As an affiliate, you will eventually face a Catch-22: The majority of your time is spent juggling menial day-to-day tasks like customer support requests and administrative duties, leaving you unable to work on the more important tasks like increasing conversions.
At the same time, you don’t have enough cash to hire and train a new staff member to alleviate the situation. Could outsourcing to offshore contractors be the solution you need to take your business to the next level?
The main reason to outsource is that it is very cost effective for affiliates.
Countries like India and China have relatively low costs of living, yet their citizens are well educated and have good internet access. This means that skilled and experienced staff can be hired at a fraction of the cost as an employee of the same caliber in the US, Canada, UK or Australia.
For example, hiring an experienced graphic designer costs around US$45,000 pa in the US, and around US$8500 pa in the China.
By that same token, an experienced software programmer could cost you $US70, 000 in the US, but just US$13,000 pa in India.
You also save money by not having to provide your outsourced staff with health benefits, a computer, desk, internet usage, office space and software. Most contractors will take care of these requirements themselves.
Reduce the Risk of Hiring In-House Staff
Another very good reason to outsource is that you reduce the risk of taking on permanent staff.
Taking on a new full-time employee is a huge financial commitment for any business. While it’s often an essential step in growing your business, it can be hard to predict whether you will have enough income to cover their costs 12 to 18 months down the track.
Hiring contracted staff eliminates this issue by giving you the flexibility of staff on demand who can contribute to changing workloads.
In busy times you can pass on additional work, and during slower periods you have the ability to scale back. This gives you much greater cost control over your business by removing the risk of paying a full time salary to a staff member when there is not enough work to justify it.
How to Find Outsourced Staff
The best way to find outsourced staff is by using online platforms that put employers and job-seekers in touch.
Elance.com is one of the best of these. There you’ll find a wide variety of skills including writers, researchers, SEO specialists, programmers, accountants, translators, customer support staff and web designers.
How to Use Elance
It’s a simple system: Start by creating an account, then advertise your job or position. It’s a little like placing a help-wanted ad for a freelancer in the newspaper.
Elancers will apply for the job by sending you their resume. You can also request that they include examples of work to supplement their application and give you a clearer idea of their ability.
The applicants will also give you a proposal of how much they wish to get paid by ‘bidding’ on your job. You’ll often get responses to your ad within just a few hours.
It’s then up to you to select the best applicant and hire them based on an hourly rate, or at an agreed amount for the project, whichever suits you best.
Elance.com charges a one-time $10 set-up fee, and takes a cut of between 6.75% and 8.75% of what you pay your staff when you send money via the Elance payment system.
Other excellent places to hire outsource staff are ODesk, VWorker.com and local sites such as Craigslist Manila. A great option is to use existing outsourced staff to list advertisements in local newspapers and job directories on your behalf, as many can only be accessed by locals. The main benefit of listing in these places is that you can attract more genuine applicants.
How to Get Quality Job Applicants
Make sure that your job advertisement is very specific so that applicants are crystal clear about what tasks they will be expected to do.
To avoid having an overload of unsuitable applicants, specify exactly what you are and are not looking for. It also pays to state minimum skill and experience levels to prevent a bombardment of applicants who don’t make the cut.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid choosing any Elance applicants with a feedback score below 4.8. Elance providers with a rating lower than 4.8 are likely to have been unsatisfactory in certain areas and could cause problems for you later down the track - even if they meet the skill requirements.
Test your applicants
Ask applicants to take a test related to the tasks they will be performing. For example, if you are hiring a writer, ask them to write a short article on a related subject. This will give you a much clearer idea of their quality of work.
Once you have narrowed down a shortlist, arrange a suitable time to interview your applicants by phone or Skype. Even a brief conversation of 10 minutes or less can tell you a lot about their English skills, attitude to the job and general aptitude. Keep in mind that many outsourcers can read and write English better than they speak it; how important their level of spoken English is to you will depend on the role.
Successfully Managing your Outsourced Staff
Many business owners feel anxious at the thought of having staff working for them in other countries as it means they cannot manage them in the same way they are used to.
Communication is one of the main hurdles to overcome but luckily there are some very useful and free-to-use tools that really streamline communication between you and your outsourced staff.
ClockingIt is a fantastic project management application that allows you to set staff tasks and track the time they spent on each one. Best of all it’s free to use.
The Timesheet Report feature makes tracking how much work your staff have done much easier: You’ll know exactly how much to pay them and how much time they have spent on individual tasks.
Get used to communicating via instant messaging systems like Windows Live Messenger,Skype IM Google Chat or iChat. These are the most efficient way to communicate with your overseas staff during the working day, as they enable both parties to instantly contact each other with questions and comments.
It’s important that your staff keep their instant messaging accounts for work separate from their personal accounts where they can easily be distracted by friends and family. This will help to keep them focused on their work and increase productivity.
Some employers also have other IM guidelines such as requiring their outsourced staff to send a message when they begin and end their shift, and respond to any messages within 30-60 seconds, unless they are on a break.
These requirements may seem harsh to some, but having staff work from home, or in their own office, requires a lot of trust and many outsourced staff members will be happy to abide by these terms.
How to Pay Your Outsourced Staff
PayPal is a common method for paying outsourced staff and is preferred by employees and contractors alike. It offers you a simple solution to paying staff around the world in multiple currencies. Keep in mind that currency conversions and PayPal fees could end up costing the outsourcer, so either pay them enough to compensate or incorporate these costs into their salary.
While many outsourced contractors will happily accept payment in US dollars, some prefer to be paid in their local currency so that they avoid fluctuations.
For example, if you agree to pay your contractor US$450 per month, this could convert to 19,885.50 PHP one month, but only 19,345 the next.
Small measures such as this make your outsourcers experience working for you much more stable for them and increases their job satisfaction.
How could outsourcing offshore staff improve your business?