How small businesses should approach outsourcing and finding the right freelancer

Outsourcing can present small companies with a chance to get ahead of their competition in more ways than one. SmallBusiness.co.uk investigates.

Outsourcing has become increasingly important for small businesses over the last five years. A recent survey reveals that more than 82 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises view freelancing as important to the growth of their business, while a further 24 per cent use freelancers on a weekly basis. So why have we seen such a boom in outsourcing?

The need to run businesses on shoestring budgets and remain agile and resourceful has never been greater, while developments in technology have meant freelance professionals can work from anywhere in the world.

Entrepreneurs everywhere are realising the advantage of having a virtual workforce at their fingertips. They gain an edge over their competitors, and can make great gains in efficiency and ultimately their bottom line. Making your first foray into outsourcing can be challenging, but if you outsource the right processes and find the right freelancers to complete your projects, you will reap the rewards.

When should you start outsourcing?

There is no correct answer to this. When you and/or your team are no longer able to manage day-to-day operations or when you don’t have the time to grow the company with the resources you already have, it’s time to consider hiring freelancers.

In fact, many small businesses outsource from the outset. When you are starting up a small business you might need a graphic designer, logo designer, bookkeeper, or a virtual assistant, none of which you will want to employ in-house. Freelancers can be part of that startup toolkit, without the need to take on full-time staff.

What should you outsource?

If you stop and think about it, chances are that you already outsource. It might be payroll or web hosting, or it might be HR that you want to oursource. Almost any task can be outsourced to whole host of different professional freelancers so it’s important to narrow down the tasks that are not core to your business.

It’s quite simple; what are your strengths? You should ask yourself what your keys skills are that help drive the business. If you are spending time on something that is not your key skill, and therefore not helping your business grow, find a freelancer to do it for you.

There are three categories of tasks you might choose to outsource:

  • Specialist knowledge. Graphic designers and web developers might fall into this category. These are people you need for one-off jobs for their specialist knowledge or skills. It probably doesn’t make financial sense to hire them as an employee because you only require their skills temporarily.
  • Executive level expertise. You might not want to pay a CMO or CFO’s salary for year-round expertise, but you may want to have them come in once a quarter to look over the books or review your marketing strategy.
  • Repetitive tasks. Data entry, product updates, call answering service. Any of these skills can be outsourced.

How to find the right freelancer

One of the most nerve-wracking things about hiring a freelancer is trusting someone you haven’t worked with before. The brief is key. To find the right person you need to be clear about your budget, your needs and give clear deliverables. Do not base your decision on price as the cheapest freelancer isn’t necessarily the best. You need to find a balance between quality and value.

Remember, one size doesn’t fit all. Whether an accountant or designer, each freelancer has different skills and talents, so look for one with a proven track record in the software or discipline you need and make sure they’ve actually completed commercial projects similar to the one you are looking to have carried out. Finally, start small. Where possible offer the freelancer a simple, straightforward project of a few hours – this will allow you to better evaluate their capabilities for a larger project.

How to make it work?

Once you’ve selected a freelancer you want to work with, work on creating a contract or NDA as required. Be as transparent as possible and communicate your expectations. Problems occur when both parties aren’t clear on deliverables, so set out a clear timeframe and expectations for the project at an agreed price. Ask for a weekly or bi-weekly update so you can keep on top of progress and any issues and be sure to keep payment closely tied to milestones throughout the project.

Another important part of your working relationship with the freelancer will be learning not to micro-manage. If you do this, you lose the time-saving benefits of outsourcing that would allow you to concentrate on other processes.

See the benefits

Ultimately, running everything in-house can become inefficient. Outsourcing offers many small business owners great advantages, as many thousands of SMEs can testify. It’s an affordable, tried and tested way to grow your business. You can build a remote team of professionals without the expense of full-time employees and free yourself up to concentrate on the tasks that will grow your business.

Related Topics

Small Business HR

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