Let me get this out first: I’m a Filipino freelance writer who takes on outsourced writing jobs. I’m not perfect and I miss deadlines occasionally (who doesn’t?), but most of my clients like me. Or at least, so they said.
This weekend, I came across the article written by David Snape entitled “Outsourcing To The Philippines – Should You Believe The Hype?” In the article, David shared his frustrating experiences with Filipino outsourced workers, citing problems like low productivity, inability to meet deadlines, and coming up with stories and excuses as to why they need deadline extensions.
I may have sounded snippy in the comments I left on that article, but I am genuinely sorry that David had to go through that kind of headache. Nonetheless, I stand by my comments – just because there’s one rotten apple in a basket of apples, it doesn’t mean that all the apples in the basket are rotten.
It’s entirely possible to find one rotten apple in a basket of really good apples, I’ll give you that. If you’re going to outsource some of the tasks for your business, I think the only way to avoid these rotten apples is to be careful in picking out your apples in the first place. And when you find good apples, you’ll want to treat them right so you can get the most out of them.
If you’re going to outsource, choose your outsourced workers carefully.
Why does the hype surrounding outsourcing in the Philippines exist, anyway? This article from Outsourcing.ph sums it up:
With a literacy rate of 94%, the Philippines has a large pool of information technology professionals and a cost-competitive telecoms infrastructure. The country ranks third in Knowledge and Information-based jobs in the 2002 Global Technology Index research done by the META Group. Three million college graduates join the workforce each year, providing a tremendous source of talent.
An American colony for close to 50 years, the Philippines has a Western-influenced culture, a unique trait that clearly distinguishes the country from other offshore destinations. Although Asian in orientation, Filipinos watch American TV and are thus able to communicate effectively in American English.
Basically, our English skills are good and our culture is highly Americanized. Most of us aspire to and do have a college degree. And then we have these traits that Chris C. Ducker listed in his outsourcing site. These traits somehow make us highly desirable to people who are looking to outsource some aspects of their business.
Still, if you’re going to take the outsourcing route, it’s still your responsibility as the potential employer to weed out applicants to your job postings. It doesn’t matter what nationality they have, whether they’re Filipinos or Indians or Pakistani or Ukrainians. You work only with people you like and who are qualified to do the work you want done.
This article on Entrepreneur.com says the best way to get outsourced contractors is by getting referrals from people you trust. If you don’t know people who can refer good outsourced contractors, then you can go to outsourcing marketplaces like oDesk.com, eLance.com, Freelancer.com or Fiverr.com. I’ve only used oDesk, Fiverr, and Freelancer, and these sites have a ratings system. You can use this ratings system to sift through contractors.
Aside from looking at the contractor’s ratings or scores, you may find it helpful to look at their portfolio or sample of works. Contractors usually provide links to their previous works in their profiles. Another good idea that can help you find the right contractors to work with is to have a short voice chat with them on Skype.
If you want your outsourced contractors to do a good job for you, you need to treat them right.
So you’ve hired the right outsourced contractor. Whoop-dee-doo! Does this mean you get to sit back and watch the contractor work magic on your business? Of course not; this is where the fun starts.
The Entrepreneur.com article I cited earlier names three responsibilities that employers have to shoulder once they go into outsourcing. These are: communicating expectations, exercising patience, and relinquishing control a little.
Let me just highlight a passage about relinquishing control in that article:
Your final responsibility as a successful outsourcer is to step back, relinquish control, and allow your new team members to do the job you’ve hired them to do. “You need some measure of trust,” Resnick says. “If you are going to micromanage all of your outsourcing, the savings in management attention and time that is the whole point of outsourcing is lost.
This is where, I think, a lot of employers fail with outsourcing. They don’t know how to trust their contractors. In a way, I understand this because it’s hard to trust someone you’ve never met face to face to do important work for you. Here’s the thing: It’s also hard for us contractors to trust you. If you’re risking your money on someone who may not deliver, we’re also risking our time and effort on someone who may not pay us.
If you’re going to outsource, give trust a try. You don’t have to panic just because your contractor is not on Skype or Yahoo Messenger. You can require your contractor to submit a progress report through email or whatever once a day, or maybe use monitoring software like TimeDoctor.com or oDesk’s Work Diary, but don’t bug them every hour. You pay them for their work, but they’re not slaves to be at your beck and call all the time.
Speaking of payment, if you’re going to outsource, remember that you always get what you pay for. Sure, outsourcing is cheap, but if you got someone to write a 500-word article for you for a measly $1.50 and the article turns out to be bad, remember that you only paid $1.50 for it.
Lastly, always treat your outsourced contractors with respect. Never demand anything from them that you’re not willing to do yourself. We may work for you, but our world does not revolve around you. Speaking for myself, you cannot buy my respect and loyalty with your money, even if it helps me pay my bills. Even if you pay me American rates, I will dump you in a heartbeat if you don’t treat me with the respect I know I deserve.
Outsourcing is proving to be a huge time- and money-saver for many entrepreneurs. As it happens, the Philippines is one of the biggest sources of skilled outsourced labor in the world. But seriously, if you want to succeed in outsourcing, it doesn’t matter what your outsourced contractor’s nationality is. If you don’t choose your contractors well, and if you don’t treat your hired contractors well, you might as well expect failure.
Do you have any outsourcing horror stories? Please share them in the comments below.