Being a small business means that everyone wears many different hats. At some point you will find yourself needing to outsource projects either due to time or expertise constraints. While outsourcing used to be just something large businesses did, it is now an available tool for small businesses and can enable powerful growth and productivity. Here is what to consider when it comes to finding and hiring a contracted expert.
What should you outsource?
The best jobs to outsource are typically those that require systematic/repetitive tasks, specific expertise and experience, or specialized knowledge. Here are a few examples of each:
- Systematic/repetitive tasks – Data entry, bookkeeping, inventory and shipping
- Specific expertise/experience – Tax expert, financial analyst, strategic planning, sales training, Human Resources
- Specialized knowledge – Web design, IT support, graphic design, copywriting
The key to deciding what should be outsourced is to first really know what your business does well. If you can identify the tasks where you and your employees are providing the most value and that drive your business forward, then it becomes easier to see what tasks should be outsourced.
When should you outsource?
The answer to this question really depends on your business and your growth strategy. Some businesses start outsourcing from day one while others use outsourcing as a way to build business without needing to hire additional employees right away. If you find that your company isn’t able to keep up with the day-to-day business activities and service to your customers is slipping, it is definitely time to consider outsourcing. The benefit of outsourcing is that it can be scaled up or down, or discontinued fairly easily.
Where should you outsource?
The best place to start to find an outsourcing partner is within your own network. Check with other small business owners, vendors you already work with or even friends and neighbors. If you can’t find what you need within your own professional and personal networks, be sure to tap your social media networks to ask for recommendations.
Other options for finding service providers include checking with professional associations, trade groups and your local Chambers of Commerce. You can also place an ad on CraigsList or search other online services like oDesk, Guru, or eLance to find a provider to meet your needs.
Working with your outsourcing partner
Once you determine what you want to outsource and find the right partner, the critical part is making the relationship work. There are three parts to laying a foundation for a successful outcome to outsourcing:
- You can’t over communicate – Be sure your expectations, specific deliverables, and all information for the task are written down and reviewed with your partner. Especially at the start of a new relationship, you and your contractor are coming from different perspectives so never assume they are thinking what you are thinking.
- Expect questions and clarifications – Even if you believe that you have documented every detail, there will still be questions that arise during the project. You might consider being proactive and setting up check-in meetings at regular intervals. This can have the added benefit of making sure the project stays on track.
- Allow your partner to do their job – Sometimes the most difficult part is stepping back and letting them do the job for which you are paying them. Remember, there is a reason you hired them.