When you’re running a small business, it’s tempting to do everything yourself. Because you’re attempting to keep operating costs low and maintain control, you may be resistant to hiring the help you need.
But whether your goal is to grow and scale your company or to sustain your current level of success without burning out, you’re sure to benefit from smart outsourcing. If you’re a solo operator, or even if you have a small team, it’s unlikely that you have both the skill set and the bandwidth to handle all of your business needs effectively.
Outsourcing is the process of assigning specific tasks to someone outside of your business so that you and your employees have the time and space to concentrate on growing and running your company.
When you embrace outsourcing, it enables you to:
- Concentrate on your strengths to minimize distractions and maximize results.
- Focus on making big and important decisions, rather than getting bogged down with a lot of little decisions outside of your core business.
- Bring in specialists and skilled experts to execute on your objectives faster, more efficiently, and more effectively than you can without them.
- Put systems and processes in place that allow certain parts of your business to run without you so you can cut back on stress and the number of hours you work.
The term outsourcing still carries some stigma, but it isn’t a dirty word; it’s the modern way of doing business and allows you to keep overhead manageable, control cash flow, and bring in fresh perspectives and skilled professionals on an as-needed basis.
So here are 6 steps to get started with outsourcing if you’ve never done it before:
1. Determine what work could and should be outsourced.
Examine what you do to run your business on a daily basis and what your big goals are for your business. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Which of these tasks can’t be done without you?
- Which tasks are most profitable?
- Which tasks do you enjoy?
- What is repetitive and duplicatable?
- What requires skills that you don’t have?
- Which tasks distract you from what you do best?
The goal is to concentrate on your core competencies and outsource the rest. Your business will benefit from outsourcing most if you focus on revenue generating activities, rather than functions that are administrative, technical, or require a specialized skillset that you don’t have.
2. Prioritize your outsourced tasks or projects.
Once you decide to get help, the next challenge is determining which tasks and projects to outsource first and in what order. It’s important to identify exactly what’s keeping you stuck and holding you back from reaching your goals. Start with whatever’s plaguing your business most.
Are mundane tasks keeping you so caught up in the details that you’re constantly overwhelmed and falling behind? Are you constantly trying to learn new technology to run your marketing? Does writing your blog or newsletter suck hours out of each week? Is your bookkeeping bogging you down? Are you suffering from website shame? Pick the one thing that will most lighten your load or give you a boost, and then the next, and so on.
3. Scope your needs.
Once you’ve pinpointed which project or set of tasks you want to outsource, dig a little deeper and figure out what you really want to accomplish. Do your research to find out exactly what kind of help you need.
What will be the expected outcomes and deliverables? What skills need to be covered? Will this be a one-time project or will you need ongoing support? What software or tools will you need? What’s the timeline? What’s your budget? Be realistic and build in time and space for the unknown and the unexpected.
4. Pick an outsourcing partner.
Now that you know exactly what you want, the next step is to consult with professionals who have the skills and ability to guide you through the process and carry out your goals. Whether you choose to work with an individual freelancer or agency, the goal is to find a professional partner who is more suitable to complete the job than you are—it’s their job to do this work, just like your job is to perform the core work of your business.
You’ll want to put your business in the hands of experienced professionals with a verifiable track record of happy clients and proven results. When outsourcing, be smart about your budget but also avoid cutting corners and pinching pennies in ways that will cost you in the long run. You’re investing in both the outcome and your peace of mind.
It’s important to prepare your business and yourself before bringing someone else on board. Yes, you’re hiring a professional with their own set of skills and expertise, but it’s still your business. The idea is to get tasks off your plate and hand work over to someone else, but it’s a common mistake to expect outsourcing to be completely hands-off.
Take time to think carefully about what you want and what you don’t want. Consider what’s currently working for you and what isn’t. Gather information, step back and look at your business from an outsider’s perspective. Be ready to answer questions, provide insights, and collaborate productively.
Begin by setting clear expectations up front, and don’t assume anything. Tell them how often you would like to meet or receive updates. Determine how quickly you should expect to receive responses to your questions and feedback. And while you should avoid micromanaging, connecting regularly and monitoring progress consistently will help to avoid missteps, missed deadlines, and unexpected budget creep.
If you are feeling disappointed, misunderstood, or uncertain speak up early and let them know. Strive to always give constructive feedback that’s clear and direct.
Your confidence with outsourcing will grow over time; but if you want to have a successful business, you have to give it a shot, keep an open mind, and trust the process. If you try to hold onto everything yourself, you’ll burn out and cost yourself opportunities.