Outsourcing Magic: 7 Small Things for Big Impact

Freelance outsourcing

We all know hiring talent overseas is cheaper than most Western countries. But hiring good talent.. the kind you expect, is not without pitfalls…BIG ones.

Navigating the minefield of outsourcing is not easy and there is no singular path to getting your next $1000 project done in record time for $100. In fact, the amount of time learning and navigating this space has caused many people to give up entirely.

Between language barriers, cultural differences, time zone issues and a host of other challenges, getting more done for less requires a long-term view and more patience than many entrepreneurs can muster.

I’ll cover the complete system my friend, Charmaine Thring (featured with her Vietnamese team above) has created, along with a few of my own personal nuances later. For now, please save this list and remember… “I told you so.”


Look for talented “rookies”. It’s naive and dangerous to go with the low bidder and minimal experience. You are setting yourself up to be a learning pad for your new hire. You are not a school and if they want to learn how to work with foreigners, develop their skills, they should be paying you (or get Charmaine’s course). Focus on people with a proven set of skills (most have passed language and proficiency tests) and who have a few referrals, but are still pricing themselves accordingly.


English is a tough language. If you come across an outsourcer who’s English is very weak, your communication will be excruciatingly slow. This turtle-speed may actually cost you more than simply hiring locally… or at least someone who can converse at a 5th-grade level or above. Make sure they have passed a basic English proficiency level.


Don’t set unreasonable deadlines. This is a sure way for your new hire to “disappear” on you. In Asia, saving face trumps raw honesty. Most are more comfortable lying to you about a deadline and pleasing your deadline request, then telling you, “it can’t be done.” it’s a cultural nuance you need to work through. Be patient and above all, let them know you are flexible.


For many large tech projects, outsourcers require partial payment upfront. For small projects, they may even insist on 100%. Don’t do it. I’ve lost hundreds of deposits on outsourcers with great references, who took the money and disappeared. Set up milestone payments on progress for large projects. For hourly workers, it is customary to pay them immediately after the work is complete.

Hourly vs. Project

I’ve hired people both hourly and by the project. With skilled people, project-based pricing is easier to understand. However, for ongoing tasks, hourly or a monthly salary will allow both parties to measure progress and be treated fairly. For hourly work, use a tool like www.Hubstaff.com that takes screenshots of your worker, so you can keep track of their progress.


While talented “rookies” are a good fit, you may run across a massively loyal and talented person and feel the need to give them more work outside of their skillset. In cases like this, I have found it advantageous to pay for their training. Sure, if they leave, you lose your investment, but if you’ve got a loyal worker, repay their loyalty in kind.

Job Description

One of Charmaine’s strengths (Yes… I’ll share with you her contact information below) is setting up job descriptions, sign off agreements and basically, leaving no stone unturned. When you have a task, the more detailed you are in describing it, the better for both of you. You cannot overdo this. I often take screenshots (ctrl+shfit+4 on my mac) and highlight exact places to click and do things. It avoids confusion and keeps the workflow.

Now…. Ta-da! Who is this Charmaine gal? She’s an Aussie who has mastered outsourcing like no other entrepreneur I’ve met. In fact, she holding a retreat in her 2nd home in Vietnam in May. I highly encourage you to check out this experience and do what you can to attend.

The return on investment you will receive in avoiding landmines, gaining experience and acquiring connections will be 10-fold the cost of the event.  In fact, flights are amazingly inexpensive right now. According to Scott’s Cheap Flights (as of this writing) Chicago to Hanoi, round trip is as low as $523!

Get there!

Also published on Medium.

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