Today I’m going to talk about outsourcing. Did you know that you can save your own time and money by outsourcing some of the everyday tasks of your business or even your work life if you’re employed by somebody else? Maybe it’s not something you’ve thought about before, so I’m going to run through some ideas. I’ll also tell you in another post how to tell if it’s worth outsourcing something or not.
Tasks you can outsource
The main point of outsourcing is to get someone else to do tasks which you’re either not so good at, or which actually cost more for you to do yourself than paying someone else to do them. We’ll look at how to decide on the cost factors next time, but for now let’s look at the tasks you can outsource …
- Accounting and bookkeeping – this is a classic. If you have a very simple business model, like I do – no car, no additional premises, not VAT registered, sole trader, only one person working for the business – then you can get away with doing your own accounts. But if you’ve got anything more complicated going on, it’s well worth using a bookkeeper or fully-fledged accountant to keep things under control. A bookkeeper will be able to keep track of your profits and spending, record your receipts, etc., and an accountant can advise you on how best to minimise your tax burden. Some companies will even set up your business for you in the first place!
- Human resources and staffing – it can be worth using a recruitment firm to handle selecting and taking on new staff for you. And then they can advise on any HR issues – sick pay, maternity pay, dismissals, grievances … and there are companies who will handle your payroll for you, too.
- Sales and marketing – maybe you’re great at what you do, but you’re not so good at those sales calls and marketing techniques. Calling in a specialist telemarketing, sales or PR and marketing expert can be well worth the money you spend on them in terms of the return you get from all those extra customers they bring in for you.
- Telephone answering – there are many companies out there who will provide different levels of phone answering for you, from offering voice mailboxes to answering the phone as if they are working for your company themselves. This means you can advertise a landline number and have it diverted to your mobile, or have someone answer it when you’re busy, or when you want to switch off for the evening.
- Secretarial services – Virtual Administrators and Secretaries can provide remote or in-office solutions for you. If you need an admin assistant but don’t need one full-time and are worried about the costs of employing people, use a VA to either come in and sort out your office systems or provide support for you offsite.
- Transcription, copy typing, etc. – If you’re not a trained secretary or a fast touch-typist, it’s often well worth your while to use someone outside your business to do your typing. I can get through a transcription in three times the length of a tape (i.e. it’ll take me 3 hours to type up 1 hour of transcription). That might seem a long time – but I type fast and use special software. Try typing a few minutes of tape and see how long it takes you … then outsource away! I recently did some transcription work for an academic studying how students reacted to their courses, so this definitely works for the employed as well as the self-employed. It’s the same with copy typing – paying someone else to type up those scribbled conference notes or handwritten novel will usually get it done far more quickly than you could do yourself.
- Additional services you’d like to offer through your business – speaking from experience, I offer copy writing and proof-reading via web designers who are expert at designing websites but would prefer to concentrate on design and functionality and outsource providing or checking the content to me, and all of my services via VAs who use me to mop up overflow work and additional services they don’t offer personally. In both these cases, the outsourcer can concentrate on doing what they do best, while offering a fuller service to their own clients.
Points to remember
A couple of points to remember here:
- Choosing a partner – word of mouth can be vital here. Ask other small businesses what they do and who they use. Have a look at the company’s references – I make sure I maintain a page of up to date references from users of all parts of my service, and whoever you look at using should have something similar to show you. Make sure they’re up to date and, if possible, have some details like names and information on the work undertaken (I keep most of my clients’ surnames off my references page but can provide some more detailed testimonials if required).
- Confidentiality – a reputable company will always keep your business confidential anyway. I never mind signing a confidentiality agreement if that’s what makes my client feel more secure – and it’s a question worth asking when you’re selecting someone to outsource to.
- Contracts – always make sure you have a signed terms and conditions document so you both know what to expect from one another. I have a standard one I use with web designers, for example, and another standard one for people who are part of a particular franchise I work with a lot. Just makes everything plain and simple for all to see.
- Extending the service you’re getting – if the person you’re outsourcing to doesn’t seem to offer a service you’re interested in, just ask. They’re likely to know someone they can recommend, or they might outsource it themselves! I work with some VAs offering additional services like writing and typing – so it’s worth asking your trusted company before going off and searching again.
In Part 2, we’ll look at how to work out if it’s financially worth outsourcing …