Business man shaking hands with virtual hand coming out of a computer screen

Last week I wrote a blog that highlighted ways you can minimise the risk of things going wrong when hiring virtual assistants on a part time, full or permanent basis (read here) . My focus this week is about minimising the risk involved with contractors you hire on a random, ad hoc basis.

Again, it is important to highlight that the benefits of hiring virtual assistants and outsourcing offshore far outweigh the negatives. But it is important to know some of the tips serial outsourcers use to get the most effective results and to minimise the risk of things not going to plan.

The main difference between hiring virtual assistants or contractors on a permanent basis is that you are committing to train and develop them, you build a relationship with them and they become part of your team. Hiring random contractors on sites like www.odesk.com for example is very different as you are hiring someone with a particular skill set to complete a specific job or task. The risk associated with this varies pending on the size and therefore the cost of the job, and the value of the information you are giving them to complete the required job or task.

Below I have put together a list of things that I do when hiring contractors on an ad hoc basis to ensure I get the best outcome that requires minimal effort from either me or my team.

1. Ensure you are clear on your outcomes within your job briefs, so that you are both clear on the deliverables required. Make sure you check what other employers are asking for and the price they are offering to complete similar jobs so you attract the best contractors for your job

2. When posting a brief, be descriptive and ask questions so that you know they have actually read your brief before applying. This makes it a lot easier to filter through the candidates once they apply

3. Before hiring, review their history and feedback from other clients. When design work is involved, make sure you check their portfolio to ensure their style is consistent with what you would like

4. If you are outsourcing jobs that could compromise your IP if they don’t go as planned, ask the contractor to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement

5. If you have a small design job and you really aren’t sure what you want, hire more than one contractor and see what they all come up with. You will have to pay them all, but on small jobs the cost is minimal

6. Don’t be persuaded to pay them using alternative payment methods like PayPal outside of the chosen website you have contracted them through. If you want to continue using them for other jobs, opt to pay them 10% more within the contractor site. Alternative methods make them more cumbersome to manage and if something goes wrong you’ve got nothing to fall back on

7. Review the work diaries for contractors you employ on an hourly rate. Don’t micromanage, but check that the hours billed are similar to what you would expect considering the job/tasks they have completed

8. If you aren’t happy with the job they have done, give them this feedback. Ensure you are both respectful and constructive. Sometimes it will take several reviews before you get what you are after but most contractors are so eager to deliver a great job that they will do whatever it takes. Rework included.

9. Always make payments when promised and if they have done a great job and exceeded your expectations – pay them a bonus; it doesn’t have to be much, maybe only 10% of the value but you will be amazed at the gratitude you will receive by doing this

10. Ensure you are fair and reasonable when providing feedback following the completion of a job that is going to be viewed by other potential employers

11. For larger jobs, interview your shortlisted candidates either by skype video our messaging. This will help you determine whether you are able to work with this person, if they have sufficient English, timely in their communication and if they have the required skillset to effectively complete the job

12. Make sure you have the technology and accounts set up to work with your contractor. For example you must have a dropbox account (www.dropbox.com) and set up a folder that both you and your contractor can access and share files

13. If you purchase any software to assist them with completing their job, or you give them access to any of your accounts, make sure you keep a list so that if something goes wrong you can easily identify and change them

14. Don’t get so caught up in outsourcing that you become dependent on offshore contractors. There is a fine line between ensuring you have the capability within your team to take over these tasks should your contractor no longer be able to provide these services

15. Remember that when you hire contractors on an adhoc basis, they are also working on other jobs for other employers, so you need to consider this when working to specific timelines and when you require a fast turn around

16. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. If you select a contractor purely based on price you will be disappointed. But if you have a short list of potential candidates you have selected based on their profile and ability first, then you can select the successful applicant based on price

I have been utilising contractors on these popular outsourcing websites now for a few years and have had thousands of hours billed. In all this time I’ve only had a couple where I have found that I just haven’t been happy with the end result, or the contractor was just a bad egg. Meaning they didn’t understand my brief properly, have the right skills to deliver or they just didn’t communicate and complete the job within the required timeframe. I also have many contractors that I continue to recruit on a long term basis, but still ad hoc. I may send tasks to them only every month, or it may be every week.

Hiring offshore contractors can sometimes be time consuming for whoever is managing them, so make sure you are not just outsourcing tasks because you can. Keep things simple and stick to tasks and activities that you really need completed to move your business forward. If you take the time to understand how it all works, it really will change how you approach your business, the delegation of tasks and the use of contractors.