Outsourcing For Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget

We put our heart and soul into our small businesses. They give us freedom, autonomy alongside challenges, heartache and obligation. They allow us to develop skills we want and force us to develop skills we have no interest in. Essentially we become “a jack of all trades” and potentially a “master of none” in our own business, if we don’t seek external help through outsourcing at some point of the business growth.

Whether the assistance you need is in marketing, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), finance & accounting, warehousing or call centre work there is almost always an outsourcing solution to your business needs. Outsourcing certain functions within your business is often the most cost effective way of achieving certain business goals and tasks. Realising the need for a 3rd party to take on the work is half the battle for a business owner. Not taking this step may very well strangle your business at the level of your capabilities denying the business the growth you want to achieve.

1. Don’t sign long term outsourcing agreements at the outset.

There are plenty of excellent sales people out there who are trained to tell you what they can do for you and how great your business will be, if only you sign a 24 month agreement. Hiring an expert that asks you for a long term agreement is fraught with potential problems regardless of the quality of their references and sample work.

Ask your potential provider if they will work on a trial basis at an agreeable rate, if the answer is no this may be the first indicator that this person or company won’t deliver.

A typical example of this is illustrated in the world of Search Engine Optimisation providers, who as a general rule lock businesses into 12 month contracts with no exit. When you ask why, the standard response is that they don’t control Google so they need the 12 months to get results. Whilst they may not control Google they should be able to deliver good short term results – but SEO is a whole other subject.

So as a small business owner what do you do about long term contracts like this?

Ask the expert to back themselves and agree to a month by month contract with a no fault exit for an agreed period. Set clear and agreed expectations of the measurable outcomes and stick to them. If they can’t meet your expectations in a trial they won’t make you happy and your business grow in the long term.

If you are happy with their performance and confident they will help you grow your business after an initial trial period, you can then negotiate a long term agreement.

2. Don’t be afraid of using overseas or online freelancers.

For tasks such as website development, programming, data entry, copy writing and in fact any task that can be easily defined freelancers are a brilliant and highly cost effective solution.

Access to overseas freelancers is usually through a website dedicated to presenting freelancers who are available for work, some of the better known sites include elance.com, freelancer.com.au and odesk.com. Whichever site you choose ensure that the site has a valid security certificate for payments and an easy to use dispute resolution service, even with the best of intentions, things can, and do, go wrong.

These sites provide a secure marketplace for freelancers to pitch for your work. Many freelancers have full time jobs and freelance as a second income, some spend all of their time freelancing. Regardless of who you choose there can be quite a few advantages to using a freelancer, for example:

· They are generally cheaper.

· You can source experts from around the world.

· They work fast as they don’t get paid until the work is completed to your satisfaction.

· The skills sets they possess are often unavailable to smaller organisation or in some cases in your country.

3. Communicate with your Experts

Amongst the most common ways that an outsourced expert can become a liability to your business rather than a benefit is when the lines of communication aren’t open.

As the client, you need to instigate conversations with your freelancer as soon as you are unhappy, concerned or just have a feeling things aren’t going the way they should be. A good freelancer will not be concerned by a client checking up on them, it is a part of the job. Don’t put off difficult conversations. The longer it takes for you to communicate a problem the longer the problem has to grow.

Communicate clearly, many outsourcers will have English as a second language and you should ensure you take that into account, likewise bear this in mind when you receive a response, have a cup of tea and consider the way forward before you fire off a rude email in response. Remember the old saying, “Act in haste and repent at leisure”

Not all communications should be negative either, don’t forget to communicate the positives. When an outsourced expert is really doing a great job and you are happy, let them know. Outsourced experts are just people and they love to hear when things are going well and will go that extra mile when you communicate the positives.

4. You can (and should) outsource anything

You know your business like the back of your hand and your passion and drive is what will make your business succeed. If you are finding yourself doing tasks that have to be done but don’t contribute to the growth of your business then you are working “in the business” rather than “on the business”.

Sit down and make a list of the tasks that are essential for your business but don’t have to be done by you and investigate outsourcing them, you may be pleasantly surprised. These tasks may be data entry, updating your website, packing and sending of products or bookkeeping or literally any other task you need done, a potential solution exists out there somewhere. Choose the tasks that can be affordably outsourced and in turn free up your time to do the tasks that only you can do.

I believe that outsourcing is a hugely effective way of growing a small business whilst still allowing you the freedom to run your own (now much bigger) show. Outsourcing taps into a huge knowledge base of experience that may not be available in your location and allows your business to benefit from that experience for a fraction of the price of hiring full time staff.

Our online toy store started as a small enterprise in a shipping container in regional Australia, using the tips above and implementing outsouring strategies our business has grown by 400%, our entire supply chain is run from a major metropolitan city and we have the ability to work on the business instead of in the business.

In conclusion, whether you choose to outsource to an international expert or a local company the benefits to your business should be measurable and significant, smart outsourcing should help you to remove the “challenges, heartache and obligation” and allow you to enjoy “the freedom and autonomy” that comes from running a business with outsourced support. Good luck and enjoy your new found freedom and autonomy.