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  1. #1
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    Question Suggestions on outsourcing specialized services?

    We're a small web design firm: 1 full-time developer, 1 full-time designer, and an office manager/web "master" (performs basic web maintenance types of tasks).

    What we find we need to do (and I assume others run into this too), is contract out for specialized services, such as:
    • dedicated PPC campaign management
    • on-going web marketing (beyond the initial, solid organic/architectural SEO design that should be built into the website), such as link-building campaigns, SERP monitoring, in-depth keyword research
    • ongoing tech support for web apps (e.g. website with many users who log in with personalized account, and thus occasionally need handholding with their accounts, database maintenance, configuration changes, etc.)


    My concerns with outsourcing or contracting these services are:
    • Quality Control (will they provide the appropriate quality of service to my/our clients)?
    • Poaching: Many of those who provide these specialized servers are likely looking to also expand into a general web design/development firm, and thus likely to try poaching our clients.
    • Logistics: Should client pay them directly? Should our firm be the middle-man and not even acknowledge that a contractor's involved (I don't like that approach, but might be the least messy)

    Any/all experience or advice you could provide will be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  2. #2
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WHOISJOHNGALT View Post
    We're a small web design firm: 1 full-time developer, 1 full-time designer, and an office manager/web "master" (performs basic web maintenance types of tasks).

    What we find we need to do (and I assume others run into this too), is contract out for specialized services, such as:
    • dedicated PPC campaign management
    • on-going web marketing (beyond the initial, solid organic/architectural SEO design that should be built into the website), such as link-building campaigns, SERP monitoring, in-depth keyword research
    • ongoing tech support for web apps (e.g. website with many users who log in with personalized account, and thus occasionally need handholding with their accounts, database maintenance, configuration changes, etc.)


    My concerns with outsourcing or contracting these services are:
    • Quality Control (will they provide the appropriate quality of service to my/our clients)?
    • Poaching: Many of those who provide these specialized servers are likely looking to also expand into a general web design/development firm, and thus likely to try poaching our clients.
    • Logistics: Should client pay them directly? Should our firm be the middle-man and not even acknowledge that a contractor's involved (I don't like that approach, but might be the least messy)

    Any/all experience or advice you could provide will be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
    Your question is very broad and general, so it's hard to provide a worthy answer in a forum post. I would suggest reading up on various business practices including quality, accounting, management, etc. as your questions are fairly standard in business.

    As for quality control, a good way to get started is to disallow contact between your vendor and your client. That gives you a chance to be directly involved and ensure quality to a reasonable degree. Other ways to ensure quality are through periodic reporting be the vendor, and periodic spot checking of the vendors work to smoke out problems before they get nasty. Most importantly, learn to find and retain quality vendors - that will be the #1 easiest way to ensure quality.

    Poaching is simple problem. Many people will tell you things like 'have a rock solid contract' , etc. and certainly it's important to keep your paperwork clean. But none of that will really help much with a sleazy vendor. Find vendors that are established and have proven themselves. Pay them well, treat them well, and make sure that your business is worthwhile to them and the benefits of your business outweigh the potential income from a stolen client. This is about relationships, so be ready to invest in a healthy working relationship and keep it healthy as you go along.

    Logistics are really up to you. If you put a subcontractor in direct contact with a client, you are essentially watering down your services and making things a bit more complicated. If your client is expected to pay them directly, you've really just 'referred' the client and aren't subcontracting anymore. I would recommend that you manage the sub yourself but there are lots of different ways to do this.

    Look for the approach that fits YOUR business and YOUR clients, and be wary of overly dogmatic advice about how to run YOUR business!

  3. #3
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    Thanks!

    Yeah, I realize that the question(s) was fairly vague. But, despite the vagueness, your feedback was helpful.

    I guess what I was looking for, really, were perhaps some war stories (It hurts when I do this! Don't do that then) to avoid some of the pot holes others may have stepped in, as well as suggestions for some best practices.

  4. #4
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    I run a small business and we are the 'outsourcee' for lack of a better word... Companies outsource to us (ad agencies and designers).

    I believe it is reputation that is the answer... Does a company have a rep for stealing customers? Ask them about their current clients (the outsourcer) and see what they have to say. Do they feel comfortable?

    I prefer to be paid by the client directly, only because we've been screwed by a company that used us for outsourcing. But, I would and still do take checks from the middleman if need be.

    After having said that, I have to say that we've ended up with the one client as 'our' client... ONLY because the outsourcer screwed up (he crashed a site and went on vacation! -- knowing it was dead!).

    Brett

  5. #5
    SitePoint Enthusiast simmo_13's Avatar
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    I think it's a difficult balance when the contractor has direct access to the identity of your client (inevitable with a web advertising campaign). It is much easier to manage the relationship, making sure the contractor delivers to you, when deliverables like software are involved - so I do sympathise with your situation.

    As Sagewing and timbee said, I think you need to be on top of your game in terms of management of the contractors you're outsourcing to, and building reputation with the client. It's a bit of a balancing act, but so long as people are kept happy, it should be ok. My advice would be to focus on the relationship with the client. Another contractor can be found if needs be, but replacing good clients is hard.

    Good luck!


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