by Tash Hughes
of Word Constructions (www.wordconstructions.com.au)
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 following examples of managing
suppliers are real situations (with name changes) that I
have witnessed. Hopefully, you can learn from them like
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
see how Tash and her team can help your business