The wonderful thing about 2014 is that, if physical contact is not required, a task can be done anywhere. Anywhere in the world. Many people think that this just applies to call centres and clothing manufacture – but there is in fact a ridiculous wealth of highly skilled, English-speaking talent out there, waiting for your call. Used in the right way, this talent can give your startup an IT department, design department, personal assistant and bookkeeper, altogether for the price of a secretary.
When we started out, we had £10,000 in pooled savings, and with this we needed a website, office, staff, secured hotels, a regular graphic designer and a marketing campaign to rival Thomas Cook and Tui. The only solution to this was to outsource.
Web development is a great place to start. In the UK, the cost of this can be astronomical, and generally, the company you contract will be outsourcing to Asia anyway. The simple step to save yourself thousands is to cut out the middle man, and contract someone from abroad, where the cost of living is cheaper and the people are hungry for your business. Whether you want a fully managed solution or something built to your specifications, you will save around 75 per cent of the cost. The only difference is that you will have to talk over Skype instead of over the phone.
Now, you may need to hone your art of recruitment, but once you have done this, you can recruit nearly all services from abroad. Graphic design was our next step – although we did cause confusion when we asked our Filipino graphic designer to make our ski website look more “winter-y”, mainly due to the fact that she had never seen snow!
While our budget has grown massively, our mentality has not. If we can get the same or better service for a fraction of the cost, we can spend more on marketing, charge lower prices, and thus sell and grow more. We now also use virtual assistants to get any data processing or spreadsheet task done, a bookkeeper to arrange our accounts and day to day financing, and are currently recruiting an app developer. There is, quite literally, a whole world of talent out there.
Here are our top tips for hiring freelancers:
1. Shop around
Elance, oDesk or Freelancer, there are hundreds of people who can do your job for you. See who is out there.
2. Check out their history
Have they done anything of your requirement before? Do they have good reviews? This is essential.
3. Set deadlines and requirements for contact
There is nothing worse than having a freelancer disappear in to cyberspace when you have a task to get done. Set out a what you expect from them, with regards to both speed and how often they contact you.
4. Retain control
The great thing about the above websites is that they hold the funds in escrow until the job is complete. Utilise this function, release funds as milestones are met, and the freelancer is under financial obligation to do what is in your interest.
Give it a shot and you will not go back. Whether it is offloading tasks to enable you to focus on growth, or finding high quality services for a fraction of the price, using freelancers will massively improve your startup’s chances of success.
Rob Tominey is co-founder of Mainstage Travel. Check out Mainstage Travel and follow Rob and his business partner Aden on @robtominey and @adenlevin.