These days, more and more people are freelancing. It can work well for both sides. For companies too, outsourcing can be a perfect solution.
Many reasons have accelerated the attraction of outsourcing. For digital nomads outsourcing is an obvious solution. Business consultants and coaches have caught on to the advantages for many moons, not wanting to set up bricks and mortar offices of their own.
I worked as a freelancer at the start of my career, doing an assortment of unglamorous jobs, but predominantly lead generation. In those days, it was work for the desperate only: low pay, high turnover. No attempt was ever made by the companies involved to strike up any form of relationship with you, bar a handover of results for pay packet.
Companies managing teams of freelancers have mushroomed, from Taskrabbit, the likes of Upwork and Fiverr, where anyone hiring can, in theory, advertise any specific task and get it done cheaply and speedily.
Then there are the privately owned, smaller companies, that promise to supply a variety of skills from their pool of people, ad hoc. These companies are predominantly VA setups but often broadened to meet demand with sales, marketing, human resources, research, and a broad spectrum of tech skills.
Outsourcing with mixed results
As an author, I too have no inclination to hire people, so I have been trying out these various possibilities in the outsourcing world with extremely mixed success. On shore, VA companies I have found over-priced and under-skilled and I wouldn’t be persuaded to use one again. Most are ex-corporate and simply do not work at start-up speed.
I have used Fiverr for some years now with mixed results. Upwork has been a new experience for me and I have found it horrendous. Fiverr’s structure is to agree on a price for a job. Upwork expects the hirer to charge an hourly rate. Which would work if the world was full of angels of honesty. But it isn’t.
I have a fair idea of how long simple tasks take on my website because I do them myself, and or have worked closely with people doing the same things for years. So when I put a couple of pieces of work out to contract recently, I was really shocked by the variation of hours quoted. Small job — differential from 4 to 12 hours. Now either some of those people are complete idiots, or they are complete rip-off merchants. Sadly, neither make for an inspiring hire.
The one option I haven’t yet tried is the larger overseas outsourcing operations that offer an array of talent for every need. I have friends in Australia who swear by companies in the Philippines that offer these sorts of services, long before COVID. But even they admit, the quality is horrendously mixed. I have found Kenya and Nigeria to offer some exceptional freelancers.
The other issues that people cite about outsourcing again I found to be entirely true on both Fiverr and Upwork. Communication is a problem. Different time zones mean either you working at night to accommodate or the job being slowed down.
They tend to be used to working in ways that are standard within tech, using apps such as Loom. However, for the hirer, installing and learning a new app for a small task is not always practical. Both previously fluent English and normally reliable internet connection can also miraculously disappear.
I have noticed a huge arrogance among many tech freelancers when dealing with anyone outside the tech world. A bit like tech entrepreneurs tend to talk about themselves as if they are the only people who are entrepreneurs. Both have a habit of talking down to the non-tech. But the reality is we are seeing tech companies lay off by the thousands. That isn’t so very clever.
If you are thinking about outsourcing, be prepared to take your time; know your subject; set very exact parameters on expectations. And expect a few disasters.
The waters of outsourcing are perilous; full of arrogance, unreliability, and less than honest. And that is a shame because when it works, it is an absolute win: win for both sides. And right now, I am sure I am not alone in being fed up with being let down and over-charged.
Though equally, there are many brilliant freelancers and wonderful outsourcing successes too.