3 Ways to Turn Outsourcing to Your Advantage

Outsourcing is not going to go away. Our recent Technical Writers survey showed that US companies are now outsourcing technical documentation projects big-time to India, Poland and Portugal. This is not going to change. It’s just a business decision.

Feeling bad/sad/mad about it won’t change it.

But what you can do is make it work for you. Here’s how I did it.

3 Ways to Turn Outsourcing to Your Advantage & Travel the World

In 2005, my technical writing team in Ireland was told that there would be changes. Clouds on the horizon.

Over the next 6 months we trained a lovely group of writers in Bangalore to take over our technical writing duties, showed them the style guides, and held their hands while they took over the reins.

Then we were all let go.

Some found other work, a few struggled and moved into other less-paid fields — I moved to Asia.

Difficult but great.

Life-long dream to live in the Orient, learn a new language (getting there…) and escape the depression of life back home.

And yes, we have offspring. More on that later.

So here are three ways to make outsourcing work for you:

1. Learn a language.

It’s naïve (and lazy) to think that everyone has to learn English. Now it’s your turn to learn a language.

The boom areas are in the Middle East and Asia.

If you learn one of these languages, coupled with your current expertise, you stand a great chance of developing a great business — and moving away from the current dilemma you’re in.

I can’t do it!

This is just being lazy.

If millions of people can learn to speak Russian, Arabic, and Japanese — well, so can you!

2. Mentor technical writers in other counties

I work with companies in Asia that don’t have an experienced technical writer. They can’t afford me full-time, so we arrange conference calls and I guide their team through the larger projects.

I do it all from home.

No setup charges. We use Skype and Google Docs.

3. Setup a specialist online service

It has to be very precise and almost impossible to replicate.

For example:

  1. Convert obscure file formats, e.g. PageMaker files into Microsoft Word
  2. Translate technical documents into Arabic or another language where there is a shortage of these skill-sets
  3. Perform technical edits on business critical documents, such as business proposals that must have perfect English

Outsourcing is not all going to India

What surprised me when I did the survey is that outsourcing is not going to India, which is what I’d expected, but Poland and other eastern-European countries, such as Latvia and Estonia.

Most of the writers there are English graduates and judging the samples that they have produced, can produce quite good documentation.

Some of the wording and phrasing is a little awkward— but on price they can’t be beat.

The trend towards outsourcing technical documentation is now a fact of life.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone in the field —that means you!—who is either working with offshore companies or has identified ways to protect their career.

What I’d like to know is how it’s affected your career prospects and how you can take ADVANTAGE of this situation.

Another thing

I think Programmers have more to fear that Tech Writers when it comes to outsourcing.