Archives 2013

Web Design and Development Tips

Outsourcing Web Design & Development: 5 Important Tips

Most businesses today outsource their web design and development as it makes more sense from a financial and management perspective. Here are 5 important tips to help you when outsourcing your web design and development:


1.    Define scope and schedule

The main deliverables of your web design and development project should be included in the project scope. Further a schedule or timeline breaking down the deliverables will give you a good indication on how the project should be progressing.


Ensure you communicate your expectations to your web designer and developer before the go ahead of the project to prevent scope creep. Scope creep occurs when you haven’t clearly communicated the deliverables required and so during the project these new deliverables creep in.


Scope creep creates a lot of confusion and wastes project time. So always ensure you clearly state what you require from the project and outsourced provider at the onset.


2.    Know who you’re getting in bed with

Before your outsourced web developer starts work and before payment is made, ensure that you have a contract in place stipulating the agreement terms. However, be aware who you’re entering the contract with, for example, is it an individual or a company? If it’s just an individual freelancer and not a company, you risk not being protected should something go wrong.


If you’re outsourcing the work to a company in a developing country, it is best if a legitimate foreign company in a developed country owns that outsourcing company. This is because the number of freelancers and “cowboy” operators has mushroomed in developing countries since web design and development is an extremely lucrative opportunity. There are many untrained and under qualified freelancers posing to be a company on online platforms such as Odesk and Elance.


3.    Ensure your outsourced partner shares the same vision

In order to know if your outsourced web designer shares your vision, you can view samples of previous work the outsourced web designer has done. However, it is often difficult to verify the legitimacy of this. Unfortunately, it is common especially for freelancers in developing countries to pass off work done by others as their own in order to get clients. Testimonials can also be fabricated. Furthermore, for outsourcing companies especially those that do lots of work for other local web design and development companies, they often sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) with their clients restricting what they can show you.


The best option would be to put forth your vision with specific details for the design and development of the website, assess if the outsourced provider is forthcoming with ideas and request if they can do a complimentary 1 page virtual mockup design. It is rare but there are outsourced web design providers who are willing to provide you with all this without obligating you to a sale.


This way you will be able to assess if they share your vision and if they have shown so much effort even without obligating you to a sale then chances are you can trust them to do an excellent job. On your part, you should not abuse this gesture of theirs. If the sample design does not align with your vision even after further discussions, then you would have to politely move on. Just ensure you don’t use their web design sample with another provider due to copyright issues.


4.    Pay promptly according to milestones completed

Usually after signing the contract, the outsourced web designer and developer will require a 50% deposit to reserve the start date on their development schedule. After this deposit is made, other progress payments might be required. Final payment is usually required before everything is up and running on the live site. Ensure that you pay the required milestone payments promptly failing which you risk delaying your project and creating mistrust with your outsourced provider.


5.    Decide on ownership of the website

Although from your perspective you are paying a web developer to develop your site, just be aware that this does not mean you have ownership of the completed site. If your agreement with your outsourced provider does not state the ownership of the completed website, then this means there is silent ownership where the outsourced provider will own the site.


Clarify the ownership of the website and your intentions for the site with your outsourced provider before the commencement of the project.

For example, if you want a custom application created for your site that you intend to later package and resell, then you will need to communicate that to your outsourced provider as that would be significantly different to having a standard website as a source of information for your clients and prospects. Having full ownership of the website will cost more so you will have to weigh the importance of this with your budget.


Using the above tips, you will be able to outsource your web design and development for success.

Outsource Online Brand Management

4 Ways to Outsource Your Online Brand Management to Virtual Assistants

To network online, there’s a lot of WORK to be done. You can either struggle adding online brand management to your very long list of things to do as an entrepreneur or you can be smart and outsource a lot of the less fun and irrelevant parts of your online brand management to virtual assistants.


When outsourcing your brand management, know that your brand is extremely precious so always ensure that you maintain control of it. Your virtual assistants are there to do the monotonous work while the vision and direction of your brand MUST come from you.


4 Ways to Outsource Your Online Brand Management to Virtual Assistants


1. Claim and manage your online spaces (ie. a website/blog site) to build your reputation


When people meet you or first get to know you, there’s one thing for sure that they are going to do – they will Google you. To ensure that they are going to find awesome content about you rather than negative information from some anonymous person posting online about say a drunken stupor you had, ensure that you take control of your brand online by claiming the online spaces that you do have control over. These online spaces might include a domain name with your website, blog, facebook, twitter and youtube videos. You can outsource the creation and management of the domain name, website and social media profiles to your virtual assistant but direct your virtual staff on how you want your reputation to be managed.


2. Make it easy to communicate on online spaces but moderate it


Part of creating a great brand online is to be open to communicating with your audience. To do this, ensure that you allow comments on your personal blogs and social media profiles. Your virtual assistant can monitor any incoming messages and moderate them according to criteria that you set out for this.


3. Track thought leaders and build your reputation


To build your reputation, you need to consistently track the thought leaders in your field and get involved with online discussions. Your virtual assistant can research thought leaders in your field, transcribe or summarize their videos/podcasts/blogs and feed that vital information back to you in an easy digestible and timesaving format. You can also get your virtual assistant to research the thought leaders’ forum questions and discussions so that you can engage with them and their audience through your own comments and answers. The more you engage on the online platforms of thought leaders, the more credible you will seem to others.


4. Invite people and communicate with your peers on your online platforms


In order to foster business and personal relationships, you will need to consistently invite people and communicate with your peers on your online platforms. Other than adding your existing personal and business contacts to your online social networks, your virtual assistant can also research targeted connections and invite them to your social networks such as linkedin. You will need to ensure that you communicate with your online peers. You can guide your virtual assistant on how to answer certain posts or messages, however, always get your virtual assistant to send the reply message to you for editing and tweaking BEFORE your reply is posted.


In order to get the best out of outsourcing your brand management, always collaborate with a reliable outsourcing company with a local presence that can be held accountable.  Outsourcing your brand directly offshore, for example, to a home- based worker offshore would be an extremely perilous thing to do when your brand is at stake.


Don’t Devalue Your Time – Outsource to a Virtual Assistant

Outsourcing your tasks to a virtual assistant (such as a web designer, SEO/SMM specialist or a general admin assistant) is a MUST if you’re a serious entrepreneur.  To become a serious entrepreneur, you have to assess the value of your time. How much are you worth per hour currently? Take your yearly salary and divide it by 2000 to get your per hour rate eg. if you’re earning a salary of $50 000 a year from your business, you’re earning $25/hour. How much would you like to be worth per hour, $50, $150, $300 or more? Decide what you want to earn per hour and then from there work on a plan to achieve it.


As an entrepreneur, there’s no limit to how much you can make, however, there is a limit to how much time you have in a day. There’s only 24hrs in a day for all of us. The value of your time really comes down to opportunity cost – the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action. These benefits forgone could be in dollars or otherwise such as time forgone to work on your income generating actions or time forgone with your family and friends. For example, if you have a web store, instead of uploading products to your web store yourself, you could outsource the job to a virtual assistant or a team of virtual staff from an offshore outsourcing company for $8-$10 per hour. You can then use the time you would have spent on the task to work on marketing strategies which will drive more traffic and leads to your web store.


To get your business to grow, you will need to let go and delegate. You need time to step back from your business every now and again to have a look at your business growth and make the relevant changes to navigate it on the right path if it’s off-track. However, often times, entrepreneurs get too emotionally connected to their business that they refuse to let go and delegate so they not only end up wasting their time doing the things that do not generate a worthy return on investment but they’re unable to see their business from a non-biased third person’s perspective.


Don’t overlook the most important aspects of your business which GENERATE INCOME by devaluing your time. Many entrepreneurs are guilty of trying to do it all on their own and this is one of the reasons why the average business makes less than $100k a year, has no plans for growth and fails within the first 5 years. If you’re doing work that someone else can do for $10 per hour, than that’s exactly what you’re worth as an entrepreneur, $10 per hour. And if you think you’re worth just $10 per hour as an entrepreneur, then you shouldn’t have quit your day job.


In order to succeed, you’ve got to have time to create and implement a growth plan for your business. Virtual staffing is a great tool that you can use as one part of your growth plan. As with all plans, always assess your risks and rewards. The risks and rewards are not the same for every person. The risks and rewards from outsourcing staff are very unique to your own circumstances and will depend on your goals, your objectives and your opportunities. If the rewards outweigh the risks and you have your finances in order, partner with a reliable outsourcing company to hire virtual assistants and you’ll see your business not only survive but thrive.


Make Virtual Staffing a Reality: Go Paper-less | Virtual Staffing Services

To make virtual staffing a reality in your business, we recommend that your business goes paperless or at least paper-less (less use of paper). In today’s fast-paced business landscape, you need to be able to quickly put documents at the fingertips of the right people, at the right time from anywhere. You won’t be able to do this if you’re drowned under stacks of paper and rummaging through your filing cabinets every time you need to search for a document.


Get over your paper addiction. Start consolidating all your documents into a cloud based centralized document management system to enable you to act quickly with the right people when it comes to accessing information. In order to streamline your business operations and take excellent care of your clients, it is extremely important that you process documents electronically (using the system to automatically manage, track and report on these processes). When you expand paperless across your business, you will be better ready and able to take on offshore outsourcing staff and apply complete end- to- end business workflows that automate and apply existing processes more efficiently.


For instance, instead of having client records on paper, all communication with clients and client records should be electronically recorded, stored and accessible online on a CRM (customer relationship management system). So if you have a virtual sales staff, you can readily provide your virtual sales agent the relevant access levels to the CRM so that your staff can access relevant client records. If the need arises, your sales agent can share related client information and tasks via the CRM with another authorized staff like a virtual administrative staff to take care of the client’s administrative needs.


Another example is if you have an offshore bookkeeper, ensure you electronically store all accounting documents such as expenses, receipts and sales invoices so that your virtual bookkeeper can readily access this information and do your books via an online accounting system. This will allow you to log into the online accounting system at any time to look over the progress of your virtual bookkeeper and communicate any errors quickly.


Where possible automate the initial scanning of the documents by implementing a more sophisticated document capture approach. Human errors will decrease and efficiency will increase the more you automate with the system. It is best if your systems are interlinked, for example, link your accounting system to your CRM so you’re able to view invoices and quotes directly on your CRM and link your CRM to your emails so that you’re able to view this information in your CRM directly from within your emails. A virtual staffing company can assist you in establishing these online systems and centralizing your data.


Going paperless or paper-less, by applying document management technology is a pre-requisite these days if you want to give your business a competitive advantage. Paper based processes are ancient history. While the reality of being 100% paperless may not be attainable, businesses that are taking the paperless path are reaping the rewards for each step they take in going paperless. Being able to use offshore outsourcing services is one of the benefits of going paper-less. The key in this whole process is ensuring you get reliable and secure systems and your data is backed up regularly.