Managers Owners Do you have enough hours in your day? Are you spending more time working IN your vacation rental business rather than ON it? Are you overwhelmed with the amount of small tasks you have lined up to do? If so, it might be time to outsource some work. Back in the 1960s when I was a kid, my mom operated what she called the GAMI principle. My dad was in the military and was away on deployment more often than he was home, leaving her to look after 3 kids, go to work, and handle all the home-based situations that would inevitably arise like blocked toilets, household repairs and pest control. While she was a fully independent woman with a lot of skills, she felt these jobs were better suited to professionals who would take far less time than her well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective attempts. Her solution was to “Get a Man In” which considering it was in the 1960’s was not as sexist as it might sound now. Today it’s called outsourcing. Four reasons to outsource You don’t know how to do it If you are an owner of just one property and have the time to manage all the day to day rental tasks, you may be able to fit everything in, but there may still be tasks it would be better to farm out if you don’t have the skills do it your self.For example, you may have a blog and would like to make some changes to make it more readable or attractive but it involves some html coding. Or you’d like to write an ebook about fun things to do in your location but don’t know how to format it to make it look good.Wherever there is a task that requires some learning you have a choice to make – could your time be better spent on external business-building through marketing and promotion, or internally working in your business processes? Not enough time Once you start adding more houses to your portfolio or manage a small vacation rental agency, the prospect of outsourcing some of the more time-consuming or technical jobs may become more attractive.If you regularly use your time on tasks that could be done much quicker by someone else, think about what you could do with those hours if they were freed up.My example: I’d been spending a lot of time working on a newsletter format that would look great, but also be functional and download easily. I get easily sidetracked and wasted a lot of time looking at ways to do it. Finally I outsourced it and it was done in two hours. It’s boring, repetitive but has to be done Anyone who is actively managing a vacation rental or rentals is a busy person and we can often get bogged down in repetitive and simple work. Over the course of a few days analyse what is consuming your hours, and make a list of the jobs that are easy to do, but swallow up most of your day.My example: I do a weekly podcast which takes about an hour to create. I was then spending the rest of the day editing the audio. A skilled audio editor can do this in a fraction of the time, and often get a much better result. You have better things to do with your time Your time is valuable and if you are not skilled at a particular task, it will take a lot more hours/days to get it done. Think about what you could do with that time. If it means you are freed up to do more marketing or other strategic planning that could increase your income, outsourcing will save you money in the long term, What to Outsource There is not much that cannot be contracted out if you don’t want to do it yourself, from getting a logo designed, to researching events and activities in your area to creating an up-to-date guide for your location. I’ve mentioned a couple of things I have outsourced – here’s a few more: Transcribing the Vacation Rental Success podcast Formatting and design of ebooks Newsletter design Management of Aweber mailing list WordPress updating and backups Database management Research for blog posts Competitor analysis Video editing and production Virtual staffing expert Chris Ducker has a list of 101 Tasks to Outsource to Virtual Staff – take a look a this and highlight all the jobs you’d love to contract out. #1 Outsource job – building a website One job you should really outsource if you are not skilled enough to do it, is building a web site. There are several options available if a template is all you want and companies such as Web Chalet, MyVR and newcomer, Lodgify all have lots of options and benefit from built in reservation systems. However if you already have a solid listing with a lot of reviews on one of the major listing sites, a WordPress web site would be the best way to go. Unless you are comfortable with the WP platform and how to manage themes I’d highly recommend finding someone to do this for you. How to Outsource I loved The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris and equally enjoyed the blog post by AJ Jacobs, Editor at Large at Esquire magazine describing his foray into outsourcing. Having said that, that’s all about outsourcing on steroids, while what we may be doing is likely to be more conventional, at least to start with. So, the first thing to know is how to find someone to do the job. You can either find your own worker by going to one of the large outsourcing sites or even outsource finding an outsourcer. If you just want someone to do a few WordPress tasks or research for a book you are writing, it’s simple enough to do the head hunting yourself, however if it’s a full-time virtual assistant required, then it may be worth the finder’s fee for getting a staffing agency source one for you. Companies like Virtual Staff Finder located in the Phillipines, are experts in helping you hire the right person to do the jobs you have identified, and for a one-time fee of $395 will sift through all the applicants for your job description and whittle it down to a shortlist of three. They provide help in understanding the culture of your virtual staff member, how to work with, and communicate with them, and will give a good idea of how much to pay. Use a large outsourcing site Sites such as Odesk and Elance allow you to post your project description and you then need to go through all the applicants and select the one you think is best suited to your needs. There’s a few things you need to understand about using these sites. Prepare your job description thoroughly Don’t be vague about what you want. The title of the job post needs to detail exactly what’s required – Just wanting someone to ‘Create a blog’ is not enough whether you want a simple blog site or a full-blown web site for your property with a blog attached. Blog creation requires design capabilities as well as technical expertise, and although there would probably be numerous applicants who say they can do both, so you would probably need to create two projects – one for the design element (logo/header etc) and one for the blog setup on WordPress. When you prepare your job description makse sure you include examples of what you like, as a good outsourcer should be able to give you something very similar. Spend time researching other similar job descriptions to assess rates Chances are the work you want doing has already been described in another job description. Using keywords relevant to your project, search for similar projects already done and a good site will deliver many prospective work candidates. You will be able to check the jobs they have already completed, what they were paid, and the feedback they were given. Don’t make any assumptions about the outsourcers’ knowledge Workers in other countries – and you will typically find the most in India, the Phillipines and Eastern Europe – will have the have technical skills as many are well-educated with university degrees, but may not be as knowledgable on Western terms and phrases. Don’t assume they have any prior knowedge about vacation rentals or your location. It is worth writing a clear outline of your business as an attachment to send to the applicants you shortlist. Rates The worker profiles show the hourly rate they charge which can be anything from $3 per hour upwards. Avoid the lower rates – you will get what you pay for – and ethically, I feel that a decent wage should be paid for skilled work. North American rates are higher, and it’s tempting to go for the cheaper option but think carefully – there are many advantages to outsource in your own country. English is generally a first language They are on a similar time zone – not a 12/15 hour difference Communication in general is easier and US workers are more likely to be familiar with the VR business Outsourcing Case Study We recently needed a database set up for our rental agency to allow us to collect information on properties from our owners. Originally designed as a lengthy questionnaire, it is now a comprehensive online form with dropdown boxes, free text areas and different selections based on the nature of the property. The first job description went out on Odesk and attracted over 30 applications however many were generic showing the workers had not really read the documents included. All were from India and Pakistan, and the project rate varied from $500 – $900. A second submission to Elance attracted an applicant from the US at $650 who completed the job in three days, with excellent communication back and forth. We are planning on retaining him for future work. How much should I pay? You will be asked to choose whether you want to pay per hour or per project. Hourly work is more suitable for ongoing work that is more variable while a fixed fee works best for a job that has a clear end-goal. Rates will also vary according to the skills required. SEO specialists and graphic designers will charge a higher rate than keyword researchers and basic WordPress. Do the research first to find other similar projects. Choosing an outsourcer Hiring an outsourcer is not really any different from recruiting an employee – the only difference is that the interviews are done by email and Skype. Start off with a small task, such as getting a logo designed or having your blog set up with a theme installed, then if that works out well, you can go onto larger projects. In this way you could get a personal website designed at a very reasonable cost. How do I pay? Most of the large sites handle the payment to oursourcers so it is held in escrow until the job has been completed so this makes it safer than seeing someone advertising individually. Outsourcers may work indpendently or be allied to an agency but bear in mind an agency worker will be paying a proportion of their wage to the agency who is then paying commission to the outsourcing site. Subsequently, agency workers may cost a little more. Once you have done one or two hires, you’ll be surprised at how easy – and gratifying – it is to hand over tasks that were once daunting. Your freed up time can then be used to market and generate more income from your property. Have you ever outsourced a job? What was your experience? 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