randy_stairs

A number of years ago, I built a house. Well, to be specific, I didn’t build the house. I had a house built for me. One of the important choices I had to make was the selection of who was going to do the work. The sheer number of different tradespeople you need to build a house is mind-boggling. Foundation layers, framers, electricians, plumbers, HVAC people, sheetrockers, wall texturers, painters, cabinet makers, hardwood floor layers, tile layers, brick layers, sprinkler system specialists, fireplace installers, the list goes on and on and on.

My single largest decision was this: Solicit, interview, hire and pay each tradesperson individually or hire a general contractor who would be responsible for everything. I didn’t have the time, knowledge, or skill to find each tradesperson. So I hired a general contractor. And I’m so glad I did.

My general contractor, Wiktor, was phenomenal (I know, not everyone has that experience, but I truly love mine!). He took care of everything – who to call when, scheduling inspections, fixing things if someone made a mistake, making sure people arrived on time. Everything. In fact, I still call him, many years later, when something breaks.

The decision to outsource a content creation project is very much the same. You can solicit, interview, hire, manage, and pay each tradesperson (writers, editors, artists, production editors, localization experts, translators), or you can hire a professional services agency and hold that one company accountable for your final deliverable.

Having owned a professional services firm for over 19 years, you can probably guess what my advice would be. Find a high-quality general contractor, one that you trust, and one that has a great reputation for delivering quality content on time and in-budget.

Sometimes the job is simply to provide a single service. Perhaps all you need is writing or editing or art. Perhaps all you need is layout and production. Unless you have very good connections, the time it takes to solicit resumes and evaluate individual consultants, and the expertise to know the good ones from the mediocre, it is well-worth the investment to use a quality professional services firm. This is why I still call my general contractor, even if all I need is a plumber. I’ve tried hiring plumbers on my own. It’s not worth my time or aggravation.

When I call Wiktor, I don’t ask to see the resumes of fifteen plumbers. I don’t check their references. Instead, I trust that Wiktor knows what I need, will send the right person to do the job, and will stand behind the work.

This is also the best way to work with a professional services agency when you need content creators. Tell us about your project. What are the goals? What technologies are you working with? How long is the project? What is the work environment? What specific skills are important for success? What does success look like to you? and so on. Give us all of the details.

Our job is to locate the very best resources for your project and budget. You pay us to go through piles and piles of resumes, review countless work samples, speak with myriad references, and interview the people who pass muster. Then, our job is to make sure that the person or people we provide to work on your project get the job done to your satisfaction.

Far too often, customers call us with a need. And rather than giving us the details and letting us do our best work – which is selecting the best person or team – the customer wants to see countless resumes and interview countless people. If that’s what a customer really wants, of course that is what we provide. But that’s not the best way to take advantage of our years of knowledge and expertise. And it’s not the best way to get the true value out of what you are paying for.

When a customer trusts us to do the job, we do our best work, the customer is happiest, and money is well-spent. No one complains that they paid too much or didn’t get the results they asked for. This is not to say that we’ve never made a mistake in 19 years. But I can tell you from experience that 9.5 times out of 10, when we are allowed to select the resources, the customer is happy.

It is frustrating to watch a customer select a resource that I know is not the best person for the job. It happens. I try to tell them. And when they don’t listen, and things don’t work out, I never say, “I told you so.” I only say it to myself. Instead, I suggest someone else – usually the person I had in mind all along.

So help me to help you.

Val Swisher
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