Have you had this conversation?
“I love your new website,” you say to a business associate.
“Thanks. We’re happy with it,” he responds.
“Who made it?” You ask.
“Ummm…” he stutters, glancing sheepishly from side to side. Then he lowers his voice and confides: “Actually, we had it made in India.”
I’ve noticed that often people don’t want to admit out loud that they are outsourcing to India, or other countries where they can pay a fraction of local rates. Like your son’s bed-wetting problem and your hair-style in the ’80s, it’s the sort of self-disclosure you avoid in professional settings.
There seems to are two main reasons why we want to keep it hush-hush:
- We think it lowers our prestige: Maybe our blatant desire to save money will ruin our slick, successful image, making us look unprofessional and strapped for cash? After all, we want to be like those high-end brands, which pay top dollar for top talent and boast about their dynamic, fun-loving team on their “About Us” page. It’s perhaps now professionally acceptable to outsource low-skilled work – after all, Apple and Nike and other leading brands aren’t too proud to cheaply outsource their production offshore. So who cares if my PA works from a mud-hut in the Philippines? On the other hand, will quality customers hire us at premium rates if they know that we’re outsourcing some tasks cheaply?
- We fear that local providers will hate us: If we are open about outsourcing, then local web developers and graphic artists and SEOs will resent us and perhaps accuse us of stealing the bread out of their children’s mouths. Don’t we have some sort of moral obligation to buy local and support professionals in our community? Are we single-handedly undermining Israel’s economy (or whatever your economy may be) by spending our dollars in Asia? And what about the mitzvah of giving parnasa (livelihood) to my fellow Jew? Heck, I write a blog helping others with their parnasa. My hypocrisy is astonishing!
All these thoughts go through my head regularly. Still, I cannot tell a lie. I have outsourced to India quite a bit. Is it an aveirah (sin)? No. There is no prohibition on going for a cheaper price, even if it means passing over your own sister. (Not that I’m telling you to do that… :))
It is, of course, the highest form of charity to give your fellow Jew a source of income and that is something that I try to do whenever possible. But every business needs to be realistic about what it can afford to spend in order to survive, thrive and remain competitive. Going bankrupt is no mitzvah. Cheap outsourcing is a way to reduce your risk if your budget is tight. Meanwhile, local talent can continue to thrive by providing a level of service that is hard to find in India. (I could go on rationalizing my decision… but I think I’ll move on to the meat of the article instead.)
In any case, the problem with the taboo surrounding outsourcing is that it causes a lack of open, professional discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing. So I am now ready to bravely break the silence and share with you some things I’ve learned along the way:
Odesk vs. Fiverr: The Inside Scoop
My outsourcing experience has been mainly via Fiverr and Odesk. These are two huge outsourcing platforms when tens of thousands of people are competing to sell you their services at rock-bottom prices.
Odesk is a professional marketplace used by many people for all kinds of projects, from small and one-off to huge and ongoing. Fiverr, on the other hand, is more of a fun place where you can get simple professional services and just about anything else for just $5.
Give Me Fiverr
I’ve bought some really great gigs on Fiverr. I got the cover of my ebook on Fiverr (which you can see above), as well as the header for my Yiddish translation site. I also got the light bulb icon for this blog. I am satisfied with these images. Of course, I had to give “Sheepshead369” and “Starlightgal789” the exact specifications of the graphic I wanted and provide the background images at my own expense.
The level of initiative and thinking-for-oneself of the Fiverr folks is rock bottom. For one banner I made on Fiverr, I sent them a picture of Sydney Harbour and they inserted it upside-down. To their credit, they were very good about fixing it when I pointed out the error. However, one might expect that that any 3-year-old knows that sky goes on top, while water and buildings go on the bottom. But I’ve found that keeping your expectations really low is the key to a great Fiverr experience… because sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And if not, you wasted $5.
It’s kind of like buying a scratch lottery card, only without the gritty stuff under your fingernails.
I think Fiverr is great for buying cheap, simple graphics, providing you have a clear idea of what you want and the time to explain it in writing in basic English. Some folks also use Fiverr to buy thousands of fake Facebook likes or Twitter followers (OK, It’s Elul and I confess I did that one time.)
I’m not sure it’s a good place to buy a logo for any kind of legitimate business. I did actually once try to get a new logo concept for this blog from a top-rated logo designer on Fiverr and the results are on the right. Needless to say that it is so boring and tacky that there was nothing to discuss. I just kissed my five hard-earned bucks goodbye and moved on.
One thing you should never buy on Fiverr is links. I bought a few hundred for my Yiddish site and as a result it was badly hit by Google’s Penguin update. I wrote more about that story in this post for New Edge Design’s blog. In case you didn’t know, the era of buying spammy links for SEO is officially over!
In any case, it’s worth signing up and exploring the Fiverr marketplace. Unlike other outsourcing platform, Fiverr is really fun to use. It’s really entertaining to browse and see what people are offering for a measly $5.
(By the way, Fiverr is an Israeli company, so 20% of whatever I spend there stays local. I know they’re in Israel because they once invited me to interview for a marketing job, but that’s another story. You’ll have to buy my book to read it! :))
Ode to Odesk
I have also done a lot of outsourcing on Odesk, and I’ve built several entire websites there. The prices on Odesk are pretty cheap but you can still spend a ton of money there if you are not watching your contractors like a hawk, especially for a big projects like web design and development.
Several people I know who’ve used Odesk for web development have had serious problems with their sites later on. I had an OK web development experience (after trying out a few dud contractors) but I became more frustrated with my developer as time went on. While at first he was so responsive and quick, after a while he got really slow. The last time I worked with him I asked him to delete two items from my navigation bar and he billed me for 7 hours of work! It should only have taken 10 minutes!
I have had good experiences on Odesk with PowerPoint work, and video creation and editing. For example, I paid $50 for this video:
Should You Outsource to India?
In reality, I haven’t done much outsourcing lately and I can’t say I miss it. I’ve been working a lot with New Edge Design and I enjoy being part of that team. Their work on SEO and design is particularly impressive relative to the mediocre, slapdash stuff you find cheaply offshore. You just can’t compare the experience of working with a full-service expert company, to outsourcing via Fiverr or Odesk or any other outsourcing marketplace.
The problem with cheap outsourcing, especially with something like web development or app development where all the work is under the hood, is that it’s often hard to evaluate the quality until it’s too late. You really have to be an expert to make sure the work is being completed properly! For this reason, some businesses hire local experts to manage outsourced development for them. For aesthetic services, like graphics and videos, outsourcing can be great if your standards are not high. And who knows… you might be pleasantly surprised.
In conclusion, I don’t think it’s evil to outsource to India. It’s a business reality that we are all adjusting to, including local service providers.
On the other hand, if you are looking to outsource to save money, consider outsourcing to Israel. Obviously there is some amazing tech talent in this country and it can cost less than half what you’d pay in North America, the UK or Australia. I’ve recently helped some of my overseas blog readers hook up with some great talent here Israel. So if you’re looking for good service providers or staff, contact me.
But obviously if you absolutely need to minimize your expenditure, do what you have to do. We won’t tell anyone :).
And with that I officially open the floor to this meeting of OA (Outsourcers Anonymous)! Tell us about your view of outsourcing to India and elsewhere.