Specs and Guidelines – What to Put in Your "How to" Materials for Outsourcers
By Dr. Teresa R. Martin, Esq.
When you hire outsourcers to complete tasks for you, it's not enough to simply tell them what you'd like them to do and let them get to it. You need to give them detailed specifications to ensure a high standard of quality. If you don't and the work comes back wrong, you only have yourself to blame.
It's not hard at all to create job specs. The good thing is that when you create a spec sheet once, you can use it over and over again. For example, if you have a blogging guide for your writers, you can give the same guide to each writer. There's no need to make a unique spec sheet for each job.
Here are the elements you should have in place for your spec sheets.
The Purpose of the Job
Your spec sheet should include the purpose of job and how it fits in to the big picture. You don't need to explain all of the ins and outs of your business or marketing strategy. In fact, you shouldn't. This part of the spec sheet should be short and concise. Only tell them what they need to know in order to complete their part of it.
The meat and potatoes of a spec sheet are the detailed step-by-step instructions. Unlike the job purpose, these should be exhaustively detailed. Try to anticipate any question your outsourcer might ask and make sure it's answered. As you write the instructions, imagine that they know nothing at all about the job. It's better for the instructions to be too simple and include everything than to risk leaving something out.
For somewhat complex tasks, you may want to include a troubleshooting guide. This is a guide that starts by listing problems and then gives the reader possible causes. If your outsourcer has a problem, they can skim these items until they find the problem, and then they're offered a few ideas to solve it.
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If the job involves creative work, you should include samples to give the outsourcer an idea of what you want. For a web design job, include a few links or screenshots of sites you like. Provide writing samples for writers so they can get an idea of the tone they need to shoot for. These samples help them stay on track with what you want.
One good idea is to create multimedia materials. For tasks on the computer, you can film yourself performing the task using screen capture software. You can do the same with screenshot software.
A Work in Progress
At first, think of your spec sheets as works in progress. You may forget some details or you might not explain something as clearly as you should. When you start using your spec sheets, you'll discover which elements are missing. You can then refine and refine again until your spec sheets are perfect.