Archive for October, 2012

Outsourcing Helps Strengthen Your Start-up

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

If you’re just launching a new business, you might think that outsourcing some of the work would be the last thing on your mind. But according to this article by Hugo Greenhalgh on Techcircle.in, outsourcing certain aspects of your work can be the difference between a lean, well-oiled machine of a company and you working 80-hour weeks.

The article describes some companies that found great success when they allowed certain practices to be taken care of outside the office. In a nutshell, here are the reasons why they found these methods so helpful.

Advantage #1: Rapid Growth Minus Overhead

Outsourcing allows your start-up to have all the qualities of a large office with many departments, but at a fraction of the cost. Especially when your business is new, the costs of hiring and training staff can be off-putting  But often, a third-party firm or freelancer is available for pennies on the dollar compared to adding a whole new department to your burgeoning business. Neil Asher of The Advanced Child Academy built his entire business model around Elance, and ended up cutting costs by about 80%. Ziptask could offer comparable results to many new businesses.

Advantage #2: The World of Workers at Your Fingertips

Even if a new business seeks to hire on a large scale, they may run into stumbling blocks if there are no available workers in the area with the proper qualifications. Companies that tap into tools like Ziptask, Elance, and oDesk can find talented workers from anywhere on the planet, eager and ready to go. And keeping these workers in their home towns instead of forcing them to relocate is a whole other set of advantages: office costs are lowered, globalization improves, and everyone’s happy.

Advantage #3: The Power Shift

While it might seem reasonable to think that outsourcing so many departments would lead to an overall loss of control, the individuals who report from the front lines will tell you otherwise. Lief Schneider, managing partner at Schneider Bartosch Communications, was asked about providing good service while outsourcing. He says, “You don’t need to be an expert in everything – in fact no one can be, or should claim to be – but you do need to have access to the best experts and you do need to know how to manage them. We effectively outsource any work that is not senior managerial activity.” The mark of any good manager is the ability to effectively delegate work, whether it’s to the person in the cubicle next door or to a firm halfway around the world.

These people have found success by relinquishing the less hand-on portions of their business to workers outside their offices. Ziptask hopes to help business accomplish these same goals, with the added advantage that with their system, you don’t need to waste time tracking down the perfect worker. If you want your start-up to operate like the big guys, outsource the small stuff to give yourself the time and brainpower for the larger issues, and your bank statements will confirm the wisdom of your choice.

 

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Outsourcing the Crap Work

Friday, October 26th, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

There’s a new trend that’s begun to rear its head in outsourcing. Hiring someone designated to catch crap is a widely practiced business strategy, but now it’s being taken literally; towns and institutions have begun to outsource their entire sanitation departments to outside firms and private service providers.

In one story, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation in New Delhi plans to outsource the task of providing toilets and proper hygiene in the corporation’s primary schools. The decision was passed due to a combination of a staff shortage and a Supreme Court directive that all students had to be provided with clean facilities and drinking water in accordance with their rights to free and compulsory education.

In another story, the city council of Massillon, Ohio voted unanimously to shut down their local Solid Waste Department in favor of outsourcing garbage collection to a company in the private sector. In addition to reducing costs for the city, residents will now have access to curbside recycling, a perk they could not previously enjoy under the city’s sanitation department, and the city will make some more money back by selling their garbage trucks to the new workers.

In both these cases, we see attitudes that are very Ziptask-friendly. Although we’re not about to drive out to your city to scrub your toilets and collect your garbage, the sentiment and ideology are very resonant. These businesses and services find themselves bogged down in the details of making everything run smoothly. In both cases, sanitation is just a cog in the giant machine that is the North Delhi Municipal corporation or the city of Massillon, and they find that outsourcing the task frees up people for more crucial work in addition to increasing the quality of the outsourced task itself.

In the Ziptask world, this equates to similar cleanup work. Ziptask will do the final formatting on a blog post after in-house people actually write the thing. Ziptask can balance the figures after you make a big deal with a new client. And Ziptask can take the winning pitch that you spent all last week working on and turn it into a script, create a PowerPoint slideshow, and put the whole thing in a nice package ready to be presented. After your people do the hard work, Ziptask does the cleanup, the polishing, and just generally keeps your hands off the tasks you’d rather stay away from.

Take a hint from these institutions, and leave the smelly stuff to the pros.

 

Why Microsoft Office?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

 

There really isn’t any other service like Ziptask that focuses exclusively on Microsoft Office for the majority of its work. Many other freelancing and task-outsourcing networks prefer to focus broadly, offering their customers a litany of services, options, and types of work. But Ziptask eschews this method. Why? What makes MS Office special, worthy of an entire service dedicated to the platform? Well, I’m glad you (hypothetically) asked!

Ubiquity

When you started reading this, you probably didn’t have to play catch-up by looking up what MS Office is. You wouldn’t be alone; MS Office is installed on over one billion desktops worldwide, and doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down. Tutorials are available on YouTube for free, making it an extremely easy-to-use suite o programs. And it’s not limited to specific demographics; students make presentations in PowerPoint, professionals track data with Excel and create press releases with Word and Publisher, and your mom might even email your great aunt through Outlook. Even Apple computers have MS office available for them; no other suite of office software has come anywhere close to the impact and reach of Microsoft’s Swiss army knife of tools.

Data Handling

In addition to Office being well-known and easy-to-use, businesses can take advantage of built-in features to measure metrics and learn a little more about the work done by their employees. The software suite is very good at silently compiling data about your documents as you create them, which makes it easy for anyone who needs to retrieve it later en masse. Word documents, for example, can produce counts of individual words, exposing new SEO terms and making sure the established ones are getting their proper exposure. The capabilities of the suite by no means end there; indeed, any interested supervisor or executive could retrieve a huge number of statistics on their employees’ work. The possibilities are really only limited by what data you want to find.

Transfer-Ready

In a business that lives and dies by sending files from one party to another, transferability is crucial, and MS Office delivers. It’s far too common to hear a horror story of one person sending another a file to have it end up as a mass of strange characters or jumbled formatting. Office circumvents this problem and others by making it extremely easy to transfer part of, or entire, files. Need a bunch of data moved into Excel? Write a macro, plug in the file, and your work is done. Bits of Word documents can be pasted into spreadsheets and vice-versa with nothing more than a glorified copy-paste feature. And you can rest easy knowing that the file you sent out will look exactly the same on your contractor’s screen as it did on yours.

You probably already use Microsoft Office for a number of things around your workplace. Ziptask recognizes this, and that’s why we’ve billed ourselves as your one-stop-shop for any assignment on this platform. We cater exclusively to this program, meaning that we don’t get distracted by trying to learn fifty others at the same time. We’re confident that our team can handle anything MS Office can throw at us, and we want to do it for your business too. You’ve probably worked with some less-than-competent people in your lifetime; wouldn’t it be nice to hand off work to a company that actually knows what it’s doing?

Don’t Skip the Legal Legwork!

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

From Cliff Caswell at Police Oracle:


Outsourcing: Clarity Sought On Driver Training

Fed confirms it has sought legal advice over privatisation issue.Senior roads policing professionals have admitted serious concerns over the potential legal implications of outsourcing driver training to private firms as budget cuts continue to bite.The Police Federation has confirmed that it is seeking clarification over any ramifications that could face forces if they use the services of third parties.

Alan Jones, Chairman of the staff association’s Roads Policing Group, said that he was not levelling criticism at forces using the outsourcing route or the companies they chose – but felt that any potential legal issues should be quickly identified and addressed.

More…


Looks like even the police aren’t above the law when it comes to outsourcing! It’s always a great idea to double- and triple-check the laws before you outsource any work to an outside firm, especially when it’s high-profile and high-risk work like the kind mentioned in this article. Failure to comply with laws has ramifications that I am sure we’re all familiar with and would rather avoid.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that if you choose to outsource your work through Ziptask, you’ll find that we’ve already done all the legal work for you. We pride ourselves on putting as little personal strain as possible on the customer, so you can be assured that if you use Ziptask, everything will be handled in the legal-est possible manner. Just one more little hassle that Ziptask is more than willing to do so you don’t have to!

“Crowdsourcing”: No Longer a Dirty Word

Monday, October 15th, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

Crowdsourcing (v)the process of subverting the traditional work model by posing a task via open call to an undefined, voluntary group of people, instead of an employed individual or team.

Examples: American Idol. Wikipedia. Kickstarter. Craigslist. “Wanted” posters.

Since Jeff Howe first coined the term in a 2006 Wired article, crowdsourcing has slowly but surely worked its way into the public eye. Beginning as a mere corporate buzzword, it has evolved from a business term into a wide umbrella that, we’re now realizing, encompasses the way a surprisingly large array of organizations get things done.

But still, there is some resistance. The No!Spec movement among the design community urges aspiring artists and designers to stay away from the “contest” model of crowdsourcing, fearful that they won’t be paid for their hard work. And you don’t have to look hard to find crowdsourcing efforts that have gone horrifically bad; sometimes they don’t even have to be posted by the company in question. Some companies prefer to avoid the term altogether, preferring to bill themselves under a less-loaded word. There are legitimate concerns. And yet…

A recent TimesJobs.com survey revealed that nearly 57% of the surveyed employers use crowdsourcing for recruitment purpose, whether through minor projects completed by fans, or in-house employees vetted through some sort of crowd-sourced method. More than half of them noted the cost and efficiency of such methods compared to traditional models. If it’s so successful and apparently on the rise, is there still a need to be demure about it?

At times like this, I find it helpful to zoom out and look at the bigger picture. And the bigger picture is this: we are, as a sentient race of humans, becoming more and more aware of the exact extent to which our world is completely messed up. The widespread acceptance of the Internet led to the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, social media, and a voice for every individual, and that means that it’s becoming more and more difficult to be ignorant of the sticky issues our humble planet faces.

What this means for Joe Average is that he’s feeling a new surge of responsibility and duty to fixing these perceived issues, but unfortunately he still has mostly the same tools to work with. Being made aware of problems is sadly not the same as being given the power to solve them, although it is the first step. The next step is to create an infrastructure that allows Joe to contribute to helping solve the problems he is now all-too-aware of. And what do we call that system?

Well, Jeff Howe calls it crowdsourcing. You can call it “the best damn focus group you’ve ever seen” at the very least, but you could also call it “cost-effective labor”, “the infinite idea creation engine”, and “massive-scale QA”. These crowds are full of employees, consumers, parents, friends, students, and citizens; through their various roles, they can see sides of your business that you may not be able to. And they want to help you improve.

So let them. Hold a contest on 99Designs to get a fresh new logo. Raise money for a side project on Crowdcube. You could even hire someone to do your mundane daily work on a site like… oh, I dunno, Ziptask or something.

But if you hesitate, your competitors won’t. Almost two-thirds of them are already on the bandwagon. Can you afford to wait much longer?

The BMW of Outsourcing

Friday, October 12th, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

Have you ever driven a BMW? Say what you will about the owners, but the cars are nice. Of course, I’m speaking as a guy who drives a beaten-up ’97 Altima with both of the bumpers halfway off, but that doesn’t change the point. When you drive a BMW, you get the full, plush, luxurious experience. You get the big cushion-y interior, the myriad options to customize the vehicle, and naturally, you get the admiration and jealousy of your peers.

That’s what you paid for, right? When you buy a BMW, you get the upscale experience and everything to go with it. Ziptask is like that; not like the car, mind you, but like their equally plushy full-service extended warranty. If you’re familiar, you’re nodding your head right now, because the service covered is worth at least as much as the car itself. Let me break down how Ziptask encompasses the best of BMW’s service.

The first thing to note is the flat fee that both services charge. Compare that to the old-school method; if your car breaks down, not only do you have to take the time out of your busy day to find a mechanic and wait around for them to fix it, but you get to jump into the wonderful world of shady deals and overpricing. As if it wasn’t a miserable enough experience! Ziptask takes this idea and runs with it, offering standard by-the-minute pricing for every task and quoting you an estimate before the work even gets started. It’s a relief both to your decision-overloaded brain and your budgeting efforts. No more will surprise fees pop up and ruin your day right before the work is done; approve the estimate and the work gets done, no haggling involved.

Second, BMW’s coverage removes the mystery of auto care. In addition to them removing the decisions involved with negotiating prices, they remove the need for you to be involved in the complicated maintenance and repair schedules and procedures. When you bring your car to BMW’s repair center, your interaction with the mechanic is about as minimal as you can ask for. They already know what maintenance your car needs, so you just list any repairs you need as you drop the car off and that’s all the work you need to do. Ziptask also follows this low-impact method of getting work done by handling the freelancers and assignments automatically, based on nothing but your short description of the work needed. The last thing busy people need is to have to learn another set of barely-relevant skills, so why not let someone who already knows them worry about it for you?

All of this leads, of course, to a massive recovery of time, money, and willpower. With both BMW and Ziptask, there is a certain “fire and forget” attitude that the service allows its customers. What this means is that past the initial point where the customer requests the work, their job is done. They can now drive off in a rental car and go about their business, complete more important work while outsourcing the minor things, and generally enjoy a more worry-free mental state. Oh, and I mentioned money, right? I can’t imagine too many people would see an opportunity to eliminate surprise charges from their budget and say, “You know what? Nah, that’s not for me. I’d rather my money expenditure follow casino rules.”

Ziptask is the BMW of outsourcing services. Quick, painless, worry-free, and easy on the wallet. And of course, you still enjoy the respect from your peers, who will either wonder where you found all that extra time, or applaud your ingenuity once you let them in on your secret. And so, savvy reader, if you want your life to be a little more streamlined, and treat yourself to the luxury experience for an everyman price, your course is clear; recover your day and your sanity and start outsourcing your annoyances out through Ziptask. And with all that extra money, you can start an account to save for a BMW. We all gotta have dreams, right?

Never Hire a Freelancer Again

Friday, October 5th, 2012 by shawn@ziptask.com

Don’t get ahead of me.

Freelancers, for many industries, are a fact of life. Media outlets hire them constantly to get fresh perspectives on newsworthy events. Programming development firms often include a revolving door of freelance or third-party programming and QA teams. And many artists subside entirely on freelancing, taking different jobs every few weeks or even every few days. According to this survey from CareerBuilder.com, one in three companies will turn to staffing/recruitment firms and freelancers this year.

But the process of employing freelancers? Sucks. No denying.

At your basest level is the initial act of simply finding a worker you want on your team. You spend money on job ads and spend time posting and responding to offers on Craigslist or LinkedIn or Freelancer or oDesk, hoping against hope to find the one useful name in a pile of thousands. And we haven’t even gotten to the interview process yet, which you can bet will involve miscommunication about the parameters and expectations surrounding the work, salary negotiations in a field that has an extremely wide range of pay scales, and inevitably wasting your time on the handfuls of potentials that simply aren’t going to be a help to your company.

Yes, the process of hiring freelancers is a huge pain in the butt. But as I mentioned, it’s a necessary evil for the industries that take advantage of it. Freelancer community FreelanceSwitch highlights the advantages quite succinctly: freelancers are adaptable, shrink your office, cost less, and (best of all) are expendable once the work is done. “[Employees] cost far more than what they actually take home: payroll taxes, health insurance and other benefits, equipment for their use, even the coffee you provide to employees are costs that you won’t have with a freelancer. When you add up all those numbers, you’ll likely find that hiring a freelancer costs less on an hourly basis than an employee with similar skills — and you don’t have to keep a freelancer on when your project is complete.”So what is the savvy businessperson to do? If you’re reading this, you may already know the answer.

Try Ziptask.

Ziptask gives you the advantages of hiring a freelancer (or team of freelancers) to work on projects involving Microsoft Office, Photoshop, graphic design, and minor programming, without the hassle of actually finding them yourself. Ziptask has a team of thousands of freelancers on-call, already vetted for reliability and classified by the type of work at which they excel; you can omit the interview process entirely. The fees are fixed and by-the-minute, completely skipping over the need for negotiations; you pay only for the work that gets completed, and you’ll never be surprised when the bill comes. And thanks to Ziptask’s hearty QA and management staff, you can be assured that your instructions will be crystal-clear and followed out to the letter, ensuring results that are professional, fast, and on-brand. I challenge you to find a freelance portal or third-party firm with that sort of guarantee.

Instead of spending hours, days, or weeks gathering a team, sorting out assignments, communicating endlessly, and sweating over budgets, Ziptask simply asks for your project files and a description of the work required.That’s it. It’s submitted, and the only thing you have to do after that is hit the “work approved” button when it’s done. And instead of blowing money and effort on a crapshoot job search for the needle-in-a-haystack chance, you pay only once your work has been completed to your satisfaction. If you measure your business expenditures in time and money (and who doesn’t?), you’ll find that Ziptask, quite simply, blows the traditional freelancing model out of the water.

So if you’ve got a new project coming up and find yourself dreading the process of signing on extra muscle to get it done… relax. Take a breath. Put down the notepads, spreadsheets, and address books, and give Ziptask a try. Your stress lines, and your bottom lines, will thank you.
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