The ten outsourcing commandments (or how to be a heavenly contractor)
We've worked as part of in-house teams, commissioning work from external writers and producers. We've worked remotely, producing content for large corporations. The same issues and the same routes to best practice come up again and again.
So here are some tips on creating a happy and productive working relationship between in-house teams and contractors – from both points of view.
For in-house teams
1. Give a clear brief As in any project, a clear brief ensures that both sides know what they have to do. It's all about managing expectations.
2. Communicate. A lot. Give regular updates so if the project develops or changes you can be sure the contractor is producing the content that fits.
3. Give constructive feedback This is sometimes difficult when you're not in the office together. Best thing is to be straight and offer solid examples about the way it could be improved next time.
4. Make the remote workers feel part of the team Can they have a company email address? Be copied in on emails, so they're part of the conversation even if they message isn't directed at them? An invite to the Christmas party is always welcome too.
5. Pay your invoices promptly. You can read all the management books you like, but there's no better way to make someone feel valued than by paying them for their efforts! Plus, the less time they have to spend chasing invoices the more they have to focus on your project.
6. Ask questions. Getting things straight from the beginning is the best way to avoid wasted effort and to improve your prospects of being asked back.
7. Keep on top of your paperwork Yes, that means returning back the contract straight away, sending timesheets in on time, making sure invoices are accurate. You may not mind if your payment or contract is held up but other people in your team might.
8. Communicate. A lot. People are more understanding about problems with deadlines than you think and advance warning is always appreciated
9. Be available You need to check your email regularly, and it's a good idea to include your phone number in your email signature so people don't have to hunt around for your number. Messenger services like Yahoo!, AIM, MSN and Skype are also excellent ways to keep in touch, perfect for those 'I don't want to bother you...but' queries.
10. Be full of ideas What extra input can you offer to the project? What skills and experience do you have that could be useful in the future? How can you add value?
[Picture credit: Clarita ]