Outsourcing is an emotive topic that is often portrayed in a negative light by the media. It is also something that has traditionally been seen as the preserve of big multi-national corporations, and small business has been slow to take up this business trend.
However, outsourcing is something that we all do regularly, most of the time without realising it. For example, when your radiator starts leaking, more often than not the plumber will be called out to come and fix it. This is outsourcing at it’s most basic level: the necessary skills don’t exist within the organisation (your home) and so a freelance professional (the plumber) is hired to work on the project (fixing your radiator). It is this basic principle that should be used to determine whether or not it makes sense for your business to outsource projects.
If you can answer ‘Yes’ to any of these questions, then chances are you are in a position to gain by outsourcing.
Are there particular projects that your business does not have the skills to complete?
During the course of the business year, there are often particular activities that need to be carried out, where the necessary skills pool does not exist within your organisation. These are the most obvious projects to be contracted out, because you can retain the services of an expert but only for the time it takes for the project to be completed.
For example, it may be that you run a guest house and need to have your website redesigned. It is unlikely that you will have the necessary skills to carry this out within the company, and therefore this is a prime example of a project that can be outsourced to a freelancer.
Could you be completing your existing projects more cost-effectively?
Perhaps you are the Managing Director of a medium-sized company, yet you put together the copy for the full page advertisement you run in the weekly newspaper each week. It is highly likely that your time is worth more than the cost of hiring a freelance copy-writer to carry out this task for you, thus freeing you up to focus on your core business (or golf!). Again, another great candidate for outsourcing.
Another example might be data-entry, which is perhaps currently carried out by your existing administrative staff but could just as easily be carried out remotely by someone working evenings or even working in a different country.
Are there specific functions within your organisation that don’t require full time cover?
Perhaps you are a small company that employs one secretary. The secretary’s functions still need to be carried out even when they are on leave, and therefore you could consider hiring a freelance virtual assistant to act as an answering service and appointment planner.
Or, you might need somebody to run your on-line marketing campaign, a task that only requires a maximum of one or two days work per month in total. It makes little sense to try and hire someone on a part-time basis for this (and no sense to pay a full-time salary for so little work), and so outsourcing your on-line marketing campaign to a freelance professional specialising in this area is the appropriate decision to make.
Hopefully you now have some ideas of projects that you might look to contract out. The next step is deciding who to give the work to.
One of the oldest, and trusted, routes for finding a professional is to use word of mouth. In other words, speak with someone you know and trust who has been in a similar position before and find out who they used to get the job done. This way you are using a tried and trusted resource to complete your project.
However, if you don’t know anybody who has had a website designed (for example), or the named web designer is busy, or you feel that it might be possible to get the same standard of work at a lower cost from somewhere else, a different approach is required.
On-line freelance marketplaces are a great place to find the skilled professional that you need for your project. These will often allow freelancers to compete with each other for your project, thereby giving you a range of cost options to choose from, as well as having some form of review or rating system so that you can choose your service provider with confidence. In this day and age, more and more small and medium businesses are using this medium to identify and hire skilled professionals to work on their projects.