4 Tips for Managing an Outside Consultant
By: Cathy Siciliano, Senior Director of Marketing at Elance
More and more small businesses are hiring outside consultants to help them get their work done. In fact, new project postings on Elance, an online workplace where you can find and hire outside consultants, have increased 68% since this time last year.
But how do you hire an outside consultant, and what is the best way to manage the project to make sure you get on-time, high quality work? Read on for tips from Cathy Siciliano, senior director of marketing at Elance. Cathy regularly works with outside consultants and has successfully managed dozens of remote projects:
1. Be specific
The job description should be specific. Include the purpose of the project, information about your business, key project components, skills you are looking for, list of deliverables, and a timeline.
Not sure where to begin? Browse the thousands of projects posted on Elance to get an idea of how other businesses just like yours have written job descriptions for remote work.
2. Hire for a ‘starter’ project
I’ve heard this tip from several elancers: break your big project into small chunks and hire a consultant for just one piece. During this starter project, you can observe how the consultant communicates with you, learn about their work style, and take note of the quality of the work delivered. This will help you learn if this person is a good fit for your bigger project.
3. Define success
What is the outcome you want at the end of the project? When and how do you think you’ll get there?
Your answers to these questions are your definition of success, so share them with the person you hire. This will help set expectations for both of you, and open up communication about how you will work together.
Sure, sounds good, but how do you actually do this?
Let’s say you want to hire a PHP programmer to build a website for your business. Maybe you would define success as a fully functional, live website that your customers can interact with. This is your final deliverable. The way you get to the final deliverable – each individual step – is a key project milestone.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Generally, a consultant works outside of your office, so you won’t be able to casually check in or catch up with them in the hallway. To keep the project moving forward, schedule weekly checkpoints, in addition to the checkpoints on key deliverables.
Following these four steps will get you on your way to managing a successful project that adds value to your business.
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