“If you deprive yourself of outsourcing and your competitors do not, you’re putting yourself out of business.” (Lee Kuan Yew, Former Prime Minister of Singapore)
Launching a business requires the small business owner to wear many hats. From marketing, to accounting and HR the small business owner needs to learn any number of skills to get their venture off the ground. Eventually though there comes a point where doing everything yourself as owner is hurting the company more than helping it and knowing when to bring help on board can be the difference between success and failure.
If you aren’t quite ready to hire employees or if you just need a few hours of help a week as opposed to full time, outsourcing work can become the solution you are looking for. With many professionals working freelance it is easier now than it has ever been to find the right people to pick up the slack and give you a few extra hours in your day to focus on the core of your business.
When is it time to outsource?
Knowing when to outsource is critical. Bringing people on board at the right time can free up hours a week and give you the opportunity to win new clients or refine your product offering. So what are the signs you should be considering outsourcing?
a. You find you don’t have time to do all the work
Having plenty of work is a blessing but having too much can mean repeated late nights or missed deadlines. Making sure you keep on delivering at your best means you can’t afford to be tired, rushing jobs or worse, simply turning work away. If this is a problem that’s happening every month then it’s definitely time to consider bringing someone on board.
b. You want to turn away new work
Turning away work is always a bad idea. Once turned away those clients may never come back whereas getting what they need done could build additional income for life. Whether it’s simply helping them with your core services or taking on new growth areas for your company, always rather outsource some of the work and make sure you can make it work for these new customers.
c. You get hired for irregular or once off projects
If you find the work is regularly outstripping your capabilities and capacity it might be time to bring on permanent employees, but when your business is getting once-off projects or work that will only last a short while it can be much safer to outsource work to freelancers or agencies. This way you can meet your needs for those projects and not worry about paying people in the months where you don’t have as much work.
d. There are tasks you hate doing
You may be surprised to see this on the list, after all surely you have become used to telling yourself to get over it and just plough through? The truth is, work you hate is work you are likely doing badly. Save yourself the time and the pain of doing a bad job by giving it to someone who specialises in that field and is going to get it done well.
The best jobs to outsource
Outsourcing doesn’t just refer to those jobs that are directly related to your business. Sometimes it can actually help you to hire a domestic, an au pair or a personal assistant at home to free up a few more hours you can dedicate to the business. Outsourcing business functions though is much more likely to be the right choice when it comes to getting yourself some valuable time as these jobs can generally be trickier, better done by professionals and may, in fact, lead to long term growth of your business as well as simply giving you some breathing room.
a. Accounting, bookkeeping and payroll
For those unused to finance, tracking income and expenditure, invoicing clients and filing tax returns can be extremely time consuming. Given that you are running a small business it might be cost-effective to outsource bookkeeping and payroll because you can then pay a set amount that changes as the company grows, rather than paying an employee full time and having the hours vary. This bookkeeper can also be in charge of extra tasks such as document scanning to help keep your receipts and bank statements in order.
At the end of the year handing your taxes over to an accountant is invaluable. Not only will it take an important task off your plate but can often get you a percentage of that spend back in tax savings. Outsourcing some decision-making to an accountant may help as well, as they will be able to run the numbers and advise on whether a new venture, expansion or client is viable. They can also help you work out whether outsourcing or bringing someone in-house is the right solution for you.
b. Human Resources
Human Resources isn’t quite as simple as hiring and firing. There are so many rules and regulations involved in the running of good HR, not to mention submission of PAYE, UIF, pension contributions and returns etc., that doing it yourself may end in bitter acrimony and high costs.
Hiring a company that specializes in human resources laws and regulations will not only help you stay compliant and up to date but can also streamline the onboarding process of new employees and the hiring process in general. A good HR company or freelancer will additionally handle details such as retirement plans, group health insurance, and other benefits that you offer, saving a huge amount of effort and time.
c. Marketing and content creation
Almost everyone believes they can write well enough for a website, blog or LinkedIn update, but there is a lot more that goes into these things than simply filling a page. With SEO, and content tailored for the outlet it’s being used on, creating content can be a time-consuming job for those who aren’t experts. Developing strategy and deploying it correctly takes a professional and handing this task over to an outsourced freelancer will often pay for itself in the success of your digital marketing.
This is all also true for PR and other marketing. It may seem simple to send off an email detailing your recent projects and successes, but professional PR people will ensure it’s read by the right people. With a PR professional you aren’t hiring a writer, you are hiring a network of important contacts.
Finally, no business can succeed without advertising and bringing marketing people on board will be essential if you don’t want your extremely useful product or service to vanish unnoticed by the public. The good news is that provided you hire the right people, what you spend on advertising will almost certainly come walking back through your door at a later stage in the form of customers.
d. Graphic design and presentation construction
Your last job required you to put together a few PowerPoints so now you sit and laboriously put together your pitches and presentations yourself. The truth is, unless you’re a skilled designer yourself, your digital presentations could definitely use a boost, so instead of wasting your time on PowerPoint animations and choosing fonts rather spend a little money to make your pitch look extra good and use the time you’ve just saved to rehearse your presentation.
Is outsourcing “the future of work”?
Outsourcing is increasingly being touted as “the future of work”, and certainly the truth is that it is here to stay. Those who refuse to put the work they can’t do perfectly out to the new wave of freelancers and outsourcing agencies are ultimately only hurting their business.
Of course, the ultimate question is whether outsourcing makes commercial sense for your business, given your particular financial situation and business structure.