By Russ Harju
In my post last week, I encouraged you to try out freelancing for some of your projects. Hopefully, you’re now feeling inspired to take the plunge. (If my writing didn’t convince you, then check out this article from Forbes; an interesting write up on Microsoft’s outsourcing program for its employees.)
Now that you are ready to give it a try, I’ll share the 5 – S step process, to help ensure the engagement is a success.
#1 Scope the Project
This first step requires a bit of introspection, necessary before any work starts. Questions that need to be answered include:
Take time to put pen to paper, or keystroke to screen as you think through all of these. The answers will be essential as you think through the next steps.
Don’t be afraid to think small if this is your first-time outsourcing projects like this. It’s great to get a feel for the entire process with something less critical. That way if one part of the process turns into a “learning opportunity,” your feet won’t be held to the fire. This also helps you find some favorites so that when something urgent or critical comes up, you have your team already assembled.
As an example, I tested out a freelancer with getting some help on a complex Excel formula I was struggling with. It wasn’t an item with high-level scrutiny, and the urgency wasn’t great. Its completion gave me great confidence as we began work on our high visibility project.
#2 Select the Network
Where do you find the right person for the project that you’ve scoped? A few options and their specialties are:
All of these platforms have their freelancers sign an NDA (Non-disclosure Agreement) as a part of operating on the network. The odds are good that this blanket disclosure will cover most items you send for outsourcing. Use common sense though regarding the type of data you are sharing, and get internal team alignment on the processes and adequacy of the platform’s standard NDA.
Now that you know what medium you’ll be using to complete the work, it’s time to think about the specific task you’re trying to achieve.
#3 Set Expectations
When you write the job description on your selected network, make your expectations very clear. You can utilize the questions you answered in Step #1 of the process. Do all those answers need to be shared? No, but it may help give the worker a clearer picture of how their work will be used. It could even prompt them to solicit ideas you weren’t expecting.
For example, in a previous role, my team was working on a customer profitability report, requested by C-suite leadership. Once our freelancer heard this was going to the C-suite, he provided examples from his prior work that also included reporting of profitability to executives. (They redacted all sensitive data.)
If your project involves anything formula-driven, be clear that your expectation is not to receive a file with flat values, but well-structured formulas that can be applied again with new figures.
With clear expectations set and the prospect of doing valuable and meaningful work, you should have several people submitting for the opportunity. So, how do you go about picking the right one for the role?
#4 Select Freelancer
Admittedly this area is a bit more subjective and will vary based on the project at hand. However, the following guidelines have served me well over the past several years.
If you’re not impressed by the individuals that apply for your role, you can search for freelancers that possess the skills you are seeking. Don’t be afraid to ask them to apply for the opportunity. By taking the first step in complementing their talents, you’ll earn a bit of goodwill from them upfront.
Now that you’ve picked your expert, one step remains.
#5 Set the Table
As you get ready to kick the work off, you have just a few more things to do:
In next week’s post, I’ll discuss requirements during the project to make sure it continues to go well, and how to wrap it up smoothly.
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