Small Business Tips

Thinking SMART When Outsourcing Work

Thinking SMART When Outsourcing Work


SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timeframe and has been used for decades to ensure set goals can be met.

So why can’t you use the same principle when you think about delegating or outsourcing tasks to someone else? For example if you want to hire a marketing consultant to put a marketing plan together you will need to provide them with a brief of what you want. It would be the same if you wanted to hire a Virtual Assistant (VA) to help you manage some part of your administration.


Here’s my thoughts on how using SMART can help you think about developing your outsourcing brief in a structured way. You can even use the principle to check whether the work is completed to your specifications.


We all know a brief that is concise is much easier for a person to read and comprehend. However it can mean much more than simply being concise. When looking at what to write in your brief also think in terms of the specific audience who will be reading it.

Ask yourself what is your specific purpose in writing the brief. Exactly what is it you want? A logo, an article, someone to monitor your emails?

Thinking about these things before you begin writing your brief will enable you to be structured in your approach, and concise in your use of words.

Once you have written the first draft, consider whether it really does meet your intended purpose.


Whilst you are developing your brief think about how are you going to measure the quotes against each other. The lowest quote will not always be the best quote.

One way is to create a spreadsheet and on the left hand side list all the key points that you will measure the replies by. This should be made easier if your brief is specific as you can copy and paste parts into your document.

Across the top of the document list all outsourcers and then once you’ve received the quotes you can work through each of their quotes and mark off against your list. This could be as easy as a tick or cross or if there isn’t too much difference you might want to give them a mark out of five.

A small amount of work up front will save you a lot of time and potential costly mistakes later.



When you develop the specifics of the brief think about whether what you are asking for can be done.

Is it technically possible?
Is your delivery timeframe too short?
Is what you want too big to be one project. Is it better broken down into more manageable tasks.
If you are new to outsourcing it would be prudent to start small at the beginning. Once you feel more comfortable with the process and the people you are using then you can outsource larger tasks.


We all have our own standards and expectations on work quality. However you need to be realistic in your expectations of what will finally be delivered to you.

I’m not saying you should lower your standards. If you have specific standards such as fonts, page size, word usage or count, be very clear in your brief.

Just don’t expect the work to be exactly how you would do it – after all the person is not you. I know when I had someone write some articles for me it took me a while to become used to their writing style and for them to understand mine.


A common mistake when developing a brief is to forget to say exactly when you want the work completed and back to you. Be clear in your mind when you need it, take off a few days just in case it doesn’t arrive in your inbox in time and put this in the brief. This is extremely important if you are going to be charged by the hour for the work.

If you want it by a certain date, say so. If you want different tasks delivered at different times, put it in your brief.

By applying the SMART principle to your outsourcingy you will be able to effectively structure and critique your brief and improve your success rate in the market place.



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