Follow this simple flowchart to find out whether your next comms project should be outsourced, done in-house or forgotten entirely!
What is the secret to successful outsourcing in content creation and communication?
Communications teams and entrepreneurs creating their own content are faced with a tricky dilemma: What to do when you can’t manage all the projects you would like to get done in-house?
Outsourcing is often presented as the obvious solution; the Prince Charming on the white horse, galloping to the open office to lighten the load of ambitious, hard-working but overloaded communications professionals and business owners.
But having sat at different sides of the content creation table for over two decades, I still haven’t met the saviour that would make outsourcing 100 per cent smooth and friction-free. Working as a journalist, editorial team leader, project manager and finally as an external contractor myself, I’ve also seen where getting help can get tricky, and now have ideas how to iron the wrinkles out.
Three Questions to Ask before Making an Outsourcing Decision
The essential part of finding the best balance between internal talent and external support is determining what to do with each communication project or content deliverable.
There are three core ingredients to the mix: the performance of the project, the talent in the team and the motivation.
Start by asking these three questions for the project you’re looking to outsource:
- Does the content perform the way it’s intended to, or has the project reached its goals in the past?
- Does someone in the team have the skill set needed to perform the tasks related to the project or this type of content well?
- Does this person enjoy performing these tasks?
The combination of the three answers will light the right path forward.
And as I know that solopreneurs, independent professionals and very small teams struggle with these challenges as well, I’ve added to every suggestion a “Solopreneur Adaptation”, so that you can adjust the solutions to your team, whether it means dozens of people or only one person doing dozens of different things.
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Performance and Passion but No Talent → Develop Skills
Let’s start with scenarios where the content or project reaches its goals and you know you want to do more of this.
What to do, if the performance and motivation questions receive a sound “Yes”, but the team’s talents just aren’t at the level where they should be?
If someone within the team is motivated to work on certain types of projects but lacks skills, invest in developing the skills needed to bridge the gap. Talent can be acquired, but acquiring motivation is harder: enjoy the opportunity to nurture your team’s abilities and build an even more performing team in the future!
Solopreneur Adaptation: Focus on one skill at a time. If you’re a solopreneur creating more of your content on your own, invest in constant learning, but one skill at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to master all the skills at once!
Talent and Performance but No Interest → Set up Briefings and Procedures
How about the opposite case then: Project performs and the team has the skills to keep up the good work, but motivation just isn’t there. Maybe the task at hand is too easy for talented and ambitious professionals, or it doesn’t match their personal interests.
These people are great trainers and briefers! They know the task inside and out and can either train their colleagues or external contractors.
Use their deep understanding of how to get the work done and ask them to create written instructions to support the briefing and ensure that the quality doesn’t suffer, even if the deliverables are created by less experienced colleagues.
Solopreneur Adaptation: Think creatively. If you really dislike creating certain types of content or materials, consider closely if you could swap that to something else that performs equally well. Think of different formats, platforms and delivery methods. Tweak what you can and automate the rest.
Three Yeses → Enjoy the Flow (and Keep an Eye on the Future)
In the most straightforward of cases, the answer to all three questions is yes: content or deliverables perform, the talent needed can be found in-house and these talents are raring to get to work.
When all the yeses fall on the right spots, the solution is quite obvious: keep working on what flows!
Keep a close eye on two things though: Firstly, ensure the content keeps performing even as the communication trends change. Secondly, watch for working procedures being written down and updated regularly to guarantee that information is passed on smoothly in case of transition.
Solopreneur adaptation: Do the work yourself! This is content you’re best positioned to create yourself. Even as a one-person-business, you can start writing down standard operating procedures, in case you’d like to get help in the future.
Results but Neither Interest Nor Skills → Outsource
If your line of answers starts with a promising “Yes” but turns into a double “No”, the situation calls for different measures.
When a communication project functions well but there are neither the right skills nor real enthusiasm for acquiring them in the team, it’s often the best time to call for external help.
The challenge arises, however, if no one in the team knows how to do the work themselves, as briefing someone without that understanding is tricky. It’s also hard to predict and anticipate the problems that may arise during the project.
The way around the challenge is to outsource in two parts: First, bring in an expert to help you understand what is needed and how to best proceed. Then, it gets easier to brief an external contributor in a way that sets both parties up for success.
The two-part approach makes outsourcing slightly slower than it would ideally be, but going slow in the beginning often prevents the problems from arising further down the road and can save time in the long run.
Solopreneur adaptation: Uplevel first, outsource second. For solopreneurs, the importance of proceeding slowly is highlighted.
No Results but Motivation or Talent → Leave Room for Creativity
How about cases that start with a sound “No”? Even two “No”s aren’t necessarily a reason to abandon a project entirely.
When it comes to failures or unsuccessful content or projects, but there is motivation or talent in the team, leave the team members some space for creative exploration. These explorations shouldn’t take too big a space in the content plan or team’s agenda, but great things can come when creative people are allowed to follow their passion.
Solopreneur adaptation: Try something new every once in a while! Sticking to things you know that work is a great strategy most of the time, but how will you uncover your next, surprising success strategy if you don’t explore new things every now and then? Trust your intuition when trying out something new.
Three “Nos” → Forget
Finally, let’s look at the “Three Nos” situation.
In this case, the content or project fails to reach its goals, team members dislike working on it and lack real talent that would allow the next take to be different…
I’m sure you guessed it: when there are zero “Yeses” there, it’s time to scrap these projects and focus on something more exciting that has the potential to become the team’s next big success!
Solopreneur adaptation: No adaptation, forget!
The Next Step on a Successful Outsourcing Journey
Successful outsourcing, like any business endeavour, is finally a journey, and the most important thing to do is to take the first step. It can be starting with one project or making one adjustment to achieve better results over time.
Download your copy of the Content Outsourcing Map below for quick reference.
For more personal guidance, schedule a call and we can talk about outsourcing and developing the in-house team’s skills so you can get your deliverables and content out there and start making a difference!