When Should You Contract Local, Remote or Low Cost Offshore Freelancers?

Globalization and a plethora of online Freelance platforms have made it easier than ever before to hire someone remote and inexpensive to help your business. We’ve heard all the buzzwords; Offshore, Nearshore, Virtual, etc… You can hire a logo designer in the Philippines for a fraction of the cost it would take you to engage a top local freelance branding specialist in your city. Your company could engage a team of developers in Bangalore, India for the cost of hiring a local hotshot coder to come sit in your office with the rest of your team.

But these cost savings are not always what they seem on the surface. You’ve heard the expression “You can’t put a price on quality” or “You get what you pay for.” These often ring true in that the product and service you can expect from a high quality local freelancer can often be far superior to that of an offshore resource. It can also take you and your team far longer to manage offshore resources than it would to manage an experienced local freelancer. So the savings you realize on the Freelancer’s rates can be cancelled out by the extra time it takes your company to deal with them.

But the offshore low-cost option can’t be all that bad, so many companies are using this model successfully to offset their cost of doing business. So how to know when to use low-cost offshore versus someone local and expensive? There are some guidelines we can outline and some particular services that fit one model better than another.

Step by Step Guidelines:

There is no substitute for a high quality local freelancer that can work onsite and integrate fully with your internal team. Most companies know this, but the problem is that these resources can be hard to find. If you absolutely have to go remote due to availability or budget, here are a few guidelines that should help:

  • Try and find a high quality local freelancer in your city who prefers to work from home. If they can come in for the odd meeting, or a few times per week, that should provide you with near the same quality as someone working onsite.
  • Expand your search for a high quality local freelancer in another similar city, and close to your time zone. Having them work at the same time as your team is hugely advantageous for communications and workflow.
  • Next, look for high quality local freelancers in other countries similar to your own in terms of language, standard of living and expected rates. A freelancer in Stockholm might speak perfect English and be the best coder or designer you’ve ever worked with.
  • Sometimes the nearshore option works well, which for North America, means Central or South America. If they can speak your language perfectly so there is no communications barrier, then having them work in the same time zones as your team is advantageous for communications and workflow.
  • If you have to go offshore, do your research. Don’t just hire the cheapest person you find on the first freelance site you go to, or the company that sends you a sales email promising the best service ever. Read the reviews of their work, review some samples and have some meetings with them to ensure they are good communicators.

Services Review:

Software Developers: Having an experienced local freelance developer work onsite, or available to come in for meetings, is always the best option. But there are two circumstances when going offshore is advantageous.

  1. When budget is the primary concern over time. If you’ve got a set budget that is too low to get the job done with high quality local resources, then offshoring could be the solution. You can negotiate a fixed fee for a large project that can be quite low. It will likely take more time to get the job done, but in the end you will hopefully have all the features you need for the budget you set.
  2. When there is just too much work for your team and no one local is available. Many companies find themselves in this situation. There are amazing offshore developers and offshore development companies out there. But for every great one, there are 10 that will disappoint you. Try first to ask around and get some recommendations from other business contacts. Do your research carefully and try and find the best options. Also, if it’s developers you are after, really insist upon an experienced development manager to lead the offshore team onsite. This person should be an excellent communicator and be able to be intuitive when it comes to understanding your requirements. This role is key to working successfully with an offshore development team.

Quality Assurance / Testers: Now this is a position that works really well with the offshore model! Offshore QA resources can be very well trained and of high quality. Testing can be time consuming. No matter who does it, a local resource in your office or a remote resource in India, it often takes the same amount of time to go through test cases. For this reason, offshore QA is extremely cost effective. Another advantage is that offshore QA resources can test at night after your team has finished up their work for the day. In the morning, your latest work has been thoroughly tested and all the bugs tracked for your team to tackle.

Graphic Designers: Design can be very personal and very subjective, especially with branding efforts. In order to do great design, a designer needs to really understand your product or your business. If a designer can meet with you regularly and come to your office to get a feel for your business, or work with your team, their work will be informed and improved by that experience. That said, as long as you have reviewed their portfolio and really like their work, chanced are the work they do for you will be of similar quality. Follow the same guidelines above when choosing a freelance designer.

Project Managers and Producers: While this freelance position can be remote, most businesses and agencies prefer to hire a local resource. There is absolutely no substitute for a Project Manager or Producer being in the office, working directly with the project team. If you have to go remote, then try for someone local who can come in for meetings as necessary, or at least someone in your same time zone who speaks your language fluently.

Copywriters: This position all depends on the quality you are after. If you are an advertising agency and need a freelance copywriter for a highly conceptual project, then you need the best local freelance copywriter you can find to come in and work with your team during the ideation phase. Once they get into the actual writing, they can work from home (it’s almost preferred as they will be more focused and you don’t have to provide them a desk). If you just need someone to write blog posts or copy for your website, then a high quality remote freelance copywriter in any city similar to yours should be just fine. I wouldn’t recommend going offshore for this role as language skills are key.

SEO: This position really depends more on the skill and experience of the resource than if they are local or not. It’s always nice to work with someone local. However, I’ve know businesses to have great success with offshore SEO experts, so you might get lucky and find a low-cost offshore SEO professional that gives you great results.

Consultants, Strategists and Marketing Pros: Working with these freelance resources for your business can be both risky and extremely personal. You are entrusting them with decisions that impact your business in more far reaching ways than other freelance resources. For them to understand your business they really need to be immersed in it. For that reason I would recommend always gong local with these freelance resources. If you must hire remote because you found a great specialist in another city, then you should be flying them in for critical meetings. Regular conference calls (video if possible) should be the norm to ensure they are on track and understand the tasks at hand.

That’s not all the positions that we could talk about, but it’s a good cross section and should provide a good base for making local versus offshore decisions for your business. Ultimately the right person for the job could be a block away, or they could be halfway around the world. The challenge is to find them.

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