Last week, a panel of experts shared their tips for SMEs looking to outsource work effectively. Here are some highlights
Ella Gascoigne is the founder of Startup PR
Why do everything yourself? If you have faith in your business and want to grow it then you should consider outsourcing from the off. If somebody else is better than you at something, then why not let them do it and concentrate on the things you are great at.
Don't jump into a contract: When you decide to outsource you need to ask a lot of questions to check; not only they can do what you want them to do but also that your personalities and ways of working are complimentary. If you are the kind of person who needs daily updates, then you are not going to work well with somebody who gives you a monthly update.
You also need to be clear exactly what you expect and also ask them what they can offer. Take a PR agency for example – don't be afraid to ask them to see proof of results, testimonials, lists of contacts that they have strong contacts with.
Aylish Jarvie is the community manager at PeoplePerHour
You could benefit from starting early: Many SMEs would probably benefit from outsourcing from the moment they start their business. Business owners are expected to have multiple skill sets and juggle many tasks on a daily basis. It's just not realistic to think they'll be expert at every single one. Whether it's accounts, branding or marketing, you probably won't want to hire an employee straight away for these tasks, so it makes sense to use freelancers, leaving the business owners to concentrate on other parts of their business such as winning new clients.
Katherine Ogilvie is a consultant at the Fountain Partnership
Outsource for a reason: Outsourcing can be considered at an early stage if it helps increase productivity. At the Fountain Partnership our focus has always been on ROI [return on investment] for our clients, so if we're working on a big project that involves a lot of copywriting it can often make sense to outsource some work to make sure the copy being produced is fresh and engaging. It can be a great time-saving option for startups who want to offer clients more. It also can give them the opportunity to work with bigger clients and still give their projects the attention they deserve.
Kirsten Glaze is head of virtual operations at the virtual PA company Time Etc
It can be hard to let go but worth it: For any business owner it can be emotional to let go of a process or task that has been previously cherished. However, it can also be very satisfying working with someone who can offer their own expertise and skill set.
Neil Murray is the founder of Sussd.it
Use word of mouth to find the right people: When deciding who to outsource to, I would start by asking around your network and contacts and discovering if others have outsourced, and if they have who they would recommend. By asking in your network and industry first then it is likely that the outsourcing company will have relevant experience in your area as well as being trusted in it.
Sometimes it's worth training your own staff: It all depends on the organisation's individual circumstances, and the function in question. There are of course negatives as well as positives to outsourcing, and these all need to be weighed up before deciding whether to invest in outsourcing or hiring a member of internal staff instead.
Bill Little is the European director for freelancer.co.uk
Be aware of your possibilities: Many SMEs don't know that they can outsource, or that a job that they are struggling to do themselves can be done competently by an expert freelancer. The best approach would be to think about what you need help with, such as a smart database to improve efficiency, or an e-commerce site, or even just have a look over an outsourcing site and see what other jobs are being posted by SMEs to get some ideas.
Be clear on your brief: However, as you start working with a freelancer and see the project developing, you may want to redevelop aspects of the job, so it is good to ensure the freelancer understands the need to be flexible. Outsourcing websites offer a system of milestone payments where you can pay the freelancer as different parts of the job are completed, ensuring you have full control over the outcome. Outsourcing websites also provide live reviews and examples of previous work the freelancer has undertaken, providing you with the confidence that you are hiring someone with a proven track record.
Louis Fairfax is managing director of CUB
Dealing with a budget: I don't believe there is an easy formula in terms of what you should prioritise. There has to be some level of judgement in terms of what feels like the most logical or beneficial area that just cannot be covered easily by internal sources. In terms of a budget, outsourcing should be more cost effective but sometimes the ROI can be over a long period of time. There is also still a lot of funding for small and growing businesses out there, you just have to look in the right places.
Martyn Hart is the chairman of the National Outsourcing Association
Outsourcing is not a religion: You should think about it along with all the other things, but usually there is a business driver, something you can't get done yourself, or it's taking too much of your time and not contributing to your business. I've found that some SMEs don't have time to think about core and non-core skills, but rather outsourcing is often triggered by an event, maybe winning a big order. That makes them think about how they are going to do things.
Outsource to the right people: They should understand the market you are in, it shouldn't be a company or agency so big that you are just lost in the noise, but it should be big enough to give you traction. Make sure you find the rates acceptable (payment by results is often preferred), and find a service that gives you control at a management level, without having to micromanage.
Get the legalities right: To draw up a contract you really need a lawyer. If it's a large contract then your business case would have already included costs for legal support. But for small contracts you don't need a big city firm, your local solicitors can help. Before you engage them try to agree on what it is you want to do with your potential supplier. If you can get this as a list of bullet points, that will help your lawyer, save their time (and your money) and maybe you would be able to split the costs if you both use the same firm. Although I hesitate with this last tip, because really its always best to have your own advice or lawyer as you never know what lies ahead.
This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. To receive more like this you can become a member of the Small Business Network here.
This post was made using the Auto Blogging Software from WebMagnates.org This line will not appear when posts are made after activating the software to full version.