[Case example] How to get what you want while outsourcing
Tobias Schelle January 8, 2014

A couple of weeks ago I needed to do a presentation for a conference about entrepreneurship in Denmark. The theme of the conference: how we could get  more successful entrepreneurs in Denmark. 

We were a group of four that needed a couple of slides. In this post, I’m going to share with you the exact process I used to brief the design team, remotely. I’ve included my hand drawings, the video and emails that I sent down. And of course the final presentation.

If you want the key takeaways, then jump to the end of the post, where I have summarised the principles that I use.

I’ve been working with a outsourcing for 6 years now. It’s not hard to find skilled workers. The secret to the success lies in the communication. The technology has developed tremendously, but our knowledge about how to utilize it is falling behind in my opinion. So how to achieve the settled goals when you outsource, how to improve communication process?

Below is the process described from idea generation to final version of the PowerPoint presentation.

1. Brainstorming on content

At this point we already knew what we wanted to present. The purpose of the presentation was to present an idea that could produce more successful entrepreneurs in Denmark. Our idea was to introduce a 30-day entrepreneurship challenge. The ‘challenger’ would get a mentor assigned to help them get through the challenge, which included a sequence of stages that the challenger needed to complete.

So we needed to figure out what to put on our slides. We roughly talked about the content on each slide.

Time spend: 20 minutes

2. Drafting in hand

When we were done brainstorming I sat down with a paper and pen and began to draft together what we talked about. Enjoy my beautiful hand drawing below 🙂

Time spend: 10 minutes

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3. Brief to the designers

I took pictures of my drawings with my phone, uploaded them to my laptop, and started ScreenFlow – an application where I can record the screen with my voice. In the video, I explain what’s on each of slides. Both the obvious stuff and the more advanced stuff. This is the key to making the team understand what’s behind the slide.
One thing is just to show a draft. But what I want them to understand is how I think about the idea and why I did this drawing and not something else. This is about enabling them to thing more like myself when they design. It avoids a lot of confusion and wrong assumptions.

Watch the video below.

Think about it. You are sending something to someone who is living on the other side of planet. Completely different culture. What’s the likelihood of that person seeing things the same way as yourself? Very close to zero. We all have a lot of hidden assumptions.

Time spend: 12 minutes

4. First draft is delivered

It’s 95% perfect. The only thing that I didn’t mention in the video is that the two persons on the first slide should hold hands – not shake them 🙂 Other than that, there were only minor corrections.

Shortly after, I sent the following video and email:



Time spend: 5 minutes

6. Final version

After a couple of hours I got he final draft, we changed a bit of the text, and we were ready to present.

Interesting facts

Total turnaround to final draft: 18 hours including one revision.
Total time spend on communicating: 27 minutes
Total cost (for a customer): $80

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A little side note: we won the competition with that presentation 🙂

Key principles to use when communicating with remote workers:

  1. Explain things visually, especially if you are dealing with design. Written briefs are an invitation to misunderstandings. Use a screencast software or do a live conference call where you can share screens and explain.
  2. If the time difference permits, have a follow up call or chat after the briefing is sent. There are always questions that should be clarified.
  3. Repeat the most important things in a written list. I did this in the email that I sent. Things were already mentioned in the video, but it’s it’s easy to miss things. Don’t expect people to write things down.
  4. If it’s a larger project, then ask them to do a tiny bit of the work and send it for review. This can be a huge time saver for both.

It still amazes me what’s possible to accomplish with such a little time and money investment if you utilize talent around the globe. It doesn’t only apply to design. I have experienced this with copywriting, programming, support, etc.  The challenge is not to find great talent, the challenge is in how we communicate once we find talent.


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