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How to Outsource Your Blog… Or Part of It

You don’t need to be a big-time blogger to need to outsource some aspect of your blog. A beginning blogger with a serious business plan might want to contract a designer to create a skin for their blog. A entrepreneurial blogger might want to outsource some writing, or have an agency provide social media strategy for the blog.

There are plenty of reasons why you might outsource some aspect of your blogging. But once you’ve identified the need, how should you proceed?

Don’t make your first step trying to find good candidates! Before you go hunting for help, you need to do your homework. Here’s the process I’d recommend.

1. Define what you want.

“I need help with my blog content” is not a clear directive. If you’re going to source help, you need to know what to look for, which means you need to have a clear idea of what, specifically, you want.

Don’t just think in terms of contractor skillsets. Think in terms of your audience. So you want to have a new interface designed for your blog. Great. But what do you want it to do? Do you have a visual identity you want the design to reflect or match? Are there interactive elements — like social media buttons or a subscription box — that, in accordance with your readership objectives, you want to prioritise in your design? Do you have user and usage stats that can help to drive the technical specifications you provide to a designer?

Work out what you think you want, and why, before you start thinking about who might do the work.

2. Make it measurable.

The word ‘measurable’ really gives the game away — if the first step in this process was to define specific objectives, the next one is to make them measurable.

Some tasks are difficult to measure — the “success” of a new homepage design might seem like one of them. But look a little closer and, whatever the task you’re setting, you’ll likely find ways to assess the results. Perhaps you’ll assess your current traffic metrics and set new goals that you expect the new site design to help meet. Perhaps you’ll require the designer to show you the results of usability testing.

Alternatively, your goals might be internal — related to your time or operations. Maybe you want to save time — say, two days a week — by outsourcing some of your blog post research and writing tasks. Fine. But make sure you’re prepared to track the time you spend managing your contractor, to make sure that you haven’t simply replaced two days’ writing with two days’ contractor management!

As part of setting measurable goals, don’t forget to apply a timeline to each! This is the most basic way for you to assess whether your outsourced work is on track.

3. Set a budget.

Now that you have an idea of what you want, and what benefits you need it to bring, you should be able to translate those benefits into a dollar value, and decide on the investment you’re willing to make to achieve that goal.

You might want the new design for your blog to increase average per-session pageviews by 1.5 within the first three months. Great! What will that do for your advertising revenues in that time? And how much can you afford to invest to generate this return?

Setting a budget is an essential step in the process. This will help you to qualify candidates early in the process, and save you from spending time talking to “prospective” contractors who really aren’t in your market at all.

4. Seek recommendations.

Unless you have experience in a given market space or discipline and believe you have the skills to select good talent off the bat, you might consider asking peers and colleagues for talent recommendations. Whether you’re outsourcing blog content production or your accounting tasks, personal recommendations are the best way to have some assurance that you’ll get what you expect.

Alternatively — or additionally — you might call for expressions of interest through your blog, your social networks, your professional networks, and other likely sources. To me, these approaches are still better options than advertising blindly on freelance networks, or scouring the web in an effort to find that needle in a haystack — good help that you can afford and trust. Recommendations are best.

5. Research the provider.

However you obtain recommendations, research the provider before you contact them. Conducting your own research is important — you never know what information a quick web search will turn up. Hopefully it’s the same information the contractor in question will provide to you, but if it’s not the kind of detail they’d likely share, you’ll be glad you looked into their work yourself.

If the contractor is local, your peers or colleagues may know them, so again: ask around. Encourage people to be candid and to give you their honest opinions, but also be sure to find out the bases for those assessments. Try to remain as open-minded and objective as possible at this point, so you can create a shortlist of at least two — but hopefully three or four — providers you believe might suit the job.

6. Make contact.

Make careful observation of each shortlisted candidate from the moment of your first contact. Everything they do and say will provide clues as to how well you may be able to work with them. If something makes you uncomfortable, try to work out what it is and why it’s a problem.

Again, it’s important to try to remain reasonable and objective at this point. The fact that your potential designer is wearing a suit and tie doesn’t mean he’s not as creative as the previous candidate, who rolled up to the meeting in ripped jeans and cool runners.

Try to get all the information from the candidate that you’ll need to make your outsourcing decision. The things I want to have in hand when it comes time to assess my options include:

  • contact details
  • competent past work examples
  • a pitch, brief, or written document that explains what they’ll provide, for what value, and shows that they understand and agree to my expectations, goals, and time and budget constraints
  • great references from current clients
  • personal experience with the candidate (it doesn’t matter whether I’ve met them to discuss the job over coffee, or over Skype: I want to meet them one way or another!).

Now, the hiring decision is all yours. To make sure you’re protected, though, you might want to ensure:

  • you both sign a legally binding written contract that explains the work and the work arrangements
  • your contractor has any insurances you feel are necessary
  • you’ve discussed and agreed upon any copyright and intellectual property considerations
  • you’ve had the contractor sign a non-disclosure and/or anti-competition agreement if you feel that’s necessary.

These steps aren’t substitutes for good research and gut instinct, but they may help you if your research and instinct don’t pay off for some reason.

Have you outsourced any aspects of your blog? How did the process work for you?

About the Author: Georgina has more than ten years’ experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. She now blogs for WebWorkerDaily and SitePoint, and consults on content to a range of other clients.

About Georgina Laidlaw

Georgina Laidlaw is a freelance content developer, and Content manager for problogger.net. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. B Simple says:

    Great simple tips. The first step is the key one. You really have to know what you because you can hire someone to do the work but you really don’t know what your goal is it a waste of time and money.

  2. Georgia,

    You make a great point about references and work samples. There is so much outsourcing out there righ now, and many of those people are NOT wortht the money that you could throw at them.

    You have to be very careful with whom you do business. A lot of people out there are just looking for a quick buck, and you could end up wasting a lot of money and time in re-work.

    Outsourcing is supposed to save you time and money. Although it is the “stylish” thing to do these days, you have to make sure that you are NOT outsourcing any critical parts of the business, like your marketing, for instance.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  3. Hi Georgina,

    This is great information, but for a beginning blogger, they may not have much money to spend on designers, contractors and such. I’ve had to do everything myself (including how to use Photoshop and write PHP code) because I don’t have any money to spend on someone developing graphics for me and other things I’m not good at.

    Thanks for the great information.

    Duane

  4. Georgina

    Outsources your work to other free up time and make life more easier, I don’t use outsource that much..but when I do its more less setting up more niche sites.

    I must say you covered all details in the article.

    “TrafficColeman “Signing Off”

  5. Hi Georgina,
    That is an excellent article you wrote. I have bookmarkedi it.

    Personally, I believe the decision to outsource comes as part of your long term business planning. I sense blogs like yours and Darren’s succeed because there is a plan in place and any outsourcing comes about when you have reached a certain level of development.

    I will add the choice of what to outsource comes down to your current skill set. Your decision to outsource can be linked directly to actions you not only have a lack of time to complete but you also have little interest in learning how to do.

    I agree with you and Joshua (who commented above) that it is extremely important to verify the credibility and ability of who you outsource to.

    If you or other readers are interested I wrote a short article on the process of how to choose what you delegate and the article is located at http://growyourwellnessbiz.com/business-development-decide-delegate-defer-delete/

    All the best to you and everyone reading this.
    David

  6. Hi Georgina,

    All great tips, thanks for sharing.

    Keep #6 in mind. I had an unfavorable experience with an outsourcer by neglecting this step when a newbie to the online world. Do strict due diligence before paying anybody to do anything for you.

    Ryan Biddulph

  7. Hey Georgina,

    This is a great post! I think this especially applies to people like myself who have more than 1 blog. I have 2 main blogs, and one of them has grown tremendously in the past few months, (From Following Darrens Advice) So it’s getting harder to keep up with comments, posts and the forum that I have recently added to my blog.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad that it is growing and I plan on it getting much much more popular. But when it does, I just might be outsourcing it, or at least part of it.

    Thanks,

    Brian M. Connole
    http://www.i-Blogger.info
    http://www.hcg411.info

  8. Spencer says:

    Great straight forward and clear advice on how to outsource portions of your blog should you need to. I believe this is one of the top keys to success for generating significant business through your own blog/website.

  9. Debt Leads says:

    This is a great post. Personally I would never outsource my blogs but thats just me. I might, however, take your advice and get someone to skin it for me. Image is everything, if your blog looks unprofessional like you just started typing on a blogger page then no one is going to go to it. Good post keep it up

  10. I just started reading your Blog and it is chuck full of great information, straight forward and clear advice. Outsourcing has been a big factor for me to become a full time internet marketer. Your readers should sit up and pay attention.

  11. Steve says:

    Great post. I am a big fan of outsourcing and have a lot of the little minutiae outsourced on my blog and on my online businesses.

    One additional method I have found that I think is very helpful is to do a split test. Get 2-3 candidates and hire them for a specific job that encompasses what you will want them to do on a long term basis. Track them very carefully and then you can decide which ones “work” you like the best.

    You pay a fair amount for the first piece of work, but you basically get an “audition” that can really help you see the quality of work they give you.

  12. PJ says:

    Thank you Georgina for such a great article. All your points are very valid. It’s one of the most difficult things to do is give your baby up to someone else. I have done my entire blog from scratch because I wanted it to be a learning experience for me. As the blog is getting more and more popular I am considering some outsourced help. There is a great book called The 4-hour work week by Tim Ferris that touches on this point. He says that any business can be outsourced and that is the entire business. My biggest problem is trusting someone with my blog. Its not easy.

    Thanks

  13. Joshua Noerr says:

    I need to do this, especially having launched a new project this week, and launching a third next week, but it is very hard to let go of that control.

    Luckily, my new projects are collaborations, so that removes some of the workload, but I need to start looking at outsourcing some things. Thanks for a great post.

  14. Eathan says:

    Nice list. Outsourcing is a very efficient way to get more and spread the workload.

  15. Great tips from a master at it already. Things I had questions on that I can now use to build up my own blog. I only have to must to write about each month will be nice to get some extra input. Thinking of adding guest posting here soon to.

  16. Gregg Zban says:

    I’ve outsourced work to the Philippines before and found the work to be very good. It saved me a ton of time!

  17. Wow, this is great advice! I was considering outsourcing for a long time now. This article simplifies the process a great deal. I’m going to give it a bookmark.

    Before I outsource, however, I’m going to have to find a way to come up with the cash. Money is pretty tight for me at the moment, so that would be a problem. As a result, I’m going to grow my blogs first and make some money from them. Once I save enough, I plan to invest in a theme related to my niche and outsource a writer for my lifestyle blog.

    I’m pretty excited, and it should go well. Thanks for the great read!

    Christina

  18. jason says:

    Georgina,

    I’ve become accustomed to such great posts from you here on Problogger. I completely agree about outsourcing work to guest posters. great article!

  19. Lesley Rice says:

    Speaking as someone who often writes for other people I have to say that some of the problems with being outsourced to come from the blog owner not providing an adequate brief.

    Very often I’m told ‘I’ll just leave it to you’ and get very little guidance. I enjoy the freedom, but worry whether I’m doing what the client wants.

    So far I’ve only once been asked to clarify the copyright situation – I wish more bloggers would take your advice Georgina but I think the truth is that you can’t get what you want until you work out what that is.

  20. Outsourcing some of your work is the fastest way to get the job done. But if not done properly, you may end losing more time and money than doing it yourself. Although it seems there are crooks out there promising you to get the job done, there are also the serious ones who really will do everything to satisfy their clients. I have a provider who is working for me for almost ten months now and been doing his job diligently ever since. You just have to find the right person.

  21. Alex says:

    Does anyone have recommendations on outsourcing companies/services? It’s really not easy to find on the web with a simple search. Who are you outsourcing to? How much could it cost per hour?

    Thanks!

  22. Great ideas for outsourcing your blog. Thanks, I have already seen success from some of your ideas.

  23. I have outsourced a few short projects and I am learning a lot by doing it, not all services and freelancers are created equally. Knowing what you want and tell them deadline, specifics helps, I know from the experience.

    Best bet so far is to either work yourself or find someone you can trust to deliver good work! which can be done with some effort.

  24. Jimmy says:

    Great post! And you can find outsourcing at very affordable and worthwhile prices through various sites.

  25. Steve says:

    Great article. I am considering outsourcing some research and writing for my new site. I need to meet my content goal quickly and am considering offering guest posting or even paying for the work. I am wondering if anyone can recommend a site, like elance.com, butt more focused towards freelance journalists or bloggers seeking guest blog opportunities.

    Thanks

  26. pete says:

    Great post but as someone has already alluded to it may not be totally appropriate to someone starting out given possible design costs etc.

    I would go on the lines of doing everything yourself for a set amount of time even a blog can be built in no time with a simple clean layout, get things working and then you should soon be in a position to work out what aspects need to be outsourced.

    I go on the lines that a blog should be personal so my prefered method is to outsource the bones of an article then re write myself in my own style with my own points – its far easier to re write something that start from scratch.

    Great post – I will come here again soon

    Pete

  27. John says:

    Outsourcing often not very easy to pursue, You cannot find the right person, You have to test, interview and sort them before you lost money on bad results.

  28. Great post! I enjoy how you constantly provide quality information in a format that makes it easy for your readers to implement. I don’t think people realize how much of a skill “outsourcing” really is. I also appreciate when you said “to make sure that you haven’t simply replaced two days’ writing with two days’ contractor management!” I lost count of the number of times I failed to save myself time while spending more money. Monitoring how you achieve your goals even when it comes to outsourcing is key. :)

  29. Thina Doukas says:

    Hi Georgina, great post. Im looking now to start outsourcing the backlinking section of our business. I have set up our website to a PR=3 and now working on the blog which is PR=1. Would you recommend anyone particular company to undertake this component. Need my Life back thanks!

  30. I have been blogging for over three years; I have used eLance to outsource design, writing and troubleshooting. There would be no way to have made it this far without help!

    Thanks for the cool guest post!

  31. I can’t even begin to say how important #6 is. If you’ve already worked with an outsourcing service provider before, it would be great to stick with them if it went well and if you trust them enough. If you’re new to all this, the most you can do is get someone you trust to refer you to a service provider that they’ve tried. Because the sad thing for first timers is that trust is established during the contract, not before it.

  32. Nice blog. I’ve been wanting to start my own sometime but never got around to it.

  33. Great Tips!

    Defining what you want is so critical. If you don’t know what you want, and you don’t describe it, how could you expect someone to deliver what you’re looking for?

  34. Tip #5 is the hardest part. The way we provide information in our blog/s is very important if we really want to receive good response from a possible customer. So, blog content should be interesting and convincing.

  35. Outsource your blog initially for content and design and when you reach the maintenance stage, take it back. What do the others feel about this strategy?