How To Use Basecamp as a Virtual Production Line For Outsource Productivity

A huge part of my business profit increase this year has been the effective leverage gained from outsourcing. Something that has become very clear to me is how most people have had limited experience in running outsourced projects.

How to co-ordinate your team
Having run a multi-million dollar business and studied material from legend Jay Abraham (who studied W Edwards Demming) I am interested in process optimization. Below is the system I have used to build teams of outsourcers in the last year resulting in a million dollar plus sales business…

Task Source versus Full timers
As soon as you can you should be engaging the help of full time resource. They will grow in skills as they learn more about your business and the way you operate. It is simply not effective to hire, manage and then re-hire manage and critique jobs one by one with different suppliers. If you need to task source repeatedly then at least use a dedicated supplier who has a high quality team rather than an individual. An example of this is SEO Partner who focus purely on SEO.

How to find full time Outsourcers
By far the best way is word of mouth. If you cannot find the right person via someone else then start thinking about the job boards like Odesk and classifieds like Craigslist. Countries like the Philippines have excellent people ready to help your business grow. I recommend you hire based on attitude over skills and conduct an interview over Skype.

Ask for some sample work and be prepared to pay for the first tasks while you asses the quality. Check the properties in the documents to see they are fresh. If you want to avoid competition from other employers then hire someone to help you hire someone local. This way you can have some local knowledge working on your side.

Rates will range from USD $300 – $700 per month for many typical Internet Marketing related roles. Paypal works quite well and expect to pay twice a month in arrears.

Developing Your Outsourcer
The easiest tools I have found for training and managing your outsource worker are Google docs, Jing, Basecamp, Skype and Dropbox. Lets look at how these can work together.

  • Google Docs – This is the easy place to have a shared spreadsheet to update skill level, Rss feeds, Ranking reports, usernames and passwords etc….

  • Jing – Make videos and screen shots and load them to a password protected folder on the fly. These videos (screencasts) can be used over and over again by the team. The best thing is the ease of sharing just one URL that is automatically generated when you take screen shots.

  • Skype – We have weekly team calls on Skype Conference call. Also we chat when there are questions in between. You can ask your staff to have Skype on when they are working if you want to be able to access them anytime.

  • Basecamp – This is where you setup the product line, notes for the team and discussion. The advantage of Basecamp is you can add in any team members you want and slide tasks along a virtual production line. The jobs will activate emails to the appointed team members and email replies will be posted to the project as it goes. You can also assign any people to any project and use templates to replicate projects. Basecamp is accessible via iPhone, iPad and is remote hosted server based.

  • Dropbox – Easily access and share documents between team members using shared externally hosted dropboxes. They can be split into security levels and are easier to work with than the file manager in Basecamp. Dropbox appears as an extra folder on your desktop and you simply drag and drop files. When files are added it shows an alert on the screen so you know what activity is being done.

Tips for setting up Basecamp
Here is how I lay out Basecamp to get the best work flow from my team projects. Basecamp really is the one place my business is leveraged to the max.

  • Messages - I use the message section for two things – one for ‘General Discussion’ and the other for ‘Daily Updates’. Each day the team members post a list of what they did for review. They tell me what they did, ask any questions they have and indicate what they are doing tomorrow.

Then I use the the ToDo lists. In the ToDo lists I have created a workflow that replicates a production line like this:

  • Pipeline – It starts with ‘Pipeline’. I add a domain name here and assign the username, password and hosting details. From here a team member will grab that item and drag it into the next bucket called “Site Build”.
  • Site Build – This bucket is where the team will create a page title optimized WordPress blog with a 100 word original post.NOTE: Being able to drag items between buckets is an awesome feature and allows the next person in the team to see what is coming down the production line. They can start working on it in advance so therefore there is no idle time.Next stop for the project is ‘Research”.
  • Research - Here we look for keywords using Market Samurai. We do some detailed competitor analysis and look for offers to promote. This will be either CPA, my own products, Affiliate offer, Lead Gen or our default promotion – Adsense. Adsense is a good test to see conversions, offers and understand the market ECPM. Design is the next bucket.
  • Design – Here we make the basic site skin (usually on Thesis or OptimizePress), banner kit and report cover. We use genuine stock images for correct usage rights and custom CSS to make the site pretty. Then we move on the content.
  • Content - The team write ten unique articles and we post them to the site using keyword headlines and tags. We choose the best article as the static home page to pre-sell. We also create a video and load it to Youtube. We embed the video as a small thumbnail into the site too. Next stop copywriting.
  • Copywriting – We tune up the static home page and add a free report. The name capture is installed and auto-responders written.
  • Traffic – Once the project is moved here we start the traffic roll out. We go out and grab traffic using several different methods. I’ll cover this in a separate post. We get backlinks, articles submissions, Bookmarks, Press releases and much more….
  • Conversions – We install crazy egg and Google Analytics and then test opt-in rates.
  • Technical – We have set taks to do each week. We change the social media bookmarks and update blog plugins. Anything that requires technical work goes here.
  • Priority – We classify our websites according to high, medium or low priority. The high ones get daily content. The medium twice weekly and the low – once weekly. This is where the website ‘lives’ from now on.
  • Sold / Exit - If we sell a site or the project is no longer required we move it here and tick the complete box.

Other ToDo items we use aside from the production line are Training and Transcriptions. We load jobs or training materials in there for completion. If you need to load files to basecamp you can use the Files section. We prefer dropbox though.

The Writeboard section is ideal to store notes, instructions, procedures or passwords.

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