How do you cope with having to do everything yourself?
Like any business, affiliate marketers often seem to have 100 things to do at any one time. It doesn't matter whether you work online or off-line there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.
Every new day brings a list of things that need to be completed to keep your affiliate website turning over. These things can include writing articles, submitting articles, writing email newsletters, trying new tools, building links to your site, promoting videos, programming and graphic design, and more.
How can you cope with it all?
You can start by outsourcing little things, a few dollars at the time. For the cost of a couple of cups of coffee, you can have someone write two articles and submit them to article directories for you. It’s only a few dollars, but it gets something done, that you might not get to, even when you know you should. If you focus these jobs in the right areas, it can help to increase your income which will allow you to outsource even more.
I’ve been outsourcing work since I could afford it. I guess it must be about 9 years since I put my first project up. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about what not to do and what I should do to get a successful result. I’ve also developed some lifelong friendships and built a company which hires people in many countries.
So what exactly is outsourcing?
I think the following definition says it all:
Outsourcing is the process of hiring someone other than yourself, who works for themself or another business, to complete work that you can’t or don’t want to do yourself. Those people can be next door or in another country.
Personally, I don’t think it’s about finding cheap labor, which is often the focus of conversation when people talk about outsourcing.
Yes, it can be cheaper but you can also pay top dollar for quality work. I think it depends on the task and its purpose. For example, you can get data entry done at a very low rate whereas a good graphic artist can cost anywhere from $20 to $50 an hour. Obviously there are variations to this such as a newcomer who will work for less to get initial work or feedback.
In the event that your business grows, there are a lot of professional outsource businesses which put together teams that you can also use.
Or, if you prefer, you can hire individual operators and pay them a full time wage. The opportunities are endless, as are the range of skills available to you.
What’s the number 1 problem with outsourcing projects?
I’m sure there are a lot of #1 problems but I think the main one is communication.
There are a multitude of points where communication can break down and it starts with the brief. Email can be an issue, as can time zones, language, personal issues and people who sell their skills way above their ability.
I’ve talked to hundreds of people over the years who’ve tried to outsource work with varying degrees of success and this is always the thing that they come back to. You need to learn how to communicate effectively in a way that suits you to get the best out of your outsourcers.
So why do I bother using outsourcers when communication can be a problem?
Because, I have found a system that works for me, I’m willing to fail and move on and it gives me the lifestyle I want at a portion of the cost and stress it would take to do it in-house.
With focus, you can build self-starting teams that work as a whole to finish projects or continue with activities such as article writing and submission, link building, video editing, website design and management, transcribing and more.
You just need to learn to be a manager… or hire one of those to look after the rest of your teams ☺
What is the best way to find someone to help you?
Over the years, I’ve developed a way of finding the right person to work with. Sometimes I find more than one person using this method, which means that as my workload grows I have some people in reserve that I can send the extra work to. It also gives me the opportunity to work on a couple of different projects or sites at the same time without overloading one outsourcer.
The first thing you must do is write a clear and precise brief which clearly states what you need done and the steps that you would like to see followed.
In many of the cases that I have seen where people have had problems, they haven’t taken the time to write a brief which contains enough detail. They’ve left too much of the job open to interpretation. No one is going to be upset if you write a list of 10 steps that you want followed exactly! In fact, it actually makes it easier for people because they know just what you want done.
When looking for writers, I think one of the most important things you can do is test the people that you’re hiring. I’ll often include a paragraph of text and ask people who are applying for the job to rewrite that paragraph in their own words.
This helps you achieve a couple of things. The first is you soon find out who has actually read your job description properly. There will always be someone who doesn’t bother to do the rewrite and so you can scratch these people first because they can’t follow instructions.
Second, you can see how good their grasp of your language is. In many countries English is a second language which means that it may be spoken by a lot of people but not written by them.
If you’re looking for an article writer, to write articles which are going to be read by English-speaking people, then it’s important that they make sense. Because it’s a complex language, you can quickly tell who can write well and who can’t.
After you remove the people who don’t write in a style that you like, you can start to go through their previous employers’ feedback, their portfolio and their pricing to find someone who matches your needs and budget.
I suggest that you hire more than one person at once for article writing and give part of the job to each person. This way, it will be completed quicker and you will now be able to choose the best of the three to be the person that you give the majority of your work to in the future. You also cover yourself in case one of the writers fails to live up to their feedback.
Managing your outsourcers
It’s important that you manage the work of the people you hire. They need to have a timeframe set for them so that they can manage their time to ensure that your job is completed when you need it done.
You can use any one of the different project management tools that are available online. Some are free and some will cost you. It just depends on which you prefer to work with.
Personally I find I can manage people quite easily by using a combination of Skype and email. I also like the tools built into sites like Odesk, which also provides the tools you need to manage the people working there.
Odesk, for example, takes screenshots of the people who are working for you so that you can see exactly what it is that they are doing when they’re working on your job. Each outsourcer just installs and runs a small piece of software. This software also tracks their hours so they get paid if they are working on an hourly basis.
Whichever system you choose for managing your outsourcers, find one that you are comfortable with. There is no solution that suits everyone.
Is outsourcing worth the time?
I believe that once you have a good system in place, and you find the right people to work with, then outsourcing is a fantastic experience. The most difficult part is the beginning when you are trying to find people you can rely on to do a great job. Sometimes these people are the first ones you find, but sometimes they’re the sixth or seventh person you try.
When you find the right people, take care of them, keep in contact with them and nurture your personal relationship with them. Get to know these people like you know your co-workers or friends as over time they may become a very important part of your business.
I have people I’ve been working with for five years now. We talk almost every night via Skype as we go through the work that is being done and what we’re looking to do together in the future.
They’ve become good friends whom I can share my life with as well as share the work we do together. We’ve got to know about each other’s families, what we do in our spare time and when one of us has a win, we share the excitement.
So where do you start?
I suggest that you start with a simple task such as article writing and submissions or link building. It’s a positive step forward for your affiliate business in the area of traffic building and it won’t take a great deal of management compared a project like having a new website built.
Go to Odesk or Elance and sign up for a new account. Fill in your profile and post your first job. Make sure that you pay using the built in escrow or payment services. When you first start dealing with people, never pay them directly even if they offer you a cheaper price.
As time goes forward and you get to know them better you may pay them in a different way. The escrow at Elance and the oDesk payment system protects you from being ripped off and it also protects the outsourcer.
A final comment
I know that there are a lot of horror stories out there about outsourcing but if you start with a small project and work your way forward you should be able to avoid most of those situations.
Take what you learn as you go forward and improve your outsourcing system with each job. You’re not getting it right every time but then, who does?