If you’ve ever watched a sitcom where a lovable character tries to be in two places at once, you know exactly how well that ends. It works, for awhile. That’s the problem. But then they’re too preoccupied. One slight hiccup, and everything falls apart.
I’m pretty sure the “everything falling apart” phase isn’t in anyone’s business plan. Most business owners work to avoid the erratic, zany behaviors of TV characters. So why do people still insist on taking on every aspect of the business, instead of outsourcing certain skills to freelancers, contractors or outside companies?
There’s the financial aspect, definitely. When you’re just starting out, how you spend your hard-earned money is a rightful concern. Many business owners tend to think it’s faster and cheaper if they just do it themselves. Bookkeeping, drywall, administrative work — no problem.
But, unless you’re highly trained in many disciplines, there are professionals out there who can accomplish what you want in a way that saves you time and money.
There comes a time for every growing business to outsource different services. In this post, we’ll help you determine when to start looking for help, and what the most commonly outsourced services that have the biggest impact on a small business are.
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Do you need to outsource? A pros and cons list for in-house vs. hiring out
Every decision needs a pros and cons list, and outsourcing is no different. Here are a few things to consider before you decide to keep something on your list of responsibilities, or call in a professional.
Benefits of outsourcing
- You can focus your energy on what matters most for your business
- Professionals can get work done faster because it takes less time
- Your business gets more specialized expertise
- You’ll save time (and money, because your time is money you’re missing out on — more on that later)
Downsides of outsourcing
- Help is available only as needed (unless you have an ongoing contract in place)
- When you outsource, that person might not be as involved in your business, which can mean a lack of understanding on how to help
- Working across continents can mean business hours might not line up. Make sure you discuss what regular work hours are if you’re working with professionals in other locations
With these benefits and shortfalls of outsourcing in mind, let’s dive into outsourcing for your business: measuring success and when to start looking.
Step one: Acknowledging that time is money
First, some ground rules. It’s going to be hard to see the benefits of outsourcing if you don’t first look at your hours as a tangible cost. As a business owner, your time is a valuable asset. Every hour you spend on something that could be outsourced is time you could be spending on accomplishing your business objectives.
Doing this will help you quantify and measure your business’s performance, and the impact of outsourcing. What may take you a couple hours each week might take a trained professional or trustworthy software significantly less time. You have to first track the time you spend on something to know what it costs your business.
In short, your time is valuable. Even if you’re not writing a check, you’re leaving money on the table by choosing to handle everything yourself.
When to start outsourcing
As you get busier and your business grows, you’ll have to make a conscious decision about where to focus your energy. The greatest value a business owner can provide is to look ahead and spend time on what’s going to move the needle. For most businesses, payroll isn’t one of those things. The exception being, of course, if you’re a payroll company.
This approach aligns with a 2016 Deloitte global outsourcing survey, which found two primary reasons a business will outsource: to cut costs, and to focus on core business objectives.
With this in mind, you’ll know when it’s time to look into outsourcing when you start noticing these trends:
- Tasks become too time-consuming: When a small task becomes a huge timekiller, it’s time to look into outsourcing it. Scaling a business successfully means maintaining or improving operations as you go. Processes should get easier and more streamlined, not the other way around.
- Some responsibilities are pulling away resources from higher priorities: This is a pretty easy one to measure. If something isn’t directly contributing to your bottom line, you can consider outsourcing it. Especially if that thing is keeping you from other tasks that do impact the business in a meaningful way.
- There’s a more cost effective way to get things done: There’s an app for everything. If you feel like technology can alleviate the time-consuming burden of business operations, you’re probably right. If you need a hand, check out some of the best online tools for productive teams.
If you’ve hit one of these milestones, it’s time to consider outsourcing.
What are the most commonly outsourced services for small business?
While it differs from industry to industry, there are three main areas that small businesses outsource: operations, marketing, and finance.
Outsource your business operations
Virtual assistants can be one of the best investments a business owner can make. Many of your day-to-day operations can be outsourced to a virtual assistant. And, unlike other responsibilities, admin work can be done remotely.
Hiring and team management
Does it feel like your job postings aren’t reaching anyone? Or that your unable to find the skills your business needs? Instead of hanging flyers around town, you can hire a recruiting company, check out different job posting tools or use a talent search resource.
Instead of spending valuable time poring over applications, you can get a condensed list of qualified candidate simply by having a professional handle the review process for you.
This is a big one for growing businesses. As you acquire more physical space, you’ll need to hire a cleaning service to make sure your building is client-friendly at all times. It’s a relatively small cost in comparison to the benefit of having a clean, presentable workspace.
Managing time cards or checking in on employees should never be a manual task. Especially when there are so many useful time tracking apps available for businesses. If you’ve ever sent a timesheet reminder email or text, it’s safe to say you should be using timesheet software.
Better yet, you can choose one of the solutions that combine project management with time tracking for even more streamlined operations.
Outsource your whole marketing team
Design and development
Fortunately, many businesses recognize the importance of branding and design. Before you even launch a business, you’ll need a logo. Fortunately, again, you can find high-quality talent to help shape the look and feel of your brand.
You can find local design expertise, or you can outsource to remote teams. Platforms like Hubstaff Talent can help you find exactly the type of skills and aesthetic you prefer for your business. It’s easy (and completely free) for talent and organizations to use.
Social media marketing and SEO
You can choose to stay up on algorithm changes and emerging social platforms, but you also shouldn’t have to. Specialists in search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and paid and organic campaigns can offer valuable expertise that puts your business in front of your audience.
You can outsource this service as needed, or keep an agency or professional on retainer.
Customer service and support
Customer support is one of the most popular outsourced services for growing businesses. And, customer support directly benefits from outsourcing to professionals in different time zones. That’s because companies can provide 24/7 tech and customer support in a way that keeps teams working during their daytime hours.
This is another area that can have a big impact on your customer experience, and thus, your growth. Once customer requests and questions reach an unmanageable level (or well before that if you like to plan ahead), you should consider outsourcing customer support.
Outsource finance management
If you want to keep your business lean, you might start by handling bookkeeping, tax filing, and payroll on your own. However, outsourcing certain aspects of your business’s finances can not only free up your time, but it can also illuminate more cost savings.
Hiring a bookkeeper or using accounting software for your business consolidates the way finances are managed, which makes it easy to spot where you’re losing money and where you could be spending less. Tax professionals, in particular, can help you find deductions you may have missed.
Here are a few accounting apps to try out if you’re stuck in spreadsheet land:
Check out one of the best online invoicing software for small businesses.
What you should keep in-house
Beyond the mission-critical services your business provides, some things should stay on your plate. As mentioned in the downsides of outsourcing, professionals outside of your organization might not have the same in-depth understanding of your team and your customers.
When it comes to things that need to happen organically, like company culture and professional development, it can be best when those functions start in-house. That’s because these two things need to align with your people and business. Even if an outside company offers recommendations on how to improve culture and development, it’s still up to you to implement them and keep efforts going.
For that reason, some teams choose to develop work culture and professional growth on their own.
Before outsource: Consider project management software
Once you have identified the things you can outsource, it will be extremely important to keep these operations organized and on track. This is where project management software comes in.
There are plenty of choices, some free and some paid, that you can easily implement to stay in the loop and in control of what’s happening with outsourced projects or operations. One such software is Hubstaff Tasks.
Hubstaff Tasks is an Agile project management tool that uses Kanban boards — a visual board with columns and workflows — where you can create tasks and assign them to the right person For example, you can have a board with different column names, one of which is called “Review”, indicating the tasks that are done by your contractors and require your review.
The built-in collaboration makes Hubstaff Tasks a great fit for outsourced teams. You can create checklists for each task, add comments, due dates, project descriptions, and more. All conversations and relevant details are attached to the project.
Not only is this easier for the people doing the work, but also for you, as a business owner. It’s easy to see what’s happening and if there are any struggles with the tasks. Hubstaff Tasks makes it easy to get set up. You can even choose from a variety of preset board templates, and it’s free for teams of up to 5.
How to find professionals to help with outsourcing
Not sure where to find the skills your business needs to grow? Start with Hubstaff Talent. It’s an easy, free platform that connects talented professionals with businesses looking for help. Unlike other platforms, Hubstaff doesn’t take a cut and doesn’t act as a middleman.
Try it out and post your first job opening here.
How’s your outsourcing experience?
What worked and what didn’t when you outsourced different aspects of your business? Anything you’re looking for in the future? Let us know in the comments.