Finding great service providers who consistently deliver quality work on time with clear communication is a skill in and of itself. How do you find these service providers? And once you find them, how do you make sure they love working with you and build a long-term relationship?

Finding Service Providers

There are many places you can find service providers.

By far the best place is referrals. Ask people you know who they use. If they have service providers who they can recommend, that’s often one of the best ways to find quality providers.

You can also find service providers by meeting people in person. Stay-at-home moms or retirees who want to make a bit of extra money and have the necessary skills tend to be great long-term outsourcees.

Online, you can find providers on sites like the Warrior Forum, Digital Point, SitePoint Marketplace, 99Designs and more. These are community websites where service providers hang out.

Finally, you can find service providers on sites like eLance and Guru. These are “bid for job” sites where you post a listing and potential providers bid on how much they’ll charge and how long it’ll take. If you want a long-term partner, then Int’l VA Assocation, http://www.ivaa.org, is the best place to find a virtual assistant.

Before You Hire

Before you hire someone, there are a few things to consider.

First of all, go through their samples carefully. Don’t just take a cursory look. If you are looking for a VA, graphic designer, or copywriter, go through 2-4 of their samples and really get a sense for their style and quality of work.

If you are looking for someone to manage your website, shopping cart, or blog, then pay attention to their response time. If it takes days to get back to you, then it is a strong indicator of their availability. If they are juggling too many clients, then you may have to endure a long wait time when you need things done.

Ask them questions. Get a sense of their work ethic both by their responses and the speed of their responses. If they don’t get back to you for two days before you’ve even hired them, chances are that’s what you can expect in the long run.

Finally, once you find a service provider that you believe matches what you’re looking for, start them out with a small project. See how they deliver, both in terms of quality and delivery time.  Only once they’ve proven themselves on a small project you can hire them for a larger one.

Keeping Great Service Providers

Once you’ve found a first-class service provider, how do you keep them?

The two most important things are that you treat them fairly and that you pay on time.

Remember that communication is two-ways. If you have a unique project, make sure you provide enough information and be available for questions. If they did a great job, make sure they know you appreciate their work.

Finally, pay on time. Perhaps the easiest way to lose a service provider is to not pay on time.

To sum up the steps: find a service provider using one of the many methods described above. Ask them questions, look at their samples and start with a small project to feel them out. Once you’ve tested them out, keep them by paying on time, treating them fairly and by having great two-way communication.