Outsourcing – What is it? Do I need to Do It? How do I decide what to Outsource? How do I go about Outsourcing?

I enjoy working with other small business owners like myself, to enable them to grow their business. One thing we all have a limited amount of is time, and so your time is important to manage especially if you are the only person in your business. Hence why outsourcing is just as important for a small business as a big corporation. Simply put, outsourcing is when you hand over a task to someone else with an agreed deliverable.

When we start out, we do everything, partly because we have the time available, and partly because we don’t have the money to pay someone else to do things. However, as our businesses grow and we get busier, time becomes an issue, and we may lose our work life balance to fit everything in, gradually working longer and longer hours, then things start to slip as we can’t create any more hours, and we may become overwhelmed.

At this point we need to go back to why we started our business; what are our unique skills and experiences that make people buy our products and services? These are what we should be spending our time on. The supporting tasks/services that are required to run our business we should be looking to outsource to people who have those unique skills.

When I look at the outsourcing equation, as I like to call it, what is important is firstly what your clients pay you per hour of your time. You need to know this to know what you can afford to pay someone else to do a task you don’t want to do. Obviously, it’s different for tasks that you have to outsource as you are unable to carry out the tasks, possibly accounts, HR services etc. But for things such as admin, writing content, emails etc you need to know that you can earn more than you are paying out. But it’s not just as simple as paying less than your hourly charge, as something may take you 3 hours and the person you outsource may only take 2 hours, for example. The quality of the output may also be different as you are outsourcing to a specialist.

Other ways to look at paying for outsourced services is to pay a fixed price for a task or deliverable as that helps control your costs; for this to work for both parties you do need to be clear what is expected, and both agree what the deliverable will be for a specific charge.

So, what can you outsource? You can Outsource anything that doesn’t require your specific skills that are what people are paying you for.

Questions you need to ask yourself to help yourself identify what you can and shouldn’t consider outsourcing:

  • What are my key skills?
  • What do I avoid doing?
  • What don’t I like doing?
  • What task is always at the bottom of my To Do List?
  • What can’t I do that I think my business needs to grow?

A good place to start is to identify 3-5 tasks in your business that you could outsource with the biggest impact for you.

Next consider whether they are related, so could one person cover them all, or are you looking for a couple of people to support you? It could be that the person you outsource some work too, liaises with other support services on your behalf to free up your time.

Once you have a list of tasks that you want to outsource, think about the attributes of those you like to work with; would you prefer to work with an individual or individuals, or with a business with a team of employees that have different skills for the different tasks?

A final point to consider, is whether you are simply looking for someone to complete the tasks you request, or someone to be proactive in helping you grow your business as they get to know you and your business better? It’s a different sort of relationship you want to build if you are looking for a long-term relationship which could develop over time into something more strategic, even though you still would be contracting out or outsourcing the services.

For me, those you outsource to become an extension of your business, and so it may be relevant to think whether there are any key values that you’d want anyone you work with to have? This may be more relevant if, for example, you are outsourcing some of the content writing for your business, than who does your accounts, although the more closely their values are to yours, it is likely you will have a better working relationship.

Its also worth noting that at times, especially as businesses get bigger, outsourcing may actually mean automation; there are software systems to help with many tasks, such as customer management, when the scale of the business requires.

Who can you ask for recommendations?

There are so many different options out there when you are looking to outsource, how do you choose? Recommendations can help narrow down your options, but it’s also important that you feel comfortable with your contractors. When choosing someone to outsource to, it’s definitely easier if you are able to build a relationship with them, maybe by doing a trial project or month depending on what is relevant. It’s important for both parties that the relationship functions for everyone, and it’s a big step for a business owner used to doing everything themselves. A good virtual assistant understands how hard it is for you to trust someone else with part of their business and so will work with you to give you confidence in letting go and demonstrate that you can use them as an extension of your business.

What sort of Tasks can I Outsource?

If you’re still struggling having gone through the questions, then here’s some ideas to help you.

General Admin: email inbox management, subscriber management, creating and updating documents, creating filing systems, sourcing and buying supplies, calendar management, scheduling appointments, travel arrangements, taking phone calls, personal/business errands, forum moderation.

Marketing and Media: eBooks, market research, blog creation and management, social media content, social media management, branding, advertising, PR, newsletters and other email communications, copywriting for website etc, video and audio editing, podcasts, competitor analysis.

Accounting/Bookkeeping: invoicing, debt management, bookkeeping, financial reports, costings for projects.

Project Management: managing virtual teams and/or contractors, managing projects and tasks, tracking deadlines and deliverables.

Technical/Website: Site analysis, keyword research, landing page set-up, sales funnel, website management, google analytics & traffic reports, keyword ranking, website creation and support (technical), install and manage plugins, updates, theme customisation, website functionality, website maintenance, CRM/Social Media integration into website, online payments,

Graphic/Web Designer: logos, banners, icons, headers, infographics, website creation (design), landing pages, sales pages.

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