Last week, in the first installment of Case Study 3, we talked about what outsourcing is and how it can help you dramatically grow your affiliate marketing business by leveraging the time and experience of other workers. So today, I’m going to assume that you’re all on board with the idea of outsourcing various tasks and move on to the next steps – determining what specific tasks to outsource and hiring your first outsourced worker.
But first, a little background. Although I’ve been outsourcing single projects – including graphics work, article writing and transcription – since 2007 when I first started working online, the thought of outsourcing regular tasks to a single worker on a continual basis was pretty scary for me. At first, I was overwhelmed by the idea of determining which tasks to delegate and by the thought of having someone else handling the tasks that I deemed crucial to my business success.
In fact, I really didn’t start with this type of regular outsourcing until earlier this year, when I was leading the Community Marketing Challenge this year and realized that there just weren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. With the encouragement of my business partners, I took the leap to outsourcing – and I haven’t looked back since!
So if the thought of hiring out regular tasks is overwhelming for you, don’t worry! I’ve got a few tips and tricks I’ll share later on in this post to help you get over these initial hesitations so that you can start benefiting from regular outsourcing as well.
Okay, back to our regularly scheduled content…
The first step to implementing an outsourcing strategy in your business is to understand which tasks you want to delegate. Of course, this isn’t as easy as it sounds… If you’re new to outsourcing, it may be difficult to see where one specific task in your business ends and another begins. So the first thing we need to do is get good and comfortable with our existing business models.
The way I approached this was to sit down and write out every single step of the process I use to build affiliate niche sites. I was as detailed as possible – for example, instead of just saying, “I install WordPress”, I listed every single piece of that task, including:
* What directory is WordPress installed in?
* What plugins do I add every time?
* How are these plugins configured?
* What theme do I prefer?
* Do I make any modifications to the theme?
I was that thorough about my entire business model. “I write an article”, became, “I write 500 words of content with my target keyword phrase included three separate times, bolded in the first paragraph, and with a link to my affiliate program in the final paragraph.” “I build backlinks,” became, “I set up sites on these specific Web 2.0 sites, submit a certain number of articles and interlink them in the following formation.”
I even videotaped the process of creating a new niche website from the ground up so that I could analyze every step I took. (And FYI – I highly recommend doing this. The clarity it provides is incredibly interesting, and the videos can become great training tools for your outsourced workers later on.)
Once I had this detailed blueprint completed, I took a good look at which tasks absolutely had to be done by me, which ones I could outsource and which ones made the most sense to outsource. In my case, setting up WordPress and building backlinks are two general tasks that don’t need my involvement. As long as I document the specific steps I take for these two processes (since my exact process might differ from someone else’s), I don’t personally need to be involved.
Writing, on the other hand, is something that doesn’t make sense for me to outsource. I’m very particular about the writing style used on my sites, and because I have so much experience writing, it’s usually faster for me to just write my own content than to outsource it and have to worry about re-writing the content to suit my specific tone.
Obviously, your results may vary. If you hate writing and not having enough content for your sites and your promotional methods is the one thing that’s holding you back, then by all means, outsource that particular aspect of your business. This is why it’s so important to thoroughly analyze all of the steps in your business model to determine which processes can be most effectively outsourced, as your results will be different from anyone else’s.
Of course, even this process can be intimidating for people who aren’t yet comfortable with the thought of outsourcing. If this is the case for you, here’s what I’d recommend…
Go to Fiverr.com and take a look at all of the different gigs being offered. Do any of those gigs involve tasks that you normally do yourself in your affiliate business? If so, copy down the link and keep looking for others.
Once you have a list of 10-15 items, purchase one gig that represents the thing you hate doing the most. For example, by the end of your search, you might have found gigs for article writing, article spinning, directory submissions, social bookmarking and more. But if you absolutely hate article spinning and it’s the one thing that holds you up the most when you’re working on your websites, go ahead and purchase that gig.
Keep in mind, it’s only $5, so if outsourcing the task doesn’t go well, you haven’t lost much. The quality on Fiverr can be pretty variable, so I recommend first checking out my Youtube video: 5 Tips for Outsourcing Effectively with Fiverr
But ideally, once you get your feet wet with outsourcing in this way, you’ll start to feel more confident about outsourcing your business tasks on a larger scale. Then, the next step is to find your outsourced worker!
Now, there are dozens of different places where you can find outsourced workers or virtual assistants, including:
* Local job classified ads
* The Warriors for Hire section of the Warrior Forum,
* And many, many others
But in my experience, the best place to start outsourcing on a regular basis is Odesk.com, as it has a couple of different resources available that will help your outsourcing experience go more smoothly.
For starters, Odesk makes hiring outsourced workers at an hourly rate much easier than any of the other freelancing portal websites (which typically operate on a “per project” rate basis). Odesk also offers a number of different tools for managing your team, including a virtual work diary, which takes screenshots of your outsourced worker’s computer during recorded work hours to ensure that work is being completed.
For example, here’s a screenshot of the work diary of one of my outsourced workers, showing a market research project she was tackling for me on Saturday. Using this tool, I can see exactly what she was working on in case I need to check her work or confirm that she really was working on my projects during the hours she billed:
Odesk also offers a number of more advanced team management tools that I’m not yet taking advantage of, including the ability to enable one outsourced worker to manage another – effectively removing you from the picture. It also has some super-advanced reporting features, which I haven’t even begun to fully utilize yet. Outsourcing, like anything else, requires practice 🙂
Of course, if there’s another service you’ve hired through before that you feel more comfortable using, by all means, start there. And if you’re ready to outsource on a higher level, I’ve heard some really fantastic things about Chris Ducker’s Virtual Staff Finder service, although I can’t recommend it personally myself yet.
However, the fees involved and the time spent matching you up with a qualified outsourcer make his program a better fit for someone who’s ready to invest in outsourcing for the long haul. If you’re just getting started, stick with Odesk.com until you feel more confident about the process of outsourcing and the returns you get for it.
Next comes the fun part – actually posting your job and hiring your outsourced worker!
The following is the exact posting I used to find my first outsourced worker on Odesk.com:
(Please ignore the grammar/spelling errors in the post – apparently I was sleeping when I first put this up!)
I also used the Odesk service to set up the following “Preferred Qualifications” which enabled me to quickly weed out candidates who didn’t match the skill set I was looking for:
The feedback score requirement is pretty obvious, as I wanted to find a worker whose work had been rated highly before. I also used the “Test Passed” and “oDesk Hours” to find the most experienced candidates, as well as the highly motivated workers who had gone the extra mile to demonstrate their credentials.
One thing that isn’t included in this listing is a question I’ve started adding to all my job postings since then – “What is your favorite color?” When you post a job on Odesk, you’ll get plenty of cut-and-paste responses where freelancers post the same response over and over in order to apply to as many jobs as possible. But because I want to know for sure if potential workers have the specific skills I listed in my posting, asking them to share a unique piece of information ensures they’ve actually read the post.
It’s not fool-proof, by any means, but it helps.
If you post a job description like this and open it up to public applications, chances are you’re going to be overwhelmed with responses (I think this job posting got about 74 applications in the first day before I switched the listing over to “Private” and started seeking out applicants instead). So the final step in hiring an outsourced worker is to wade through all these responses and pick the right person for the job.
Here’s the process I use to filter out candidates:
* First, I remove any candidates that didn’t answer my unique question. If they didn’t include this information, then they obviously didn’t read the posting – which means I can’t trust whether or not they self-identify as having the skills I’m looking for.
* Next, I weed out candidates who don’t meet the preferred qualifications I set. Odesk makes this pretty easy by displaying a marker of how many qualification each candidate meets as part of their application summary.
* Based on my past outsourcing experiences and some of Chris Ducker’s recommendations, I tend to prefer working with outsourced workers from the Phillipines. I’m not saying you won’t have great results with outsourced workers from anywhere else in the world – this is just what’s working for me and what I plan to stick with.
Typically, this will help me narrow the list down to a few candidates. Although Odesk gives you the option to interview candidates ahead of time, I prefer to simply do paid work tests, so I haven’t take advantage of this feature yet. At this point, I usually just make my decision based on gut feelings (having a little background in HR doesn’t hurt either…). One of the finalists will frequently just “feel” better, and so far, this hasn’t steered me wrong.
As a result of this posting, I hired my first outsourced worker – Sabina – to do five hours/week (a great place for most beginners to start) of general administrative work for me. I’m now in the process of expanding her skill set to include market research, as well as adding two more workers to my team to focus on backlinking and bulk article writing exclusively.
In next week’s installment of this case study, I’ll get more into how to delegate effectively to your outsourced workers and how to handle the nitty gritty details of assigning work, tracking progress and paying your workers. If you’re at all on the fence about whether or not outsourcing will work for your business model, I highly recommend following one of the two strategies described above and just going for it during this upcoming week. You won’t know how beneficial outsourcing can be until you actually try it!
In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions about finding outsourced workers. If you haven’t done it before, what single thing is holding you back from adding outsourcing to your business model? Please share your experiences in the comments below!