Depending on the size of your business, you may be responsible for a variety of tasks necessary for maintaining your eCommerce site, social media marketing, bookkeeping, and other duties. If you have the skills and the time, or other staff that can manage some of the work, keeping everything in-house might be the best option. However, for many online business owners, this isn’t the case.
Though you may appreciate exercising full control over all aspects of your operations, dividing your attention between too many tasks related to upkeep could cause you to lose focus on the essential parts of your business. Even if you’re capable of staffing to cover all responsibilities, it may simply be more cost effective to use third-party services for some aspects of your business. Here are a few tips for when and what you should consider outsourcing.
When Is Outsourcing a Good Idea?
There’s no universally best time for a business to outsource. The decision depends on many factors including the size of your business, the services you offer, the skills of the staff you’ve employed, and the time required to maintain the core areas of your business. This last item is especially important as you should always prioritize in-house resources for the essential areas of your business and only outsource things that aren’t unique to your brand. For example, if your main product is graphic design, you wouldn’t want to hire an outside organization for any aspects of the design process.
For small businesses with few or no other employees, outsourcing immediately can help you save money you might otherwise invest in an office space or employee wages. If you’re not familiar with some aspects of managing an online business — such as website development — outsourcing those tasks, or at least taking advantage of convenient website tools, can ensure you have a functional site from the beginning.
Those in charge of medium-size businesses may have more options. In this case, business owners should compare the cost of outsourcing versus keeping certain tasks in-house. Though you may have talented employees capable of managing all aspects of your business, their time might be better spent on the essential duties.
What Should You Outsource?
In general, you should consider outsourcing tasks that are repetitive, such as data entry, or highly specialized roles like IT support. Here are a few more areas to consider.
Even prosperous, growing businesses can fail due to cash flow mistakes. This includes a number of factors, including payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and other financial transactions. If not closely monitored and reported, these can fall out of balance and quickly drain a company’s cash reserves. Processing payroll, in particular, requires a strict adherence to regulations and tax laws. Because any mistakes could result in audits and hefty fines, it’s a good idea to place this responsibility in the hands of experienced professionals.
Creating and maintaining a user-friendly website is the core of your online presence. Even if you’re actively marketing your business and getting a lot of traffic, a poorly run website won’t keep users there long enough to complete a transaction. With technology and user expectations constantly changing, it’s important to hire a professional either internally or externally in order to ensure your business can keep up.
Social Media Marketing
Building your brand through social media has become essential for connecting with your audience. However, you may not be prepared or have the time to launch a full-blown social media campaign. Be sure you trust the company or consultant if you choose to outsource this part of your business. In many cases the messages they write will be the first experience consumers will have with your brand. You can get some idea of the value they can bring to your business by looking for testimonials and reviews about their services as well as examples of their work.
Your social media presence won’t do you any good if your site doesn’t feature quality content. You may think linking to product pages is the best way to raise conversion rates, but this often comes off as spammy and doesn’t allow for customers to make a real connection with your brand. Instead, you should aim to provide a regular stream of content that provides real value to consumers.
Creating blog posts, infographics, videos, and other content can be complicated and time-consuming And even if you’re able to create regular content, you may not be reaching your target audience. This is why outsourcing your content marketing, at least in the early stages of your business, is one of the best investments you can make.
How to Choose a Partner
Though outsourcing can be more cost-effective than hiring employees to do some tasks, there are a few things you should consider before allowing another company to manage a portion of your business.
- Once you’ve identified a need for outsourcing, seek out recommendations from your contacts, business associates, and others in your network. This is the best way to begin your search and find trustworthy partners.
- Always thoroughly vet any company or consultant. When possible, look for reviews, testimonials, samples of their work, and any other proof that the services they provide are reliable, high quality, and capable of meeting your needs.
- When you’ve decided on an outsourcing partner, always draft a contract that specifies all details related to the outsourced tasks. This will ensure that both businesses are on the same page about expectations and can protect you later if the organization you work with doesn’t hold up their end of the deal.
- Without micro-managing, you should work closely and communicate often with the organization. Just because you’ve hired them to do the job doesn’t mean you can ignore those aspects of your business. You should still regularly monitor their progress and make sure they are doing quality work.
- Start small. Outsourcing work on a minor aspect or a specific project can help you assess the value of outsourcing without making a huge investment or any long-term commitments. After all, the point of outsourcing is to help lower costs, cover experience gaps, and free up your time to focus on more important aspects of your business. If you invest too much, too soon in a service that doesn’t fulfill your needs, you may negate the benefits of outsourcing and spend a lot of time recovering.