How To Outsource Your Freelance Work
Let’s imagine that you have this ideal situation:
You are a successful freelance copywriter. You have several clients paying you to write and now they want you to complete work outside of your regular scope, like graphic design or content management (like social media stuff). This happens to most copywriters a lot and it’s hard to turn down good money from good clients, so you take on the task.
Here’s the problem though: you’re overwhelmed and you’re slow at design.
You need to outsource something.
Decide What To Outsource.
I love designing stuff and playing around with social media calendars. But, I’m not fast at it. So, it’s not good value and someone will be paying more than necessary.
WHO’S THE SOMEONE?
If I’m on a monthly retainer, that money is coming from me. Why? because my client is paying a set fee each month and now I’m spending more time designing than they’re actually paying for.
If I’m paid by the hour, that money is coming from my client. Why? Because they’re paying $100/hour for a job that will take me 2 hours, but could be completed by a designer in one hour.
So, I outsource the work I’m slow at.
I never outsource my own writing. As a copywriter, you’re being paid for your writing skills and the voice you’ve established with a client. If you outsource that, you’ll lose your edge, you’ll fall out of practice, and there’s a very good chance that you will spend just as much time editing the content as you would writing.
How To Find The Help You Need
Yes, there are those sites: upwork, fiverr.com and the other freelance engines. I don’t like ’em. This could be the only situation where you might consider using them, but I find it easier to reach out to people I know and trust when it comes to outsourcing work.
My Virtual Assistant came from a request I threw out to my friends on LinkedIn. She had been a VA for years when I met her, came with excellent references and was personable. I was lucky that she had already worked with many of the tools I use.
My graphic designer is the husband of a friend. He works as a freelance designer. He’s good, has the programs I require, and he’s fast. This is critical.
My web developer was a business partner of mine at one point. We have different businesses now, but we’re friends and we rely on each other every now and then. Having a mutual relationship has allowed us to build trust and the understanding that’s so helpful when you’re working through frustrating projects.
Another reason to go to people you trust is that you are probably sharing your client list with them. You have to be sure that they will honor your business and not go behind your back to steal (or try to steal) your clients. Even if they don’t succeed, it will damage your relationship with your client. If you can’t trust an employee, even a freelance employee, in this way, you’re going to be doing too much go-between work trying to keep them away from your clients.
The attributes you need when you look for someone to outsource to:
- Good communication.
Do they get back to you quickly? Are they ok communicating using the methods you prefer? (I email or use Trello. I only call my VA once a week to touch base. I don’t like texting and I don’t want to spend hours chatting.)
- Access to tools.
If you’re hiring a graphic designer, they need the Adobe Suite. If they don’t have this, you’re in trouble.
- Deadline Understanding/ Quick turnarounds.
Every project I work on has a deadline. By outsourcing, it takes longer so I need fast turnarounds. I give my “employees” deadlines and expect them to tell me when it cannot be done in that timeframe. And then, I have to figure things out from there – that’s what I’m paid to do.
- Cheaper Prices Than Me!
This is the most important part. I cannot spend more money than I’m paid, right? So, if I’m paid $100 per hour, my “employees” have to be less than that. Don’t forget that you will still be involved somehow and you need to make money for yourself too. (FYI, it’s ok if you make mistakes here sometimes. Last week, I ended up making a lousy $20 for a tablecloth design and print after paying for the design and print itself. Ooops! At least I learned a lesson!)
And, here are the questions I used in my latest interview with a graphic designer. They worked well for me and I’m happy with the second designer on my team as a result.
How To Manage The Task Process
Whenever possible, give tasks that are repeatable.
I have one person that manages social media scheduling and I try to keep everything in that realm with her. Social media doesn’t usually require much of a design element, so we use Canva.com to keep things easy and the social media guru does the design, the scheduling, the updates, and analytics, and we work on campaign strategies together.
When you make a task repeatable, you can also change people easily. I write out instructions and use Loom to make videos showing how to and that way, if employee number 1 goes on vacation, employee number 2 can take over easily.
Use a project management system to keep track of deadlines, instructions, and notes
We use Trello to keep all our projects in one place. I try to avoid email and just stick to Trello to make it easy to go back and look through notes.
All instructions are written out and/ or recorded using Loom to be shared whenever needed.
Employees can see when their part of the task is needed and I don’t have to be the go-between for them.
I can log in to one place and chat with all employees rather than email from one to the other. This means my employees in Florida can chat with my employee in the Philippines and my clients in California without waking anyone up!
Use hourly, monthly, or per project billing
This part depends a lot on your business.
I don’t need all of the “employees” I lean on all the time. If it’s a one-off type of project, they bill me per project. If I use them consistently, they bill me in blocks of hours – I pay for 20 hours at a time and they provide me with a break down of where they used those hours so that I can be sure I’m billing my clients correctly.
I find this method of billing helps me to avoid any awkward firing situation.
I once had a virtual assistant that kept missing deadlines and would be on vacation more than she worked! I didn’t have to feel bad about letting her go because she billed me per hour, so I paid the hourly rate and told her the client was pulling back and I wouldn’t need her help anymore. Wham Bam!
And that’s how I outsource work. I actually enjoy working with others, bouncing ideas off them and commiserating when a client is being difficult (not that I have difficult clients – they are all wonderful in their own way! winky face.)
Did I miss anything? If there’s anything you’d like to know – ask me in the questions below and I’ll be happy to answer.
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