Most small business owners need a helping hand from time to time. Outsourcing can be a great way to bring in extra resource to help hit a deadline, or to carry out specialist tasks like web design and copywriting, which may lie outside your regular staff’s expertise and training.

In a previous post, we looked at the type of tasks suitable for outsourcing and where to go to find help. Here we consider why it’s important to spell out the details of the work, and look at how you can choose the right freelancer or service provider.

Hayley Conick, Elance’s UK Country Manager, says that detail is very important when writing a job post. “Let freelancers know exactly what the project entails, what’s expected and what skills you’re looking for. If you’re hiring someone to develop a mobile app, specify if you want iPhone, Android or both. If you’re looking for a writer, give examples of styles you like. Say if it needs to be SEO friendly.”

Hayley stresses the importance of giving clear guidelines, and providing examples of work close to your requirements.

If you’re looking for a longer-term arrangement, for example outsourcing communications, or getting somebody to handle payroll, then it makes sense to start small. Beware of signing a long-term contract before you’ve tried out the service. You can tie in for longer periods once you’re happy with the service provided. In this case, you’ll need a signed service-level agreement too.

Choose wisely

Here are Hayley’s tips on what to look out for in a freelancer:

  • Look for someone that’s really interested in your job. A good job proposal will include an introduction that’s written specifically for your project. The freelancer should demonstrate interest and ask sensible questions to get clarification.
  • Look for professionalism. The tone of the job proposal should be professional, and demonstrate attention to detail.
  • Look for unique value and benefits. Find freelancers who have direct experience in the job you’re hiring for or who point out how they’ll take a unique approach to apply their skills to your project.
  • Check out the freelancer’s profile and determine their skills and experience. Their overview should be clear and relevant. Check out feedback from previous clients and look at the rates they’ve been scored. And see how the freelancer responds to feedback. This can be a good indicator of the professionalism you’ll encounter.
  • Visit their online portfolio and look at work done in the past.

Budget is clearly a big issue when it comes to choosing a freelancer or service provider and it can be tempting to go for a lower quote to keep the costs down.

“To get the most value, your ideal freelancer should offer the skills you need at a fair price,” says Hayley. “The freelancer with the lowest price is not necessarily the best choice. Nor is the person with the highest bid.”

And don’t forget to check if the freelancer is covered by business insurance. Professional indemnity insurance will provide cover in case a claim is brought against the freelancer for a mistake they’ve made in their work. Public liability insurance will pay out for claims for accidents and injuries, if the freelancer is found to be negligent.