The internet dream is of having a highly profitable business that you run from your laptop. Well sorry folks, it’s probably not going to be like that. The real world has real world problems in it that all need to be dealt with and can all distract you either from building your dream business or from enjoying the benefits of it after it arrives.

Outsourcing is getting someone else to do something you need because either:

  • You don’t know how to do it – or at least not well enough for business use.
  • You don’t have the time to do it.

You can pay for it or barter for it with someone you know who has the skills or time you need.

One time-gobbling but very important area once you have a business up and running is answering your email related to your product(s). An effective solution to this is to contract with someone, either an outsourcing service or an individual Virtual Assistant to run a help desk for you. Two good software platforms for this are from www.kayako.com and www.perldesk.com.

For almost any internet related task when you don’t have either the skills or the time you can go to:

Specify your project and wait for specialists to bid for your work. One difficulty is that if you are not a specialist in the area you want then it is difficult for you to write a sufficiently detailed specification. In this case take advice from the site management – Elance is good for this – and don’t be afraid to ask the bidders to help to specify the task. Equally, make sure you ask for their portfolio of similar work and references.

In the UK there is www.canyoujust.com. This was set up by my friend Paul Fuggle who also owns Total Business Cart to deal with all those little things that newbies can’t quite get their head around. Very helpful and supportive and growing well.

On any outsourced job, this is your money you are about to spend so make sure you do it wisely. Follow the site’s advice on how to document the task. Don’t forget you may never, ever see or speak to your contractor except through the site message board/email/messenger so make sure you both understand what is required and when and how you are going to pay. I prefer to use the escrow system whenever there is one available. That way the site makes any decisions independently in case any disputes arise.

One specialist design site you can add to that list is www.designoutpost.com where you can have an interactive relationship with your designers to produce exactly the professional image you want. Here you specify how much you are prepared to pay and multiple designers will offer concepts and illustrations to meet your requirement. A useful element here is that there is a minumum price list which gives you a feel for what professionals would expect to receive for that type of work.

You can therefore choose whether to go to Elance and possibly get a better price but having little control over the finished article other than the usual promise of multiple revisions until it meets your needs – if you can believe that will come about. Or to be prepared to pay a reasonable rate and be able to see different designers concepts, indicate your likes and dislikes and see the design move towards your ultimate target before finally selecting the winning offer at the fixed price you quoted. Myself, I am increasingly coming around to the second option.

I’ve just come across www.99designs.com and it looks like it offers a very similar concept.

If you have a consistent technical requirement rather than a one-off project then it would be worth investigating http://www.supportresort.com.


A specialist site for writers: www.freelancewriting.com

Ebook covers and website graphics:

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Hard copy books

While you may start by offering your product as an ebook for digital download you may well find that customers ask for a hard copy book. Or maybe you have written such a blockbuster that it justifies being in print anyway. One advantage of being in print is that you get an ISBN number which gives real kudos.

www.BookSurge.com is a brand of On Demand Publishing, itself a subsidiary of Amazon. They will print 1 or 1,000 for you on demand, so you do not have to worry about stocking or fulfillment as it is dealt with through Amazon. A similar service is available from www.Lulu.com.

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