Productivity Challenge Chapter Seven – Outsourcing

This is the end. This is the last of the productivity challenges. You first started by learning about email management. Then, you went through an automation phase. Afterwards, it was calendar management, then phone management, then automation (again) and finally delegation.

After these 6 challenges, you have saved a total of 9h15 per DAY. That’s already pretty cool since you are more than twice as productive as the regular person.

Now, for the grand finale, we are going to add an extra day, a full 7 hours. The equation will look like this:

You = 3 people.

Simple. Now, let’s get started.

Save 7 hours per day by maximizing your outsourcing

Ah, outsourcing.

In the early 2000s, that was a bad word. Sending your job to another country where the cost of living (and doing your job) is lower.

The idea hasn’t changed, you will be sending your job to someone who can do it adequately, for cheaper. The difference is that you get to keep the difference. Whether you are an entrepreneur or in the corporate world, this will be the way to multiply your efforts and focus on what you do best (whatever that is).

Step 1 – Define your budget and what to outsource

The ideal would be for you to outsource EVERYTHING that you don’t want to do, cannot do or should not do.

The problem is that most people don’t have an unlimited budget. Yes, a chauffeur will let you leverage the time that you spend on the road but, depending on where you are in your professional journey, you might not have the money to do so.

You need to prioritize.

The first thing you did in this challenge was to take the test to determine thevalue of your time. This is a good starting point for your budget. If something costs more than your value, don’t do it (yet, since your time value will certainly increase). In most cases, you’ll find that you can outsource abroad for a fraction of the cost of your time. Local outsourcing will be more expensive but easier due to the fact that you won’t have any language or cultural barriers.

Knowing this, you should prioritize your list of items to outsource in 3 categories:

  • Local and cost-effective: you don’t really know the actual price at this point so you’ll need to make an estimate. You’ll be able to validate it in the next step. Cost-effective means that it’s cheaper than your $/hour value. Examples of local outsourcing is hiring a cleaning company, a cook, someone to do your groceries or an accountant.
  • Global and cost-effective: things you can outsource globally include any clerical work, data entry, programming as well as phone and calendar management.
  • Non cost-effective: keep this list. As you get up higher on the economic ladder, some of the items on this list might switch to one of the other two.

Now, we will focus on the first two lists for the next step.

Step 2 – Validate assumptions and tools

First thing you need to know is what kind of businesses or individuals can help you outsource. They come in two categories: agencies and agents. These are broken down further into local and global.

  • Global agency: You have companies like Elance, Odesk, Freelanceror Fiverr that you can use to outsource specific tasks. For example, if you have a long Word document that you want to convert to Excel in a specific format, you can put a request through these sites. The upside of these is that these sites have a lot of systems in place to prevent scammers and to ensure the quality of the work. One of the downsides is that you would be hiring a contractor for a precise project or job. It is hard to build a strong relationship through these sites. The other downside is that, since they take a cut of the money being exchanged, hiring the contractors might cost a little bit more than if you had contacted them directly.
  • Global agent: You can hire someone as a full time contractor. For example, the site has several job seekers from the Philippines that can work for you as a virtual assistant, programmer or any job that doesn’t require a physical presence. The upside AND downside is that this is very much like hiring an employee. On the one hand, you have someone with whom you can build a strong and lasting relationship and that, after training, you probably won’t have to manage too much. On the other hand, it will be harder to sift through the bad apples and find the right person for you.
  • Local agency: For jobs that require the contractor’s presence, you need to go local. As described before, these would be things like cooking, cleaning, balancing your books, etc. My company E.G. Impecc, offers cleaning services that fall in this category, but there are a multitude of businesses that can help you outsource your chores such as Nettoyeurs Express for dry-cleaning services or Petits Pots for cooking. The ups and downs of the global agencies apply to these local businesses. However, since you can meet with them it might be easier for you to get a connection with the contractor or owner.
  • Local agent: You can also outsource to a single local freelancer. As with the global agents, you have to approach this like you would approach hiring an employee. Good places to find local contractors are classified ad sites such as Kijiji in Canada, eBay Classified in the US or Craigslist (everywhere).

Now, you should identify, for each of the items on your outsourcing list whether or not you should go with an agent or an agency and whether you need a physical presence or not. Then, you can take from the list of sites or tools to find people whom you can outsource to. In most cases you will have to submit your task and wait for an answer on how much they will ask, but here are a few examples:

  • Virtual Assistant: $2-$8/hr in both agencies and agents if you go global.
  • Programmer: $500-$1000/month using global agents (about 1/10 of hiring local programmers in North America)
  • Cleaning: $20-80/hr using local agencies depending on the level of service. $15-$35 using agents.
  • Food: around $10/plate using local agencies, less if you use agents.

At this point, this should validate your two lists. If there are any items that you cannot currently afford, move them to your third list. You’ll be able to revisit this later when your income increases.

Step 3 – Outsource!

Now, for the fun part: the actual outsourcing!

This process is similar to delegation because… well, it is delegation. It’s just to someone that is currently outside your organization.

  1. Clearly define the task: You will need to communicate your goals very clearly. Remember that the contractor will not be in your head and won’t know anything that you don’t tell them. For more complicated jobs, make sure you write a document explaining the process step by step. A video also works well in some cases. This will make your training/communication job much easier.
  2. Define the tools: Choose which company/individual you will use to outsource the task. Don’t hesitate to shop around as you’ll find vastly different price points and levels of quality. This is especially true with global agents and agencies. Look for contractor or company references, reviews. Call or email them.
  3. Go over the goals with the contractor: Make sure that they understand what you are asking for. This can go from simple (buying a standard item from a cooking company) to complicated (I want a website!). Take the time here as it will save you a lot of headaches later down the line.
  4. Implement: Your contractor is now working for you and will ask you for money. Make sure that their systems are secured (if it is a company). If you can verify the work before paying, it’s better but in a lot of cases you’ll have to pay beforehand. If it’s the case for you, make sure that you use a payment gateway such as PayPal or Stripe where you can get your money back easily if something goes wrong.
  5. Review: Periodically review the job being done with the contractor. Give them feedback on their performance and rectify any problems that may have arisen.

This is a cycle. After your review, redefine the task. For example, if the contractor is doing a good job, try to expand their responsibilities. Maybe your virtual assistant can do small design jobs as well. You already know them so it’s faster for them to get up to speed.

Further Resources – Want to learn more about the topic?

Here are a few articles that discuss the same subject.

Here are the links to the previous challenges.

So friend,

How do you feel, now that you’ve saved more than 15 hours/ day. And this is only the beginning of your journey. With the tools you’ve been given, you basically have no limit. You can leverage technology and the global society to achieve your goals faster, meet you objectives and generally be more efficient.

As always, if you want to receive my blog posts directly in your email, sign up for the Newsletter here. If you want to join the 7 day challenge email course and get all 7 chapters in your email (as a standalone course), you can sign up here.