The word “outsource” brings to mind large, multinational corporations with offices in foreign countries. While outsourcing is still used by major corporations, it can also be leveraged to grow small businesses or startups run by a dedicated army of one. Like the old “G.I. Joe” cartoon PSAs used to say, “knowing is half the battle,” and the same is true when the question becomes not when, but how to outsource.
The biggest benefit of outsourcing is that you can build you business cheaper than if you were to bring on part-time or full-time staff. However, outsourcing does more than just save you money. Ben Rossi, writing for the IT insight and analysis website Information Age, notes that outsourcing both saves cash and allows businesses to be more agile and flexible.
Growing your business without breaking the bank sounds great, right? Before you go rushing off to find freelancers you should first identify what you need help with.
What should I outsource and when?
Oftentimes you’ll find that the growth of your business outpaces the growth of your team (not a horrible problem to have!), leaving you with a long to-do list. While it’s tempting to try and tackle everything, this can often stunt your business’ growth.
Freelancing and outsourcing expert Matt Keener, author of “Executive in Sweatpants,” talks extensively about when to and how to outsource work in an interview with StartUp Fashion. “At a certain point, if you’re working one hundred hours a week, you become counterproductive. So that might be a sign that you’re ready to do some outsourcing as well.”
If you’ve reached this point, the first thing you should do is assess your skill set and figure out what new tasks you can take on. Remember to keep core competencies in-house! Once you’ve identified what additional work you can handle, identify what remains. Here are a few tasks commonly outsourced:
- Content creation
- Customer service
- Web design
- Graphic design
- Social media (check out our “7 Reasons You Should Outsource Social Media Management” blog post)
At the end of the day your business is only as strong as its weakest component, so if you’re an amazing graphic designer but could use some help on the content creation end don’t be afraid to go find it! Outsourcing is a great option as all of the tasks listed above (and many more) can be contracted out to talented individuals or teams from around the world.
Once you know what you’d like to outsource, the next step is defining your expectations and setting a budget.
What should my outsourcing budget be?
You can jump right into searching for talent, but it helps if you know what you want and what you can afford to spend. Remember, outsourcing is designed to save you money and grow your business. The last thing you want to do is waste money simply because you had undefined expectations.
In the same interview with StartUp Fashion, Keener recommends setting a fixed budget for your first foray into outsourcing. Setting a fixed price for a task ensures you won’t have to worry about going over budget your first time out. If you’re having trouble finding a round number, try breaking down your task into hours and then setting an hourly price that you can then add up.
While fixed project prices are good, don’t fear hourly rates! Hourly rates can be great for outsourced teams working customer service or for an individual who helps with the books a few hours a week. Just make sure to monitor the hours worked using time tracking software like Hubstaff to ensure that you’re only paying freelancers when they’re working.
With outsourcing, as in any aspect of life, you get what you pay for. Don’t slap a low hourly rate on a project (resist the temptation to cut corners!) and expect great work.
So you know what you want and how much you want to spend. Now you can start the talent search!
How to find outsourced talent
As you’d expect, there are no shortage of places to find outsourced talent. Below are just a few of the many options available:
- Upwork (formerly oDesk): Upwork (formerly oDesk), which merged with Elance at the end of 2013, is another great resource to find all manner of freelancers. Here you can hire individuals or teams and pay on an hourly or per project basis. Vetting candidates is made easy as each applicant’s profile has a star rating (candidates with a rating of 4.5 or above are highly recommended) along with information on total Upwork (formerly oDesk) hours worked, and profile history.
- Outsourcely: Outsourcely is also another great platform to easily find and connect with talent. It’s easy to find, hire and work with reliable, vetted remote workers from over 130 countries looking to build long-term relationships (not short-term freelance projects). This is great for employers who are looking to build sustainable working relationships and dedicated remote teams. How does Outsourcely work? Search remote workers by skill or by posting a job and contact candidates immediately using real-time private chat, browser to browser video & voice calling, video & voice messaging or just regular email. This makes hiring fast and easy. The best part about Outsourcely is that you can hire remote workers directly and pay your hires directly. This can save you thousands in fees the other platforms charge.
- Fiverr: Fiverr is the perfect place for those looking to outsource on a budget. As its name suggests, jobs start at just $5. You can browse from jobs offered or post your own. Before you head over to Fiverr with a wallet full of $5 bills, check out this handy guide detailing 11 Things You Should Outsource on Fiverr.
Again, there are many sites and services out there, so take time and select the one that’s right for you.
Ensuring outsourcing success
These are just a few of the things you can do to ensure that your outsourcing experience is as productive and profitable as possible:
- Test before you select: Issue a test to all candidates before you hire them. This can be as simple as writing a few lines of code or a paragraph describing your website. It may sound ridiculous, but a simple test can help weed out bad and lazy candidates.
- Don’t race to the bottom: If you offer low rates don’t expect amazing work. While the lowest offer may not always be the worst, don’t just pick a freelancer or company solely because they’re the cheapest.
- Define your objectives in detail: Make sure you let the people working for you know exactly what you want and how you want it done. This is especially important if you are using talent from another country as language can be an issue. Stay on the safe side by writing detailed, easy to understand project goals.
- Monitor and communicate: Many of the outsourcing services listed above offer project tracking tools to help you monitor progress. Being able to see where someone is at using software is nice, but don’t just rely on tools. Set up regular chats over Skype or have weekly email check-ins to ensure that everything is running smoothly and on schedule.
These are just a few tips to help you succeed at outsourcing. If you’d like more information check out Hubstaff’s other blog posts on how to outsource, where you can find information on everything from outsourcing software development to finding virtual assistants.
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