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How best to outsource data entry?

Whether to find a full-time person or source by the job

2:49 pm on Nov 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I have a lot of data entry I need performed. Right now, I have a job that will take a few months initially, and then should take a couple of weeks every three months or so. But I have a lot of follow-on data entry work that I know will happen.

So I am trying to figure out how best to get this work done. This first task is very well-defined so I can easily bid it out. However, I am thinking I might want to hire a full-time person because I expect there will be lots of follow-on projects which are more ill-defined right now and because I want the data entry operation to be able to turn on a dime and because follow-on data entry will probably involve the very same data sources (physical books), making it a pain to shift this additional work to someone else in a different part of the world.

Does anybody have any thoughts on the merits of a full-timer overseas versus bidding out individual projects? Also, any advice on where to find quality folks for this task? And any thoughts on how to price it?

11:15 am on Dec 1, 2004 (gmt 0)

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It might not make sense to go for a full-time person inspite of the workload. Use elance and the ilk and put up your project for bidding. If you find a person overseas, you might be paying just about $5 per hour at 30 - 40 words/minute.
10:44 pm on Dec 1, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Some things to consider:

While the initial cost of human data entry is high the costs of data entry error or data loss are horrendous. Therefore most data entry contracts specify a maximum data entry error rate that is exceedingly small - a percent of a percent or similar.

Security necessitates an accountability control process to log and track each data item through collection, storage, data entry, and return; a continual backup (mirrored) system to minimise data loss due to system or power failure; a daily backup tape held offsite in case of fire, flood, theft, etc.

If the data includes text the more fluent a person is with the language(s) the fewer errors.

Minimisation of keyed entry error requires a double-keying system that preferably should be done by separate individuals at different times.

Data scanning may require special readers (microfilm, etc.); scans will likely require at least some OCR/human cleanup of data. This "quality assurance" scan editing requires knowledge and judgement beyond basic data entry.

Therefore if you outsource beyond your local area I recommend you contract with a company with a track record you can confirm and who is subject to laws/courts that you are comfortable with.

You might be able to find local persons who are willing to contract with you (rather than be employees) for each project you land. You can then personally setup and control the data entry process. This also allows you to keep the markup that the outsource company would charge.

Sometimes "command and control" and "quality assurance" are much more important than "initial cost". Data entry is one of those times.

As to how to charge: you need to calculate all your costs, add in your overhead, and a safety margin. The only real guide is experience so it will get easier each bid - not much help on the first couple though!

12:40 am on Dec 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

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well, iamlost, you don't sound so lost to me. thanks for all the good advice.