When setting up in business, the temptation is often to work alone, taking on every role imaginable to get the business launched, the work rolling in and the job done. However, just because you're a sole trader, it doesn't mean that you should work alone. In fact, the opposite is true.

You can't do it all yourself!

Where do your talents truly lie? Did you set up in business to juggle admin, customer service, social media, blogging, marketing, web design and accountancy? Do you feel overwhelmed with the sheer volume of daily tasks? Are your efforts maintaining, rather than building your business?

While it's nice to be busy, wouldn't it be nicer to be stress free and wealthy?

It can take some time on the solopreneur treadmill before the outsourcing penny drops. There's a leap of faith required in order to shift from the thinking that money is being 'saved' by DIYing it, rather than 'invested' by hiring external contractors.

Commonly perceived obstacles are ever present within the mind of the solopreneur:

  • I don't have a huge income, I can't afford to outsource
  • It would be quicker to do it myself
  • I don't trust someone I don't know with my business
  • My partner/relative can help me with it for free

And all the while that treadmill spins, stress levels continue to rise and an amateur element creeps into the image presented by the business.

If you haven't done so within the start up phase, the best time outsource is when your business is up and running, income is being generated, but you're not quite 'at capacity'. Once this point is reached there is less available time to devote to finding a reliable contractor and handing over a project in a calm and controlled fashion.

So what is the best approach to outsourcing? If you're considering it I'll assume you're busy, so here's a brief guide to allow you to focus on the most important aspects of selecting the best provider possible to complement your business, and how to manage that all important first project.

Identify what can be outsourced

There are a multitude of areas that can be successfully outsourced:

  • administration
  • social media
  • email marketing
  • telesales
  • graphic design
  • web design and development
  • content creation
  • SEO
  • PR
  • business development
  • human resources

...in fact anything that can be performed remotely lends itself well to hiring an external contractor. This saves on office space, the need to purchase hardware/software, recruitment costs, NI, holiday pay and other employee perks.

Find a suitable contractor

Do your homework; you wouldn't hire someone without making a few checks so make sure you do the same for your contractor.

  • Search - what pops up when you type their name into Google?
  • Evidence - check out their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ profiles to get a feel for their character and current activity
  • Rates - establish project rates and compare with other contractors
  • T&Cs – what are their business terms and conditions? Better to discuss this beforehand than find out once the project's commenced.

Contractor found? Let's look at the project

1. Establish the scope, timescale and costs

What will be achieved, how long will it take and how much? This area must be as detailed as possible, with room for manoeuvre agreed before work commences. It's may also useful to consider the 'Pick Two' philosophy - Fast, Good and Cheap.
FAST refers to the time required to deliver, GOOD is the quality and CHEAP refers to the total cost, but you can only have two:

Good + Fast = Expensive
Good + Cheap = Slow
Fast + Cheap= Inferior

Better to work with someone who can operate within your budget at a sensible pace, than to expect quality for little payment or within an unreasonably short timescale.

2. Set Payment Milestones

Projects often begin with an up front payment, around 25% of the total projected costs. Decide on several milestones – markers that can be achieved within the project and agree payments once each is completed.

3. Establish Post Project Support

A project may be deemed as completed however there are cases when further assistance is required. Ensure you have something in writing. Don't automatically expect your contractor to assist you after the project is signed off unless you've agreed this beforehand.
While there is an initial rise in expenditure, with a professional, reliable contractor on board, a carefully planned and executed project will in time negate project costs and generate an increase in income for the business owner.

Choose your contractor with care and plan your project wisely to reap the rewards of outsourcing.

Article by Lynn Conley of Ready2Assist.

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