International outsourcing versus keeping it local

- April 3, 2012 3 MIN READ

Thinking about hiring someone through one of the international freelancing websites? Sure, international outsourcing might be cheap, but should price be the only factor you consider?

Would you sign up to have cosmetic surgery at an unknown location overseas purely because it was much cheaper than doing it here in Australia? It might save you money, but aren’t there way too many risks to consider? Especially if you’re dealing with something as important as the way you look?

Why then, would you risk trusting your business, branding or marketing to an outsourced operator in another country? There are risks there too, and in many cases you’re dealing with the image of your business – something that represents you almost as much as your face.

In my business, I’ve recently found that clients are asking for more justification as to why they shouldn’t outsource their design work to cheaper international contractors. Since the design process and the steps involved in creating works are not well known to people, the major discernible point of difference becomes price. As a freelance graphic designer, it’s become more important for me to help people understand what my price includes and why it’s a good investment.

Here are some of the factors you should be aware of when deciding between international outsourcing to a cheap offshore supplier and a local Aussie supplier. I’ve used graphic design examples here as that’s what I do, but many of these issues could apply equally to other services.

Unknown risks

International outsourcing work internationally may be far cheaper than hiring a local, but there are a lot more risks and unknowns involved – especially if you’re not familiar with the technical aspects of what you’re hiring them for. There are some very talented and professional contractors involved with outsourcing sites, but finding them is a challenge, and normally involves taking a leap of faith at some point. Hiring someone who cuts corners means your project may turn out to be more expensive and time consuming than you originally thought. For example, I’ve sometimes been hired to fix or rework designs that have originally been sourced from international contractors, often because the working files weren’t supplied to the client or the designs were too staid for our local market.

Direct access to the supplier

Working with a local means you get to deal directly with the person responsible for your project, from beginning to end. (Mind you, with a growing number of businesses sub-contracting work out to international contractors and passing it off as their own, be sure to check that the work you’re paying for is being done by the person or people you hope it is).

Want more articles like this? Check out the outsourcing section.

Relevant experience and cultural reference

An Australian supplier will better understand the Australian market. A designer will understand current styles and trends in design and marketing, an accountant or bookkeeper is more likely to be up-to-date with our tax law, and so forth. They’ll also have a lot more relevant experience with Australian businesses and practices.

Better communication and relationships

Obviously there can be severe language barriers when dealing with international contractors. A local contractor will have a much easier time understanding your brief and won’t lose or confuse anything in translation. Forming a long-term relationship with your supplier is also more feasible and rewarding if you’re dealing with a local – especially if you like doing business with people who share your values.

Real time responses

Working with a local supplier lets you work within your normal business hours and get real time responses – either face-to-face or via the communication channel of your choice.

Local protection

If you have any problems or disputes with a local supplier, there are many forms of protection and avenues to rectify situations available. Addressing these issues internationally is almost impossible.

In summary, the price of a service provider shouldn’t be the only thing they are measured on. Talent, ability, innovation, professionalism, an ability to interpret and produce what you want and being easy and reliable to work with are equally important considerations.

What have your experiences with the international outsourcing phenomenon been like? Please share them below.

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"