A Framework for Giving Clear Instructions to Your Outsourced Team (With Examples)

Carl Taylor | November 28, 2017

We’ve all experienced how a lack of clear communication can lead to misunderstandings at work. In fact, communication is one of the most important factors when it comes to working in a team.

But proper and clear communication is often neglected, even with teams that work closely. And the issue is made even worse when some team members, like freelancers, work off-site, or if you’re working with an outsourced marketing team, like Automation Agency.

The clarity of your instructions directly affects the quality of the work you get back. A poor brief (or in our case, task) will result in work with errors or work that doesn’t fulfill the requirements of the job. To keep those things from happening, we’ve compiled a framework for giving crystal clear instructions to your outsourced team members.

How to Write Clear Instructions for an Outsourced Team

Vague instructions often lead to mistakes. Here are some tips on how to write clear instructions for your outsourced team. (These are the same tips we give to Automation Agency clients when submitting a task, so we know they work!)

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Clearly State Your Goals

Every brief has an overall goal, so make sure this is stated upfront. If you need a designer in question to design a logo, for example, make that the subject of the email or the name of the brief. This way the overall goal is clear before the brief is even read. Then, follow that up with information on why you want to accomplish this particular task.

Include Context

Once the goal is established, you can include some background info to give context. Tell the designer why a new logo is needed and the history that led up to it. Is there an old logo that needs updating or is this a brand new logo that needs to be created from scratch?

This information might not seem relevant to everyone, but it’s a very important part of a complete brief because it gives the designer insight into the purpose of the new logo, which will effect how they approach the design.

Watch Your Language

Nobody wants to receive communication that is abrupt or rude – and your outsourced team is no different. It takes no time at all to be polite and friendly.

The tone of your communication also affects how receptive the reader is. If the designer in our scenario feels that they are being disrespected, they are less likely to give their best work.

Keep It Simple

Tone is very important, but you don’t want to waffle on things that aren’t relevant to the brief. This can lead to confusion in the same way that too little information can. It’s also wise not to communicate too many things at the same time.

Don’t include the brief for a business card and flyer along with the logo. Stick to one task per communication, focusing on making sure it is understood before moving on to other tasks.

Give Actionable Instructions

Make sure your instructions outline clear actions that the team member must take. If you come across as unsure about which direction you want to take with your instructions, your team members will be stuck. If they have to contact you to clarify, it is a waste of time.

In the example with our designer, it’s not helpful to be vague about what type of logo you want or to leave it up to them what colors you want to use. This lack of direction leads to delays.

Details, Details, Details!

In much the same way as clear instructions give direction, so do details. Give as much information as possible about the job and what you anticipate from the team member. Don’t assume they already know something or that they’ll understand it just because you do.

Imagine our designer not being given information about the type of company or industry they are expected to design a logo for. This would inevitably lead to the first draft being vague and probably completely wrong.

Include All Resources

Whenever possible (and it helps to make sure it’s always possible), make sure you include all images, copy, passwords, links, etc. that the team member will need to complete the task. Having to request these things is another delay in the process that is completely avoidable.

If you need one of your team members to source some stock images or make changes to a website, for example, not supplying the username and password upfront adds an unnecessary step to the briefing process.

Anticipate Confusion

This is something that will become easier with time, but reading through your instructions and trying to foresee where the team member might get confused can help you anticipate any questions they might have. This will allow you to reword the brief and avoid confusion where possible.

Acronyms or abbreviations are a good example of where confusion can happen. Instead, spells things out, even if you’re worried it might come across as patronizing.

Make Sure They Understand the Brief

Whether it’s because they feel embarrassed or they simply can’t be bothered, sometimes people say they understand something when they actually don’t. Always confirm with the team member that they understand what is expected of them and that they have everything they need for the task at hand.

To use an example… imagine that you’ve asked someone to send a broadcast to your email list, however you only want it to go to the buyers of a specific product. If they or you haven’t confirmed how to tell who is a buyer and who isn’t then you will find that the email goes to people who shouldn’t have got it.

Also if it’s not been specified that you want them to send you a test message to your email address first before scheduling it to go out you may have wrong information being sent out.

A really simple way to handle this is asking your team member to confirm what they understand the task to be in their own words, this often shows up any misunderstandings and are easily clarified at the start of the task.

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Learn From Your Mistakes

Of course, there’s likely to be at least one or two moments when instructions will be misunderstood. Even if you’re as careful as possible with your instructions, you can’t anticipate every outcome.

Crossed wires can highlight what parts of your communication process might need tweaking. So, when miscommunication does happen, view it as an opportunity to learn and reassess your processes.

About the author 

Carl Taylor

Carl Taylor is the Founder & CEO of Automation Agency. For the past 10 years Carl has been building businesses and marketing them online through the use of Sales Funnels, Email Marketing Automation, Landing Pages, and Wordpress Websites. Carl is also a #1 author and highly sought after speaker and consultant whose work has impacted thousands of businesses across various industries worldwide.

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