Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Problem with Outsourcing

When it comes to business these days, most companies are looking to cut costs at every corner. It's not rocket science; in an economy where consumers are hesitant to spend their hard earned cash, companies are forced to find alternative options to cut costs and keep profits higher. Enter the world of outsourcing.

Having had experience working in online sites before, I took my shot at freelancer.com. And the problem with outsourcing becomes immediately clear. Within 24 hours I had a few projects ask me for samples, and offer me projects. The first informed me they would pay a "very good rate" of 2 dollars per article. I refused. The second offer was for 2.50 $, but this is only after one month of working for 2 $ an article. Let's say it takes me an hour to research, draft, and write an article. So essentially I'm looking at an income of 2$ an hour. Seriously?

The last job offer I received told me, with no reservations, "we'll pay you 1$ per 500 word article." They admitted that "yes, we don't pay well," but try to get you to take the bait with promises of "articles that will pay you 3.50$ down the road." It's the promise of better paying jobs down the line that I'm sure will grab the attention of many freelancers, yet what they neglect to tell you is just how long you'll be working at 1$ per article before you even make it to 3.50$.

Many of you may think that outsourcing relates simply to the telephone and call center jobs that are sent overseas. When you call that 1-800 number for help, you're speaking to Abdul all the way over in India, who for the duration of his shift is known by the overly-Western and obviously false name "John," or "Kirk," or something else along those lines. Often these phone calls can be one of the most frustrating aspects of outsourced work; half the time you have a difficult time even understanding what "John" on the other end of the line is trying to tell you, let alone actually getting any help. But for a business owner it's simple: why pay someone in the US the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, and have to provide breaks, employee benefits, holidays, etc, when you can find someone in a developing country willing to do the work for less than half the price and not expect any benefits to go along with it.

This trend is growing. If you want to see how far the reach of outsourcing really extends, just go into Google and type in "work from home jobs." The scope is expansive. From data entry, to online research, to transcription, to administrative jobs, to technical support, all the way up to article writing.

Let's say you're in a marketing position for a start-up firm based in the US. You need to get a ton of content written, you need to make your digital footprint in our online world. But to hire a US-based writer will cost you. Consider for example you need an average of 8 to 10 articles totalling about 500 words each, written on a daily basis. For me as a writer, I would guestimate that would take me about one full day's worth of work. I like to ensure that A) My articles are all well sourced, B) well researched and well rounded, and C) of course completely original content. So if my going rate in the US (at minimum wage) is $7.25 an hour, for 8 hours of work I'll be expecting to bank at least 58$. It's not cheap.

The economic environment now means that most start-up companies simply cannot afford these overhead prices when combined with the costs of running their day to day business operations. Enter sites like freelancer.com. Simply set up an account, post a project and let the freelancers start bidding. The pattern of bidders immediately becomes obvious. For one: most come from developing and / or under-developed nations. Little flags depict the nationality of each bidder on the project. Just glancing over the bids on article writing projects and you'll see countries like India, Cambodia, China, Vietnam, etc. Rarely if ever will you see a flag of a Native English Speaking nation. Why, you might ask yourself, when the native English speakers would be the best fit for articles targeting an English speaking audience?

Math is the simple answer. I will write articles until I'm blue in the face, but I refuse to work for any less than 4 $ per article. When I am paid $3.50 per page for Editing, why would it make sense for me to be paid less when I am expected to write, research, and finalize the article myself? And let's be fair, 4$ for a 500 word article is still paying pennies. Literally, less than 1 penny per word.

Egypt is a common country to outsource to. Vodafone UK has outsourced all its call center jobs here. Egypt offers a cheap work force, willing to work long hours which is naturally seen as a great advantage for large companies. Online outsourcing is also a great opportunity for many Egyptians. Take women here for example. Working online means never having to deal with a male-dominated work environment. For many men, outsourced work can provide an inlet into the world of technology and networking opportunities that they can rarely find elsewhere.

Furthermore, as the Egyptian economy continues to suffer like many others around the world and unemployment grows,  outsourced and freelance work seems a great way to make a paycheque. As the majority of companies offering outsourced work are based in the West, they should be offering a fair rate of pay, right? My personal experience indicates that's often a resounding "No."

So next time you're browsing the internet and come across an article on "How to Jailbreak your iPad" or anything of the sort, and you realize that not only is the English atrocious but it's also poorly sourced, just think back to Abdul sitting in Egypt or India, working for 1$ per article. No wonder the English language, and particularly English on the Internet, is getting worse by the day.

As the saying goes: "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys."

6 comments:

  1. Hi, nice post. I have been wondering about this topic, so thanks for sharing. I will certainly be subscribing to your blog.from home jobs

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  3. Outsourcing facilitates method and small size companies as well as organizations with scalable, effective and cost-friendly software freelancing services.
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  4. This was not such a problem when most people had good jobs, but now we are fighting for every job we can get. So it is popular or PC to be against out-sourcing at the moment.Keep posting on this issue.
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