As a project manager, I frequently have had to deal with outsourcing work, and offshore outsourcing, specifically. From my past experience, I can only say that while sometimes the costs are very low and, therefore, somewhat seductive, in the long term you generally end up paying more than you expected to.
In early 2005, a friend contacted me and requested that I design a website for his company. He also asked me to take on management of the project, and find the appropriate coder(s) to do the work. The specifications were really simple: build a dynamic website with a few, simple, administration capabilities and a Content Management System.
“That’s not rocket science,” I told him. “It should be completed within few days,” and I hung up. (Would that it were so!)
At the time I had no available coder to work on the project, and while I could have rented a local freelancer to ease my own pain of overseeing the project as manager, I decided to outsource this simple task to an offshore freelancer.
I’ve never liked using sites such as “GetAFreelancer”:http://www.getafreelancer.com/, because I always feel more comfortable if I have a recommendation for a worker from someone I know. I contacted a young freelancer who had been referred by several friends: “He’s cheap and can quickly do the job,” they said. I requested to see his portfolio to confirm his skills.
When managing a project, I try to make sure that everyone involved understands all aspects of the work to keep the communication open, and I ask to be contacted when complications arise. This helps me keep my finger on the pulse, and makes it easier to check-up on the progress of the project to make sure that everything will be delivered on time. If you’re serious enough–and you should be–you will add a clause to your contract specifying what will happen if you or your freelancers are late on delivery.
*These are my general guidelines. They have always worked with _local freelancers_ whome I was able to meet, personally.*
I was not to be so lucky in this case.
The next day I sent my offshore freelancers a specification document, including a layout and a contract specifying the fee I’d pay him for his work, and the deadline for delivery. We chatted several times on MSN and everything seemed to be rolling. He began to work. During the next 2 weeks, I had to send him several emails requesting to see the work in progress. Even after his 2-week deadline had elapsed, the website design was far from complete. While I have a basic knowledge in php/Mysql, I realized that my freelancer was getting nowhere. I fired him.
I contacted another coder regarding this website. We quickly started to work and after a week he went unresponsive to my email and my phone calls. After a few days, his girlfriend contacted me and explained me that he had been hospitalized. That’s bad luck.
*Tired of trying to find someone else to do the job, and anxious about being late on my own work product schedule. I went local.*
At that time, my neighbor was taking a C++ programming class, as part of his physic’s study, so I knocked on my friend’s door and practically begged him to study php/MySql in order to help me finish this simple website. It took him less than 2 weeks to complete the website and learn the PHP basics.
It was a nice switch from my “offshore outsourcing” experiences. I’ve since moved on to working exclusively with my neighbor friend. Productivity skyrocketed, and we’ve been able to complete projects faster than I ever did on my own.
*There was huge fringe benefit to this experience: I discovered my co-founder!*
Two years later, he and I have launched our own startup: an Internet services firm and our first startup “Octabox”:http://www.octabox.com (A web platform combined with a social community that enable freelancers to share, collaborate on projects and improve productivity). We are currently 5 people working at “Lionite LTD”:http://www.lionite.com.