Before I start telling you about outsourcing, I strongly believe that as an entrepreneur you should understand how to do almost every aspect of the daily running of your business yourself, especially if you are starting small.
This is the first in a series of post about outsourcing, because it’s something I know a lot about and I really want to share my knowledge with you so that you can save time and energy by getting it right – first time!
This is so that you are never paralysed by a problem with your hosting or unable to to send out an invoice, update a page on your website or send an email to the right mailing list – it’s your business and you need to have control over it. Of course, it’s not always practical for you to do absolutely everything yourself, whether it is because of time or technical expertise. There are lots of times when you’re going to need a professional, but it’s not always going to be possible to work with an agency or hire staff – we don’t always have that kind of money.
This is when outsourcing can come in handy!
If you have a huge startup budget, then you have access to top branding agencies, PR agencies, email marketing agencies and more, and never need to give any of what I’m talking about here another moment’s thought… but from what I know about you so far, I’m guessing that you mean to have a slightly more hands on approach and also that you want to control your spending very tightly, so I’m going to talk to you about getting the best value from outsourcing.
Outsourcing Done Right Can Save You Heaps Of Time And Money
Outsourcing simply means bringing in experts to work on certain aspects of your business for or with you. Common areas of outsourcing for a small or new business are graphic design and web design. Also anything tech – people are often intimidated by the tech side of things and prefer to leave it to the experts (although I would argue that you should still be able to do a lot of it yourself, or at least know how it is done!).
The other main areas of outsourcing are social media management, virtual administration and bookkeeping.
I’ve worked on both sides of the desk here, and have a huge amount of experience in outsourcing and being a contractor, and I have learned some of the biggest do’s and don’t’s along the way.
You Get What You Pay For
Because money is probably one of the reasons you are outsourcing rather than hiring someone the traditional way, I’m going to talk about that first and here is the most important thing to keep in mind: you get what you pay for. People who are being exploited and paid a pittance will work with much the same dedication, skill and attitude as you would if you were being exploited and paid a pittance. Respect the people who work for you.
As a hirer, I have always had the best relationship with the contractors when I have felt that they were charging fairly from the outset and agreed to their quote without debate. If I approach somebody to do a task and they tell me that their day rate is £500 (or the equivalent in their country) and I say “yes” and give a clear spec, it almost always goes well. Everybody feels good and the relationship feels mutually respectful.
When I have hunted and hunted for the “best deal” and found someone who can do that £500 job for £50, I have invariably found that the result is disappointing – slapdash, inexperienced, inadequate language skills, over-automation or a slight variation of a template that they use for all of their £50 clients (it’s usually this one). Remember – you can’t get a £500 service for £50.
When you see differences in price, you should try to understand why one contractor is quoting £500 and the other is quoting £50. The £500 logo will come with time and love, hand drawing and multiple revisions. The £50 logo will probably be a customised template with recycled graphics from somewhere like Creative Market and be an hour or two of work at most. There’s no shame in not wanting to mortgage your firstborn child’s kidneys for your logo design, but you should know what to expect for your money.
Do your research and find out what the day rate for this sort of skill is so that you know what to expect.
Bargain With Caution
There is nothing more off-putting in a client than trying to force the contractor’s rate down (and I hold my hands up here – I’m embarrassed to say that I did this before I started freelancing myself).
If you want a custom built 25 page website with integrations out the wazoo, but can’t afford it – and this is going to sound really blunt here – that’s not your contractor’s problem. You don’t go into Lululemon and say “I love these yoga pants – they’re so much nicer than the £15 GAP yoga pants I saw, and I really want them. I haven’t got £140 though, so can we agree on £50 and I’ll take them now?”
If you think that the person you asked for a quote is charging too much then just get a quote from somebody else. Why get into an argument about money with someone you already think is trying to rip you off?
On the other hand, if you get a quote that is beyond your means, but you really want the “special sauce” this contractor has, there’s no harm in saying “My budget is XYZ – is there something you could do for that much, and we can come back to the rest later?”. This shows that you respect your freelancer’s time and expertise and want to have a healthy and mutually respectful relationship – this in turn will give the freelancer the motivation to work with you to find a middle ground.
“I’ll know when I see it” Isn’t A Design Brief
Know what you are asking for. For example, if you are bringing in a graphic designer, have some concept of what you want – colours, general vibe, a style that you want. If you can’t give a clear brief, and then take apart every design your designer provides for you (without financially allowing for a more drawn out process), things are gonna get tense.
Take the time yourself to have a browse on Pinterest to see what styles you like, or even businesses whose vibe you love without quite knowing why. You don’t have to provide example logos or precise colours, but if you can say “There’s something about the way that The Camden Brewery or Lush or Soho House feels that I love” then that’s a really good start for your designer.
When you find your perfect contractor, don’t just hand everything off and forget about it. Common areas to outsource are social media and content management, but my feeling is that with a young business still finding its voice, you should either do it yourself so that you can personally build relationships with your customers or potential customers, or pay somebody properly to really understand your business intimately, and use language and imagery – as well as TIME – to convey that as your mouthpiece. No matter how busy or cash-strapped you are, you can’t just pay $3 an hour to a perfect stranger on the other side of the globe and expect her to magically craft an engaging campaign all on her own.
Whoever you work with, give her something to get her teeth into – work together for a few hours at least once a month to craft 20 – 50 social media posts (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook – whatever) and she can follow your thinking and see what you are aiming for, then flesh them out with the right graphics and hashtags, and schedule them. Don’t ditch her to do it all on her own.
To work well with outsourced labour, you need to be a good people manager and touch in with your contractors frequently – just as you would if they were sitting across the desk from you. Build a rapport, and stay in contact so that they feel valued and you stay informed.
Effective outsourcing is something I’m really passionate about and I’m running a webinar on outsourcing really soon – secure your spot here and get all my insider tips and resources!