Outsourcing has been around for decades, but the growth of the internet and various digital platforms means it’s easier and more cost-effective than ever before. However, you can’t be successful with outsourcing if you don’t first understand how to manage these relationships so that you can get the most out of each partnership.
Top Tips for Managing Better Outsourcing Relationships
Outsourcing makes so much sense in today’s market. It’s cost-effective, gives you access to better talent, and eliminates a lot of the risk involved in hiring, training, and managing full-time employees. But if you want to be successful with outsourcing, you have to maintain healthy relationships with your freelancers and partners. Here are our top tips for success:
1. Vet Outsourced Partners
In order to have a successful relationship with an outsourced partner, you need to do adequate research on the front end. A meticulous vetting process will lower your risk and increase the likelihood that you’ll work well together.
As part of the vetting process, ask questions, interview the partner, and treat it like any other hiring decision. According to EAG Advertising & Marketing, it’s imperative that you look beyond cost to account for the style of work, availability, and area of expertise.
2. Set Expectations
One of the best ways to facilitate a smooth working relationship between your business and the outsourced partner is to set expectations from the very start.
Set expectations in regards to how you’ll work together, when projects are due, how deliverables are to be submitted, what is allowed, what’s not permitted, etc. By clarifying these details on the front end, you free up headspace to focus on the tasks at hand (rather than the processes themselves).
3. Get Specific
Any lack of clarity in verbal, written, or contractual communications will come back to bite you. A big part of setting expectations is getting specific so that you can weed out and eradicate any ambiguity that might exist.
Specificity doesn’t always mean providing more information or additional instructions. Sometimes the best approach is to remove the excess and distill information into digestible bits that can be processed and applied without hesitation.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re providing some written instructions for a project. Instead of writing out three dense paragraphs, which are likely to get glossed over, break each paragraph down into three bullet points and use bolded font to highlight key points with each bullet.
4. Establish Communication Cadences
One of the biggest challenges with outsourcing – particularly when you’re dealing with a partner in another country/time zone – is the delay in communication. When you’re awake and working, your outsourced partner is sleeping (and vice versa). In order to make this work, you need a clear communication cadence.
A good communication cadence establishes a predictable back and forth progression so that it’s always clear who is doing what and when. Most people are visual processors, so consider creating a graph or flowchart.
5. Implement Rewards and Consequences
“Built into any good outsourced relationship’s contract should be mechanisms for encouraging best performance. This could be in the form of rewards or remedies and can be related to targets or outcomes,” business consultant Allan Watton writes.
Likewise, you should integrate a list of consequences. These can be financial or nonfinancial in nature. (And in many cases non-financial incentives and consequences are more powerful.)
Ideally, your outsourced partner will be self-motivated – meaning they have enough internal drive to perform at a high capacity. But in the situation that they don’t, a little external coaxing can help you move them along.
6. Evaluate on a Regular Basis
It’s easy to get comfortable with your outsourced partner – even when they aren’t doing a great job. You assume that it’s too difficult to replace them, so you let little things go. But you shouldn’t!
Evaluate the performance of your outsourced partners on an ongoing basis (at least quarterly) and treat them like you would any employee. Let them know if they’re failing to meet expectations and make changes when necessary.
Putting it All Together
Hopefully this article has provided you with some very practical tips that you can implement right away to strengthen and rejuvenate the relationships you have with your outsourced partners, freelancers, and contractors. Implement them over time and study the results. By tweaking and tracking, you’ll have a better idea of what works in your business.