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Production Advice: 5 Top Tips For Indie Authors On How To Outsource Anything Like A Pro

Production Advice: 5 Top Tips for Indie Authors on How to Outsource Anything Like a Pro

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Jyotsna Ramachamdran, founder of ALLi Partner Happy Self Publishing

Most indie authors will at some point commission third-party services to help them make their books the best they can be. Few self-publishers possess all the skills to produce a book to professional standards, from first draft to final publication.

But effective outsourcing is a skill in itself, and it can be daunting if you've never done it before. So we're pleased to welcome to the blog today Jyotsna Ramachamdran, founder of ALLi Partner Happy Self Publishing, to offer expert advice on how to outsource your requirements in a way that will ensure the best end result for your self-publishing project.


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In our profession, we see a lot of our clients try to outsource components of their self-publishing process and – to be perfectly honest – fail miserably.

It doesn’t matter how big their budget is, a $5 cover sourced on Fiverr can be executed just as poorly as a $500 cover from 99designs if the author doesn’t know how to effectively convey what they’re looking for.

More often than not, when clients are dissatisfied with a freelancer, the problem isn’t with the freelancer themselves – it’s about a lack of communication!

Having hired our fair share of freelancers before building an entirely remote permanent team, here’s our five point check-list for outsourcing anything like a pro.

  1. Gain total clarity on exactly what you want

As an author, you need to know what exactly it is that you’re looking to get out of a particular job. What are you expecting the final product to look like? If it’s a cover design, you can’t just provide a freelancer with a description of your book and ask them to do something with it blindly. You’ll be setting yourself (and your freelancer) up for failure. Drill down deep and understand what you’d like your cover to look like so that you can convey your vision to the freelancer. Consider conducting a brainstorm session in order to come up with an action plan, vision board or even just bullet points to share with them. Give freelancers as much information or insight as possible for them to be able to execute your project properly!

  1. Provide references and samples

There is no better way to help a freelancer understand exactly what you want than by providing them with references to explain your vision. For example, if you read a bestselling book and really enjoyed its formatting, take photos of it and send them to your freelancer to give them an idea of your preferred style. Sharing links to other sites will give your web designer a clear vision for the site he or she is building for your personal brand, and so on.

  1. Check quality of work 

So your freelancer says that they’re up to performing the task – but how can you be sure? Much like how many employers check references, you’ll need to verify the quality of work your potential new hire can produce. Many people are often in a hurry to hire and do so quickly without conducting the proper legwork. If you’re hiring from a freelancing platform such as Upwork, make sure to check the freelancer’s past reviews from previous clients! This is where you’ll really be given a true indication of the quality of their work. If you’re hiring off of those platforms (and even if you aren’t), ask for work samples.  It’s important to see what they can produce before agreeing to hire them. 

  1. Test communication skills

Communication is key when it comes to outsourcing! Given that you won’t be working together in an office, your freelancer will need to be able to decipher every detail of your project in order for it to be completed successfully. Write an e-mail to them and see how they respond. If they’re quick and are able to convey that they’ve understood your book project, it will ultimately show how they handle timelines and what their working attitude is like. Better yet, you can invite them to a Skype call to have a quick chat and see if you like their vibe.

  1. Discuss timeline & payment terms

Discuss your project’s timeline and payment terms in advance so that there’s no ambiguity later on in the process. If you’d like a project to be done within one week, but the freelancer is accustomed to delivering work in ten days, you’re going to run into some issues. Put payment and deadline details down onto paper (contract, e-mail, etc)  so that both parties can refer back to it at a later date in the event of miscommunication or misunderstandings. Solidify payment terms from the get-go to make sure you’re both in accordance. Will you be willing to pay in parts, or do you feel more comfortable issuing payment at the end of a project? How much will the freelancer charge for an extra round of editing? And so on.

headshot of Jyotsna

Jyotsna Ramachamdran of ALLi Partner Happy Self Publishing

Hiring a freelancer certainly isn’t an easy process – let alone hiring an entire team of them to help you publish your book. By following the five-step checklist we’ve outlined above, you’ll lower the risk of hiring the wrong talent and increase your chances of working with contractors who are bound to get the job done, and get it done well.

Do you have any questions for Jyotsna? She'll be happy to answer.
Do you have any tips of your own to add to her checklist? Feel free to add them! 

5 #toptips on how to outsource anything like a pro - with special reference to indie #authors & #selfpub - by @JyotsnaR Click To Tweet

Author: Jyotsna Ramachamdran

Jyotsna Ramachandran is the founder of Happy Self Publishing, a full-service self-publishing agency that has helped hundreds of authors create their books. From formatting to manuscript editing and book cover design, the team has worked on a number of Amazon bestsellers and is passionate about helping aspiring authors find their voices and grow their businesses.


This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. Invaluable advice! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing it! Keeping all of this in mind will be very, very helpful while searching for a cover artist for ‘Stealing Myself From Shadows’!

  2. As a freelance copy editor and proofreader, I strongly agree with these reasonable and responsible steps for writers to ensure that they will be receiving the services they need.

    #3 stands out to me in particular. Knowing the quality and training of your prospective freelancer is vital. The writer should check into the copy editor’s training; look for years of experience, or sample projects offered, but also formal training taken in editing over and above a college English degree. Copy Editing has its own set of skills that are not usually taught in a Bachelor degree program.

  3. It’s useful to have a contract structure for freelancers who you plan to use more than once, such as cover artists.

    It’s not that the contract may be legally enforceable in remote parts of the world (unlikely), but it’s helpful in spelling out just what will happen if, for example, either party has to stop before completion for any reason (payments for partial work, etc.)

    I structure this as a master agreement (2-3 pages of responsibilities in the relationship) with a 1-page attachment (one for each piece of work, such as an individual book cover). The attachment doesn’t need to be detailed — spec is usually done outside this framework — but it should be clear about what’s being bought, in what timeframe, for how much money.

    Then I & the contractor sign the master agreement, and each attachment as it comes up.

    Things happen (life happens) in one-man-companies vs one-man-contractors, and it’s just as well to recognize that in advance in your paperwork, in the form of partial payments or penalties, rather then to agonize over real-world difficulties after they arise.

    1. Don’t forget you may need a place to spell out rights and exclusivity — the master agreement is the place for that. If you are ever questioned at a later time about your right to use an image for a cover, or whether your artist had the right to use the image he provides, you can point to the master agreement where it’s spelled out, and where the artist attests his right to use the image.

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