By John W. Schoen Senior Producer

Nurani, a graphic designer in Bangladesh, is looking to hitch a ride on the outsourcing wave sweeping U.S. and European companies -– but isn’t sure how to get started.

Meanwhile, Desaray in Philadelphia doesn’t know what to say to relatives who keep bad-mouthing her decision to buy whole life insurance policies with her fiancé.

A: I have a small graphic design house. I want to contact other houses in USA or Europe for sub-contract basis. Could I?-- Nurani M., Dhaka, Bangladesh

A:Yes, you can. In fact, you can bypass those design houses and sell your services directly to customers looking for outside providers of all kinds services -– from computer programming to accounting.

Last year, an estimated $350 billion worth of work was “outsourced” by U.S. companies alone, according to Cutting Edge Information, a business research firm in Durham, N.C. And that number is expected to grow. Another recent study, by the outsourcing firm Accenture, found that American and European companies plan to boost spending on overseas goods and services by 85 percent within two to three years.

So how do you find this outsourced work? You could contact other graphic design firms -- there are thousands of them on the Web –- or contact employment firms that match up graphic designers with companies looking for freelancers. Even better, you can skip the “middle man” and sell your services directly via Web sites like Contracted Work, or Elance Online.

You’ll pay a fee to these sites to list your services, and another fee when you find a buyer -– typically a percentage of the cost of the project. Some sites, for a higher monthly fee, will guarantee you a minimum number of job leads. (You may want to mark up your service fee to your customers to cover the cost of these listing and transaction fees.)

So if you're not ready to set up your own sales and marketing department, these sites let you outsource the job of finding work around the world. But before you sign up and pay for this service, shop around. Contact the sites you’re interested in, ask to speak to other graphic designers who list there and see what they have to say about the reliability of leads.

And if you haven’t already done so, you’ll probably want to set up a Web site of your own to show off your work. You may even want to outsource some of the work to a professional Web designer. Having a well-designed, up-to-date site of your own will help overcome one of the biggest hurdles identified in the Accenture survey. Companies looking to outsource work say their biggest concerns include doubts about whether outside suppliers would get the job done quickly and reliably. By highlighting recent jobs on your Web site, you’ll go a long way toward putting potential customers at ease.

My fiancé and I are both in our early twenties and we recently purchased a home. We fully depend on both of our incomes to pay the mortgage. So we both purchased whole life insurance policies for about 1.5 times our mortgage just in case. Now for my question: Ever since we purchased the policies, whenever we discuss this with family members, everyone has something bad to say about whole life vs. term insurance. We thought the benefits (i.e. being able to borrow against cash value and being able to use the policy as collateral for future investments) were great. Is there something we are missing? -- Desaray N., Philadelphia

A: Here’s what you’re missing: it sounds like it’s time to stop talking to your annoying relatives about your personal finances. What’s good for them and what’s good for you are two different things. That’s why they’re called “personal” finances.

But there’s some truth to what they have to say. The knock on whole life is that you’re paying for more than just insurance: Term life is cheaper because coverage is strictly limited to the term of contract. For many people, life insurance is only needed for a period of time: Until the kids have moved on and the mortgage is paid off. By limiting coverage to the years when you’re healthy and less likely to die, insurance companies can offer term life at much lower rates.

But you’re using the policy for more than just insurance. If you view it as a savings vehicle (for the reasons you’ve cited), it certainly can make sense for your circumstances. Unfortunately, these policies are not all the same: there are numerous flavors and various terms and conditions that can make them a good or bad deal. And that’s the other reason people knock whole life: because it’s a hybrid, you can’t really compare it to a “pure” term life policy or stack it up against a “pure” investment.

For more on the subject, try Ginger Applegarth's excellent article on the subject over at MSN Money.

Once you’ve read up on the in and outs, you may decide to make a change. One thing about any life insurance policy is that you should periodically review things as your situation changes and make adjustments as you go through life.

And then you can go back to your family and politely tell them to butt out.

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