Want to Outsource – 3 Things to Consider

Hands_on_KeyboardYou’ve probably heard experienced business people and marketers talk about how deciding to outsource saved their business. They usually say you should start outsourcing from day one and it’ll make everything so much easier. Well, in some ways, outsourcing can be like marriage. It can be a great partnership where everyone prospers, or it can be a mistake from which it takes years to recover. Before you start outsourcing, there are a few things you should look at in terms of YOUR business. Remember, we always support “balanced” outsourcing as the most efficient and cost effective way to support the growth of your business. See our article on Hybrid Teams. And for a more in depth look at the hybrid team in-source/outsource model, sign up for the occasional newsletter at Small Office Communicator. When you sign up, you will receive, at no charge, my book, “Building Your Team: In-sourcing/Outsourcing.” The signup form is on the right hand side of the page.

1. When Possible, Do It Yourself First

It’s always best to be familiar with a task before you outsource it. This gives you an idea of how difficult the task is, how long is should take, and whether or not the people to whom you outsource are doing it correctly and efficiently. However, there are, as you would expect, exceptions.

I think a great example of this is media production; video, podcasts, etc. Not only do these tasks require specialized software and equipment, but also experience – which often has a steep learning curve. When my department at Minolta was producing the original Maxxum introduction programs, I tried to be not only the department manager, but also the programmer… the person that actually put the images on the screen and programmed them into the control computer… today, that would be an editor since programs like this would probably be done in video. I quickly learned that I really didn’t have enough time to manage the department and organize the road show and program the show. So I brought in a freelance programmer. Not only was he able to give his undivided attention to programming the show, but because he was also a far more experienced programmer than I, he was faster and made the show MUCH better than I EVER could have.

So for the easier tasks, do them yourself first, then, when you know what is actually involved, you can intelligently outsource them. But for tasks requiring more technical knowledge, experience, and specialized equipment, by all means, head directly to freelance and virtual assistant resources.

Also, as you do the tasks yourself and make sure you are completely familiar with them, record all the steps you take to finish the tasks. Use these steps to train your freelancer or virtual assistant (VA). This way, they will know exactly what you expect of them. This will cut down on misunderstandings. Also, when the person you hire looks over the steps of the project, they may quickly identify ways to get the job done more quickly and efficiently, saving you money – keep an open mind about that.

2. Do You Have The Budget?

Today, because of the internet, you can find freelancers to do your work at very reasonable rates, but, as with any other business expenditure, make sure your budget has room for the added expense. When I was buying services while I was at Minolta, we rarely bought the cheapest one… we looked hard at cost vs. value, and sometimes, this meant paying a bit more… but we would up saving money because the jobs were done better, and many times, for less money than if we had used the, “lowest bidder.”

A great example of this is web content. You may be able to find writers who will create articles for you very inexpensively. When your business isn’t making a great deal of money yet, this can sound like a great deal. However, if you end up with keyword-stuffed nonsense that no one will read, you’ll be offering no value to your readers, and have wasted your money. As I have said for years, content is King, and quality is Queen… and they must always be together – and if you can’t find quality content from outside sources, you are better off generating your own quality content… but always deliver quality. Your readers and the search engines will reward you for it.

3. Speaking of Learning Curves

Remember, as you start moving work outside, there will be a learning curve for both you and the resources you hire. No matter how well you document your project steps, there will probably still be mistakes before you and your resource get your communication running smoothly and start projects moving right. This is management, a skill every business owner needs to master.

It can be rough at first – I know it was for me when I started passing off tasks I had done to people who were able to do them more quickly and effectively, but once I learned to let go, outsourcing cleared hours of mundane tasks and left more time for me to do what I needed to do. So start slowly – as I did – and graduate to building teams of outside workers to help you grow your business. Train them well, learn to trust them, and enjoy more time with your family.

Another of the rules I used was, “Hire the best people and encourage them to do their best.” Works ever time.

DanSig-02




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