Ever since I read the Four-Hour Workweek I wanted to have a virtual assistant. As it turns out, my life isn’t nearly so complicated or busy that I really need one to help with my tasks. Not only that, I advocate doing everything yourself first so that when you do turn to an assistant you can delegate, not abdicate, responsibility. For an entertaining read on a truly Outsourced Life, read the classic from A.J. Jacobs.
To get all the expert-type work done that needs to happen in your business, you need to contract with the experts. Before just throwing the problem over the fence and hoping for the best, you must tightly define exactly what you are expecting from this out-sourced work.
Recently, a jewelry company I’m working with began looking for a local artist who could develop some designs in Adobe Illustrator that could then be used by the jewelry manufacturer to make the company’s product. The right thing to do here is clearly define the project for the contracted worker. An example of what not to do is to email a JPEG image with the instructions to turn it into an Illustrator file. You probably won’t like the results you get back because you haven’t clearly communicated what you want.
In order to delegate responsibility properly a process must be followed:
1) Choose the candidates – Select a limited of likely candidates who can perform the work you have in mind number (probably 2-4 depending on the size of the project). Good places to find freelancers are craigslist, elance, haystack (particularly for website design) and local art schools.
2) Define the deliverable – Explain to the candidates what the end goal is. In this case, it’s an Illustrator file that details the design of a piece of jewelry for manufacture overseas. We told the candidates that their work would have to be approved by the company owner as well as the manufacturer.
3) Describe the collaborative process – The candidates will generate their work starting with hand drawn JPEG illustrations, that work will be commented on by the company owner, any necessary changes will be made, and then the files will be sent to the manufacturer for final approval.
4) Engage the candidates in a competition – In this example we need five designs to start off with. So we are having the candidates compete over one design and we will go with the candidate that we like best and matches best with our defined deliverables.
A well-defined problem will get the best results from an outside contractor. Anyone have some good advice on how to work with outside contractors or pitfalls to avoid? Or where to find high quality contractors for your projects?