Online entrepreneurs love juggling acts. It feels good to have so much depending on you. When you start succeeding and turning a good profit, the satisfaction is unmatched. However, this model becomes unsustainable the further you go. Is it time to start outsourcing?
Realistically, we can only focus our attention on doing one thing well at a time. If you find yourself multitasking too much and dividing your attention all the time, you should start thinking about outsourcing.
It's easy to experience burnout when you try to carry too much on your shoulders. Share the load with capable individuals or agencies. Get ready to start outsourcing some of your working tasks so you can focus all your energy on what matters to most for growth and success.
Preparing to outsource as an online entrepreneur
Don't just jump into outsourcing unprepared. Plan it out, understand what you need to do and then take the first steps.
1. Study your operations for outsourcing opportunities.
As a business owner, you can't realistically outsource everything you do. Your unique input into the business helps it grow and succeed. However, there are so many things that don't require your direct involvement.
Pay attention to what happens during a month of business. What takes up huge chunks of your time or draws you away from other important activities? What tasks do you hate doing or that you feel bog down your schedule? Write down a list of everything you can think of that fits into these criteria.
Now, narrow down your list. Look for any tasks that require either specific expertise, specialized knowledge or repetitive unskilled actions. Tasks with one of these requirements are the best candidates for outsourcing. This is especially true if you don’t possess the expertise or specialized knowledge to do the task quickly or easily.
2. Find the right person for the job.
Contract workers aren't always easy to find. There are a number of places to hire contractors online, but the process of selecting a good contractor can be tedious. This step is the one you should be willing to invest a lot of time into, because it will save you time and energy later on.
Websites like Upwork and Freelancer give you access to an enormous number of freelancers of all types, which can be a benefit and a challenge. If you have a specific type of skilled work you need to outsource, it may be better to look for a site that caters directly to that type of freelance work. You can also look for a contract worker independent of large contract sites.
Recommendations and word-of-mouth are huge in finding the right person. Ask trusted colleagues and business connections for recommendations, if possible. Seek out freelancers that have recommendations from previous clients. If appropriate for the type of work, ask to see their portfolio or samples of previous work. Try to interview them personally if possible, whether over the phone or through a video chat application.
Put in the work upfront to avoid dealing with the fallout from an unreliable or unqualified contractor.
3. Outline all expectations.
No matter how independent and skilled your contractors are, they cannot read your mind. From the beginning, you should be able to write a thorough job description that outlines exactly what you expect from the candidate. That means you need to know ahead of time what you want and what success looks like for that project.
Be very thorough, leaving no room for interpretation or doubt. Any time the contractor must make a judgment call, there's potential they'll accidentally make the wrong call and extra work will be required to correct it.
When you hand over an outline of what you expect, be sure to emphasize your priorities. The contractor should understand what's most important to you, so they can ensure they give it enough time and attention.
4. Focus on your own work.
The final thing you need to prepare before you can outsource is your mind. As an entrepreneur, especially in the online space, you probably enjoy having full control over what's happening. But if you insist on micromanaging your contractors, you'll be wasting everyone's time.
Most contractors do not operate well in a business relationship where the owner is questioning everything, constantly getting involved and is demanding too much attention. You will also be wasting your own time. The point of outsourcing is having certain tasks done without your involvement being necessary. When you involve yourself anyway, you’re losing the benefits.
Be available for questions, do ask for progress reports when appropriate, and provide detailed feedback on the positives and negatives of any completed work. Since you put time into finding a trustworthy contractor, trust them to do the job. If they prove to be unreliable or untrustworthy, or your lose confidence in them at any point, that’s when you need to look for a new contractor. Try not to waste your time micromanaging someone who is unable to perform as needed.
Case study in online outsourcing: What happened with HomeAdvisor?
HomeAdvisor is an online yellow pages site for home contractors. Users can find home contractors to do the work they need, read reviews on professionals or submit their own business to accept work. As the company grew, it began outsourcing a large amount of tasks to individuals and agencies.
One of the notable areas of outsourcing is in finding businesses to join the site as working contractors. Outsourcing this task allowed the company to quickly expand their network of professionals on the site without investing too many hours of their own into contacting contractors and following up on their progress in starting and maintaining accounts.
It hasn’t always worked well for them; however, the overall success of their efforts has put HomeAdvisor in a place where they now rival large competitors like Angie’s List and Houzz.
Outsourcing works. Put the effort in to do it the right way and watch as your online business grows.