It doesn’t have to be complicated – you can get everything in one short email. But make sure you cover all these bases and you’ll find that you will consistently get better results.
1. What is the project? Why are you asking them to do this?
Describe the project briefly, so they have the big picture. Then explain why you are having them do this. What do you want to happen as a result of doing this project? How will it impact your business?
The “Why” is important. A lot of people skip this, thinking the answer is obvious. But when you clarify the purpose of a project for the person who is doing it, both of you benefit.
Perhaps you want them to call 100 people and get 10 appointments. Or have 50 sign up to receive a free offer. Maybe you want to have a website that is free of typos. You want to have a standard that you can measure results against so you know if they did a good job. What would a good job look like?
People will do a better job if they understand why you are having this project done. Perhaps getting those 10 appointments will lead to 2 sales, which will allow you to afford to have this person work for you on a regular basis.
Or maybe you have had people complain about the grammar and mistakes on your website and you think you’re losing business as a result. You want to increase the conversion rate from your site. Or your goal is x increase in revenue…
The more clearly you articulate what you want, the more likely you are to get it. (There is a truism that you get what you measure – you also are more likely to get what you ask for.)
And if they understand what your goals are, they can contribute their knowledge and experience to give you advice on how to achieve that goal. There might be better ways to do things that they know about and can share with you.
2. What are the steps?
List the steps you want them to follow.
If there is anything they need to learn (like how to use a certain type of software), tell them how you want them to learn. Should they look for videos on YouTube? Are you going to teach them?
3. What else is needed?
Provide whatever materials they are going to need to do the work. This might include a contact database or some files or a list of websites to visit. Whatever it is, list what you are providing them and where to find it or how you are getting it to them.
4. What is your deadline?
When should the project be finished? If it is a bigger project and there are sub-deadlines, such as you want to see a first draft by a certain date or you want a status report by a certain date, include those.
Don’t assume that you have the same understanding of what “I need it as soon as possible” means, particularly not when you are just starting to work with someone. For some people that means “drop everything and do it immediately.” For others it means “do it within the next couple days or as soon as you can reasonably get around to it.”
5. What is your budget (time/money)?
How much time are you willing to have them spend on this project?
If you have a pretty good idea of how long it should take, this will be easy. (Remember that no one can do the work as quickly as you can. Double or triple the time it would take you.)
If you are not certain, you might tell them to spend 5 hours on it, then stop and check in with you. You can see where they are and decide if more time is needed.
How much do you want to spend? If there are other expenses involved, list what you think is reasonable. Or if they are doing research about a purchase for you, say how much you are willing to spend.
6. What do you want the results to look like?
What kind of output do you want (Word, Excel, email)?
If you think it doesn’t matter, think a step further… Are you going to want to be able to search in the results easily? Maybe it should go in an email message. Copy and paste out of it? Maybe a text file or Word. Do further manipulation? Maybe Excel.
Include information about the quality too. If you expect it to be error-free, say so. If neatness or proper spelling/grammar matters (and it should), say that too. You would think this goes without saying, but particularly if this person is new to working for you, you want to let them know that quality matters.