The Small Business Guide to Outsourcing
By Debra D. Carpenter, Huffington Post contributor and Marketing Director at Conversational
Small business owners exemplify a multitude of wonderful traits and getting things done is often at the top of the list. But as a business grows and high priority tasks are taken on, it’s difficult to ensure every task receives equal time and attention.
That’s why small business owners routinely outsource a core set of tasks - to save time and money while making their operations run more efficiently.
Outsourcing can be a monumental task for the uninitiated. Where do you start? What tasks are outsourced most often? How can you ensure you’re outsourcing tasks to the best possible provider?
This is the small business guide to outsourcing. We’ll help you answer all your questions about outsourcing and give you a few tips for getting started.
What tasks do business owners outsource?
You can outsource almost any task thanks to technological advances that allow us to connect with freelancers and providers across the globe. The following list covers the four tasks small business owners typically outsource as well as savings estimates for each.
1. Front desk duties
Hiring a receptionist to cover the front desk is a costly decision for small business owners. With an average salary of $33,000+ annually, an onsite receptionist is out of reach for many small businesses.
That’s why many business owners outsource their front desk duties to third party providers like Conversational instead of hiring full-time.
Front desk duties include answering phones, taking and delivering messages, providing basic customer service, and managing appointments and scheduling. Virtual receptionists handle these tasks remotely, or outside of your office, and at a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time receptionist.
How much can you save?
Using Conversational’s pricing as a guideline, a small business owner can save around $30,000/year by outsourcing front desk duties instead of hiring a full-time receptionist.
2. Graphic design
Graphic design is an important aspect of presenting and marketing your small business to your audience. Hiring a full-time graphic designer isn’t possible for many business owners, however, with an average salary of $44,150.
The high rates graphic designers charge are not unwarranted - after all, it’s highly skilled and difficult work - but outsourcing is the best option for small business owners that are minding a strict budget.
While you can search for freelancers to outsource your graphic design tasks to, it’s time consuming and risky. The best option is working with a trusted provider for your graphic design needs, like DesignCrowd, that allows you to outsource your tasks to creative teams all over the globe.
How much can you save?
While rates vary based on the type of project, working with a third party provider like DesignCrowd instead of hiring a full-time graphic designer can save you from $20,000 - $40,000 per year.
Bookkeeping is commonly outsourced because as a business grows, keeping up with the books becomes more and more complex.
Increasing complexity creates a need for skilled and experienced accountants, but once again, hiring full-time isn’t cost effective for business owners. A full-time accountant salary is, on average, about $47,936. Freelance accountants exist, but sharing your company’s finance information with an independent third party is risky.
Quicken offers software built specifically for small business owners, Quicken Home and Business, that allows you to keep a big-picture view of your company’s finances and tax information. There’s no need to waste money hiring full-time accountants for your small business or handing your information over to a freelancer if you can use Quicken’s Home and Business software.
Because the software puts you in control while reporting important financial factors - possible tax deductions, bills, invoices, profits and losses, personal and business expenses, and more - it’s the best choice for small business owners that are looking to outsource their bookkeeping to a third party.
How much can you save?
Quicken Home and Business costs just $114.99 (that includes a 60 day money back guarantee) compared to the cost of hiring a full-time accountant at $47,936. That means you could save $47,821.
4. Customer support
Customer service, technical support, customer support - it goes by many names, but the sentiment is the same. Whether you’re the only employee at your small business or simply can’t afford to hire a customer service manager, outsourcing your customer support may be one of the best decisions you make for your company.
Adequate customer service is a lot like terrible customer service - if it’s not wowing your clients, it’s not doing its job. Steer clear of freelancers when it comes to outsourcing your customer support.
Look for consistency as you search for a viable customer support outsourcing provider.
Ensure the provider works from a verified location (within the contiguous U.S. is preferred) and offers 24/7 service for your customers. Server Sitters provides this type of support for IT companies, while FreshDesk offers forum and live help desk services for small businesses of all types.
How much can you save?
The average customer service manager salary is $84,005, while using Server Sitters for customer support for one year starts at $3588. That’s a potential savings of around $80,000 per year.
Common outsourcing mistakes
A lot can go wrong when a small business owner decides to start outsourcing. Follow these guidelines to avoid making common outsourcing mistakes.
Going with the first provider you find
The first search results you see are there because they’re either: a) Paid advertisements or b) Pages that rank well for their search terms. Neither of these should be taken to mean that they’re the best provider to work with. Do your own research to find your outsourcing provider to ensure better results.
Discarding possibilities due to plan offerings
Many small business owners discard outsourcing possbilities too soon when they don’t see a plan that fits their current needs. However, an astonishing number of providers are willing to customize plans to fit small business owners’ needs, so don’t discard a provider until you’ve asked.
Prioritizing cheap over cost effective
Cheap outsourcing providers are very rarely great outsourcing providers. Cost effective services should be the goal, not cheap services. If you prioritize cheap over cost effective in outsourcing, you’ll quickly notice the lack of quality in the work you receive.
Outsourcing too much too soon
Working with a new outsourcing provider is exciting, and many business owners are tempted to begin outsourcing all their tasks in that department as soon as they feel confident that their provider is satisfactory. Start slow, adding tasks over time, to ensure you don’t overwhelm your provider.
Micromanaging outsourcing providers
Finally, micromanaging outsourcing providers is a common mistake business owners make. You can avoid feeling the need to micromanage your provider by doing heavy research before agreeing to work with your provider. If a provider passes muster, you’ll know they’re capable of working independently.
Additional Outsourcing Resources
Hungry to learn more about outsourcing and how it can help your small business grow? Check out the resources below.
Debra Carpenter is the Marketing Director at Conversational. She is a long-time Huffington Post and Forbes contributor, where she writes about small business, startups, and productivity. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband and daughter.