Offshoring tends mean different things to different people. Even though tend to use Offshoring or Outsourcing as blanket terms, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when using an overseas workforce.
I want to introduce you to the four major offshoring structures I come across frequently – Freelancing, Outsourcing, Offshoring Staffing and Company Owned Offshore Operations. All four have their place in the offshoring landscape, and depending on your particular business, may or may not work for you. In the coming posts, I’ll run through each structure, outlining pros and cons to help you navigate your way through the wonderful world of offshoring.
Freelancing – A great way to dip your toe in the water.
Freelancing is an easy way to experiment with offshoring staff with little overhead or risk (depending on what you’re after). In short, you can engage an overseas professional (most commonly in industries such as Graphic Design, Web Development, Copywriting, Virtual Assistants etc) on an hourly or project basis. You agree to a rate or fee, set a timeframe and go. Freelancing to overseas professionals has become popular with micro to small businesses because you only pay for what you need. Because of this, websites like Freelancer.com and oDesk have grown, with millions of freelancers around the work ready to work. Freelancing is a gateway to access great talent throughout the world, especially hard to find skillsets on short-term, project engagements. What small business wouldn’t like world-class output on an SMB budget?
Is offshore freelancing a reliable solution for your business?
There are downsides to freelancing however. The biggest downside – regardless of whether you are engaging overseas freelancers for personal or commercial needs – is lack of control. Especially with overseas freelancers, this lack of control can come in the form of importance to your work (your freelancer will probably be working on multiple projects at one time, and may have a full-time job as well, so you may not be a priority), availability (due to timezones and different work schedules), reliability (it’s not uncommon to hear stories on unreliable freelancers becoming uncontactable or flat out leave mid-project) and control of information (where is your information being stored and who can access it?). Before you get to this, however, you need to ensure you find the right freelancer. Engaging the wrong freelancer can be an expensive exercise as you will probably be paying for either their time or the delivery of the project, regardless of whether you are happy with the quality or not. By carefully planning your project, selecting the right freelancers and defining strict terms and expectation, you will be on the path to getting it right, but it requires more work on your end.
- Global pool of professionals – tap into a global marketplace of freelancers.
- Cost effective – you only pay for what you need.
- Limited commitment – you can have people work on project-based work, rather than carrying pull time staff.
- Wrong resource – engaging the wrong freelancer can cost you more than you anticipated or wanted to spend.
- Lack of control – depending on who you engage availability, the importance of your work, reliability and control of information could become issues.
- If you need work done consistently and require constant, reliable delivery, this may not be the solution you need.
Freelancing may be a great way to try offshoring for the first time if you are hesitant to go all in initially. Try it with small, non-critical, project-based work initially and see how it feels. Not all freelancers are the same, so be prepared to be flexible with time, budget and quality. If you need predictable, reliable and consistent delivery, I would recommend you look into Outsourcing or Offshoring Staff – I’ll cover both in the coming posts.