As a small business owner you often feel like the Renaissance man – a jack-of-all-trades, who can act as a sales rep, marketing guru and customer support ninja even before the clock hits noon.
But does this actually help your business?
I’m good at coding and can develop a simple WordPress website in just a few hours. My mate is numbers extraordinaire – he manages to finish his tax declaration and file all the returns in less than 30 minutes.
So, do you think he should do both web development and the financial chores or should we team up and help each other out?
While small business are small, because you decide not to scale, it doesn’t mean you should be The Renaissance ManClick To Tweet
Hence comes outsourcing.
When You Should Outsource
So, back to the deal between my financially savvy mate and me:
I realized I’d rather opt for his help as:
- I spend a lot of time on accounting – an activity that brings zero income for my company.
- I need occasional help, mainly during tax season, meaning there’s no point in hiring anyone full-time in house.
- My friend is way more efficient than me and delivers excellent value for the price quoted.
A lot of small business owners struggle with either of the following syndromes: “The Superhero” – I’ll do everything myself – and “Scrooge Syndrome” – I’ll do it myself for free.
The truth is – you are not doing a favor neither to yourself, nor your business.
In both cases, you end up being exhausted, miserable, cut down the possibilities for growing your business and earning more profits.
Allow me to illustrate this with another example:
You are a CEO of a huge corporation. You pay one of the leading sales rep $100 per hour to bring you clients and craft you a winning marketing strategy. And you pay $20 per hour to a regular secretary. Will you ask the leading sales rep to handle admin tasks for the same price or vice versa?
That’s exactly what you are doing when you refuse to outsource the secondary business process.
Here are a few very simple questions to ask yourself when you need to decide upon outsourcing:
- Do I have better things to do?
- Do I like doing this task?
- Do I have a budget for this?
- Do I find decision making stressful?
- Will I ever need this knowledge again? (In case you think about teaching yourself to code for instance)
What To Outsource
As we handled the “whens”, lets move to the “whats”. While each business small or large has a specific set of regular processes and workflows, there are also the routines common for everyone.
Here are the seven of them.
Finances: Bookkeeping, Accounting, Payroll and Taxes
No matter how good you are with the numbers, filling those forms and collecting all the receipts isn’t the job most of us love. Will outsourcing accounting have a negative effect on your business, your employees or your customers? Probably, not.
Then it’s worth finding someone with the right skills, who could do this job in less time and in a more cost effective way compared to you.
Need another valid reason?
According to Association of Certified Fraud Examiner’s study, the most common victims of fraud are privately owned small businesses (under 100 employees) with a median fraud amount of $147,000 just because they don’t have a CFO/controller to monitor and investigate abnormal financial activity.
How to Choose an Accounting Partner
Whether you opt to work with an individual or a service, make sure you do the following due diligence basics before signing off the deal:
- Ask for certifications.
- Ask for testimonials from previous clients.
- Ask which software they are using (typically it’s one of the following: advanced spreadsheets, Sage, IRIS, MYOB, QuickBooks and Xero.
- How flexible is the service level agreement?
- What is the average turn around time?
Also, if you are planning to outsource your finances completely (bookkeeping, payroll, VAT and annual accounts), you should be comfortable with providing the following information:
- Sales and purchase invoices
- Bank/loan statements
- Cash details and receipts
- Details of employees e.g. personal and salary information
- Debtors/creditors list
- Pay-in books and check book
- Stock level if applicable.
Social Media Marketing and Community Management
Social media marketing is the backbone of small businesses these days as with little investment an effective ad campaign can yield you massive ROI.
Posting on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms doesn’t seem like rocket science – anyone can do it, right? Yet it is the strategy development you need help with.
Would you prefer to test-drive different ad options yourself or pay someone, who already knows the winning formulas for highest conversions and the lowest costs?
Next question: do you really have time to gather, schedule and curate information consistently for different social media channels. Do you have time for hashtag research, timely replies to all your fans or would you rather spend the time doing something else?
Lastly, do you have the tools to run an effective cross-platform social media campaign? While there are a lot of great free tools, the best ones come at a price. Will you invest in a bunch of premium accounts or opt to hire someone with the toolkit?
So those are the reasons for hiring a social media manager.
Here are the cases when you might not need one:
- Social media isn’t your primary marketing channel and you’ve decided to focus on others e.g. search or referral marketing.
- You plan to focus just on one platform e.g. Instagram and mildly use others.
- When you are a social media guru yourself, congrats!
How To Hire a Social Media Manager
While there’s a common belief that anyone can break into a social media career as long as they are young and active on the networks, it’s not quite true.
Building a personal following and creating a complex social media strategy for a brand are two different things.
Sure, a good social media manager should have an engaged community on their personal profiles, however the metrics they can show for brand profiles are way more important.
Questions to ask a potential candidate:
- What are the most important social media metrics? (engagement and leads)
- How do they plan to use your social media budget?
- In their opinion, what is the one best platform for your biz?
- Ask them of their first goal. If they start saying something like “Getting at least 1.000 FB likes” stop them and ask how exactly do they plan to achieve this number and how do they plan to engage with your target audience.
Website Maintenance and Tech Support
A business without a website is non-existent today.
You need to have a great website even if you offer offline services or goods. What you do is hire someone to design and develop an attractive one for you with some snappy landing pages to capture even more leads.
Now the question is: who will maintain it afterwards?
Will you reach out to a developer each time to make minor fixes and conduct security updates? You’ll be quoted a hefty hourly rate.
Do you prefer to DIY it even if you don’t feel particularly tech-savvy? What will you do when you crash your website by accident?
In this case you have three options:
- Keep a website manager in-house
- Outsource to an independent contractor
- Opt for a subscription or on-demand service – that’s what we offer for WordPress websites at WP Site Updates.
With a subscription-based service you get unlimited fixes and minor coding jobs done within a few hours, regular security and plugin updates, content updates and more. Plus, there’s no hassle with reaching out to anyone and waiting for the gap in their schedule.
Website and App Development
Ok, so you are ready to create an app for your business or upgrade your e-commerce portal with new functionalities.
Should you hire an in-house team for this?
Nah. I don’t seem to know anyone doing this.
Website and app development are traditionally outsourced to a 3rd party provider. But how do you choose a reliable one?
Here are a few quick tips for that:
Look for the source. You browse dozens of websites each day and use a bunch of apps. Surely, you find some of them brilliant.
Now, figure out who built those.
If you can’t identify the developer after a quick search, reach out to the company directly. Send a friendly email asking who developed their product. In most cases they would be happy to refer you to the same agency or individual.
Leverage your network. Even if the industry you work in is far from the web development world, don’t underestimate your network. It’s way deeper than you think. Ask around for referrals and see if a friend or a friend of a friend can drop you a name or two.
Screening questions for the top candidates.
So you have the names, you’ve reached out with a general query to ask the project cost, timeline and scope. Here are a few more good questions to help you vet the best candidate:
- Who specifically will work on my project? The executives you negotiate with may seem smart and talented, but when it comes to putting pen to paper who will write the code, map out the UX and so on? A person with a proven track of solving the same problems or a junior sitting halfway across the world and reporting to the executives.
- What results have your clients achieved? Ok, so an app should have attractive looks, but you are building one to increase your revenue, get more leads and clients, right? Ask the agency to show some data to back up their sales claims.
Design and Multimedia Production
In general small businesses need design services for the next occasions:
- Launch – web design, business cards, logo, brochures design.
- Seasonal promo materials
In each case it would be more cost-wise to outsource the job to a freelance professional.
These days I see more and more designers opting to work independently, rather than choosing a corporate job.
Here are just a few places to check out for top talents:
- Behance and Dribbble, where a lot of pros host portfolios
- Niche Facebook groups e.g. Freelance to Freedom Project
You should ask yourself just the same questions as with social media marketing – are you ready to heavily invest in self-education or rely on assistance?
Teaching yourself the basics is easy with tons of great resources out there. Check out our guide to Local SEO as a starting point, crafting and executing a multi-stage marketing campaign on your own may be a tough commitment.
The best option is to start with self-education and grasping the key basics and hire assistance for the tasks you can’t handle on your own e.g. content marketing, outreach or on-page SEO.
While most small businesses opt for hiring an agency or a freelancer instead of the DIY approach, here arise another problem – how to find a reliable partner?
How To Screen an SEO or Online Marketing Agency
I had a fair share of tests and trials with different companies, plus invested heavily in self-education before building WP Site Updates.
Here’s a list of telltale signs of an agency who knows just as little as you (taken from personal experience):
“Guaranteed #1st page rankings in Google within 1 week” is far from a legit claim. Ethical SEO campaigns take at least 3 months to start bringing the first tangible results. Any provider offering surprisingly fast results are either bullshiting or planning to build a ton of spammy links for your page, which may result in a ranking spike and a penalty from Google afterwards. Better stay clear from folks dropping such bold statements.
They don’t outline their strategy. SEO and online marketing isn’t some sort of magic. It’s a clear roadmap to getting more leads, more traffic and higher rankings in Google. A legit company should be able to clearly outline their strategy and explain each step they are planning to implement.
They coin too many terms and use vague explanations. SEO isn’t a form of voodoo, really. Most of the strategies can be explained even to a 5-year old in plain English. However, if the agency tries to buy you with extensive terminology and vague claims e.g. “Google likes pages with the same keyword used at least 10 times”, it’s not the company you should choose to work with.
They claim to know inside algorithm info no one else does. Only a very selected bunch of Google employees knows the exact ranking algorithm. I doubt that Matt Cutts or anyone of his team are part of that agency, so this is pure rubbish.
They offer you to publish great content only and focus on on-site SEO. While there’s nothing particularly bad about this advice, it will not bring you the results you crave for unless you are in a micro-market with non-existent competition. You should apply the Pareto principle in this case – 20% time spent on writing the copy, 80% spent on promoting it.
They propose to create 500+ links per month, which would be of low quality and zero value in the modern SEO landscape. Here’s a quick example, you can spend a month pitching and writing a copy for Techcrunch and receive a great link that would bring you traffic, leverage your reputation and establish you as an industry authority. Or spend the same time leaving comment spam on other blogs and forums. Quality always beats the quantity when it comes to link building. Pay a decent copywriter to craft a copy for you, rather than buying low-quality links for the same price.
6 Telltale Signs of a Sly SEO Agency To Outsource Your Marketing To #smallbizClick To Tweet
Your Entire Life
Let’s say thanks to Tim Ferriss, who has inspired us to automatize our business to the bare minimum and learn to live the happy life without working endless hours.
The good news is – you can outsource or automate pretty much anything these days – cooking, cleaning, personal correspondence, phone calls, emails, home chores etc.
A.J. Jacob, a former Esquire editor published an essay back in the early 00s of his experience with a dedicated VA to do all the personal chores for him.
His final thoughts on the experiment: “The outsourcing of my neuroses was one of the most successful experiments of the month. Every time I started to ruminate, I’d remind myself that Honey (his VA name) was already on the case, and I’d relax. No joke—this alone was worth it”.
Being a successful business owner does not mean working the longest hours.
Truly successful entrepreneurs are growth-hackers – they focus on working smarter, rather than harder. They choose to put the most efforts on tasks that drive the highest profits and skip the dragging routine.
Hence comes outsourcing as the answer to refining your efforts and keeping a razor sharp focus on high-profit tasks.
Has this been helpful? Let me know if there are other areas of business you outsource by leaving a comment below. Also, don’t forget to share if you think this would be useful to a friend.