6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Outsourcing

Up to now, you’ve been able to handle everything from accounting to IT to web design in-house.  But, you’d like to grow your business, which requires you to free up some time and money, as well as human resources to focus on higher tasks and bigger priorities.  As hesitant as you are to even utter the word, you might want to “outsource.”  Read on to find out whether outsourcing is right for your company.

Outsourcing used to be a scary word reserved only for large corporations who wanted to off-shore large-scale manufacturing operations.  Nowadays, everyone from large corporations to small five-person companies utilize some form of outsourcing.

Granted, outsourcing isn’t the answer for everyone.  Most business owners know whether they’re able to handle specific job functions and tasks in-house or not.  In addition to utilizing full-time employees, you might try to get the most out of interns at your small business before you decide to outsource.

But sometimes interns aren’t enough.  Though they can handle lower-level, more repetitive tasks than full time employees, interns often don’t have the immediate experience necessary to handle specialized functions like accounting or IT.  How do you know it’s time to outsource? Ask yourself the following questions.

Why do you want to outsource?

There are a lot of benefits to outsourcing, namely, saving money, saving time and keeping your employees and yourself focused on what they/you do best.  The latter is really what should drive you to outsource.  Immediate cost-cutting and time-cutting are great, but they’re short-sighted goals.  You shouldn’t attempt outsource just so you can scrimp and cut corners.  You should do it to keep your employees free to take on bigger tasks and priorities that will help you grow and expand in the future.

What do you want to outsource?

When people think “outsourcing” they tend to get visions of off-shore manufacturing plants and foreign call-centers.  But in actuality, you can outsource just about anything, including the following: manufacturing, IT, customer service, bookkeeping and accounting, PR, web or graphic design, copywriting, SEO, email marketing and social media campaigns.  Some small, creative companies even outsource their CFO positions!  Again, the trick is to outsource the tasks that you and your employees aren’t exceptionally good at, so that you can focus on what you do best.

Where do you want to outsource?

Deciding where you’ll outsource can greatly affect the quality and speed of the work being done.  A lot of small business owners choose to “near-source,” which means hiring outside contractors or consultants in a nearby location like a different city or state.  Near-sourcing can make it easier to manage the work being done and the speed at which it is done.  However, off-shoring can be significantly cheaper and can also offer high quality work.

Who is primarily handling your outsourced tasks?

You want to make sure you can rely on the people you’re outsourcing to.  Brainstorm a list of qualities you want in the people handling your tasks.  What level of education do they need to have?  Is it important that they speak English or another language fairly well?  Do they need to have specialized knowledge or skills in order to be able to do the work you want them to do?  It’s better to come up with an idea of what you want and go find it, rather than to see what’s out there and experiment.

How are you planning to outsource?

There are plenty of outsource firms out there you could outsource through, as well as a wealth of information online about outsourcing to places like India, China and the Philippines.  You just have to Google it.  You could also search for sites/resources that focus on specific functions, such as copywriting or web design.  And there are numerous sites that let you submit orders and pay only when you accept the work.  You’ll probably want to come up with a plan to test the service you’re using before you actually commit to hiring employees or purchasing work.

When should you outsource?

You should always make sure you have airtight processes in place before you hand over work to an external source.  The more times you test your technical processes, the more effective you’ll be when outsourcing.  Create a process and get a co-worker, colleague or team member who is generally unfamiliar with the process to follow it and try to produce work based on it.  This will allow you to gauge how effective your process is, as well as give you a realistic expectation for the amount of time needed to get the job done.

You should also share your outsourcing plans with all of your in-house employees and get their input.  Make sure they know what their roles are and how outsourcing will help you develop their future responsibilities.  You don’t want them to feel threatened by cheaper labor or undervalued by you.  Take some time to sit down with your employees to see what can be taken off their plates to free up time.  Let them know that outsourcing can be a support to them, rather than a hindrance.  And make sure that you and/or your employees are capable of managing an in-house team and an outsourced team effectively.

Now that you’ve decided to outsource some key job functions to help keep your business growing, you’ll need some tools to help you stay in touch with your employees.  Use tools like email fax services, which offer international fax capabilities, and business VoIP systems, which offer free international calling.

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