A Beginner’s Guide to Outsourcing for Small Businesses

Outsourcing for small businesses is a robust topic that spans entire books (like Source Control by David Walsh). However, there are a few basic principles that go into understanding the practice of outsourcing so that you can get started sooner rather than later.

If you’re a small business owner deciding whether it’s time to outsource a function, ask yourself this question: can you afford not to outsource?

Let’s dig deeper into what this question entails:

  • Is doing the work yourself preventing you from completing more mission-critical tasks? For example, are you answering phone calls all day instead of working on your product or service?
  • Are you technically qualified to do the work yourself? For instance, if you don’t have a thorough understanding of how to do payroll, it might cause legal or tax problems down the road.
  • Can someone else do the work better, faster, or more cost-effectively than you can? For example, a marketing company can create your sales brochures at a fraction of the time it would take you to do it — and they might end up looking better.

If you answer these questions and decide to move forward with outsourcing for your business, here are three tips to ensure you get the most value from the contractors or companies you work with.

1. Create clear, concise work proposals

Once you decide to outsource, find contractors or freelancers by posting project proposals on websites like Upwork or industry-specific job boards. The stronger your proposals are, the better your results will be.

Compare the following proposals:

  • I want a new menu design.
  • I need a six-page menu design that uses the same colors as my restaurant’s logo and has a font that is easy to read while being fun and unique.

Notice the difference? The professionals you outsource certainly will.

What exactly do you need? When do you need it? If possible, provide examples of comparable work that’s close to what you want. Creating a clear, concise work proposal will earn you more bids from qualified candidates.

2. Screen bids using metrics

Once you receive bids from interested professionals, who should you choose? Quantify your decision-making process by giving each bid (interested person) a “score” from 1-10 in a handful of categories.

When scoring a freelancer or contractor, consider the following metrics:

  • Personality and communication style — Is a candidate easy to communicate with, and do your personalities match up? It might not be as important to hire a happy, carefree accountant if it’s someone who can make complicated topics accessible.
  • Prior work experience — Has this candidate completed comparable work well? If you’re considering hiring someone to create stunning images for your WordPress.com website and the only design experience they have is making printed brochures, that person shouldn’t score as high as someone who previously created images for 20 other WordPress.com sites.
  • References — Do previous clients recommend this candidate? Yes, you’ll need to contact their references to find out.
  • Cost — A candidate could be the most talented person in the world, but if they cost 10 times more than you can afford, you might want to consider someone cheaper. Likewise, be aware that an extremely low bid can often be a warning sign; it’s possible that the freelancer or contractor misunderstood the scope of work for your project.

3. Sign an agreement

When it comes to outsourcing for small businesses, it’s extremely important to record everything in writing. When will your project be completed, how long will it take, and what are the payment details? Make sure that both parties (you and your freelancer) review and sign an agreement. A signed agreement ensures that everyone is on the same page from the beginning. It can also be used as a reference should any disagreements arise.

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Aaron von Frank

Cofounder and CEO at GrowJourney.com, a USDA certified organic heirloom garden seed subscription service. Writer at TyrantFarms.com, Edible Upcountry Magazine, and other media outlets.

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