Making Outsourcing Work for Your Small Business

Outsourcing has become something of a business buzzword over the last few years, but that doesn't mean you should dismiss it as just another fad. If you haven't seriously considered the benefits of outsourcing, you could be missing out on a strategy that is likely to make a big difference to your profitability. Even the smallest businesses, including sole traders and freelancers, can take advantage of the principles of outsourcing, so it's worth looking at how you could make outsourcing work for you, whatever your situation. After all, anything that can increase your profitability has to be worth considering.

Hasn't outsourcing got a poor reputation?

When you hear about outsourcing in the news, it's usually in relation to how a large organization or government department has run into trouble because the work they've outsourced isn't hitting the standard expected. The association between outsourcing and problems becomes established, and the concept becomes tainted by these high-profile failures. The best thing you can do is just forget about these stories because they have no relevance to the situation you are in with your small business. It's true that outsourcing projects have run into difficulties in certain circumstances, but there could be many reasons for the problems that have arisen. Chief among them is the drive to cut costs that predominate in public organizations, which can lead to contracts being given to the lowest bidder rather than the best qualified. And remember, good news never gets the same media coverage as bad, so for every case where outsourcing isn't working too well, there will be thousands that are operating efficiently.

What exactly is outsourcing?

The trouble with buzzwords is that you hear them so often you feel you should know what they mean. Although you might have a vague idea, if you're honest with yourself, you haven't got a clear understanding of what lies behind the word. In the case of outsourcing, the concept is very simple. Pay someone outside your business to do the tasks you can't or don't want to do. You might well be utilizing a form of outsourcing now, in its most basic form; for example, if you pay an agency to send in a cleaner a couple of times a week that is outsourcing. Once you understand that the concept is as straightforward as this, you'll be more likely to see how you could use outsourcing to your advantage in other areas of your business. Below are some examples of how outsourcing could make a big difference to your success.

IT systems

Pretty much every new business will have a computer system of some kind, even if it's just one desktop PC. If you have staff, you could have many more computers in various forms performing different functions, and like any system, your IT will need maintaining and updating. It's perfectly possible to operate and update your systems yourself, with only a rudimentary knowledge of computers, but because it's possible doesn't mean it's advisable. If you calculate the time it takes you to deal with all the maintenance and troubleshooting each week and then work out the value of the time it's taken you; you'll probably find that it costs you far more than you would have imagined. Now compare this to the cost of using managed IT services. Their per hour rate is likely to be considerably lower than the value of your time per hour, and not only will you save in those terms, but the work you can do on building the business in the time you've saved has the potential to increase profits considerably. Added to that, the expertise that IT services can bring to your business will improve your IT system efficiency, and they will be able to advise you on how to get the best from all your IT.

Websites and social media

This is another example of a task that you can do yourself, but that unless you are an expert, would probably be better being outsourced. Anyone can set up their own website and social media accounts, but there are two vital considerations which will determine whether your work will have any value. The first is the quality of your output. Is your site well-designed, easy to navigate and does it have all the information users would need? The design is about far more than making a site look pretty; it has to be engaging, making users want to browse. It also needs formatting in a way that makes it straightforward to use because the slightest thing can put users off. There is always going to be other sites that might be better, so people won't waste time on yours if it's not immediately appealing and user-friendly. Websites also need content, articles, and features that will interest potential customers and build up loyalty. Social media is entirely about content, and to make it work the output needs to be regular, frequent and interesting. You are one of the millions of voices online, and making yourself stand out can be an enormous challenge. The second consideration is the minefield of search engine optimization. If your business is not near the top of search engine results lists, users won't see you. But getting to the top of the list is a complex and constantly changing area of expertise. You could easily spend many hours working on your online presence and still find it's having little or no effect. You will have wasted money and time fruitlessly doing your best to make it work, so far better to get a professional SEO company to manage these areas for you. Most SEO companies will be able to manage every aspect of your website and social media, including the content creation. You'll find your online presence will start to work for you, plus you'll be able to devote more time to the areas of your business that you excel in.

These are just a couple of examples of the power of outsourcing. If you find you are undertaking any tasks in your business that take you away from your primary role, find a professional service to do them for you, and watch your productivity and profits soar.