The task of outsourcing projects overseas can prove challenging for online retailers. Ben Liau from Mooo offers his advice for productive global partnerships.
Outsourcing work overseas is a challenge faced by many online retailers and e-commerce startups. These days, however, marketplace platforms such as Odesk, Guru and Elance have made it much easier to find overseas professionals with the skillset you require.
But managing a person or team overseas is definitely not a walk in the park, and there have been countless horror stories of overseas outsourcing gone wrong. Speaking from my own experience, I have created a list of important things to consider when outsourcing projects overseas.
Here are my top tips to consider when outsourcing work overseas:
1. Clearly scope out and schedule your project and define deliverables
Be very clear on the scope of your project; define your project requirements so that service providers know exactly what the deliverables are and when the deadlines are scheduled. For some service providers you have to literally spell it out, as they will do the absolute minimum based on the project scope.
2. Be very choosy when hiring
Be very picky when you are hiring, there are many service providers out there, so you don’t need to be in a rush. Also don’t choose a service provider based solely on price – examine at other aspects as well and choose based on a balance of good value and quality results.
3. Look for the right experience fit
Make sure the service provider specialises in what you need them to do, and make sure they have specific experience with the type of project you want them to complete. A lot of service providers will be able to do many tasks, but will specialise in none.
4. Review ratings, statistics and feedback
When choosing a service provider it is important to review all the statistical information that is available on their marketplace platform. Most of the platforms will show their work history, how many hours they have worked, what tests they have taken, and any feedback from previous clients.
5. Review portfolios and sample work
Ask the service provider to provide you with a portfolio of work they have done previously, or get them to do some sample work to show that they actually do have expertise in that area. This will ensure they have the right skills to compete the project tasks.
6. Arrange a call or SKYPE interview
It is always best to talk to someone face to face before you employ them, but it’s not so easy if they are in a different country. Thanks to SKYPE you can easily have a face to face discussion with them to make sure they are who they say they are, and gauge how effective they will be at communication and handling the project.
7. Base payment on clearly defined milestones
Define your scope into a plan with defined milestones and base payment on the completion of each milestone. Always pay by hour rather than by project – this will ensure that the project isn’t rushed and ensures quality.
8. Test a few providers before you make your selection
Don’t rush to hire a service provider and stick with them the whole way. Start interviewing a few candidates and give them small portions of work to test them out. This will allow you to pick the best out of the lot. Also do not sign a one year contract before testing out the relationship and their performance. Start small and commit gradually.
9. Have everything documented in writing
Make sure you have everything documented and in writing. Be clear on who owns the resulting work and make sure there is an understanding from both parties on the intended use of the deliverables. Also keep a written record of project goals, pay schedules and any changes made.
10. Make sure you sign an NDA
It is very important to have an NDA (non disclosure agreement) signed by both parties, especially if the provider has access to sensitive company information that could be used in an unethical way. Any refusal to sign an NDA should be a sign of bad things to come.