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How to Approach Outsourcing and Grow Your Small Business

8-minute read

Man wearing glasses and blue shirt waving at the computer
Allison Grinberg-Funes

Allison Grinberg-Funes

14 January 2020

As you grow, doing everything by yourself gets harder and harder to manage.

I think of myself in my freelance writing business — trying to handle all of my business development work, customer onboarding, business strategy, admin work, and let's not forget the actual work of writing. I needed a few more arms and a whole lot of brain power and bandwidth that wasn't available to me. After all, I was one person.

What are your options when you get to that point?

You could slow down your production and in the end make less money because you're producing the same amount of work (or less) than you're used to.

Or you could find a new way to scale things down — by outsourcing.

Outsourcing used to be thought of as a cop-out by some business owners. There's a stigma that comes with asking for help with your work, then you lose some of the opportunity to say that your business is yours alone; there's also the assumption that if you outsource, the work will be subpar.

But that's not the case at all. In fact, outsourcing can lead to positive outcomes for your business's brand, reputation, and revenue. Jonathan Roberts, Founder of Aspire Marketing Agency, decided to outsource some work to a designer he trusted who could elevate his work in ways that he couldn't. He explains that by hiring a designer who also handles the project management aspect of communications, it's helpful. "When I stay very hands-off and let her interface directly, it saves me time and helps me pay my designer the best rate possible."

If you're not sure that you're ready to outsource, below are a few reasons that, like Jonathan's reasoning, justify the decision to finally outsource work.

You Know You're Ready to Outsource When…

Customer Service is Dwindling

You could be a seasoned business owner or just starting out, but either way, how you treat your customers is key to your success. Without your clients having a good experience and spreading the word to others they know who may be in need of your services, you may not be able to attract new customers. But the reality is, the busier you get, your service to customers may wane. It’s difficult to do every task by yourself and juggle things while maintaining a level of professionalism in your work. The result may be that you misuse a specific tool you've used hundreds of times before, or maybe make a mathematical mistake while balancing the books. Neither are mistakes you can afford to make.

Eventually all of these small mistakes may add up — but would you want to take the chance? Making the decision to outsource a portion of your work could be a way to ensure that your customer service remains strong and that your customers won't suffer because you have so much on your plate.

Administrative Tasks are a Time Suck

I mentioned earlier how hard things got when I had to shoulder all of the aspects of running my business. Administrative tasks like email, scheduling appointments both in person and over the phone and on video call, were becoming too much. If you're running things by yourself, I can understand how you may become overwhelmed, too.

Sometimes, you can avoid this time suck by enabling tools like Calendly or Superhuman, but more often than not, it may be in your best interest to look into hiring an assistant. This may be a part-time assistant or even a virtual assistant to help you a couple times a week, so taking that workload off your plate can give you time to focus on your craft and main things you need to cross off your to-do list.

Taking away the distraction of combing through all the administrative-type tasks will also allow you to put more focus on making sure that your customers get the service they deserve.

You Know There are Things You Don't Know or Can't Handle Alone

One of the strengths that a good business owner develops is understanding when there is something they don’t know. For me, it was taxes. I knew that if I didn't consult with an expert, like an a tax or accounting consultant, that come tax season, I would be in trouble.

I reached out to contacts I knew were experts in the field to learn more about how I should be invoicing clients and processing payments so that come tax season, things flowed smoothly.

I'm glad that I asked for help. Had I not, there's a chance I wouldn't have budgeted enough to pay what I owed on income taxes. Luckily for me, I sought help proactively and won't be paying a significant amount of money.

Another one of those strengths is realizing that you need to ask for help and can't manage a project alone. Jessica Lawlor, of Jessica Lawlor & Company, shared with me about a time she outsourced a big project:

"In early December, I was presented with a major writing project. A big win! However, the client said they'd need the massive project completed by the end of the year. On my own, I never would have been able to take it on. I already have a roster of clients, I was onboarding a brand new client, and there were only about two full weeks before the prospective client's deadline.

However, knowing I have a small, but mighty team of writers allowed me to confidently say 'yes' without hesitation."

If there's an area you don't feel strong in — maybe it's taxes, or perhaps it's advertising, balancing your books, or handling public relations for your business — reach out and outsource that work to someone who is an expert in their field. Even in cases where you do feel confident, you have the option of asking for help to expand your bandwidth, like Jessica Lawlor did with her business.

Outsourcing will give you more time and energy to focus on what you're best at, which is why customers are hiring you in the first place!

You're Doing Things You Don't Enjoy

Speaking of the work that you set out to do, that's what you should be spending your time doing. If you're not content doing work that you can easily outsource, definitely consider asking for help.

Once you calculate how much time it takes you to slug through work you don't enjoy against the cost of paying someone else to do it more efficiently, outsourcing is often worth the cost.

Don't allow yourself to feel guilty about not doing all of the work under the umbrella of your business. Do what you do best, and accept some help along the way to move things forward.

Okay, So I'm Ready to Outsource — How Do I Do It?

You've done the work to figure out whether or not you should choose to outsource and hire someone to do a portion of your work for you. That may be a part-time or full-time employee, but now that you've determined that you're comfortable hiring someone and delegating some of your work outside your bandwidth, comes the difficult part — you have to hire someone.

Hiring someone to help you with your business is a huge step. It requires strategy, trust, and if we're being honest, a bit of luck. But we don't want to leave you relying completely on luck, so here are some things you should consider and actions you should take before moving forward and hiring someone.

Be Able to Communicate What You Want

The first thing you need to do when you're ready to hire someone is to figure out what you need. It may seem as easy as thinking, "I could really use some help around here," and hiring someone, but in reality, you want to make sure you know exactly what you're hiring someone to do when they're working for you. Otherwise, you could end up wasting their time and your money because you weren't more efficient.

Think about which activities you need completed on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. How long does it take you to complete certain tasks and how long do you think it will take someone to complete those tasks for you?

Keep in mind that it may take someone new a bit more time to learn the systems and processes you use, a bit more time to get the hang of things, so budget more time than it would normally take you to do the work.

Once you know how much time you think an employee will spend on specific tasks, think through how often will you need them. If you think you'll need someone for just 15 hours a week, would it be best for you if they came in a few hours each day? Or maybe you'd prefer they work a couple full days a week.

Before you begin looking, it's best to have an idea of what kind of time commitment you'll need from an employee so that you can manage expectations.

Know Their Work is Protected

Just like it's important for your business to be protected, you need to make sure that anyone who you hire is also protected, either on their own or under your business name.

First, find out if your state requires workers compensation or other insurance in order to legally work on specific projects. Even if it's not required, so much can happen, so it's better to be safe than sorry, especially concerning work that someone else is doing on your behalf.

If you hire someone through a third party, like an agency, or an independent contractor, ask for their certificate of insurance and check their credentials. You can ask for their policy number and the details of the policy to understand how they're protected in specific circumstances and what the monetary limit of that protection is.

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Check Their References

If you look back to talking with potential customers, then you know that many of them are interested in hearing what your past customers think of you.

Aren't you curious to know about your new hire’s background and experience with past clients?

Ask people that you interview to provide references or testimonials that can speak to the quality of their work and what it's like to work with them.

Beyond that information, it's a good idea to complete a background check on a potential employee to ensure that the information they present to you during the interview process is true.

Getting a background check for a new employee may seem over-the-top if you've never done it,, but it is standard procedure in many industries, from consulting to contracting. Getting a background check can help you ensure the protection of your property and assets and also help protect your company's reputation.

Get Your Paperwork Sorted

Beyond having a certificate of insurance on file for an employee, it's important to know what other documents you need.

First, you'll need to make sure your new hire fills out a Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, which shows that they are verified to work in the United States; this will require a Social Security number.

Second, you'll need to get your new hire to complete a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, before their first paycheck is issued. A Form W-4 requests marital status, how many dependents are being claimed, and other adjustments, which determine how much will be deducted from each paycheck for income tax.

One Step At a Time — You Can Do It!

Hiring someone to help with your work can be an intimidating process, but at the end of the day, it's a positive thing that you're even asking the question, "Do I have enough work to ask someone else for help?"

It means that your business is growing!

Take things one step at a time and take your time while choosing someone to bring on to your team. If you have more questions about getting started with and growing your business, head over to SimplyU!

Allison Grinberg-Funes

Written by

Allison Grinberg-Funes

I’ve told stories since I learned to talk and written since I could hold a pen. As a small business owner myself - I'm a freelance writer and yoga teacher - I love contributing to the entrepreneurship community in different ways (including writing for Simply Business!). When I’m not drafting articles for SB, I can be found on my yoga mat, perusing an indie bookstore, and writing (with my cat nearby of course).

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