MOST entrepreneurs fall into the trap of thinking that they can do it all, which ends up stalling the rate of growth of their business. Whilst outsourcing used to be inaccessible for small businesses in terms of expenses and services available, in recent years, technology has transformed outsourcing into an inexpensive and essential strategy for SMEs.
If you’re clever about who you hire and which areas you outsource, it can have a powerful impact on your firm’s productivity, bottom line and development. Here’s how to master outsourcing:
- Always make quality the first priority
One of the biggest benefits of outsourcing is that it’s significantly cheaper than hiring a full-time in-house member of staff. You pay a freelancer per the hour or a fixed rate, there are none of the usual extras such as payroll taxes, insurance and benefits, you don’t need to find them office space, supply them with stationary or software licenses.
You send an email, set a deadline and hopefully, provided all goes to plan, the work gets done, you pay the invoice and that’s the end of it.
However, there’s no point saving money if you’re destroying the quality of your output as it means you might end up redoing the task or in worse case scenarios, it could damage your company’s reputation. In other words, don’t rush into outsourcing anything: put time and thought into recruitment and consider your expectations.
- Use a professional outsourcing firm
Whilst there are plenty of great professional freelancers who work outside of virtual services firms, it can be risky to hire an individual without recommendations from friends or colleagues, especially if you’re expecting them to handle confidential work or sensitive information.
Often it’s safer, quicker and less stressful to go through a firm which hand-picks its virtual employees, matches them to the client’s specific needs and manages the quality of their work.
For example, at my company AVirtual we train every one of our employees to make sure they meet our standards, we ask them to sign confidentiality agreements, we have an in-house technical support team to make sure your virtual assistant is never offline and we provide “back-up” assistants in case of sick or holiday leave.
- Consider cultural and time differences
Outsourcing grants access to skilled specialists across the globe, but however talented they are, it won’t be effective if you can’t easily communicate or if they’re always offline during your working day. It’s also important to consider cultural differences, especially if you’re outsourcing a task such as graphic design or blog writing as trends and styles could vary depending on the country.
- Incorporate long-term freelancers into your team
The biggest mistake people make when working with a freelancer is that they treat them as a temporary employee and don’t invest any time into introducing them to their business’s culture.
Whilst that’s okay if you’re just working with someone in the short term, it’s always better to try to incorporate a freelancer into your team so that they can understand the way you do things and feel invested in your vision and aims.
I advise my clients to include their virtual assistants in meetings via Skype and to provide them with information on the in-house employees so that they understand the structure of your office. People always work harder if they feel that they are valued and part of something bigger.
- Create a system for feedback
Effective communication and feedback is even more important when you’re working with a virtual employee as you can’t just pop over to their desk to see how they’re getting on.
Make time to properly and regularly chat through tasks and to offer comments on completed assignments, especially if you haven’t worked with the person before. This will allow them to work more productively and will also show them that you care about their input and are grateful for their efforts.
At the start, it can be useful to supply the freelancer with a style guide or examples so that they can jump straight into the work and if they have any questions, make sure you let them know how you like to communicate (email, text, whatsapp).
- Richard Walton is the founder of AVirtual, a company that provides productivity and professional services to entrepreneurs and SMEs throughout the country. He is often featured in the press talking about entrepreneurship, productivity and work-life balance.