Outsourcing: What I’ve Learned About What Works and What Doesn’t

Some time back in 2008 I read the 4 Hour Workweek. The sections about the Pareto Principle (aka 80/20 rule), Elimination, and Low Information Diet have definitely changed my life and continue to do so to this day.

The part of the book that I’ve never found all that useful – basically the 2nd half of it – was everything that had to do with outsourcing.

It’s one of the most mentioned (and valid) criticisms of the 4 Hour Workweek. It makes outsourcing seem like an easy and inexpensive endeavor – a claim most marketing and make money online schemes do too. “Just buy our blueprint and you’ll be an instant millionaire!”

My Experience

I started experimenting with outsourcing in 2006 and have had very mixed results. Over time I’ve started to take a very different approach than what’s advocated in most books/blogs. And I have found it to be much more useful overall (more on that later).

I’ve posted dozens of projects over the years, mostly having to do with web development. Flash, mapping applications, javascript, php, etc. My results have been very hit and miss. For a while I swore off offshore programming after having a bad experience with a Bangalore-based developer who ended up delivering what I can only describe as “shit on a stick.” I had to go into arbitration and eventually won after the arbiter had enough of him personally attacking me and not sticking to the facts in the case.

I’ve also had a few successful projects and pleasant experiences with developers.

For small, one-off projects posting the requirements to vWorker or Upwork can work. But it will take trial and error and you should start with small tasks, feel them out, and then continue working with them on the medium-size stuff.

However, in my experience I have found that over time providers will start flaking or become unavailable. Without steady, well-paid work it’s difficult to retain good talent.

What Actually Works

This past month I decided to take a different strategy, which I think can work much better. I started going through tutorial posts on some of my favorite design & development sites like Smashing Magazine to see who actually knows what they’re doing and looking up their author bios to see if they look like they might be available for freelance work. I would click over to their websites / Twitter accounts & then email them and ask them if that’s the case.

This is how I found a really skilled developer for Photo Pin. I read an article about WordPress that made me say “hey, this guy really knows his shit!”

I emailed him and asked him if he’d be willing to help me out on a project. He gave me his rates which were reasonable, we agreed on the specs, and over the course of a few weeks we had developed the site.

He lives in India and the process has been pretty smooth. (Yay, India has been redeedmed!) I would compile a list of what needs to be done, send them off before I went to bed. I’d wake up, and BAM! it would be all done and working.

Doing it Again

This morning I was about to post a job on Upwork. Then I remembered this strategy so I decided to write this post (to clarify this for myself as much as to share what works).

Instead of doing that (and I still might), I think I’ll actively go looking for iPhone developers who might be good and reasonably priced. Might go check out Appstorm and see who I can find that might be willing to take on some freelance work. It takes more time to do it this way, but then I don’t have to slog through bids from companies that look like they produce digital cat throwup… Which is unfortunately 80% of them (Hey, it’s the Pareto principle at work!)

photo credit: ryanoshea via photopin cc

Posted 8 years ago on 28 December 2015

About Parker

Parker Benjamin is the owner of DMAD and has been writing for the web for over 10 years. He is passionate about design, Wordpress, travel, language learning, fine dining, and online marketing. Note: Some links on this site are monetized by affiliate programs - see disclosure for more details.

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