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Episode 60 – Lessons in Outsourcing

Aug 23, 2017

This Episode

Mark Stephenson & Marc Vila

You Will Learn

  • How to prevent the most common mistakes when hiring and working with contractors.

Resources & Links

Episode 60 – Lessons in Outsourcing

Show Notes

When SHOULD I outsource? What should I… How do I… Where do I find… There are as many questions about outsourcing or hiring contractors as there are opportunities to use them to fuel your growth.

Make no mistake, outsourcing has helped both Colman and Company and ColDesi become the industry standard in what we do. Website development, graphics, copywriting, video, advertising, are just some of the areas we have direct experience in hiring both short and long-term contractors.

We have the success stories AND the scars to prove it too.

During this podcast, we’ll talk about how to prevent the mistakes we made and go over the MUST HAVES and MUST DOS for finding, hiring and working with contractors successfully. We’ll discuss hiring practices, safety issues and the incredible opportunities in using outsourcing to GROW.

Listen, take notes and then hire for growth and profits!

Transcript

Welcome to the Custom Apparel Startups podcast, your best source for information, news, tips and tricks to get you off the ground running, and earn success with your custom apparel decorating business. So, get ready to soak up some knowledge!

Now, here are your hosts, Mark and Marc!

Mark S: Hey, everyone! Welcome to episode 60 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, with Colman and Company. Today, we are going to talk about outsourcing, specifically some lessons in outsourcing, and how to grow your business, using contractors.

Mark S: I’d just like to announce at this point that from now on, I am going to hire a contractor to do this part of the podcast.

Marc V: Yeah. They do a really good impression!

So, outsourcing contractors, all of this stuff. Essentially in a nutshell, what it means is that you own a business, and you have a limited amount of time and a limited skillset on the things that you can do well, or just the time that you can do them in.

Mark S: Right. And you may not be at a time in your business where you can hire a full-time or part-time employee, or that may not be part of the profile of your business. You may be content to work out of your home for the entire career that you have your business, and it just doesn’t make any sense to hire in four people, to have them sit around your dining room table and work with you.

Marc V: And you might have certain things to do or certain jobs to be done, that may never in your dreams warrant a full-time person to do. Is your business ever going to have a full-time high-level web development in there?

Mark S: No.

Marc V: Not a lot of businesses have that need for a full-time staff. And there’s plenty of other things. What are some different things that we can outsource?

Mark S: Well, I’ll tell you what we do, because ColDesi and Colman and Company are no longer what you would call a very small business. Right? We’re both pretty big players in the custom apparel equipment and supply marketplace, and we’ve got – I think we’re up to 80, 90 employees, or something ridiculous. It’s a big business, now.

And we still outsource quite a bit of the activities that we need to accomplish, because we’re not ready to bring somebody inhouse. So, outsourcing isn’t just for small businesses that want to grow. They’re also for medium-sized and bigger businesses that just aren’t ready to fill positions in, in the company.

So Marc, what are some of the things? Because I feel like we have to establish some expertise. What are some of the things that Colman and Company has outsourced, successfully and unsuccessfully, in the past, just as an example?

Marc V: Sure. Well, if you’ve been to our website in the past and in the present, you’ll notice it’s significantly different. But we don’t staff on a full development team here, of folks that build websites.

Mark S: Right.

Marc V: We have an outside organization that helps us out with that. That would be a very good and successful example of using an outside contractor.

Mark S: Now, could we bring in a web developer, to do that full-time, if we wanted to?

Marc V: I guess maybe, yes or no. I mean, if you’re asking – I don’t run the books. So, if money is not an object, and we’re assuming things, then yeah, we could. We could bring in somebody to do that. But you also miss out on certain things, when you do that, as well. Because the company that we work with, it doesn’t just have one employee. They have a team.

They have a couple of main developers, you know, high-level developers. I’m sure they have some fancy words they like to call themselves. But people who know everything.

Mark S: Yes. They’re probably like “webdevs,” like shortened words that sound very cool.

Marc V: And they’ve got some people underneath, that know more than me, maybe, or equal to me. Then, they’ve got some people below that, that can just do some basic spreadsheet work and stuff like that. So, they’ve got a team of people.

When you work with an outsourcing type of a firm like that, if you want to call it a company, compared to doing it here, not only are we just hiring one developer, but we’re hiring a small team of people. And they can use different pieces, for success.

Mark S: That’s a great description of why we would want to hire a contractor for that application. The other reason is we could afford to bring somebody in full-time, but we really only do big updates on maybe an annual or biannual basis. So, that person would not have that kind of a project to do, for maybe eight months out of the year, or six months out of the year.

Marc V: They may have 120 hours of work a week to do, for four weeks, and then nothing.

Mark S: And listen. If you’ve ever been a manager or a business owner of any kind, that drives you bats. It’s great to see somebody that’s working from like 8:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night. But when they’re done with the job, and they come in the next week, and they really don’t have anything to do between 8:00 and 5:00 for a week, then you start looking at your bank account again.

Marc V: Also, some of these outsourcing type of things and contractor work are also very small jobs, too.

Mark S: Yeah. We hire out, for example, you found a great digitizer. We have a great staff of tech support people, and they do great digitizing work. But they’re busy, and we don’t want to stop them helping you, to get stuff done for ourselves.

So, occasionally, if we want a design done for an embroidery demonstration, or we want something done for bling, then we will actually hire somebody to do our digitizing. That may be a $15 to $150 job, depending on the job.

Marc V: Yeah, and they don’t work in this building. Why might that be? Because we’ve got a whole crew of people who know how to do that, here. But sometimes, it depends on the level of work in your plans.

For example, Sean, in our tech department, he knows a lot about digitizing. He talks about it every single day, and can do awesome work. He’s done some of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

Mark S: He does.

Marc V: However, I’ll put on the schedule, say that I want to do a particular demonstration on a cap. I put it on a request for Sean to have it done by a certain date. Everything is fine, and he plans to do it on either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. Well, those three days just happen to be heavy support days for him, so he has no time to do it, just by coincidence.

It just means that normally, he would have had 15 minutes a day to dedicate to this little project. And the past three days, he’s worked 30 minutes overtime each day.

Mark S: So then, we’re stuck. We have to delay the project.

Marc V: We have to delay the project.

Mark S: That’s a great example of time management being a motivator for hiring a contractor or outsourcing the work. Because you may physically not have time. The people that work with you may not have time. Or it may just be a matter of priority, like it was in this case.

For example, if you have something that you want to do in your business by Wednesday, and you are going to do it yourself, and you fully intend to do it, but you get a four million t-shirt order from somebody, guess what’s going to happen to that project? It’s just not going to get done.

Marc V: Yeah. And sometimes it could be last-minute work or quick work, or unexpected work. What can happen is, with the example I gave, I had planned for it, but something came up that Sean had to prioritize; helping our customers with support. Because that’s his first priority, so great.

There may be a scenario where you do digitizing or your husband does it or wife does it, or you have a part-time employee that does it, who works on the weekends for you, whatever it might be. But then, all of a sudden, you pick up another job real quick.

So, your digitizer does some work on Saturday and Sunday, let’s just say, in the morning. That’s when digitizing gets done for you. That’s how your business works, in this example.

Then, Friday night, you’re out at a football game with your kid, and you run into another parent, and they say “Actually, if you could do this for me, like by Monday afternoon, -“

Mark S: Opportunity strikes!

Marc V: Opportunity strikes, but it’s all new digitizing work. You’re out of the digitizing hours you’ve got allotted. It’s not going to be able to get done by Monday.

So, if you have a contractor that you can work with, then that’s an opportunity. You give them overflow work. You give them work when you’re really busy. When the peak is high, you outsource that work. When the peak is really low, you do the work yourself, or with your staff.

Mark S: I’ll give you another example of that. You may just be at a point where you are good at something, but it’s time for you to find somebody better.

Marc V: That’s good, too.

Mark S: For example, I’ve built probably 20 WordPress websites, including limited ecommerce and all that stuff. But I don’t build the websites anymore for ColDesi. Why? Because there’s about 11 of those, and there are people out there that can do that better. So, I’m at a point now where I could do this, but for a little bit of extra money and with a little bit of extra planning, I can have somebody that’s significantly better than I am.

I can do it, but there’s better expertise out there. That even extends to things like paid advertisements. I’m really good at Google adwords, but it’s still not something that I do 24/7. It’s not the sole purpose of my business or my part in this business. There are people out there that spend all day doing it, that might be better.

So, that’s a situation, or also a time when you might look at “Can I do outsourcing? Does it make sense for my business?”

Marc V: Another thing that comes along with that same thought process, that got me thinking. You know, you’re particularly good in this facet of advertising. It’s what you do most of the time. Why would you take maybe one of your greatest skills, and outsource it to somebody else?

It’s also about sometimes grasping the bigger picture of things for your business. You may have started this business by yourself, and one of the ways you started it is by playing with the software. You got particularly good at designing bling designs, embroidery designs, t-shirt designs, whatever it is. And you’re really good at designing them.

But you’re also trying to grow your business. So, there’s two things you could do here. Either you become the artist, and you hire somebody to be your manager, and run the business for you.

Mark S: Yes. That happens.

Marc V: Or you manage the business, and you bring in somebody else to help you out with the artwork, and maybe you coach them, to bring them up to your level or your expectations, or what your customers expect from you.

Mark S: Right, and that’s an investment in time. You are going to hire somebody and train them, etc., or you can outsource that, and you can find somebody that’s already good at it, and measure how much you would need to pay them on an outsourcing basis, versus the time that you would spend yourself, and the potential for growing your business.

Marc V: Yeah, so we’ve got lots of reason. I’m just going to quick, just to get everybody’s juices flowing in your heads. Wait for something to ring a bell, but I think we should maybe just kind of shoot off some different things you might outsource.

Mark S: I like that.

Marc V: If one rings a bell in your head as you’re listening to this, you say “You know, that’s something I could use help with,” write that down, and look into it.

Mark S: Listen. I’ve got one right off the bat, because I’m running a little experiment right now, and I need some artwork done. Raise your hand if you are crappy at doing artwork of any kind. My hand is raised! I’m terrible at it, so outsourcing graphic arts, outsourcing great design is something that you might do.

Marc V: Outsourcing design could be just from idea to design, meaning a customer comes to you and they say “We want an awesome Christmas t-shirt. We’re not really sure. We just know we want a Christmas tree on it.” So, it could be from scratch design.

It could be you’ve got artwork from a customer. They gave you this kind of hand-drawn, or this picture that they found of last year’s t-shirt. And instead of going online and asking people what font this is -.

Mark S: Please!

Marc V: You can outsource this. You can take that artwork and you can send it to somebody who can fix it up for you, to print it on a t-shirt. It also might be converting a decent piece of artwork into something that’s good for what you need. If you’re doing Digital Heat FX printing, -.

Mark S: Or digital transfers. It’s going to be a little different.

Marc V: You want the art tweaked a little bit. If you’re going to do direct-to-garment printing, you’re going to want it tweaked. If you’re going to do vinyl, you’re going to need the colors separated and vectorized, so you can just send that right over to your printer.

Digitizing bling, for any time of bling, spangles or rhinestones, templates. All of this work can be outsourced. You might have to train somebody how to do it your way. That’s fine. But all of that can be done.

You can outsource accounting work. You can outsource managing your business, as I mentioned. Organization, you can outsource that. You can outsource writing, if you want to do emails, and make things for your website.

Mark S: Copywriting. You could do outsourced marketing. You could outsource somebody to handle Facebook advertising for you, specifically. Run your social media.

Marc V: Yeah, Google ads, Facebook ads. If you locally advertise on benches and menus, and stuff like that, because you’re a really small local business, there is probably somebody locally, that can help you with that, as well.

Mark S: Web development. That’s the biggest one that we get. Because your website is probably not going to be as attractive as it could be – that’s the nicest way I can say that – if you decide to build it yourself.

Marc V: And generally speaking, in all of these things, if you’re going to hire somebody, you want to make sure they’re good.

Mark S: Yeah. We’re starting into the lessons.

Marc V: Yeah.

Mark S: Because along with the years of hiring contractors that Colman and Company and ColDesi has done, there has definitely been a few times where we’ve learned lessons. There has been some pain. There’s been a little bit of pain. And I promise you, if you hire contractors, if you outsource, you will suffer some of this pain, as well. We’re just going to try to get you ready, to avoid as much as possible.

Marc V: Yeah. By the way, you can take all of these lessons and you can apply them to your personal life, too, like hiring contractors to do work in your home.

Mark S: Yes, it’s very true. I thought you were going to say dating.

Marc V: I hadn’t thought about that. I’m going to put something -.

Mark S: No, don’t!

Marc V: Some of the lessons that I feel that I’ve learned, I’ve learned from hiring people personally, and then I’ve brought that into my professional career. So, when you’re thinking about hiring contractors, and some of the lessons we’re going to talk about, I want you to think about, did you hire an A/C or a plumber that did bad work? Or somebody to re-do your kitchen or your patio? Or a mechanic?

Think of why you’ve hired people before. It’s defined very similarly. If you take your vehicle and you drive it to a shop, and you have them change your oil for you, essentially, you’ve outsourced work. In theory, you could have done it.

Mark S: You could have done it yourself.

Marc V: You could have done it. It doesn’t require a crazy amount of tools or knowledge to be able to change oil. However, there are reasons you choose not to do it. Same thing for business.

Mark S: I love the home contractor analogy, too. Because one of the things that we’re going to talk about is planning and expectations. So, just imagine if you were going to hire somebody to remodel your kitchen, and you just picked somebody off of Craigslist. You told them roughly how much money you wanted to spend on remodeling your kitchen, and then you went on vacation.

“Just have it done by the time I get back.”

Marc V: It sounds like a mess to me.

Mark S: It is a mess, because you have no idea what that person is going to do. You don’t know what their taste is. You haven’t given them expectations. You haven’t told them what kind of tile you like, whether or not you want an island, what color scheme you like.

All of those same decisions, that same setup applies to hiring a contractor for a website, or to do graphics, or to do your accounting, or any of that stuff.

Marc V: Yeah. We’ll get into some of the rules and things to do. But so I don’t forget, when you mentioned that, one of the signs of a good contractor is that they ask you questions about what you just described.

Mark S: They won’t let you do what I just described.

Marc V: Yeah. A good contractor, if you say “Come and redesign my kitchen. Just make it look awesome,” will ask you a ton of questions. “What colors do you like? Do you want a modern theme? Here’s a bunch of pictures. Which one do you like?”

Those are some signs of a good contractor, because they realize the rules that we’re going to describe here. They realize expectations.

I think the first thing to consider, if you’re going to outsource or hire a contractor to do a specific job, whatever it might be, whether it’s accounting or artwork or digitizing, whatever it is, you need to have a very clear, defined description of what you want done.

Mark S: And I will tell you that that’s been a pain point for me, because I’m not good at that. Really, I’m the guy that says “Hey, I want a t-shirt about rabbits. Give me something funny.” And that will be my direction.

Marc V: And that’s hard. What you want to do is you want to do your best. Write it down. Take a note somewhere. Write an email to yourself, on your phone. But in a few sentences, do a brief summary of what the job description is.

Whatever it might be, in five sentences or less, because you want a brief description. And later on, we’re going to talk about a more lengthy one. In the beginning, I think you should have a very brief description of what it is, to narrow down and weed away all of the people who are not going to be qualified for the job.

If you’re looking to outsource some artwork for t-shirts, describe the position something to the effect of “Seeking a contractor to do one-off t-shirt art.” It needs to be very specific in regards to different parameters I’m going to define, like the dpi, the program they’re going to use, the format they’re going to send it to me in, the size that I want it. They need to be able to do all of that.

And I need them to be able to follow direction really clearly, because I’m going to tell them exactly how I want the shirt to look, and I want them to replicate that. A different description, at the end, might say I want them to have a lot of artistic license and ability, because I’m going to give them just abstract and vague ideas that I need them to turn around.

Mark S: Yeah, and give you options.

Marc V: And give me options, because those are two very different things for artists. You’re going to look for different people. The same thing might be for accounting, if you’re going to hire. You’re going to say “I want somebody who’s an expert in QuickBooks,” because that’s what I’m going to use.

I’m not going to want to send them any of my information. They have to be available to come to my location for two hours a week. I don’t want to give them any access. Whatever it might be. Or it might be that I just want somebody to send me an Excel report, because I’m not at a point where I’m going to buy or own any software. I just want to see summaries, and know my taxes are going to be [inaudible 21:34].

Mark S: “I want somebody to write the checks, too.”

Marc V: Yeah.

Mark S: Whatever it is that you’re looking for, doing that first general description is designed to get a response from people that do that kind of thing. If you put an ad out for t-shirt graphics, you’re less likely to get a guy that specializes in car wraps, or that specializes in live animation. You’ll get somebody that has done, or is at least interested in doing t-shirts.

You could even make that one of the initial requirements in the description, if this is the way you want to work. You could say “I’m looking for someone that’s experienced in taking a t-shirt design idea and making it a reality, using the following types of software, with the following kinds of results, in the following time frame.”

Marc V: You need to have a clear, defined job, with some basic – not get too detailed in every single thing, but you need some basic parameters. You need a clearly defined job, with some basic parameters.

The next thing to consider on that list would be a budget. How much are you willing to and/or can afford to pay?

Mark S: How much should you expect to pay? For example, finding someone to do your books should have a pretty defined price range. It’s not going to be from $50 a month to $10,000 a month. There’s going to be a specific price range. So, take a look at what that price range might be, and decide in advance whether or not this is something you can actually do.

Marc V: You can go ahead and say “I want to start outsourcing all of my digitizing work for my embroidery,” start doing a little bit of research, to figure out what the range is. Then, you kind of say “Okay, I can afford to do this,” whether it be within that range, or say “I can’t afford to do this.”

So, whatever it might be, you need to define kind of what the budget is and what you’re willing to spend. Also, you need to just be as open-minded as you can, when you’re considering this, because sometimes you’re going to think about, say, outsourcing your books. You start looking at some of the numbers, and you’re really concerned about how much that might cost.

Well, why are you asking or considering outsourcing your books? Have you made mistakes in your taxes, that have cost you money? Have you wasted a lot of time, done things incorrectly, forgot to bill? What has it cost you in the past?

Mark S: Yeah. What is your labor and error cost?

Marc V: What are your motivations behind all of this? That helps you define if the cost is worth it. If you want to start outsourcing digitizing, well, why? “Because I’m spending three hours a week digitizing, and if I wasn’t digitizing, I’d be out selling.”

Well, maybe you don’t prefer the cost of the digitizing, because you used to make $20 on digitizing, every time somebody did it. And now, you make nothing, or you lose $5, based on your pricing strategy, or whatever it might be.

But if you’re saying that you’re going to be able to get out there and sell more -.

Mark S: I like that. Either learning to do it better or doing it yourself now, if you free up that time, is it going to be worth more to you and your business, than it takes for you to write a check to have somebody else do it? That’s the fundamental thing.

Marc V: The fundamental thing, I agree.

Now, you kind of have a basic idea of what the job is, so now you can start going and looking around at how much it might cost you, and make a decision on what you’re willing to pay.

The next, I would say, would be to – now it’s probably time to spend the effort in putting a really good job description together. This is something that you should really put time into.

Mark S: And you can decide now whether or not this is going to be an ongoing job, or is this a one-time thing? For example, do you need someone to occasionally provide you with graphic arts help? Or do you need somebody that you’re going to be able to provide work for on a regular basis? That description is going to be different, based on that.

It might be “I’m looking for a partner to help me develop the graphic image for my company, by producing t-shirt designs on a regular basis. Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you all of these ideas. I’ve going to provide you with customer logos. We’ll probably get five to 15 different jobs a month. I’m looking for somebody that I can work with for a long time, in doing this.”

Or it could be “I’ve got one big job. I need help with XYZ. What’s your price?”

Marc V: And as you’re creating your longer description of what the job is going to be, it will vary, based on if this is a short-term job or a long-term job. Really, it’s going to be defined on how long this description is. It might just be a few sentences and bullet points more than your initial job description.

If it’s just digitizing, then the other things you might add are just “It needs to be in a dst format, and I’m going to request no more than this, no less than this, no more than that,” etc. And you’ll put in some little descriptions.

If it’s a long-term, like you described somebody is going to do 10 to 20 t-shirt jobs a month with you, then you’re probably going to say “These are days of the week that I’m going to expect jobs done by. This is the timetable I expect things to be done in. I’m going to expect 24 hour or 48 hour turn time on everything I request.”

You could put technical specs in this description. “I want everything to be done in Adobe Illustrator. I want it all shared via Dropbox, and emailed to me.”

Mark S: I love that. The approach that I usually take to this is I write the story about what I want to have happen. Then, I go back and turn the pertinent points into bullets, so it’s easy for somebody to understand.

For example, if you’re hiring a digitizer that you’re going to use on a regular basis, you can say “I’m going to want it in a dst format.” Maybe you’re using Stitch Era Liberty, and you want to make design changes yourself, so you want it in a dsg format, as well. So, you’re looking for somebody doing something specific.

You may want the original Corel files. You may want the original Illustrator files. You may want somebody to give you graphics for a t-shirt in a pdf file, in a png file, so you can easily resize it, to use on your website. You may want them to, if somebody is doing graphics for a t-shirt, it may be that I want graphics provided in a png file, so I can output it on my Digital HeatFX system or DTG printer, and I also want it in a jpg file, because that’s what I’m used to using on my website.

I’ll make all of these requirements, and just be as explicit as possible. Make sure that you include things, “Typically, I will ask for three revisions or more.” Set up those kinds of expectations in advance.

Marc V: We need to describe what we want, write a little story about what it might be, have a summary that’s easily explained in a story, but then also have maybe an outline or some technical details involved, as well.

But this is the time where, what I would say in your longer description, because you’re going to spend time and thought into this, you don’t want to do this before you’ve decided whether you can afford it, and if people are available. That’s why this is kind of step three for me.

I would say the best way to define your longer description is that if you were to just hand this piece of paper to somebody, they would be able to find this person for you, as well.

Mark S: I like that.

Marc V: So, if you just handed this off to your brother and said “Hey, can you help find me somebody who can do this?”, that your brother, who knows nothing about your business, who doesn’t do anything with you, he would not have any more questions to ask, and they could find it.

That’s ideal for this, because that means that you’ve really put thought into all of the aspects of it, into all of the details, everything that needs to be done, all of the expectations of what you want done. And when you hire a contractor, and you provide them with this document or with this email, even if it’s just in an email, that they can completely understand what’s expected of them before you guys come to terms and agree to a price, and agree to do business together.

Mark S: I like all of that. The things that I’m going to add as kind of requirements for that longer description, is you absolutely need a time frame of when whatever you need done has to be complete. And you may even need to break that up into stages, if it’s a big enough project.

For example, if I want a new website done, and I want it to launch by January of 2018 or January of 2019, I’m not just going to say “I need my website done by this date.” You may want to put some milestones in between there. “I’d like to be able to review the outline in 30 days. I want the ecommerce part to be ready at this point.”

The other thing that you really have to do, and this is something I’ve failed at several times, and that’s you have to put communication standards in your description. I’ve hired contractors before, that let’s say I give them a 10-day deadline. But what I really need to do is I need to hear from them every day, because I am nervous about the project, and I want to make sure that they’re actually doing something, and that it’s going to be ready.

So, I want them to tell me every day, on Skype or on email, “Hey, Mark. Just wanted to let you know I’m working on the project. Here’s kind of what I’ve done.”

Marc V: “Everything’s moving along. This is the stage that I’m at.”

Mark S: Yeah. “We’re great.”

Marc V: Part of the reason is that if you don’t have clear, defined communication, sometimes on day nine, they tell you that they haven’t even started it yet, because there was a problem with another project, and they’re going to be five days late.

Mark S: Or they disappear.

Marc V: Or they disappear.

Mark S: We’ve had that happen, too.

Marc V: Yeah. I’ve had that happen at home.

Mark S: You’ve got a contractor that’s supposed to show up. They never show up, and they never tell you why. It’s crazy.

Marc V: Really curious. I had like this little crack on the corner of the stucco, on my house, just in this little corner spot. Not a big deal, but it just visually didn’t look nice, so I hired this guy. He came and he did initial work. He did secondary work. He put some new stucco on it, whatever he did.

Then, I haven’t paid him anything yet. He’s probably put like three hours’ worth of work into really making this new again, which I was kind of blown away, because I was thinking this was going to be like an hour long job. Then, that was it. I never heard from him. He never finished painting it.

Mark S: He lost your address!

Marc V: He just got lost. He returned one of my phone calls real quick. We missed each other. I called him, he didn’t answer. He called back, “I’ve been real busy. I’ll call you back in a week. I’ll get the job done for you.” I wasn’t that mad, because now I just had to go to Home Depot and get paint.

But yeah, that will happen. So, you need to have clear, defined communication with your contractors. And I think that just goes to kind of my next point, which is agree that everyone has 100% understanding of the expectations.

Mark S: Right.

Marc V: The reason that you’ve written this description is because now you go back and forth. You have communication standards. You have what the job is going to be. You’re agreeing on how much it’s going to cost to get done. It’s almost to the point where you guys are going to shake hands and say “Let’s do this.”

At that point in time, both of you need to understand, have it 100% clear, that everyone agrees. Part of what I like to do in this is to request for them to describe the job back to me, in their own words.

Mark S: I like that.

Marc V: That could be, they could just write me an email, or they could tell it to me over the phone, whatever it might be. I will just say, and be very frank about it, just say “I want to make sure that we both 100% understand the expectations we want from each other, and what we want this job to do together. I wrote a description. You read it. You said everything sounds good with that, right?”

“In your own words, can you describe to me what you think I expect, and what you think you’re going to do? The reason I’m asking you to do this is just because I want both of us to feel really comfortable with working this job together.”

Basically, what you’re saying to them is “I really, really want to make sure you understand what I wrote, and read it.”

Mark S: Yeah. And their response could be in the form of a contract. If it is in the form of a contract, then you know you’re dealing with somebody that’s a professional at least, because they have a document that is their customer expectation document.

If someone does this for a living, then I’m sure, like I know when we did the Colman and Company website, even though we’d been dealing with the same company for years, there is a contract involved for doing that specific website. You sign a piece of paper. The company writes it up, “This is what we understand that we’re going to be doing. We’re signing that this is what we understand.”

They send it to you, and then you read it, and you sign that yes, they understand that correctly, and this is what they’re going to do, this is how much money it is, etc.

Marc V: In other words, it could go two ways. If it’s a really small job, and you’re just talking to a local artist, it could just be little bit of a phone conversation, because you’re already written something down. If it’s a bigger job, and you’re working with a professional contractor, that “Put it in your own words” actually just might be their write-up or their contract, or their customer expectation documents.

So, it could be very formal, in the sense that you’re working with a big company, like you described. Or it could be a little bit less formal, where you’re just working with a freelance artist who really doesn’t do big contracts, and you’re just trading back and forth what you’re agreeing on.

Mark S: But even if it is just that casual kind of email exchange, you treat it like it’s a contract. At some point, in the end you’re going to say “We both understand that these are my expectations, and this is the price. Please confirm.” Then, they confirm it, and guess what? That’s the contract.

Marc V: Yeah, because you can always go back to those words.

Mark S: I just want to point out something that may be obvious to some of you, and may not be obvious to the rest of you. This kind of procedure and these kinds of safeguards and the thought that you’re putting into this, or that we’re recommending that you put into all of this, applies to any contractor you hire, including your brother-in-law.

Marc V: Especially!

Mark S: Yeah. Friends and family do not get a pass on this process. As a matter of fact, I want them to sign something, because this is where the potential for real issues may take place. You know, if your son does graphic design on the side, and they screw up, now it’s a business issue. If you late pay your own family, now it’s a personal issue.

Marc V: Then, it becomes weird at a birthday party.

Mark S: Which you don’t want.

Marc V: No. So, if you’re going to work – because everyone that’s listening to this pretty much is going to feel obligated to give some cousin who kind of works on websites, the opportunity to do this. We deal with it all of the time.

Let me explain to you something that’s legit and real, okay? If you decide to do this, and then you don’t like the website, and it was a mess, and you wasted a bunch of time, the level of awkwardness at that birthday party now, is much worse than if you would have said “Hey, I would love to have given you the opportunity, but I just really wanted to hire somebody who is a pro.”

Mark S: Yeah. I want to be able to fire somebody, and not feel guilty. Now, the other side of this is if you have always hated going to those birthday parties, it may be worth the money to hire your brother-in-law that you know is going to do a terrible job, just so you never have to go to those again. Opportunity knocks again!

Marc V: It does! I didn’t think about it that way, but now that you did, I’m going to use that to my advantage.

Mark S: I like that. Do you have anything else? I really want to talk about some of the places that you might be able to find contractors.

Marc V: I think the last thing that I had here is just to protect – this doesn’t have to be too long, because it’s self-explanatory, but make sure you protect your private information, which includes data, passwords, all of the obvious; bank account, access to certain things.

If you’re talking to a contractor, and they say “Okay, what’s your password to this” whatever it might be, then you should be leery about when it’s okay to give out a password. It’s your main business Gmail account, and there’s bank account access in this, and your payments are connect to it, and PayPal, you should just never ever give that away.

If somebody tells you that they have to, they’re either very lazy or trying to scam you.

Mark S: We were talking about this, before we started recording the podcast, all of the important services that we use. WordPress for web design, Google adwords, Bing ads, Bing and Yahoo ads, Facebook advertising. They all make provisions for hiring contractors.

Marc V: Yeah. They have an actual – where you can just add a secondary user, you can add a subcontractor.

Mark S: Give them different permissions.

Marc V: Give them different permissions, so maybe they can do everything except add or delete, or see credit card information in your profile. Whatever it is, do your research before you give out passwords. Also, just use common sense.

If you look at it and you say “I’m going to give out a password to this particular service. I don’t have anything. There’s nothing hidden in there. It’s one access. It’s no big deal if they were to log into this. It’s also tied to my email.” Whatever it might be.

There’s other things where you should just say “No. I’m never going to give out this password. It’s mine. It’s sacred.” Which means you might have to find somebody different, if somebody seems to argue that.

And if you really are concerned, then generally speaking, you can contact that service that you’re working with, whether it is an ecommerce platform or an advertising platform, or an accounting platform. Whatever it is, you can usually contact these services or software or whatever it is, and ask them. “I’m hiring a contractor, and I’m trying to figure out the best way to keep my account secure.” Oftentimes, they can send you some documentation on how to add somebody.

Mark S: Yeah, true. That’s true.

Marc V: And like you said, most of the big ones do it. That’s a big thing to consider with outsourcing, contracting. When would you give a contractor a key to your house, versus letting them in? Right? There’s levels. There’s levels of it.

Maybe if somebody was overhauling your entire house, at that point in time, they’re in every nook and cranny. You can’t even live there. They’re taking the door off.

Mark S: Versus “My sink is clogged in the downstairs bathroom. You know what? I’m going to be away for a week. Here’s the key to my house. Please fix that at some point.”

Marc V: You manage those based on common sense. And whenever you’re in doubt, you can consult with somebody else, consult with the service you’re working with. Any time that you feel like your security or any information, always consult with somebody else, hopefully a professional in the service you’re working in. But if not, worst case scenario, just a trusted business advisor.

Mark S: Yeah. Now, there are a lot of ways to find contractors, because that’s kind of the next step. Other than asking around, which I do encourage you to do, is ask for referrals from other people that you do business with. If they say they know someone good at X or Y or Z, then don’t just take it at that.

Ask them “How long have you been doing business with them? Have they ever made any big mistakes that have cost you money?” Do your due diligence with those, but that’s a good place to start, is other people that are maybe in your business or in your area, depending on the service that you’re looking for. “Who do you use?”

Marc V: When you’re doing that, first of all, understand if you ask somebody and they recommend somebody that’s close to them, they may -.

Mark S: “My brother-in-law did my website. He did a great job.”

Marc V: I want you to never feel obligated to hire that company.

Mark S: Right.

Marc V: Or that person. That’s very important. If you’re going to ask for referrals, don’t feel an obligation to hire the person. People will get over it, if you don’t hire who they recommend.

Mark S: Don’t ask someone that you couldn’t say no to. Don’t ask your pastor if his son is still doing websites, because then, you’ve got to hire them.

Marc V: Yeah. If you feel like you can’t say no, don’t ask. If you feel like you want to keep things away from home, then be sure to only ask people in professional environments. That means maybe going onto a forum or a small business association or a Chamber of Commerce, or whatever it might be.

Mark S: Or the Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group!

Marc V: You can go to a professional atmosphere, and just ask people that are either in your industry or just business owners in general, rather than seeking out the help of friends and family.

Mark S: Right. Now, if you don’t have any of that, you could do things like go to Craigslist. I’ve actually hired some great people on Craigslist, to help with a variety of different small projects.

Marc V: Actually, one of our really good employees at Colman and Company, we hired through Craigslist.

Mark S: I got my first lessons in WordPress from a guy I found on Craigslist. We met at a coffee shop, and he kind of worked me through the first steps in doing a WordPress site.

Marc V: When I did some of my home remodeling, I hired a young man to help just be a second set of hands. That’s where I contracted him. But you treat that just like you treat anything else in life. Use common sense. There’s nothing to be scared about being on there. Any time you’re on any of these forums anywhere, there can always be somebody who’s going try to take advantage of you, or maybe not tell the complete truth about their skillsets.

Mark S: I do want to reiterate that the source – what we talked about in the first part of the podcast; all of the requirements and all of our lessons on outsourcing correctly, hiring contractors correctly, it all applies to any source that you pick. If you’re asking for referrals, you drop those names into all of the rules that we talked about.

If you go on Craigslist, you’re doing everything that we talked about. But you could also just go online, and there’s a lot of websites that are designed to help you find freelancers or contractors.

Marc V: Yeah. And there’s so many that are very, very specific ones, for very specific industries, and there are ones that are more general. Also, as you’re Google searching around, you’re just going to find organizations that do that. So, if you’re looking for embroidery digitizing, there’s not going to be a shortage of companies out there that will do that.

So, it’s easy to go onto Google and just search “outsource embroidery digitizing” or “embroidery digitizing services.” Start clicking through, start looking around. Have a little bit of cash aside, so you can test some companies out, if you’d like to, or ask for some samples.

Mark S: That’s another thing that we didn’t talk about, is if you’re looking for some work like graphics or digitizing, you should definitely want to see some of their previous work.

Marc V: Exactly. That’s good to do. So, when you’re doing this, you can just use Google as your friend. Search around. You can use Craigslist, to find people more locally. It’s typically going to be a local way to find people.

Or just any time, if you just search “hire a contractor for my business,” you’re going to find a bunch of places that will have people for doing writing, accounting, whatever it is.

Mark S: There seems to be a service for – I mean, there’s freelancer.com. I’ve found there’s a service called Copy Hackers, which is they’re just a copywriting service, where you can hire a variety of professionals. The nice thing about working with some of these sites – we use Upwork a lot – is you have a third party go-between.

You put the funds in escrow. You have some recourse, if the contractor disappears or doesn’t do the work properly. Those contractors have a vested interest in making you happy.

Marc V: Yeah, because there’s going to be reviews usually, comments from other people who have used the contractor.

Mark S: Right. Which is going to influence their income to a great extent. I think that’s a big advantage over hiring your brother-in-law, or even hiring somebody off Craigslist or something like that, is that most of these outsourcing services will have some kind of an independent review.

Marc V: And you can also look for if they do reviews through Google or Shopper Approved, or any of these third party services that do reviews.

Mark S: Which is a big deal.

Marc V: So you can prove that other people have used them, and that they were happy. So overall, I think you need to have a plan, you need to be smart how you’re hiring people, and you should do it when it’s necessary.

You can’t do everything all of the time, if you want to grow your business to another level. If you’re happy with doing everything within 50 hours, and that’s all you ever want, you’re probably not listening to this podcast, right?

Mark S: That’s very true! At least I hope not. Or you’re one of the majority, apparently, that has listened to all of our podcasts, and have never done anything.

Marc V: There you go.

Mark S: Still! Frustrating!

Marc V: This is something you can do. We named off a bunch of things. An exercise that you can do, if you actually want to do something that you hear on the podcast, is you can look at your work week. What do you spend a lot of time doing? Or what is something that you haven’t done yet, that’s been on a list for months, to do?

Mark S: Yes.

Marc V: Whether it’s a to-do or it’s something that eats up a lot of your time, what would happen if you were to hire somebody temporary, or somewhat long term, to outsource to? What would happen? What opportunity would you gain out of that? How would that help your business?

If you can put it together, a few good sentences, then get on and do it.

Mark S: Yeah, see what happens. I mean, Marc and I are doing these things constantly, because we both work very hard. But in the world of marketing, there’s always 10,000 different things that you can do, ideas that you want to try, things that you’d like to develop. There are a wide variety of activities here, that we are constantly using contractors.

We’re constantly outsourcing different projects, not only that we know we have to do and can’t do ourselves or think somebody else could do better, but also to run down just ideas that we have.

Like the first Facebook ads that I ever did, I didn’t have time to learn how to do Facebook ads properly. So, I hired a contractor to test out if it was a good idea. It was a great idea! So, I no longer use contractors for most of that. I do that myself.

For email marketing, maybe we hire a copywriter to do some of our emails, to see what the response rate is. If it looks promising, it’s worth bringing in somebody in full time, to do that. So, we test out ideas, as well.

Marc V: I think this is one of those things where it’s a mindset, too. Because people look at it as, when they hire the contractor, that it’s a cost to them. It’s something that they’ve spent money on. Remember that this is for the betterment and growth of your business.

So, when you’re hiring a contractor like this, this is more like an investment in your business. It’s not as much an expense.

Sometimes, and oftentimes, small business owners treat their businesses like they treat their personal income and finances. They don’t think about money that they’re spending, and how to use it necessarily smarter. They just consider things as expenses.

Mark S: It’s another cost.

Marc V: “That’s another cost. I can’t afford to do that.” I want you to pause when you’re thinking that, and ask yourself a little bit of a sales-y type of question. Can you afford not to do that? That’s like something a salesperson says, but ask yourself.

Say “I’ve been messing up on this accounting work enough times now. I’ve paid some tax fines,” whatever it might be. “As I grow my business, can I afford not to hire somebody to do my accounting for me? What could the next mistake really cost me?”

The same thing, if you’re turning away jobs, because you’re spending so much time digitizing, and you’re not going out and selling, yes, it’s going to cost you an extra $200 a month to outsource all of your digitizing. But can you afford not to do that?

Mark S: If you pay yourself $20 an hour, look at the hours that you spend on a given activity, and whether or not it makes more sense to get somebody else to do that for less.

Marc V: Ask yourself, can you afford it or can you not afford it? Try to be honest with yourself, and try to think a little bit outside of the space that you’re in right now. Because the reason that you’re listening to this podcast is probably because you want to grow your business. You want to make some more money.

You want to do something different, and you don’t want to keep repeating the same cycle over and over again, and complaining about why you’re not doing better than you wish you were. So, this is one thing you can do to change that.

Mark S: I agree. I just want to make one note, because I know a lot of you out there, if you’ve never done anything like this before, you may be a little hesitant to hire people in other countries, to do your work, as well. I know a lot of our – not a lot, but many of our contractors that we do use are from other countries.

They do great work, and they’re not necessarily incredibly inexpensive, but they help us with projects that we can’t find skills here locally to do for us, or they’re just readily available, or their time works better for us. There’s contractors that I’ve worked with just because they’re working overnight. So, I can give them a job during my day, they work overnight, and I come in the next day, and it’s done.

If that kind of thing fits with your business, I just don’t want you to miss out on great opportunities, because you’ve never dealt with somebody from another country before, doing work for you.

Marc V: Yeah. Not only another country, but take advantage of time zones, as you mentioned there, more specifically, as well. Maybe if you’re on the west coast, and you have somebody on the east coast, or vice versa, that can help you out. Because if you’re finishing your day at 5:00, and you have somebody you work with on the west coast that you send work out to, they’re going to be working a few more hours.

Mark S: And don’t worry about the language barrier. We use somebody to write for us on a regular basis, that’s Canadian, and she speaks pretty good English. She writes pretty well, so we hardly have to correct any of that.

Marc V: They speak English up there?

Mark S: They do, kind of. It’s close. But that’s a great example of somebody that, one of the reasons that I hired her in the first place was because she’s on Canada’s west coast. So, the hours that I’m working after hours here are her hours, and we can communicate well.

Marc V: Yeah. There’s a lot of cool things you can do. Do some research on it. And this is another thing; I think you should just get up and go and pick something to do. Why don’t you just, if you’ve never done it before, why don’t you pick one thing that’s not that big of a deal? Like a digitized design or a piece of t-shirt art, or whatever it might be. Something simple.

Just get out there and hire somebody to do it for $50, whatever it might be. Just actually get out there and have done it once before. This way, if you’re ever in a pinch, where you feel you really need to do it, you’ve got experience. You’re a pro!

Mark S: You’ve got experience. I love that idea. That’s great!

Marc V: So, find something simple maybe to do, to outsource, even if it’s just a simple design work or something like that. This way, you can have done it before.

Mark S: I like that. Give me a second. I’m just Googling outsourcing my podcast. So, I’m not sure if I’ll be here next time!

I don’t have anything else for these folks. I think we’ve imparted some great lessons that we’ve learned in outsourcing, and hiring and using contractors for the past five years, six years, ten years.

Marc V: Yeah. Take some of this stuff into your personal life, too, and share with your friends and family, as well, because this is all stuff that we’ve taken a lot of time to consider and think about.

Mark S: That’s true. Alright! Well, this has been Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And Marc Vila, from Colman and Company.

Mark S: We hope you guys have a great business!

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