To outsource or not to outsource, that is the question troubling many small business owners. The benefits of outsourcing for small businesses can include time savings, financial savings and access to specialist talent. But these benefits only apply if you select the best tasks to outsource – and the best professionals to handle the work.
What should small businesses outsource?
In order to be worthy of outsourcing, a task should be necessary for your success, and beyond the skills or time capacity of you and your team.
Here’s a few things that could make business sense for you to consider:
1. Web development and maintenance
Every modern business needs a website. Tools like WordPress may have made web development simpler in recent years, but the learning curve remains steep, and climbing it can be time consuming. By outsourcing web development and maintenance, you can get a top-spec website – without all the headaches.
Your top-spec website deserves top-spec content – and so do those marketing emails you’re planning, your new blog and the product brochures for your next launch. But content creation takes time – often a lot of it, and the words you choose will define your brand, so it makes sense to outsource copywriting to a professional wordsmith.
3. Digital marketing
Running ads on search engines like Google is a proven way to pull in more leads, while building a strong social media presence helps develop brand loyalty. There are many aspects to digital marketing but it can be highly technical and it's all too easy to end up wasting your money. Outsourcing to experts in niches like search engine marketing and social media management can help your small business stay ahead of the curve.
4. Administrative tasks
From typing up hand-written notes and transcribing recordings to data entry and form-filling, there are dozens of administrative tasks to outsource to a virtual assistant. The chances are, you and your in-house team are capable of doing all of the above – but does that really represent the best use of your time? If not, then outsourcing is the way to go.
Numbers – love them or hate them, they mean a lot to the success of a small business. If maths isn’t your thing, and you’re comfortable sharing your financials with an ‘outsider’, then outsourcing your bookkeeping could be the answer. If not, then at least check out these 5 cloud accounting add-ons to save your business time.
6. Customer service
There are few activities more vital than customer service, but often, answering routine queries doesn’t represent the best use of your time. Activities like call answering and live chat support can easily be outsourced. Specialist companies exist to deliver these services on a confidential, white-label basis, forwarding priority cases to your in-house team as required.
7. HR and payroll
If the idea of outsourcing your bookkeeping appealed to you, then the chances are that you’re not keen on looking after onerous payroll duties either. As well as taking on payroll tasks, specialist service providers can often manage other HR tasks, such as compliance, on your behalf too.
8. IT support
From failed hard drives to software conflicts, there is a seemingly endless selection of potential IT disasters waiting to strike! Given that computers represent a mission-critical component of most business’ infrastructure, it’s rarely smart to act as your own IT department. When outsourcing IT support, there’s a choice between the break-fix model – which involves paying per callout when a problem arises, and the peace of mind of fixed-price maintenance contracts.
Bonus suggestion: Embrace the cloud
You may not think of it as outsourcing in the traditional sense, but outsourcing is really just a means of transferring work from your business to a third party. One of the best ways to do that is to embrace cloud-based tech solutions, such as cloud accounting. These typically incorporate built-in support from your provider, and free you from the burdens linked to having hardware and/or software installed within your own premises.
Looking for more inspiration? Entrepreneur.com have compiled their own list of tasks small businesses should outsource.
Does outsourcing reduce costs?
Outsourcing can either reduce or increase costs. If you run a small business, and require a specialist service occasionally, then outsourcing that work to a freelancer as and when will almost certainly save you money vs. bringing in a full-timer.
But cost reduction isn’t always top of the agenda. One of the biggest benefits of outsourcing for small businesses is the extra time it frees up – time that can be put to more profitable uses. In this way, even though outsourcing your own mundane tasks might add to your costs, the boost to your revenue could outweigh that.
Finding the right people
Whether you’re looking for occasional expert support, or an extension of your in-house team, successful outsourcing depends on connecting with the right freelance talent.
That challenge has become simpler in recent years, thanks to the rise of several large freelancing platforms. Fiverr, Upwork and Freelancer all make it easy to find and engage professionals across an incredible variety of niches.
All three sites work slightly differently, but they all allow clients to assess a freelancer’s skills based on their past projects and reviews. Regardless of their status, when you first connect with a freelancer, it’s best to select a small task to outsource. You can treat this initial project as a trial run, before committing to a larger or long-term project.
The advantages of outsourcing are clear, and unlike expanding your team, it’s fast, affordable and easy to dip your toe into. Why not give it a try?