Proceed with caution when outsourcing.After reading the Tim Ferriss book, The Four-Hour Work Week…I was motivated once again to dive back into the world of outsourcing in order to get some of my personal projects moving.

I did all of my hiring via Elance (now Upwork) and one other freelancer site (now defunct). Unfortunately, I’m only batting about .500 at this point…great for baseball, sucks in real life.

Some of my horror stories:

  • I hired out some data entry work on a niche web directory. I provided all the raw data and the job was to confirm the existence of the web sites and input the data in the proper relevant category. Unfortunately, the company I hired (in this case, an Indian company) had a bad apple somewhere in the bunch. My carefully-monitored directory had ended up with a bunch of SPAM links added to it (i.e., someone was working on the job as a dual agent and probably saw an opportunity to double-dip). Obviously, the firm was fired midway through the job.
  • I hired out a graphics job which should have taken no more than a week to complete. The artist was located in the former Soviet bloc. After firing and rehiring the artist over extreme delays and poor communication, the job was finally completed SEVEN weeks later.
  • I hired out creation and directory submssion of a large number of articles. In this case, the provider was in the US. But the articles were so lacking in content and legitimate value that I ended up buying my way out of the deal halfway through…leaving me with nothing usable whatsoever in exchange for my money.

BUT…not all the news was bad. So far, I’ve discovered a handful of quality providers…with whom I intend to work again, and whom I feel comfortable in recommending to others:

  • Syscon Software Consultants: I hired this Indian company to create a back-end that would significantly simplify administration of one of my sites. Their price was reasonable…their communication excellent (even taking into account the 9.5 hour time difference between us), and they met their deadline. Quality of final product: Excellent
  • Gilbert Design: I hired this US-based graphic designer to design my latest business card (I haven’t had new ones done for years). She was very patient through all my ideas and revisions…was a great communicator, and the price for her services was probably too low. I have already hired her for a logo design job. Quality of final product: Excellent
  • I’ve also found two good resources for article writing The TDS Group (no web site yet) and Northern Lights Press.
  • I’ve used Fiverr extensively, but with very mixed results. Sometimes good, often pretty bad. Still, at $5 a pop, I can afford to make a few mistakes… 😉

Another possibility, which I haven’t tried yet myself, is Outsourcely. Use the promo code “staff30” (without the quotes) for a 30% discount to use on any of their plans. Pricing found here:

So…in my experience, outsourcing is definitely a hit-or-miss proposition. As Ferriss said, it’s critical to be extremely precise in your instructions when outsourcing work. However, such precautions don’t account for variations in cultural work ethic, nor do they protect you from those who are patently dishonest.

I still have several projects in outsourced status, and will be continuing to do so in the future. I will follow up with more personal observations in the future.