This is a guest post from Sander Daniels, Co-Founder of Thumbtack.com a new outsourcing service for small business. At some point, even DIYMarketers have to outsource in order to get it all done and grow their business. In this article, Sander gives some fantastic advice on how to outsource painlessly and get the results you’re looking for.

So you’ve heard about all this outsourcing stuff. You’ve run across a few sites that say they can help you find people for work you need done. You think it might be a good thing to look into one day. But you just don’t know where to start or whether it’s really worth the trouble.

I hear you. We were skeptical about the whole phenomenon. Would the quality of hires be good – or not so good? Would it be impossible to manage someone remotely? And what tasks do we have that we can outsource anyway?

Since we put out our first job ad for remote help two years ago, we’ve become huge converts. In fact, we’re such huge converts that we now have a team of 125 remote assistants helping our company run.

 

Here is a 5-step plan for how to outsource successfully.

1. Brainstorm things you could outsource

This is the most important step – once you complete this step, you’re on your way to a bigger and better business.

Be creative here. Think hard about this and write down your answers on a sheet of paper: What am I spending time on that I could be outsourcing?

You’ll have a brain block at first – Surely someone working remotely can’t do the same quality of work I do. It’s going to be really hard to manage and coordinate this – ugh.

Here’s how to get over the brain block: Think of the smallest, most repetitive tasks you do every day or week. Here are some possibilities of things you might do:

  • Gathering phone numbers of potential clients you’ve been wanting to reach out to.
  • Browsing blogs to find articles that keep you up-to-date on your industry.
  • Finding open-source photographs to brighten your marketing materials, your email newsletter, or your website.
  • Stuffing envelopes with letters to customers.
  • Shopping around on Craigslist for deals on office supplies.

And keep this in mind – outsourcing doesn’t necessarily mean overseas. Outsourcing can just mean ?temporary help from a hard-working person who lives near me.

For example, here are some people nearby that could help improve your life:

  • A professional organizer who comes into your home or office, builds some shelves or buys some boxes from the Container Store, and makes a joy of your workspace.
  • An accountant who comes in once a week and organizes your sales, your receipts, and your tax write-offs.
  • A college student to deliver carry-out to your office for Friday lunches.
  • A high-end graphic designer to develop a new logo for your team.
  • A handyman to repair the leaking faucet, remove the coffee stains from the carpet, and install the refrigerator lightbulb – all of which you’ve been meaning to get to for 6 months.

Remember: be creative. You are probably doing a lot of things now that you could outsource.

Step 2: Choose a site to use

Can your job be done completely remotely – or do you need someone local to help you out? Are you looking for general help on a bunch of different tasks – or are you interested in a person with a very particular skill set?

We love and use Odesk.com for jobs that don’t need to be done in person. They have a huge number of people all over the world – they say more than 1.3 million people, both inside and outside of the U.S. – who can help you with almost any remote job imaginable. We manage our team of 125 through Odesk, many of the people on their site are extraordinary talented, and most are thrilled to get work and motivated to help you out.

For local jobs, we’re partial to Thumbtack.com (our site!). More than 180,000 local professionals – likehousecleaners,interiordesigners, andgraphicdesigners – have listed themselves on our site. Like Odesk, you can post a free ?request? on our site telling us what you need done, and we’ll do our best to send you 3-5 bids from qualified service professionals to your email inbox within 24 hours.

Odesk has been phenomenal for our needs. Thumbtack is more geared towards jobs that need to be done in-person or locally. There are also in-between? companies that specialize in certain types of work, like 99designs for graphic designers. And Ivana wrote here about a couple other sites you can try out as well.

Step 3: Post a job ad

The next step is to post a job ad on your chosen site.

This should be a pretty easy step – these websites try to make it as simple as possible for you to advertise what you need done.

The only two things you need to do are create an account on the site and fill out the form.

For example, here’s Odesk?s form:

 

As you can see – this step shouldn?t take you more than 3 minutes.

Step 4: Review your applicants

Most sites have a page where you can easily review and compare your applicants according to their credentials.

You’ll want to compare your applicants on a number of metrics:

  • Experience – is this their first job through the site, or their 100th?
  • Professionalism – was their response to you a canned? response filled with typos? Or was it a personalized response written in proper English?
  • Enthusiasm – do they sound excited to work with you? Does your job fit their skill set?
  • Affordability – how does their hourly price compare to that of other applicants?

Here’s an example of how our comparison page looks on Thumbtack:

 

This may seem complicated – but you’ll find that you’ll be able to tell pretty quickly which are the ones you might want to move forward with, and which aren?t.

Step 5: Hire and delegate!

Now you’re on the last step – hiring the person and delegating the project!

The act of hiring someone is pretty simple – most sites have a simple button that notifies the person you want to hire them. Or it will just be clear in your correspondence with the person that you want to work with them.

Delegating the project should be pretty easy – the person already has a description of the job that needs to get done. Usually at this point you’ll need to give them a few more details or some additional materials at this point – this is typically done either through the websites internal messaging system or just by email.

If it’s a relatively small project, you can let the person run with it, and the next time you’ll hear from them is when the project is finished.

If it’s a larger project, I’d recommend having the person check in with you early on in the project so you can make sure everyone’s clear on how the project needs to get done.

And voila – that’s it.

In the best case scenario, you’ve saved yourself time, increased your productivity, and found a reliable partner to help you out with those things you no longer have time to do. And in the worst case scenario? You’ve spent a relatively small amount of money and time to find someone that didn’t end up working out. You can try again – maybe you’ll have better luck next time – or decide that outsourcing?s just not for you.

If you’re anything like us, you’ll be reluctant to outsource at first and wonder if it’s really worth the effort. But once you give it a try, you’ll never go back.

About the Author: ?Sander Daniels is a Co-Founder and Director of User Happiness at Thumbtack.com, an online marketplace for local services. Thumbtack is a small business of 12 employees based in San Francisco.