Choose Local? Best or not…?

Local and International SupportFollowing on from my article earlier this week, I thought I would talk about the economy of using ‘virtual workers’ that you pay considerably less than you would pay a local provider.   There has been a lot being said in the Virtual Assistant industry lately about “dealing local vs overseas”.  I’m going to weigh in – from the Web Dev, Design and Support view. I’ve been in any number of workshops, live conferences and webinars where the presenters have said “just go overseas to get your website built, it will only cost a few hundred dollars”; “get a ghostwriter from overseas” etc etc etc. Now, this has merit – it really does – generally IF YOU HAVE A CLEAR SCOPE OF WHAT YOU WANT and are prepared to invest the time and energy (and therefore money) into managing this relationship and the deliverables.  Often, what looks ‘cheap’ on the surface, is not in practice. Let me give you a few examples….

  • Back in 2010, I was approached by a business who had paid $800 to have a website built.  They sent me the ‘specs’ that they had provided to their overseas contractor and told me that the site was not what they had envisaged.  However, based on what they had written, I could see how the ‘misinterpretation’ had occurred. The issue was, for us to fix what had been provided cost $2500 vs our building it from scratch and providing ongoing support for about $1,500
  • Graphic Design – there are some incredibly talented people however, the ability to interpret a scope; understand the nuance of our language; be able to ask questions to define the requirement; and then provide the required work is not necessarily obvious.  I’ve seen jobs cost 3 to 4 times what it would have cost to do it locally – simply because of the time required to manage the task and the constant too-ing and fro-ing.
  • Poor coding practices – this is probably the biggest worry to me.  We’ve agreed to take on the support and maintenance of websites only to find that theme frameworks (like StudioPress) have been hacked to the point of being unusable.  Things have been hard coded instead of using the appropriate Hooks and Filters; poor coding practices causes loops that increase the load time of pages and posts; or worse! points of exploits have been allowed
  • Editing of the language is a major issue.  If you use a contractor where english is a second language – you MUST be prepared to review and edit each and every word written.  In fact, in some cases what’s written is so unintelligible that the whole thing has had to be rewritten.
  • The work is not fully completed – it looks done, but there is content missing, links go to blank pages or go nowhere; and there is no documentation of what YOU need to do (or how to do it) to get things finished.
  • Ongoing maintenance – yes, people say “WordPress is easy” – but only if it’s setup that way.  Otherwise, it can be a real pain.
  • Oh yes! The developer or contractor just disappears.

Over a wine (or several) one Friday evening, some good friends told me that they had been in a course that week and one of the participants had been crowing (meaning they had been very, very pleased with themselves) about how much time they spent each week managing their ‘overseas’ work force.  Down to the point that if a job took their virtual worker 4 hours, but they thought it should only take 20 minutes, they would ask why.

For HEAVENS SAKE – how much is your time really worth?  Are you spending 1 hour fixing work that your virtual workers have done (or telling them how to do their work)?  What’s that really worth??? Let’s assume that you’re paying your “virtual worker” $10 per hour and they spend 4 hours doing the job.  There’s $40.00.  Then you spend 1 hour ‘fixing’ things and providing feedback.  I’m going to assume that you want to be paid at least $50 an hour (but it should be more) – so the job has now cost $90 and it’s not done yet.  What if you were to outsource the job to someone who charges $80.00 for the job (project rate), takes 1.5 hours and provides it exactly as you wanted?  ummm, you’re ahead by at least $10.00 and 2.5 hours; and you save yourself a heap of stress.

So, not withstanding the obvious benefits of less time ‘micro manageing’ and less stress… how about an understanding about the local laws; how the target audience might respond to a specific layout; or simply being able to interpret what you want correctly?

Part of our business is Web Development – and there are times we have to work with providers from overseas.  In some cases, we find it necessary to spell out, explicitly what we require in the deliverable from the virtual worker – and we ALWAYS include an allowance to FIX the issues that arise because sometimes they simply don’t understand the requirements or have the necessary skills.

Sometimes $10 per hour costs significantly more than $10 per hour.

You’ll also note that I’ve used the term Virtual Worker, not Virtual Assistant; not contractor; not outsourcer.  The difference to me, is the amount of supervision and oversight required for their work.  Outsourcing / Virtual Assistance means that the provider is a professional who can work independently and deliver against a defined scope of work – allowing me to manage my costs and time accordingly.

Now, before people say “how would you know”… I’ve tested providers Internationally and used services like to purchase “cheap” services.  I’ve tested the so called “SEO services”; I’ve tested graphic designers; I’ve tested coders and techs.  In all fairness, some have been good – but the fees’ I’ve paid for those are comparable to local rates and I would rather support local businesses.  For the others, the deliverables have been sub par and required so much work that it cost me more in terms of personal time to review, request changes and fix the final product.

Time taken to do the work is also an issue.  There have been times where I’ve scoped out a project, based on my experience and input from my team, and set the delivery date based on this estimate.  It becomes really frustrating when you engage your ‘virtual worker’ and find out that the job your team estimated would take 2 hours has taken 8 hours, and there are holes so wide in the delivery that it’s going to take you 2 hours to fix!  So, you’re now 1 day behind on delivery, plus it has cost more – you’ve still had to spend the 2 hours you estimated and you’ve paid your virtual worker for 8 hours (albeit at a lower rate, but it still comes off your bottom line).  Oh, and that’s just one task – multiply that by 3 or 4 tasks on your project and how far behind are you really (both in time and costs)?

All said, I do have contractors from all around the world that I really enjoy working with and they provide me a nice time coverage for work – but I’ve spent a lot of time and energy reviewing their work and training them to meet the standards that we demand within our business.  There is a cost to developing these relationships and ensuring that the subbies understand your business ethos and principles.

This whole discussion doesn’t come down to ‘local’ vs ‘overseas’ – it comes down to:

  • “who can you work with, cost effectively and efficiently”…
  • how much time do you spend micro manageing vs building your business
  • where is the ‘partnership’ – do your subbies or virtual workers provide constructive input into your business?
  • For what you’re spending, can you support your local industry?

What’s the real cost of paying someone $10 / hour or less?  What’s it really worth to you?

About Charly Leetham

Charly Leetham is a Small Business Coach and Online Business Implementation Expert who helps small businesses take their business online. With her amazing team, she provides services to solopreneurs and small business who wish to sell or promote their products and services online.

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Charly Leetham, from Ask Charly Leetham, is an Online Business Implementation Expert who helps Small Businesses and Solopreneurs harness the power of the Internet as a Sales Channel or Channel To Market. Grab a free copy of Charly's teleseminar, Getting Your Business Online Using Low and No Cost Resources by visiting today

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2 Responses to Choose Local? Best or not…?

  1. Lyndal Harris September 3, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Great article Charly! I wrote a similar article recently and decided to try a graphic designer to try it for myself. Yes the rate seemed ridiculously cheap but the level of stress on my part going backward and forward trying to convey EXACTLY what I wanted made the exercise far from worth it. And you’re right, in hindsight factoring in my own time at my hourly rate (let alone the frustration) meant I didn’t save anything financially. Moral of my own story is definitely buy local!

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