Is Training the Answer to Your Development Needs?

We offer plenty of off-the-shelf training courses here at Cambodia Creatives. We like to think they’re very good for equipping people with the skills they need to survive in a particular role. However, we don’t think that training is always the best solution to a development need.

Training Needs Analysis is the Key

Training needs analysis is badly named. It suggests that after you’ve examined a development issue that training is the only possible output.

It’s not. Before you decide that someone needs training; you really need to drill down into the root issue. If the problems are not a lack of knowledge or skill; we can pretty much guarantee that training won’t be the right solution.

Training for a Manager? The Perceived Problem.

Many years ago I worked for a company which asked me to assess a manager whose performance had dropped by half in the previous 3 months. They told me that they thought he needed time management training.

I asked; if that’s the case – why did he perform perfectly well 3 months ago? What’s changed in the interim? I find that if someone has done a job well before; it’s unlikely that they have suddenly lost the skills do the job well. The department requesting training couldn’t answer the question. I offered to investigate.

Training for a Manager? The Reality.

I spent 1 hour watching the manager do his job. Every 15 minutes he would leave his desk for 10 minutes. After the third time he disappeared; I asked him where he was going. He said; “I have to get the printouts for my team from the 2nd floor. They moved my desk a few months back. I used to share this printer with another team and when I moved they decided that team needed the printer more than I did.”

That’s right; the manager’s performance drop wasn’t due to a sudden lack of skills or knowledge. His attitude wasn’t bad either; he’d asked for another printer and been told it wasn’t in budget. So he spent his days pacing the building to get the paperwork. Inevitably he bumped into people he knew on each trip and they stopped to talk to him. This made those journeys even longer than they needed to be.

Training for a Manager? The Solution.

It was pretty clear that training wasn’t the answer to this performance problem. A new printer was. We typed up a brief business case for a new printer (the printer would cost less than half-a-day’s worth of the manager’s salary – that meant there’d be an ROI on the investment immediately). The problem was fixed and the company didn’t need to send him on a time management course (which wouldn’t have solved the problem and would have cost more than the printer).

That’s why I always recommend a thorough training needs analysis before you undertake any form of training for your people. It can save a lot of time and money when you explore a problem fully and keep in mind that training is not always the solution.

Kick Discrimination out of Freelancing

Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed that there’s an increasingly ugly trend for some Western freelancers to discriminate against non-Western freelancers. One of the things I least liked to hear in the UK was; “They’re coming over here and taking all our jobs.” It’s an ugly misguided comment which assumes an individual’s woes can be blamed on someone from overseas.

The discriminatory freelancer has taken this complaint one step further; “They’re not coming over here and they’re still taking all our jobs.”

Barking Up the Wrong Street

Welcome to the global marketplace. One of the nice things about an interconnected world is that we all benefit from the lowest labor costs available. It’s highly likely that at least some of the clothes you wear were made in China, Cambodia or Bangladesh. The people who made them almost certainly work in appalling conditions so that you can cover your nakedness cheaply.

Online freelancing allows skilled people the world over to compete against each other for contracts. It’s not just clothing manufacturing that can go overseas; almost any task you can imagine can be done by someone somewhere else on earth.

The freelancers I find complaining about “foreigners stealing our work” never seem to be complaining about “foreigners making my clothes”. There’s a disconnect between the things that foreigners do to make their lives easier and the things that they do to make their lives a little tougher.

You Are Not Entitled to Freelance Work

No-one, including me, is entitled to freelance work. You win your clients based on your abilities. In fact the online freelancing market is the great leveler. There’s no need to put on a suit and tie and hold face-to-face meetings in the client’s office to get their work. Meetings (if they happen at all) happen over Skype. People’s race, gender, disabilities, sexuality, religion, etc. are not an issue in the hiring process and nor should they be. I’m yet to hear a convincing case that it’s the color of someone’s skin that makes them good at what they do. Gay people are neither better nor worse typists than straight people. And so on…

Non-Western Does Not Equal Unskilled

Many of those complaining about non-Western freelancers make the fatal mistake of assuming that because someone isn’t Western that they have no skills. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While it is true that there are many low-skill non-Western freelancers (and many low-skill Western ones too) who charge tiny amounts of money for work – real professionals don’t act that way.

I see nonsense like; “An Indian programmer only needs $3 a day” and I wish I could apply a virtual slap to the hand of the writer. This is genuinely ridiculous. An Indian programmer needs to buy his computer and software just like you. An Indian programmer has to learn to program and college in India is not much cheaper than college in the West. An Indian programmer will have developed marketable skills and expects to be rewarded for them just like the Western programmer.

He (or she) will want to have a home and a family and a car in the drive and go on holiday once a year. Just like you do. That’s why they went to the effort of learning to program (or insert any other skill you like here). They can’t do that on $3 a day any more than you could. In fact in many developing nations a middle class existence is actually more expensive than in the West.

I’ve been an expat for 10 years now. I have worked with people from over 100+ different countries in that time. I have met highly-skilled, highly-talented folk from nearly every country on earth and if I haven’t met them; it’s not because they don’t exist – I just haven’t met them yet. None of those people worked for $3 a day or even $3 an hour.

Take Some Responsibility

If you are threatened by a freelancer who charges $3 a day; I have some news for you. You are currently not good enough to be a professional freelancer.

If you cannot demonstrate that your services are worth more than that figure; it’s time for you to:

  • Learn some new skills AND/OR learn how to demonstrate that the skills you have are worth more
  • OR quit freelancing

There are many outsourced freelance jobs which really don’t require very much skill. For example, typing out a list of handwritten e-mail addresses or installing WordPress in someone’s hosting space (which can often be done with the click of a single button). These jobs are not going to attract high-levels of reward; they can and should be outsourced to the lowest bidder. Your clients aren’t discriminating against the color of your skin when they award these projects based on cost – they’re quite rightly assuming that anyone can do them.

Freelancers who want to earn money need skills that are worth more. You need a niche, one which actually has clients who pay more than $3 a day or hour. You need to learn to demonstrate your skills to your potential clients so they can see the value of them. I may be able to buy a 500 word essay for less than $1 but I have no idea what I would do with the rubbish I’d get for that fee. You need to focus on being better at what you do and serving clients exceptionally well.

Once you do that, you won’t be competing against “non-Western” you’ll be successfully competing against all freelancers wherever they’re from or whatever gender they are or religion they believe in, etc.

It’s time for freelancers to kick discrimination to the curb. We’re a global community. That’s a good thing, it offers clients maximum value and access to the largest possible talent pool. Getting angry because someone is from a different country is racism. Solve your problems, talk to other freelancers about how to become better and stop blaming other people for your failings. Good freelancers only worry about being the best they can be; they don’t worry about where other people are from.

What’s Coming Up in 2014 for Cambodia Creatives?

Well, a New Year approaches and with it Cambodia Creatives will be ensuring that 2014 is a record year for us and for our clients.

You may have noticed that the company has been transforming over the last 2 months or so. We now have a larger training team and Cambodia Creatives is refocusing on training and HR consultancy with less emphasis on writing and design (though we’ll still be doing some of that work too).

So let’s take a look at what that means in practice:

January 2014

Training Course Catalogue

In the first week of January we’re launching our first training catalogue. Much of the content for that is already available on the site and we’ll be expanding these offerings throughout the first Quarter of 2014. We should be able to offer 50+ courses in various skill areas by the end of March. We’ll still be offering training consultancy and bespoke training services but we’ll also be delivering a range of learning services that have been pre-developed to offer even better value for money for our clients.

To celebrate the launch of our training in Cambodia we’re offering some special discounts for clients who book training in January.

Free E-Learning and Classroom Seminar

We will also be launching either in the first or second week of January our first free e-learning seminar. This will be based around the disciplinary process in the United Kingdom. We intend to host the seminar on YouTube so unfortunately it won’t be an interactive seminar – though we will be looking to enhance the offering and add it to our soon to be launched Moodle server.

The course will also be available exclusively on the Cambodia Creatives website as a classroom delivery; off-the-shelf module. This product will be available free of charge too. There may also be a little bonus gift available for those who visit the site during the first 3 months following the launch – you heard it here first.

We’ve completed development and the product is just waiting for a voice over recording. Something that’s a little tricky in the noise of Phnom Penh at times… so as soon as we have it recorded; it will be up and live.

Multi-Media Employee Manual

We’re launching two multi-media employee manual formats as well. There will be a standalone product which clients can integrate with their Intranet or host online; as well as a more fully interactive wiki-style manual which allows clients to develop and add their own policies.

Why a multi-media employee manual service?

  • It ensures that clients’ employee manuals are compliant with the law
  • It reduces clients’ expenditure on policy development and research
  • It frees up the clients’ HR teams to focus on strategic issues
  • It meets the obligations to train employees on aspects of their employment contract and is also compliant with meeting the needs of most disabled employees too
  • It frees up the clients’ training teams so that they don’t need to spend time reading the employee manual aloud during each induction
  • It provides an auditable service to demonstrate at industrial tribunal or in court that the client had the right policies in place, at the right time and that employees were fully-conversant with those policies
  • It’s extremely cost-effective. A company of 100 employees can pay as little as $5/year per employee for the service.
  • It’s environmentally friendly. It removes the need for paper manuals.
  • It’s convenient. No matter how diverse a set of locations your staff are based across they can all access the employee manual when they need to.

We will be posting a demonstration version of the standalone version in the 2nd week of January and are aiming to post a demo version of the media-wiki version by the end of February.

The product is already complete. We’re just tweaking the look and feel now.

The demonstration version will be based on UK employment law but versions for Australian and US compliance will be available too.

Clients from other parts of the world will be able to engage with us to develop version that meet their legal and business environments too.

Clients will be able to add additional policies and request additional multi-media tutorials as well. In short they will be able to extend the employee manual beyond the traditional HR frontier and include job relevant processes and procedures within the product too.

First Quarter 2014

More Training Courses

We’ll be expanding the training course portfolio and starting to launch some of our courses as standalone products which can be purchased for classroom delivery. This can be a big budget saver for clients who need development for their teams but cannot afford to send whole teams on courses delivered by external trainers.

More details on this soon.

Process and Policy Development Services

Cambodia Creatives will also be launching an HR and training policy and process development outsourcing arm. This will focus on creating processes that are legally compliant with the environment in which the client operates in. Outsourcing policy and process development offers significant cost savings to clients compared to using HR consultancies in many Western nations.

It also reduces the burden on in-house HR and training teams leaving them free to concentrate on core business activities.

Second Quarter 2014

We’ll be taking the training catalogue and adapting much of it for e-learning delivery. There will be a choice of seminar and interactive products (though seminars are likely to come first). Clients will be able to purchase these offerings either outright or on a subscription basis. We’ll be launching our own online learning platform and working to provide the best value business learning on the Internet.

Investment in e-learning is skyrocketing in South East Asia and across the globe as employers and educational institutions start to understand the value of these offerings and the cost-savings they can bring.

We will continue to offer e-learning consultancy services throughout 2014.

Second Half of 2014

We’ve got a lot of other ideas bubbling under but we’re not quite ready to reveal them just yet. Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for more news a little later in 2014.

Happy New Year to each and every one of our clients, readers, friends, family and to everyone we haven’t yet met around the world too. We hope that 2014 is the best year of your lives. We intend to make it the best year yet for Cambodia Creatives.

Managing in a Cross-Cultural Environment

“They have no respect for our culture!” we’ve heard it said often enough. It’s normally followed by someone else saying; “They’re all idiots, why don’t they work the way we do?” Conflict comes easy in cross-cultural teams. Why?

Societal Norms Vary

One of the biggest issues facing cross-cultural teams is the variation in simple norms. In the West, for example; timekeeping is essential. If you’re late for a meeting; you’re rude. We feel that tardiness shows no respect for us as a participant in something.

In the Middle East, tardiness is a sign of rank. The later someone is to a meeting; the higher they are on the totem pole. In the Far East, tardiness is a sign of a culture that isn’t really time bound at all. When someone in Cambodia or Thailand says; “Let’s meet at 7 p.m.” what they really mean is “Let’s meet between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.”

None of these approaches is wrong but they are sure to cause conflict if they aren’t understood by everyone involved. In truth, you’re unlikely ever to make a massive transitional shift for the local culture – if you’re from a time bound culture but you’re working in one with much looser standards of time keeping; you’ll need to make the transition to save your own sanity.

There are 6 areas where societal norms may vary substantially in the business environment:

  1. Communication Styles Differ
  2. Attitude To Conflict Differs
  3. Task Completion Approaches Differ
  4. Decision-Making or Hierarchy Differs
  5. Attitude To Disclosure Differs
  6. Approaches to Knowledge Differ

Learning to bring these approaches together in a way that adds value rather than subtracts from it can be a complex task without management development.

Culture Shock Kicks In

Every time someone moves countries they are subject to the process of culture shock. It’s something I fully appreciate having lived in 5 countries outside of my home country in a decade. Yet, most organizations fail to prepare their management team for culture shock. So it comes as a huge surprise to the manager when the negative effects kick in.

Culture shock is a (roughly) 4 stage process and goes something like this:

  1. Honeymoon Period – The new arrival cannot praise the new culture enough.
  2. Negotiation Period – This is when the backlash arrives. The new arrival begins to find many aspects of the new culture frustrating. They may find themselves unhappy, angry, argumentative, withdrawn, etc. There’s a certain amount of internal negotiation that needs to take place here (accepting the good and bad aspects of a new culture) but the focus at this point tends to be on the negative side of life.
  3. Adjustment Period – This is the moment when someone begins to fully adapt to a new culture. They haven’t got everything down pat yet but they feel able to survive and possibly even thrive. Negativity starts to decline at this point (though it rarely disappears).
  4. Mastery – This may never come but if it does the person has fully integrated with the new culture. They may not speak the language fluently but they probably speak enough to hold a reasonable conversation.

These phases may be brief or they may be protracted. It’s not unknown for the Honeymoon Period to last up to a year but 6 months may be more of a norm. Negotiation may go on for 18-24 months before adjustment begins. Mastery is a permanent state but mastery may be lost if someone leaves the country for a significant period of time and then returns.

During culture shock someone may have any (or all) of the following problems:

  • Homesickness
  • Insomnia
  • Boredom with their Job/New Country
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Information Overload
  • Anxiety
  • Language Barriers
  • Etc.

Effectively preparing a management team to cope with culture shock can reduce (though it cannot eliminate) the impact on the individual. It can also reduce the impact on the team they manage and the people they work alongside too.

It’s all too common for new arrivals in international businesses to walk out during the first year. This is expensive. It’s estimated variously that replacing a management team member costs a company between 50% and 300% of their annual salary. One of the major factors in this kind of staff turnover is a failure to manage culture shock effectively in the organization.

Prejudice

It’s quite shocking to see how few cross-cultural organizations tackle prejudice head on. Both new arrivals and locals can carry a bunch of pre-conceptions and prejudices about the other party or parties.

Learning to overcome these prejudices; “Westerners only come here to take our money.” or “The locals are all lazy.” is vital to effective team building in cross-cultural environments. When prejudice is left to fester it all too often results in poor performance and in the worst cases it can result in open conflict in the organization.

Overall

At Cambodia Creatives we know that you can build successful cross-cultural teams. We’ve done it on many occasions. We also know that the path to successful cross-cultural integration can be steep and rocky if you haven’t got the skills to negotiate it easily. That’s why we’ve developed a cross-cultural working training workshop. We can deliver this training course in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. We’re also happy to consider destinations further afield. Contact us today to find out how we can help your cross-cultural teams become more productive.

Happy Christmas from Cambodia Creatives

We would like to take today to wish all of our clients, their families, friends and co-workers a happy Christmas and a happy New Year too. Cambodia Creatives will be taking a brief break for the 24th, 25th and 26th of December and we hope that many of you will be too.

We’ll also be out of the office and un-contactable on the 1st of January, 2014. Otherwise it’s business as usual here.

The Freelance “Cost of Living” Myth

If there’s a single concept responsible for more unhappy clients of freelancers than the “cost of living” myth – we haven’t found it yet.

Here’s the Line Spun by “Internet Gurus”

You can outsource your work to a developing nation and have it done for pennies compared to back home. The cost of living in Cambodia, India, China, etc. is nothing compared to the cost of living in the US, the UK, Australia, etc.

Here’s the Truth

Here in Cambodia the national average monthly wage is $60. That’s not a whole heck of a lot but it does mean that the average Cambodian lives just above the UN’s definition of poverty (anything less than $1.25 a day is considered to be absolute poverty).

The average Cambodian is a rural farmworker. He/she lives in a tin shack or wooden house on a tiny plot of land. They don’t have electricity. They don’t have running water. They cook over an open fire. They don’t have internet access. They can’t read or write.

You might be able to hire that person for “pennies” but unless you need them to grow rice for you, you won’t get anything from them that looks like freelance work either.

The cost of living for a high-end professional in India or Cambodia or any other developing nation can be slightly lower than in parts of the West (though in some cases it’s much more – check out how much it costs to rent an apartment in Luanda if you don’t believe me).

However, other costs are pretty much the same or they can be even higher. The license fee we pay to use MadCap Flare or Adobe Technical Suite is no lower than the fee that a Western provider pays. Our IT hardware is about 20% more expensive than it would cost in the US and roughly on a par with Europe. Our electricity bills are probably higher than they would be back home as we need the air-conditioning to deal with the equatorial heat.

Our training and development costs are high too. My MBA studies cost nearly $40,000 for example.

Overall our day-to-day living costs are lower than in the West, food’s cheaper, water’s cheaper, clothes are cheaper but this isn’t such a dramatic saving that we could live on $60 a month either.

Now none of this matters to you as a client directly. It does matter when you hire someone for pennies on the dollar for the value of the work they do. $3 an hour (the magic number of the internet marketer) wouldn’t pay the rent on my home. It certainly wouldn’t pay for my training, software, hardware, etc. and that’s the stuff that makes what I do valuable to you.

It doesn’t matter whether the contractor is an expat or a local – professionals expect to be paid professional rates. There are certainly savings to be made in certain areas (IT development can be substantially cheaper offshore but again you won’t find a decent developer anywhere in the world who works for $3 an hour and supplies all their own equipment) but when the savings are “too good to be true” you’ll tend to find that they really are too good to be true and the work you receive won’t bring you business or bring you the results you need.

The “Cost of Living” Myth is exactly that – a myth. In reality there are no skilled online freelance professionals to be found working from a shack with no electricity and no internet anywhere in the world.

Clients looking for quality freelance services need to be sure that they agree a rate that enables a standard of living that a professional would accept; otherwise we can guarantee that your freelancer won’t be providing the kind of work you and your customers expect.

Business Training in Cambodia – January 2014

Cambodia Creatives is launching its brand new business training courses in January. This training is suitable for NGOs and Corporate entities of all sizes and scales.

We can deliver training in Phnom Penh, Cambodia immediately and if you need training in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam or the rest of Cambodia – we can help too. You can find all our course offerings under the “Our Courses” tab of the website. Each course has its own downloadable brochure too which can be found at the bottom of the individual course page.

We will still be offering training consultancy and bespoke training development too. So if you have a training need (or even if you want help determining your organizational training needs) we’ll be able to help with whatever you need.

Special Offer – Business Training in Cambodia (January 2014 Only)

To celebrate the launch of our business training course we’re offering double the number of free places on our courses throughout January 2014.

Every single one of our courses offers a free place incentive. You either book 6 or 8 places in one go and then you get a free place. This month – you’ll get 2 free places instead of 1. That’s a lot of extra value.

Don’t have enough people to claim a free place? No problem. Team up with another business or NGO and share the costs and the free places. As long as you both book at the same time; you still get the extra place. That means you could buy 3 places and get 1 free on some courses or buy 4 places and get 1 free on others.

This offer will only be available for courses booked in January 2014 so don’t miss out. Contact us today to discuss your development needs and start the New Year increasing the skills and performance of your team!

Special Offer – NGO Training in Cambodia

We know that budgets are tight for NGOs in Cambodia; in order to give you the maximum development opportunities for your investment – we’re offering a special NGO discount from January to March 2014. You will get a 20% discount on every place booked on our NGO training and our business training courses. In January you can use this offer in conjunction with our double free places offer. That means you could pay for the equivalent of 5 places and get the equivalent of 3 places for free on many of our training courses! That’s real value for money.

About Our Training

All of our training courses in Cambodia and elsewhere are delivered by qualified Western professionals with many years of both corporate and educational training experience. All of our courses are held in professional training venues. All of them come with all the materials you need for the course included in the price. Where appropriate all meals and refreshments are included in the price too. There are no hidden extras. The price you pay is fully inclusive.

What Should I Do About Poor Work from an Online Freelancer?

We think that one of the reasons many clients are reluctant to try an online freelancer is that they’re worried about the quality of the finished product. There are, sadly, some terrible rogue freelancers though if you’ve followed our freelancer selection tips – you should be able to dodge the worst of them.

What should you do if the work you receive doesn’t meet your expectations? Well it depends on the nature of the problem:

The Style isn’t What You Wanted

This happens at least once in the career of every freelancer. A client engages them to develop a logo or write copy (or something similar). The freelancer delivers and the client decides they hate the style. The first thing to do about this is to ask the freelancer to revise the work they’ve provided. You should always have at least one revision included in your contract with a freelancer. Give them examples of work that you do like, the style of, to help them better tune into your needs.

If the revision still doesn’t work for you; you have two choices. Pay them for a further revision (or ask them to provide a further revision under the contract you have) or pay them for the work you have and find a different freelancer to work with.

Some relationships aren’t meant to be.

Very early on in my writing career I agreed to work with a small-publishing house which was run by a husband-wife team. Every time I submitted a draft; he loved it and she didn’t. She would rewrite the draft in a style which she believed was “more natural”. Unfortunately it didn’t read like any form of English I’ve ever encountered and there was simply no way I could adapt my style to hers. After a couple of tries at working together; I suggested that they find another writer. I don’t know if they found someone who provided the style they wanted or not but I do know that I could have spent 20 years on that project without ever coming close to it.

The Work is Genuinely Sub-Standard

You’ll never get perfection in text even if you employ a team of editors to revise your writer’s work. Writers make lousy proof-readers of their own work and errors creep through. Editors are human too and even the most thorough eye will miss something at some stage. If you want perfection you will always be disappointed. The good news is that readers don’t expect perfection, they expect readable. The same is true for design work; viewers don’t expect perfection though they do expect not to feel queasy when they look at the color palette.

However, we are well aware that some freelancers never generate work which comes close to being acceptable. Writing that reads like it was written by a Martian. Design that appears to have been carried out with MS Paint. That sort of thing.

If that’s the case, you should try the revision process above but if it’s clear that they cannot deliver and you feel that paying would mean being ripped off – you should utilize the online broker’s complaints policy. You may find that a complaint results in an immediate refund of any escrowed funds or creates a dialogue that gets you what you want.

You may also find that the freelancer wants to go to arbitration if they think you’re being unreasonable. Arbitration services make sense for high-value projects but not so much for low-value projects because they cost $1-200 (both the client and the freelancer have to pay the fee) to use.

If your project is low value you might want to consider accepting the loss (instead of paying for arbitration) and reviewing your hiring process for next-time around. If it’s high-value you should pay the fee and get your money back.

Be warned that arbitration services tend to be neutral so if you cannot demonstrate that the freelancer failed to deliver on your contract – you may find it hard to win your case. That’s why a scope of work included in the contract can be so useful for a client.

In General

Here at Cambodia Creatives we want our clients to be happy. We work very hard to ensure that. It’s why we offer specialist services and why we won’t accept every client that wants to work with us. If you’re not happy with any work we deliver, please talk to us – we will work with you to resolve matters to your satisfaction.

Cambodia Creatives December Update

Cambodia Creatives is growing both online and offline! We’ve just brought 2 new members into the partnership; Paul and Frances. They are both qualified and highly experienced trainers/teachers. We are also hoping to bring another person on board very soon and are in negotiations at the moment.

Cambodia Creatives is thus ramping up on the training side of the business. So here’s what’s to come:

  • We will be releasing a free e-learning video on the corporate disciplinary process for the UK by the end of this month. The video will be available on our site as well as on YouTube; watch this space for further details.
  • We will be offering 21 new training courses as of January. Details will be added to the training section of this site in short order.
  • Those courses will also be available for purchase in the following formats:
    • Cambodia Creatives branded off-the-shelf classroom delivery packages for corporate use
    • White-label for off-the-shelf classroom delivery packages for corporate use that can be rebranded with your corporate branding
    • We will also be offering opportunities to deliver either branded or non-label versions for other training organizations on a license basis
    • We will also be opening a reseller program
    • We’ll be hosting some sample learning on our Moodle platform very soon and we’re now offering Moodle installation, hosting and setup services (including custom branding and design)
    • All courses will be available sometime in the first quarter of 2014 as online learning modules (video format with written exercises)

 

  • We will of course continue to offer bespoke training development for classroom and e-learning products

 

  • We also now offer custom curriculum development for schools and colleges for a range of subjects

 

We’re also ramping up the HR and Training side of things with the following new products available sometime in quarter 1 of 2014:

  • Bespoke and brand-able corporate policies for SME’s in the United Kingdom
  • Custom policies and procedures development for organizations of all sizes

 

On our other projects:

  • The Real Issue is now looking at an April launch due to some complications with local infrastructure that need resolving
  • The Undercover Freelancer will be launched in Q1 of 2014 – we’re in the process of finalizing the course content and the initial offering
  • The Dubai book is 75% complete but there’s no precise date for publication as it’s going to need some editing and design work – it’s likely to be launched sometime in Q2 or Q3 of the New Year
  • Our Phnom Penh, Cambodia guide is nearly complete. We’re hoping for a February launch but this may need to be pushed back a little (we are waiting for allocation of newly released domain names). This will be a free-to-access online in-depth resource focused on the largest city in Cambodia. It’s also going to be a long-term ongoing project which will grow monthly. More on this soon.

 

And on top of that:

  • Cambodia Creatives moves up to 8th place out of 10,000+ businesses in our category on Elance
  • Cambodia Creatives moves up to 15th place out of all 200,000+ contributors in our category on Elance
  • We currently have multiple client projects on the books but we might be able to squeeze a couple more in if you let us know asap – Christmas and New Year is coming!

Service Level Agreements with Online Freelancers

What should you expect of an online freelancer when it comes to service? We’ve heard from fellow freelancers that they often find that clients are unreasonable in their expectations. We’ve also heard from clients of other freelancers who say that they feel their needs are ignored when they most need a response. So what’s the solution?

Define a Service Level Agreement

What’s the Standard Working Day of Your Freelancer?

As a standard we provide a response within 1 working day and we provide that response within the standard working day (which is 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.) here in Cambodia (that’s GMT +7 hours). For most of our clients that’s fine, the projects we work on together aren’t time critical enough to need a response more quickly.

Can They Support Your Office Hours?

However, we also have clients in North America for whom those hours are ridiculously out-of-step with the North American working day. For those clients we schedule support calls in their working time (usually up to 10 p.m. here which allows American clients to call in the morning their time). We did try offering round the clock service once but it didn’t work out very well – I have to sleep at some point and servicing contracts that require 8 hour contact-ability for the United States means working through the night here and I can’t do it.

What About Weekend Working?

We occasionally take on projects where deliverables are needed on our weekend (clients in the Middle East often don’t get Saturday and Sunday as their weekend) and when we agree to this we also provide support during our working hours (as above) on the weekends.

We are always happy to support our customers (within reason) at any reasonable time of day as long as we’ve agreed to do so in advance.

What About the Extra-Mile?

We always meet our service levels and we try to exceed them but we simply can’t be available 24/7 x 365. We have families, friends and social lives too (though when you’re running a small business it sometimes seems like you don’t). We’re happy to commit to sensible service levels and deliver on them.

A Client Has Responsibilities Too

One thing we can’t do, unless you want to pay us for our time to wait around, is guarantee how much time we have at some point in the future. We’ve had the occasional client relationship wobble when they’ve delayed providing feedback by 2-3 weeks and then expected instant service on that feedback. We will normally define in our service levels the turnaround for feedback we expect from our clients (for most projects this will be 48 hours) – we’re happy to negotiate that during the contract phase but if you can’t make those deadlines, we may not be able to provide a quick response when you do deliver the feedback. We’re not unreasonable, we’ll work to fit you in as soon as we can but we will often have other commitments that have to take priority when feedback is late or delayed.

It’s also important to keep to the time slots you agree when you book a freelancer outside of their standard working hours for a project meeting. When I agree to a 10 p.m. meeting, I’m cutting down on the time I could be spending with my friends and family; it’s only reasonable to expect you to be on time.

If in any doubt – ask before you contract your project

There’s no simpler way to avoid conflicts over service levels than to get confirmation before you start a project. We’ve found that every single client we’ve worked with has been reasonable and doesn’t expect service we can’t supply. It would still be perfectly reasonable if you have a project that requires 9 a.m. – 6. p.m support New York Time not to use us for your project.

Here at Cambodia Creatives we’re strong believers in communication as the key success factor in partner relationships. Freelancer’s clients deserve to be treated with respect and responded to in the manner they need. However, we’re pretty certain that there are no truly psychic freelancers and setting out expectations jointly can save headaches for the client and the freelancer themselves.