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Outsourcing mistakes
by Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

Once you have decided to outsource some of your work, you need to consider how you will manage your suppliers. Obviously, this will depend in part on what task they are performing, what deadlines you have and your level of comfort with the supplier and the process.

The following examples of managing suppliers are real situations (with name changes) that I have witnessed. Hopefully, you can learn from them like I did!


Ellen is a graphic designer and gets a lot of work though Sheila, her client’s marketing person. With her other clients, Ellen is creative and uses her experience to create quality documents and graphics to suit their needs.

However, Sheila doesn’t trust people to do things her way. Her instructions to Ellen are detailed to the point that Ellen can’t use her creativity or experience to produce quality work. Sheila has specifically told Ellen not to make suggestions or improvements, but to just follow instructions.

Lesson: Why pay an expert if you aren’t going to use their skills? Either pay an expert and let them do what they do best, or hire a less experienced person to just follow your instructions. Apart from any money savings, you will save a lot of frustration in your supplier and potentially receive better service.

Switch suppliers

Sam was partially responsible for getting the communications materials ready for a new company. His boss already had Emma working on some forms, media releases and stationary items. However, Sam didn’t like the way Emma was doing parts of the work.

Instead of telling Emma he wasn’t happy or saying “Sorry if you disagree, but this bit needs to be done this way”, Sam let Emma continue on her way and asked Stewart to start on the same work. Stewart was given Emma’s first drafts and told to improve it, and told which bits Sam really didn’t like.

Apart from the ridiculous expense of paying two suppliers for one job, Sam wasn’t actually managing the process. Stewart was able to produce a ‘better’ result for Sam because he was told Emma’s errors, but would he do well next time if Emma didn’t do a first draft?

Lesson: If you don’t like what a supplier is producing, tell them what you do want. Suppliers can’t read your mind so you need to communicate with them.

If you feel you can’t work with a particular supplier, or would prefer another one, then tell the first one to stop what they are doing so they don’t waste their time. Being upfront makes life easier – and makes it more likely they will help you out in the future.

Play suppliers against each other

Sheila, the marketing person we discussed before, loves pushing her suppliers. Each time a project comes up, she gets Ellen and Julie to give her a quote. Then, she shows Ellen Julie’s quote and asks her to beat it. Then shows the lower quote to Julie.

Sheila keeps asking each supplier until neither will go any lower. Her manager is starting to ask why it takes her so long to get design work underway.

Julie never charged clients to pull out old files for them and was happy to help with urgent jobs. However, Sheila is charged for every little task Julie does for her, and Julie refuses to do Sheila’s urgent work anymore.

Lesson: treat your suppliers with respect. Shopping around and comparing prices is sensible, but is too time consuming to do every time you start a new project.

Once they have a relationship with you, they will probably give you a good price anyway, or do quick little tasks without charging you.

Building a good relationship with a few trusted suppliers means each project is likely to be quicker as the supplier understand you and your business so they have less to learn before starting the work.

Trusting suppliers

Carrie owns her own online business. She started small, but eventually asked a web designer to prepare her a template to make her website brighter and more professional. Carrie chose a designer she believed to be reputable and trustworthy, and they got along well when they discussed the project.

Carrie provided some photos she had taken to the designer to create a header for the webpages. Later, Carrie wanted to use the header at the top of her newsletter and modify it to be on her letterhead.

However, Susan, the designer, told her she couldn’t do that. Susan had written in their contract that none of the graphics could be used by Carrie in any way except on her webpage while hosted by Susan. The contract even included the reuse of any images or photos within the header despite who owned the original images.

Lesson: Read your contracts. Make sure what of your rights, you are paying for and what the supplier is providing. With creative work, ask about copyright in particular so that the work remains yours.


Clear communication is critical to the success of any business, but it is often left to care for itself in many businesses. Tash Hughes is a professional and skilled writer who makes technical and otherwise boring information accessible for everyone a business needs to communicate with. Next time you need webcopy, articles, newsletters, reports or any other business document, visit www.wordconstructions.com.au to see how Tash and her team can help your business succeed.

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