Things Not to Outsource Even Though They Say You Should

“51 ways”, “101 tips”, and even “1000 and 1 ideas” on how to Outsource your Life. It seems like there is a non-stop competition in blogosphere to come up with a bigger list. Of course VA companies promoting wonders of life outsourcing directly or through “independent” blogs add their list of ideas and justifications. No matter whether you agree with him or not you gotta give it to Timothy Ferriss, he’s a true trend-setter.

While there are many ways to outsource most annoying aspects of your professional and personal life working with VAs is by no means a panacea for all your errands and chores. I will cover rules for “not outsourcing” in another post, at this point I just wanted to highlight a few areas that VA firms would suggest you outsource while you really should not. The list below is fairly small mainly because I wanted to concentrate on tasks that are highly advertised as VA-friendly tasks while they are not. So, here it goes

10 Things Not to Outsource Even Though They Say You Should

1. Website development. If website is primitive, it takes just knowledge of MS word and few clicks to create a website. If you have no clue how to do even that you should spend a few hours googling, otherwise you are leaving yourself wide open to fraud and over-billing. If the website is very simple yet above a one-pager you probably will spend more time explaining to VA what you want then creating it yourself using DreamWeaver or FrontPage, and if website is a bit higher in complexity you will be lucky to get your money and time worth by working with VA. Find professionals – there are plenty of them (see ideas on how to find one in Best Places to Find a Freelancer.

2. Interface Testing. Here is a great phrase I found on one of the blogs – “Need someone to click buttons until your software breaks? Virtual assistants are perfect for the task, especially when you’ve written good test scripts.” What a joke! OK, they clicked the buttons and your software broke. How will they record the issue? How will explain at what point it happen? Will their explanation help developer to fix issue or send him/her on wild goose chase? Testing is not about clicking buttons. Taking this advice will guarantee to cost you an arm and a leg.

3. Interface Design – another one of those recommendations “Need a trained designer on a budget? A good virtual assistant will work wonders.” Not s/he will not. I go through dozens of qualified experienced candidates to find a decent interface designer. Good UI designers are difficult to find even among professionals, unless you do not care for what they produce why would you go with an amateur?

4. SEO / SEM – one of the most recommended tasks for VA. Indeed what could be easier task to outsource than backlink building or directory submission? As a matter of fact that would be a very bad idea. Search engine optimization and marketing requires skills, knowledge and in-depth understanding of ever-changing rules of the game. Doing SEO incorrectly may hurt more than help. But probably more important giving SEO tasks to VA is probably one of the best recipes for wasting time and your money.

5. PPC Management – another area I would recommend to give to a professional. Just a few weeks ago I met with someone who makes living via affiliate sales. She and I spent a couple hours talking about Google AdWords and other ways to drive traffic via adverting on Google and other sites. Even though I know quite a bit about PPC I quickly realized that I am far behind on trends / news and techniques and thus am probably paying 2-3 times higher than I should. Considering that PPC could be rather expensive do you really ant to pay someone to lose money on your behalf?

6. Web 2.0 Online Marketing. Quite popular nowadays – Twitter, Facebook, Hi 5, etc. The reason I would recommend against giving those tools to VA is two fold – first, these tools are new and not well understood; the fashion and buzz around them hardly justify exceptionally low return on investment, second – social media outreach (SMO) is very complex to manage in terms of reaching the right audience; your VA can have 1000 followers on twitter with 100% of them generated by auto-responders and automatons. And the third – it’s practically impossible to measure results of SMO and thus becomes a ticket for time waste.

7. Grant Writing. That one seemed reasonable to me (since I never had to write grants myself) but after talking with just a few friends of mine in science and government space it become apparent that using VA will get you something but never even remotely close to what’s needed to get the grant approved. And if you do not care whether the grant is approved… why write it?

8. Business Plan writing. Creation of business plans falls in somewhat different category. If you know exactly what you want to do and have a clear business plan in mind, than you can use VA to transcribe your ideas, do some additional research and create a formal business plan. Do not expect a VA even a very bright MBA from IIT give you a viable plan for building a business in a field you do not understand.

9. Creative Services. One of VA agencies rating pretty high on Google offers an impressive scope of services under that category – from developing a logo to creating and running TV Ad campaigns. I learned about the agency from a friend of mine who showed me a logo developed by that firm. It was so incredibly bad that I just had to check out the firm. By the way the logo development cost him ~$450 and took about 15 days. Alternative – working with professional graphic designer that you can find on one of many freelancing websites would be a half of the price, a third of the time, and 10 times the quality… Creative services require creative professional with education and skills, and experience in the filed, not general purpose VA you find in we-can-do-everything VA agency.

10. And the Most Important. Let me bring up one point of a general nature: do not outsource your life… Uh? What I mean is that some things in your life are two precious to outsource even if they appear as chores. I remember a scene from a Russian sitcom; a guy is picking up a newborn in a hospital. He gives the mother a huge bouquet of flowers and takes the baby from her. Smiles / music / etc. The nurse looks at the guy and exclaims “Oh dear, I have never seen a baby boy that looked so much like his father!” The mother interrupts her” “No! Ivan is not my husband, he is his personal assistant. My husband trusts him with the most important tasks!” Music/sighs/laughs…

One thought on “Things Not to Outsource Even Though They Say You Should

  1. Haha, I had to write when I read about your top 10 list of things that should not be outsourced. Website development and design are two great examples but there are some companies like ours who are intermediaries – helping companies who need not go offshore to get lower cost but still get great quality work.

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