Transcription: #2 - Interview with Alan Earl on Outsourcing Facebook Advertising
#2 - Interview with Alan Earl on Outsourcing Facebook Advertising


Aderson Oliveira: This is an interview I have recorded with Alan Earl. Alan is a Facebook ads specialist, and his company is called We have spoken about how someone, a company, a business looking to have Facebook ads done for them, what should they be looking for, how they can evaluate different professionals on the Facebook ads marketing space, and we have also spoken about him being a client of outsourcing providers too, him hiring freelancers and outsourcers from platforms like Upwork, and what tips and tricks he could share with us. As usual, lots, lots of golden nuggets here.

Hello, hello, Aderson Oliveira here, and this is another interview for the OuchSourcing series of interviews about outsourcing, and today I have with me Alan Earl. Alan runs a company called Local-One, and he is a Facebook ads expert. He and his company provides advertising on social media and Facebook as one of their fortes. Welcome, Alan.

Alan Earl: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

Aderson: Before we begin to questions, I just want to give a little bit of context to people that are watching this of how I came to know Alan. So, first of all, I call Alan my Facebook ads coach. We have a weekly session that Alan really helps me a lot with Facebook advertising. He knows everything that has to be known about Facebook, so I really appreciate his help. In any case, we have been working together for just under six months and things are just going fine. Alan, let me ask you this. Is it fair to say that you do Facebook ads outsourcing?

Alan: Yeah, 100%.

Aderson: Perfect, because what I've been trying to do lately is everything I'm looking through the outsourcing lanes now. So, I said, "Hey, you know what? I think Alan does outsourcing. I mean, what he really does is outsourcing for his clients." So, let's talk, let's have this interview. So, that's why we're talking here. In any case, how about you start, Alan, by telling me a little bit about the types of services that you, as an agency, and your team, that you guys provide.

Alan: Yeah, absolutely. So, my background in internet marketing and digital marketing really started back before I say it was "a thing" and everybody else was doing it. I got an early start back maybe around 2000, 2001. I had a brother-in-law who approached me and said, "Hey, I've got a business idea and we are going to do some internet marketing. We're going to sell some products and services online." I said, "Well, I don't know anything about how that works. The internet is so new, but okay." I was young, I was in college, I was in Hungary.

So, we took a big swing at it. We learned a lot of things about affiliate marketing, learned search engine optimization, AdWords. Websites were pretty early. Everything was just basic HTML. There was no such thing as WordPress or these types of easier build website. So, I really got my feet wet and a lot of experience for years with internet marketing before a lot of people started doing it.

Then, over the years, I figured out there was this niche of small business owners. It was the dentist, the doctor, the lawyer, the construction company, the business who they needed the web to market their businesses, but they didn't have marketing departments. They didn't have teams of specialists and experts. So, things like building a website or doing search engine optimization was a big challenge.

So, I found that I could create an agency where we could appeal and really help fill that demand. We could help these businesses that needed search engine optimization, needed websites. And social media has become the newest shiny object. It's the newest part of digital marketing. It's really been over just the last number of years that Facebook, and Instagram, and Snapchat, and Twitter, they've gone from this place where you just connect with friends and family and you look at photos of food and vacations, it's become a tool for businesses.

So, I recognized an opportunity for my own business that I wanted to learn it. I wanted to understand how I could find clients, how I could attract attention utilizing social media, and in doing it and learning for ourselves, it was just perfectly translatable to clients that I worked with. And there's just so many. There's countless businesses who they don't know how it works yet. They don't know how to use social media. They still think of it as just this place you go and you just chat with friends and family.

So, it has really become, and it changes every day, but it really has become a fascinating world for me and I'm really enjoying taking part of social media as a business tool.

Aderson: Got it. So, let me ask you that, Alan, when people look for a professional and a team like yours -- actually, do you go proactively marketing your services and social media services to businesses that may or may not have an understanding of the value of that, or really, people just come to you that already see the value of that and are just looking for someone that is a specialist. Do you deal with both of those types of prospects of clients?

Alan: Yeah, absolutely. So, I definitely am learning what types of businesses. Everybody knows they need a website. That's become so simple, and people are pretty aware that they want to use "the Google", they want to be found, and they want search engine optimization. Social media is still unique. There are plenty of businesses who really understand the value. They're either watching their competitors do it, friends, family, cousins, somebody they see, or maybe they've tried it and they've recognized that they actually can generate some interest utilizing social media.

When those people come to me and when I engage with them, sometimes those are the easiest ones to work with, because they already know the value. I don't need to sell them on how it works, or why it works. It's more operational. Let's do the things that you want to do to hit your goals. So, those types of clients, I would daresay I probably enjoy working with more. But, there are plenty of businesses that I talk to every day who still don't get it, but they want to get it. They have a passion to make social media part of what they do, but they're just not really sure why or how that's going to come about.

So, there is a learning curve that we do go through and some discussion on maybe it does apply to your business, maybe it doesn't. Maybe you could create some clients and leads, maybe you couldn't. Maybe you do need a little bit of a marketing budget, maybe you don't. So, I do find myself being a little bit of an advocate of trying to sell a service, sometimes, to people who aren't really sure why they need it. But, when they get it, they get it, and it clicks, and oftentimes, it becomes one of the greatest things they've done because it's new, it's different, it's intriguing, it's fast-paced, and it's quick versus search engine marketing sometimes.

Aderson: Got it. You were saying there it's quick, and I guess that ties well together with the ROI of social because that's something that I see people talking about. "What is the ROI of social?" I'm going to ask you, what is the ROI -- how do you prove that, "Hey, you know what? The money that you guys are investing here are really giving you X, Y, and Z"?

Alan: So, it definitely depends upon the objective of each social media campaign can have a different objective. Some of those are very easily quickly translatable to ROI and others are not. So, if we run a campaign where we are generating conversions, or better yet, sales. We are actually trying to get people to purchase, put their credit card number in, and actually create a transaction. It's very easy to see. We spend X number of dollars. Hopefully, the return is X plus some other factor. So, it's an immediate return on investment.

Now, there might be a learning curve and maybe the first campaign doesn't quite do it. Maybe we don't even break even. We lose money. But, the next one, we get a little closer, and the next one, we get a little closer, and maybe after a couple of campaigns, we now push over into starting to talk about an ROI, a return on investment. Those ones are a little bit easier because the math is pretty simple. The ones that become a little bit more complicated is when the transaction is maybe further down the line. With the social media campaign, we're just trying to generate a lead, or we're trying to gather an email address, or maybe we're just trying to get a click or impression.

Aderson: Or awareness, as well?

Alan: And we're trying to just generate awareness so that these -- we're doing things for future value, and so the immediate ROI isn't something that we can calculate. We're trying to forecast, maybe, a future ROI, trying to create branding, and awareness, and attention so that sales and dollars come down the channel later. So, it can be complex and we do need to be patient with ourselves, and I need to be patient with my clients, giving them advice, versus sometimes knowing we don't have that [snap] quick to calculate ROI, but we can get there if we work towards it.

Aderson: Okay, great. So, I'm just going to do a quick follow-up on something that you mentioned there. Some business may be better suited to do Facebook ads than other businesses. Is there anything that pops in your mind right away that says, "Hey, you know what? Mm-mm, no, no, it's not a good business to advertise on Facebook." Of course, I'm pretty sure that Facebook has guidelines of products and things that you cannot advertise. I assume guns you cannot advertise there. But, anything else jumps to mind that is not a good fit for Facebook ads?

Alan: There's plenty of products that they struggle with social media. It's a longer process. Sometimes the health and fitness world, you can't call out personal attributes through social ads. Facebook doesn't want you to say, "Hey, are you," as the reader of the ad, "are you out of shape, are you feeling lethargic, are you tired, are you diabetic? Your financials, are they out of order? Do you need bankruptcy, do you need credit repair?" Some of these where we call out a person's potentially negative attributes, Facebook doesn't like that, and they tend to disable or unapprove ads like that.

So, you do have to be able to dance around it sometimes when you're in a product or service category like that, which can be challenging. You might have a magnificent diet product, you might have the most amazing credit repair product. But, it can be difficult to call that potential site visitor or potential client out and let them know what you have. You maybe need to to gather an email address so that you can market to them down the line.

There are some very competitive niches. Things like some of the e-commerce niches, whether it's shirts, or jewelry, sometimes it's just incredibly competitive, and I've noticed that people that come in and they have amazing aspirations, but they just don't generate the returns they thought they were going to because customers have trouble differentiating their brand, or their product, or their service from others, and it's a very long-term play.

Aderson: Got it. Okay, I just have one more question specifically about advertising, in general. But then, we're going to segway to more of the outsourcing and client provider relationships. Let me ask you this. It seems to me and I hear that a lot that Facebook ads is still a very green field of opportunities and prices are not too high yet as compared to PPC. What can you tell me about that? Is that true at this point in time?

Alan: I believe so, absolutely. The time spent on the social media channels is tremendously higher than the time spent in search. The statistics will say that people might go to Google one or two times a day, they might go to a social media channel like Facebook 13, 14, 15 times a day.

So, the available inventory, the available sets of eyes and people that you can target is tremendous. If I go to Facebook or Instagram 15 times a day, there's 15 opportunities for 15 different advertisers, if I only see one, to potentially reach me. That's a lot of advertising that is available. There are many products and services that people like me are potentially interested in.

It hasn't reached that point of being saturated. It has not reached that point yet where we say that there's really nothing left. The arbitrage is all gone. There are very inexpensive clicks, and impressions, and leads, and purchases still available with social media because there's so much inventory still available, and I don't think Facebook is -- they're not over-advertising at this point. I think they're doing just enough but not too much.

Aderson: So, now segway to more specifically about outsourcing in your line of business here. I have a webinar, and you know that webinar. We have spoken about that webinar quite a lot, and one of the aspects of my outsourcing webinar is how to select the right freelancer, the right outsourcing provider for whatever you're looking to get service for. It might be website development, it might be mobile app development, it might be Facebook ads as well.

My question to you is how would someone that is looking to get some Facebook advertising done by a third party, how would they come to evaluate someone? Maybe they are looking through Upwork, maybe they're looking through a few candidates. How would you go about evaluating someone's knowledge about that? How would you do that?

Alan: I think it depends on the goal. I'll speak about how I've approached it. I think there are plenty of business owners who want to take on the challenge of doing their own digital marketing. They'd build their own websites through Squarespace, and Weebly, and Wix, and GoDaddy. They do their own search engine marketing. They learn how Google and AdWords work. When it comes to social media, they also understand that these tools are available and they're not proprietary locked down with agencies like me that they really have the do-it-yourself capability.

So, there are plenty of people who they want to learn it. They want to do it themselves, and so they're looking for somebody who can maybe just help get them over some of the hurdles, and I say in particular, through some of the failures that they don't have to experience themselves. So, in assessing someone that could help you, I look for, "Have you failed? Have you made mistakes? Have you screwed this up enough that you could actually teach somebody how to not screw it up, or how to screw it up less?" There's much wasted time and so much wasted energy, you could spend days and weeks and months reading books, and attending webinars, and videos, and tutorials, and still never learn it all. Sometimes, you just got to get in and get your hands dirty, and sometimes those are costly mistakes. You waste a lot of time, and energy, and money.

So, with knowing that there are people who want to learn it themselves, I think they should seek out somebody who can help guide them and doesn't need to be 100% hands-on, and say, "No, the only I do this is I do it for you and I will never teach you my secrets or my tricks." There are no secrets. This is publicly available info. It's just how much of it are you aware of and how many times have you gone through these hurdles and road blocks?

I really enjoy that aspect. I enjoy teaching people how to do it. Now, sometimes it's slower. Sometimes I see people make mistakes that they've just got to make, and I wouldn't have made that mistake had I been doing it for them. But, it's part of the process. That's what they want to do, and ultimately, they will probably save more time and energy doing it this way in the long run, but it's a temporary short-term hit.

On the other side, there are people, business owners who don't. They don't have the time, the energy, or the want. They want it done for you, and I think the same thing applies, "Has the service provider been there and done that? Have they seen enough of what doesn't work?" We can all brag about our wins. We can all say, "I did this campaign, the ROI was amazing, the results were amazing."

They don't all go that way. Sometimes it's luck, sometimes it's great timing, sometimes it's a one-hit wonder. Have you screwed enough of them up that you know how to pivot and you know how to adjust? Because, Facebook is making changes all the time. Customer's behaviors and interests are changing all the time. Other advertisers and inventory's changing.

So, sometimes it's a dynamic process that you need to know that it might not have worked, how do I fix it? How do I turn it? How do I look at the numbers in what didn't work and try and make sense of what could work. So, I think those conversations are sometimes the most real and most intriguing. Less about what is perfect and more about what's not, and how do we get to what is? It is hard work and requires some time.

Aderson: Got it. I want to drill down a little bit more there because I think it's really important for people that are looking to outsource Facebook advertising to get an understanding of how can I tell. Maybe after a period time. Maybe it's after a month, maybe it's after a week, maybe it's after two months. But, my question is really what does it take for me to know that this guy here is not really delivering? Maybe it's about delivering under promises. That's what I'm looking for. I'm looking for what can be a good signal that after working with this individual for a week, for two weeks, for a month -- is it about results? Is it because they are not bringing results? How will I judge that?

Alan: Before you engage, obviously, it's pretty easy. You're looking for, hopefully, some reviews, some past experiences from other people to help determine whether you want to even begin that relationship. It is a challenge going first. Everybody needs their first client, but I don't recommend that everybody choose a brand new provider. Sometimes, it is probably safer to find someone who has a couple of positive reviews that you could rely on.

Then, from there, setting some proper goals and knowing at what point to pause and assess them. So, if the provider that you're working with has committed to the fact that there will be hundreds and thousands of dollars of sales by X period of time and you didn't achieve it, well why not? Was it his fault, was it your fault, was it the website's fault? Why did the train somehow fall off the tracks?

So, I think in making a determination, first, of where you're trying to go, and is that realistic, and then taking a moment of pause of did you get there? Whether that's dollars in revenue, or leads, or clicks, or impressions, and understanding that there are metrics inside of their key performance indicators of relevancy score of an ad, or click through ratios, or cost per click that can help tell the story. Maybe you didn't achieve your exact dollar amount in sales, but the cost per click is reasonable. Maybe it's just a factor of advertising a little bit more, spending a little bit more, or having a little bit more time to get there.

So, I think there always has to be a moment of pause, whether that's a daily pause, a weekly pause, a monthly pause, and that doesn't necessarily mean pause your ads, but pausing to assess where did you think you were going, or what was the intended target, and are you either on your way there? Are you even on the road or did you completely miss it? And what are those performance indicators that you should be looking at? There's so many. I mean, impressions, and clicks, and sales, and so on and so forth.

But, looking at those and saying, "Do they add up? If my cost per click is $5 and I'm selling a $5 product, I don't know if I'm ever going to get there." I mean, 100% click to conversion ratio probably isn't going to happen. That's probably a very unrealistic metric. If my cost per click is 50 cents and I'm selling a $5 product, then I can do some math and say, "Well, how many clicks might it take to generate a sale? If I can convert 1 in 10? Okay, here are the numbers. Here's where I'm going to be."

So, not being naive and understanding that there is some math involved, and sometimes you do need to calculate some metrics based on different indicators and seeing where you will be, because if the numbers are nowhere near where you need them to be today, they're not just going to magically get better. You have to make some changes and some adjustments.

So, with your service provider, are they helping you? Are they helping you make those changes? Are they able to discuss them or do they throw their hands up and say, "No, it's Facebook's fault, or people just don't like your product, or it's your website's fault." Sure, sometimes that happens, but I think those are cop outs, and there's always a way, with some changes, that you can get it closer.

Aderson: You know what I like in that? What you just mentioned gave me one little nugget there that if the professional that you are talking to for Facebook ads or for any types of ads, if the professional is not trying to create and set both of your expectations, if there is no talk about expectations, then there is something wrong. Because, expectations need to be there as a discussion point from the very beginning. Is that right, Alan?

Alan: Absolutely, and I failed at that one before. I had a client who, after two hours’ worth of work - we just did a very short-term engagement, it was two hours - she was very frustrated with me and we didn't set expectations. We moved so quickly right into it. My expectation, her expectation of what was going to happen at the end of the two hours were misaligned. Now, my fault. I should have said it.

But, what ended up happening was we got to the end of the two-hour engagement and I didn't create the results she thought she was going to get, which I never, ever, ever could have done in two hours' time. But, I see it. I see why she was frustrated because she thought, in her mind, that's what I was doing, and we didn't address it up front. We didn't say, "Here is what will happen, or here is what to expect at the end of two hours."

On the contrary, I've had others that have gone very well, some in contrary to what I want. I had a client of mine whose sales were dramatically lower than I would have wanted them to be. I mean, for me, I was quite uncomfortable wondering, "How long can he keep going? He's not making money." He was thrilled with the results because we had talked about hitting certain milestones, and we were hitting them, and he looked at this as a very long-term process. He wasn't looking for quick ROI. He didn't believe that it was ever achievable. He was really looking for a long-term play of gathering leads and gathering impressions in branding and awareness. We were hitting all of those.

So, my objective and his were a little misaligned, but he was completely thrilled because we had previously said, "Here's what we know we can do," and we hit all of those. I wanted an ROI for him, I wanted his product to sell a little better. At that point, he didn't care. Now, eventually it came, eventually it kicked in, to a lot of his credit and his team's credit. But, we had discussed them before, so it worked.

Aderson: Actually, just a few minutes before, you answered a question that I had, which I was about to ask if you have any horror stories. So, you mentioned that already up front, and I really appreciate that.

Alan: Sometimes it's better to -- you know, horror stories happen. We all have different opinions. There's no perfect way to resolve them. But, I have found, the more you can discuss up front and go in little bite-sized chunks along the way so that your risk together as someone who is outsourcing to a freelancer and a freelancer who is working with a new client that your risk is coming in little bite-sized chunks. At any point in time, somebody could stop. You didn't sign a contract for six months’ worth of work and tens of thousands of dollars. It maybe could just be an hour at a time, and after a couple of hours, if you don't feel like together or one or the other, it's not working, you can stop. You can stop and you can go somewhere else.

So, I try, as much as I can, to set some expectations in the beginning, but also work in those little small bite-sized milestones so that nobody feels locked down, like the only reason we're working together is because they signed a contract. I want them to get the results and feel like they're getting them, and keep coming back. Some of my longest ongoing relationships have gone that way, where people just, "Wow, we've worked together forever, and had we signed a contract or done some agreement, I don't know if we would have worked together that long."

Aderson: Got it. Very good, very good. I want, in a second, that you start wearing another hat of someone hiring, outsourcing providers. But, before we jump to that, just want to ask if there's one single suggestion, advice for someone looking to hire someone to do Facebook advertisement for them, one little thing, one thing that you'd like people to take away from this interview about that, what that would be?

Alan: Starting the conversation more clear on what you want, and being able to drive the agenda of what you want. The freelancer is not there to run your business. They're not there to create a business for you. They're there to fulfill a task and help you achieve a part of your business, such as marketing. When businesses or people come to me and they are clear on their objectives of what they want, "I want these kinds of leads, I want these kinds of sales, I have these kinds of tools and resources. I need your help to do these things," those succeed.

When people come and say, "I have an idea. I'd like to market myself online. I don't know how. I just am hoping you can come up with the entire strategy from start to finish and just tell me what you would do, and basically run my business for me." Those ones become scary, and those become tremendously just nerve-racking for everybody because it's too involved.

So, the more a business can come prepared to direct it, to be the head of the orchestra and say, "This is how I want it to go," those succeed in making some of those decisions. And if you don't know, ask questions and have that be part of the initial engagement to say, "These are questions that I do not know, or answers I don't have. Can you help me? Can this be the first engagement where you help me create the strategy or help me create the process so I know what I can do versus just expecting the freelancer to make magic." Magic doesn't happen.

Aderson: I cannot not ask you that. Have you fired a client before?

Alan: Yep, I did. I did this morning.

Aderson: You did this morning?

Alan: Yeah.

Aderson: Okay, you know what? Feel free to share whatever you want to share there. But, I'd love to hear something about that. Are you able to share a little bit on that? I mean, I understand if you're not.

Alan: Absolutely. The reason I said it the way I did, it's very fresh on my mind. This individual came to me with the expectation that I was basically going to create and run their business, that my job was all things strategy, all things implementation, that I was really their sole source of success or failure, and I don't want to be that. I don't want to be that responsible. I'd rather run my own business. If I'm going to do that many tasks and be that responsible, I'd rather have it be mine and not yours.

So, I realized that they weren't adding any value to the conversation at all. They were just looking for me to be the hero or the villain, and that is so uncomfortable that I said, "I don't think this is going to work, because I don't want to be the reason you succeed or the reason you fail. I want to work together with you, because that's how it will work best." So, I severed the relationship - and this is brand new. I severed it and I refunded back the money that they had so far, I guess, I had earned, and I just said, "I don't feel good about it. I would rather you spent this somewhere else."

And I feel the greatest sense of relief, the greatest sense of relief because this relationship was going to get sour at some point. My instinct and gut said it. So, I would rather that they didn't spend any time, any money with me at all and that we just didn't do it so that I don't have to feel that pressure and sense of responsibility.

Aderson: Perfect. Love that answer. I love the timing of that. It was perfect timing. Now, let's switch hats a little bit here. You told me once that you also outsource a lot of work. Do you still do that?

Alan: Yes, absolutely. It's how I know the outsourcing world. I've been an outsourcer longer than I've been a freelancer on the other side.

Aderson: Got it. What types of work and jobs do you outsource?

Alan: When I started my business, Local-One, back in 2008, my very, very first task was I need a website. I outsourced building a website through Elance, I guess, before Upwork. So, that was the very first job that I had ever outsourced, and I was a brand new, opened an Elance account, found a developer to build me a website, and I have done countless web development, search engine marketing, some incredible one-off jobs of specialties and things that I don't have where I've been able to find data scraping, complicated software building, mobile app development, design, print design, digital design. I think I've outsourced, through the Upwork channel alone, well over $100,000 and probably a couple $100,000 over the last number of years.

Aderson: So, with that type of experience that you have, you must have developed some sort of either intuition or a strategy on how to go about picking the right person to outsource work to. Do you have any little nuggets on that area to share with us?

Alan: So, I think I am really, really good at outsourcing, and here's what I do. I am super clear on the job write-up. I eliminate all questions. I get everything handled right from the very beginning and I'm incredibly organized. Here is the project, here is the short version, here is the longer version, here's the questions you could ask, the details you need, the files you need, here it all is. It's all right here.

Then, I don't have to worry about, "Well, what information do they --?" I try to think ahead. What would they want to know? Because, I know what it's like to be on the side of somebody saying, "Hey, I want to hire you to do vague job. Give me a bid for vague job," and you say, "I don't really know. How can I give you a bid? I don't even know what the details are." So, I try and provide because what I'm looking for is an exact proposal on time, on cost, or relatively.

So, I try and give them everything that they would need in order to do that. I eliminate any automatic replies. I can't stand automatic replies. So, I ask some simple questions that prove to me that they're paying attention, such as, "Pick a number between 1 and 10," or, "Tell me your favorite color but don't use red," and it's interesting. People will say, "Pick your favorite color but don't -- why not red? What's going on with red? What is it that you --?" and I just chose red because I just wanted to get somebody to think and to see if they can pivot. Sometimes people will get angry. They will get angry and say, "My favorite number was 12. Why did you tell me not to pick 12? I think that's rude," and I think, "Wow, I have a conflict over a simple question like this. We're probably not going to work well together."

So, sometimes it works as just a simple little filter. But, I'm very detailed, very organized, and then I choose my candidates incredibly quickly. Sometimes, and most often, I, from the time of posting the job to hiring, is under one hour. The reason I do that is I know the people are out looking for jobs all the time.

The more proposals that I get, oftentimes, doesn't necessarily mean better. It just weighs me down. It takes just more energy for me to sift through them, and now I'm trying to compare this guy to this guy, and this guy to this guy, and this guy to this guy. If I get one that I like, if it fits what I'm looking for, I choose it. I don't wait for anybody else. I know there are more coming that could be better. But, I was looking for somebody to do a job, this person looks like a perfect, why wait? Let's just take the gamble right now and do it.

Those jobs have gone incredibly well because I'm detailed at the beginning, I'm quick to choose, and I'm quick to help them understand what the expectations are, and that we're going to work within a period of time and so on. Those ones have gone almost flawless. When I drag it out, it's open for vague understanding and deliverables and time. For some reason, those seem to fall off the rails and go poorly.

Aderson: Quick question. By the hour or fixed price?

Alan: Either one. I'm open because I understand, being on both sides, that ultimately, it's the same number. We're just trying to arrive at it and who bears the risk. So, more often than not, I will, in my job posting say, "I am open to fixed price or hourly. Let's just discuss it or tell me which one you prefer and what that is." So, now I'm giving it to them to say, "I choose hourly and here's my rate, or I choose fixed price and there you go." I've been surprised, often, when people will come back with a fixed price that is way lower than I would have thought or would have been willing to pay, and I'll take it because I'm giving them, "You pick your number," and if they're comfortable with it and that's the number that they're okay with, I'll take it.

Aderson: It might be a red flag though. I mean, if someone would jump so quickly to give me a fixed price that is way too low, to me, usually, that may mean that, "Hey, maybe they didn't really understand what I'm asking for here." So, again, I just want to comment that it might be a red flag for someone to bid extremely low there.

Alan: Obviously, that's true. So, within a set of parameters, there is underbid and that happens. But, sometimes, people are just willing, their rate, they're willing to work for a little bit less, or they're faster, and therefore, they're able to get it done. What I've found sometimes is that, sometimes the bid is lower just because they're so good at it. They don't need as much time as maybe I thought they did. I'm thinking it's a 10-hour deal and the guy goes, "Give me two. This is a piece of cake. I do this all the time." So, sometimes, it's me not understanding how good they could be.

But, you are definitely right that there are underbids. So, then I'm looking at things like, "How are their reviews? Have they done anything like this before?" I'm looking at current jobs and previous jobs and I'm trying to find is there anything in there that would lead me to believe their bid is real and that they can do this, or their bid is not so great and they're probably going to miss it.

Aderson: Okay, so going back again to the point that you have a lot of experience outsourcing work as well. I'm assuming that you must have gone through many horror stories on that side of the business. I mean, can you share one of those and what you did to circumvent that horror story?

Alan: So, I use Elance, Upwork more than others. I have tried others: Guru and so on. But, that one has served the best for me, and one of the features that I love is the protection of Escrow, of being able to put some money in Escrow knowing that it has now left my hands, I'm committed to it, but it's held in Escrow, and in the event that the freelancer doesn't deliver, I have an opportunity to get it back. I have a claim, and someone, a team who can help me get my money back. I have had freelancers not deliver, and excuse after excuse, after problem, after problem, after delay, after delay, or just go completely non-responsive. Being able to get that money back is nice.

That helps because if you're freelancing things out, there's a chance that that money matters. You don't have a money tree in the backyard and any small business who's trying to outsource a project can't necessarily afford to just let that money be blown. So, having someone who can be that arbiter, that person who can sit in the middle and make sure both sides are protected is incredibly, incredibly helpful.

Freelancers understand it as well. Just like I refunded back to that client this morning what we had done, I have had freelancers do that where I have expressed my discontent and said, "You didn't do what you said you were going to do, or you didn't do it on time." I have had some very kind and say, "I know. I'm sorry. I get it. Here's why. Let's just cancel the job or refund it back." But, Upwork has been incredibly helpful to be the middle man.

Aderson: I really love Upwork as well. A question here. Even though you have a huge amount of experience with outsourcing on both sides of the fence, is there anything that you still struggle with the outsourcing aspect of doing business?

Alan: I think trust, letting go is even still. There are things that I know. I mean, I've had some incredibly successful projects that I've done hundreds of them. There are still things that I don't outsource, and I could and I should, but I don't, because I'm afraid. I'm afraid to sometimes let somebody in to see something, or I'm afraid of what if they screwed it up, or I feel like the only way it's going to get done is if I do it myself.

Aderson: What kind of tasks or project would that be? That's related to what? Like marketing or...?

Alan: Writing. Writing has been a task that I struggle with. I struggle because I take so much time to write. I feel like I'm a good writer. I take 10 times longer to write the same thing than a person who writes for a living might take. But, because I can do it, sometimes I undervalue what a writer's time is worth, and there are writers who charge tremendously high rates for their writing, and I sometimes downplay it and think it's not worth that much. I don't value it that highly.

So, I have struggled to really let go of many writing projects that would have been done in a 10th of the time and, even at their higher rates, would have ultimately saved me time, saved me money, saved me energy. Writing is hard because writing is this creativity, it's this medium that you read it, and you love it or you don't, and you've either got it or you don't. I've had some projects where I just didn't like their style of writing and it's led to lack of confidence. So, that is a resource that I have not been great at sourcing. I have found some good ones, but I haven't tried enough.

Aderson: I think the writing aspect of things is if you are having someone writing on your behalf, writing is very personal, and that someone will have to match your style, will have to match you. I'm okay with writing, but I see your point there. I really see your point there.

Alan: I think it's a lot easier on a visual item like a website. I mean, I can so quickly say, "Move this, make this, change the color, it's how I see it, and here's an example of one that I want you to mimic." Writing, sometimes, is a little vague and they've got to get inside of me to know my personality and opinion and likes, and I know. It's not perfect.

Aderson: Alan, we're coming towards the end here. I have one question. But now, from you giving advice to an organization, a company, or a freelancer that wants to make on the outsourcing world as a provider. So, what would be one thing that you'd tell someone that is looking to get work outsourced to them?

Alan: So, somebody who wants to become a freelancer?

Aderson: Freelancer, an outsourcer, someone that will be able to provide services to somebody else, to be able to receive outsourced work.

Alan: Being very specific on the one service you might provide, yes you might be able to do 30 things, but the only way that you're going to get that first job, because it all starts with that first job, is you've got to be very clear in your offering that maybe you do one thing, one thing very well, and have a competitive rate to get that one thing done. There is always somebody who will take a flier on a brand new person. There is. Because, as long as you know just a little bit more than they do, you're of value to them.

So, you don't have to have hundreds of 5-star reviews, but the more specific you are, the more you can match that available search. So, when someone searches for a Facebook ad expert, or a blog writer, or a WordPress developer, or a logo designer, just being very specific and just doing that one thing and having your title, your description, all things in your profile very honed in and specific to that one thing, it makes the match a lot easier in the very beginning.

Now, you might get other jobs down the line and you might advance your profile and make it bigger and say, "Oh by the way, I do these other things." But, to get going, just focus on one. Get some wins, get a couple of jobs where you can deliver on that, you can deliver well, and that will lead to more jobs in that category, then you can always expand your profile from there. But, that's where I would start: starting specific.

Aderson: You know, you're very right, and I usually laugh when I see people, on their profile, professionals, freelancers, that they say, "I can do PHP, dot net, and this language, and mobile development, and mobile apps, and this, and this, and that," and they list a ton of different technologies that they work with, and that, in its own, tells me I should not be working with that person.

Alan: It can be just a little too broad, sure.

Aderson: Alan, before I let you go, I just want to share this quickly with you. I don't know if I have ever mentioned it to you, but I wanted to share exactly how I got to Alan's profile. So, I wanted to have a Facebook ads specialist, and I went to Upwork and I said, "You know what? I don't want anybody. I want the best one," and what I did is, when I filtered, I said, "You know what? I want the ones with the highest rates," but not ratings. I mean, fees. The highest fees, and I said, "Man, if this guy can ask me, up front, for this amount here, he must be good," and here we are.

By the way, before I let you go, is that a strategy of yours of, "Hey, you know what? I'm good, and I'll put my rates very high, and whoever wants to work with me has to leave a bit." Is that the strategy?

Alan: You know, my time -- all of us, our time is our most valuable asset. We can't make more of it. So, there are only so many hours that I can actually work, and I really, really strongly, a thousand million percent believe that my time is more valuable than many other people who charge a lesser rate, that I can get more done during that time period to justify the higher rate, the experience I have. So, absolutely.

I often argue with myself and think that it should be higher, that I should be charging more. But, I know that in Upwork, in there, there is some sensitivity. I understand who the people are that are finding it, and if I said $500 an hour, they'd go, "Wrong channel, man. I'm not looking for a $500 guy." So, it is a strategy, yes. There are only certain jobs and people that I do want to work with, and it has worked well.

Aderson: Perfect. So, Alan, I really want to thank you for the time that we have spent here. I just want to leave it up to you to plug yourself where people can find you if they are looking for a social media marketing specialist, a Facebook specialist.

Alan: Yeah, absolutely. I certainly appreciate you having me on. It's been fun to think through some of these, being the freelancer, and being the business that this has been a fun road and I'm really passionate about the outsource freelancer model. I really love it and I attribute a lot of success to it.

So, for me, I can obviously be found inside of the Upwork platform. Name is Alan Earl, and it will come up under Facebook or Instagram expert., A-L-A-N-E-A-R-L quickly forwards to my LinkedIn profile. It's very easy to connect with me there. So, contact information, but I appreciate it. Thank you.

Aderson: Perfect. Thanks for your time, Alan, and I will talk to you soon. Bye.

Alan: Thank you, Aderson. Be well.

I'm an Outsourcerer. I'm a DNN Geek. I help people with their sites @ DeskPal. I'm a #Pomodoro practitioner. I'm a husband and a father of 2 beautiful girls.

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Aderson Oliveira
Aderson Oliveira