an employee. This is not a person you’ve hired – he or she is a contractor who will execute your instructions remotely. That means two things:
- Your instructions must be explicitly clear, with no room for misunderstanding.
- Your contractor is obliged to meet all your expectations regarding content, tone, quantity and whatever deadline you set.
“What cannot be measured, cannot be managed”
Keep this maxim in mind. Each and every step of the content creation process must be known by you, even if you don’t do that kind of writing yourself. That’s because any and all ways a contractor can mess up a writing assignment will happen (almost without fail) if you haven’t taken the time to explain exactly what you want and when you want it.
This is especially true for writers in countries where English is a second language and the American ethos of get-it-done-now can be a foreign concept. You may find a writer who, at first glance, appears to be literate and competent. However, when it comes time to deliver work by a specific deadline, you get excuses and alibis instead of results.
The best rule of thumb is to go with a contractor who delivers on time, according to the instructions you gave, rather than one who can deliver fabulous content, but always late and frequently with plenty of misunderstandings before “getting it”. Part of the reason you are outsourcing is to relieve stress. A contractor who gives you headaches is not saving you either time or money, if you add in the cost of aggravation.
Important points to consider
Rather than give you a set of instructions for the actual process of hiring an outsource writer, let the following list remind you of what is most important in the long run.
- Cheapest is not always best. You might find a writer that offers rates based on a Third World standard of living, but cannot deliver on time or in the way you need the work done. Be willing to shop around and pay for what you need according to the difficulty of the work involved.
- If you have a variety of writing work to be done, break it down into specific types and hire contractors with the specific skill set for each job. Just because someone can write a wonderful blog post does not mean that person can create a manual or technical paper on widget production in the 21st century.
- Be willing to consider Third World writers. There’s no real problem with sending work to Asia, despite all the bad press outsourcing has had. In fact, there are plenty of American and Canadian writers doing work for Asian businesses that need a North American “voice” in their writing. If your writing needs can be met by someone outside the West, at a price that you feel is a bargain, take advantage of it.
- If you do select a contractor that doesn’t measure up, end the contract. Don’t feel it is your duty to “train” someone to please you who failed to follow your instructions. Life is short and there are plenty of qualified writers out there looking for work. Hire one of them.
One of the best ways to find, hire and keep a good writer is through a freelancing website. These sites will, for a fee, put you together with contractors that work for a fixed fee or hourly wage, depending upon the type of writing you need. The advantage to using such a site is you can generally view the work history and feedback from clients for each contractor, save for those just starting out, like you.
Begin your search with freelancer.com, odesk.com and elance.com. If you have a quick job to be done and have a very limited budget, try fiverr.com, a micro-contracting platform for those who want (and will work for) five dollar jobs. Ultimately, you may find the work of a particular writer appeals to you and will want to contact him or her directly. Do so – you might find your “perfect fit”, once you have some experience in working with freelancers.
No matter which way you decide to go, have a clear plan of action and stick with it. You and your contractor will both benefit from your clarity of vision.
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