Best Practices for Hiring Outsourced Help

Micky Deming

You’ve probably heard that “founders wear a lot of hats in the beginning”.

And it’s true. Most leaders have dozens of tasks on their plate. And most of them make you feel like they all need your individual attention. In the majority of cases, though, it isn’t true. 

The answer? Outsourcing certain aspects of your business.

You’ve probably heard about the “gig economy.” What that term illustrates is the rise of the freelance workforce. Unfortunately a term like that can prompt more questions than answers.

Questions like:

All of these are valid concerns, but each is easily mitigated with proper planning. In this resource, you’ll learn to take the following steps:

  • Step one: Decide which tasks to outsource
  • Step two: Find quality services and/or consultants
  • Step three: Ensure quality work

Step One: Decide Which Tasks to Outsource

The number one fear many have before outsourcing is that you won’t have anything for them to do. This is exactly why it’s necessary to put thought into how outsourced help will grow your business.

For that, it’s time to get out a pen and paper (or your favorite note taking app).

Write down everything you do in a given day/week/month. It’s important to think about and write down tasks anyone is doing that isn’t part of their core functions. A receptionist should answer the main office phone; a paralegal should not. 

Note: Things that likely won’t go on the list are business-critical actions. Production, client deliverables, and anything your team should handle directly.

With the main list, mark down everything you: 

  • Don’t enjoy doing
  • Shouldn’t be doing
  • And the things on the list that you don’t do well

This is a process similar to one called the 3 Lists to Freedom developed by entrepreneur and coach Chris Ducker. It’s a fantastic exercise for determining all of the things that take up your time, but aren’t important or enjoyable. Some of the items just need to be discontinued. Everything else is on the outsource list (either now or in the future).

Examples of outsource-worthy tasks include:

  • Marketing: You’re running the business and marketing brings in more of it. Outsource certain marketing aspects like social media, ppc advertising, and content (blogs, landing pages, email, etc.).
  • Expert help: Just like marketing, there are other specializations ripe for outsourcing. A good example of this is financial advice. Your company may not be ready for a full-time CFO, but there are consultants who can come in monthly or quarterly to help you gain a better understanding of your cash flow and projections in order to make more informed decisions. (And you probably already have a CPA!)
  • “Freelancer” tasks: Tweaks to your website, graphic design work, and office snacks are great for outsourcing while you and your team concentrate on what’s bringing in the money.

Step 1.5: Prioritize the List

Outsourcing everything on your list at the same time is a recipe for disaster. You’ll likely spend too much and lose track of everything that’s going on. Worse, all of those tasks will end up back on your desk in a different form.

Prioritize the list, set a budget and begin looking for the top priority tasks.

Step Two: Find the Right Services and/or Consultants

Budget in hand, you’re ready to find the right solutions. There are two aspects of doing this properly.

1. Deciding on an agency or individual

In the outsourcing world, there are individuals who specialize in certain areas and there are agencies able to cover entire functions like marketing. For instance, a specific consultant may be great at Facebook ads, but may not be able to create the graphics for the ads, let alone close the leads coming in from those ads.

An agency, on the other hand, may handle the graphics, ads, landing pages, content creation, messaging and other aspects of the marketing channels. 

The individual may understand everything that needs to be done, but isn’t able to work the entire plan by themselves. That said, the individual’s services may cost less than hiring an agency to effectively manage the entire process for you.

2. Deciding what they’ll do

A very helpful aspect of deciding between a freelancer/consultant and an agency is figuring out what a potential service or person will do.

There’s a bit of a sliding scale to outsourced responsibilities. If you hire a freelance writer for your website content without defining your need, you’ll end up:

  • Researching the content you need
  • Editing what they’ve written
  • Formatting each post/page and publishing it to your website

If you’re already doing all of this and writing it, then it’s still a bit less on your plate. But a good freelancer or service should handle everything in the writing process — leaving you only to check quality and enjoy the benefits.

Key point: Don’t simply think “I need someone to X” without thinking it through. Take each task from your list and see if there are subtasks involved. This will draw out each and every responsibility — setting up a profile to choose the right solution.

Step Three: Ensuring quality work

A clear understanding of outsource-worthy tasks, as well as finding the right person or service for the job, goes a long way toward receiving quality service. The rest comes down to two key things — getting out of the way and checking deliverables.

Get out of the way

Business owners are at a disadvantage when outsourcing.

When starting your business, you knew everything about the product/service provided. And with each of those first employees, you taught them what you knew. It’s likely the tasks on your outsource list aren’t your specialty. 

Over time, you’ve figured out how to do most of those things and almost certainly picked up some bad habits. You may know how to work Quickbooks, but you don’t know how to make accurate forecasts about your business. 

A key benefit of outsourcing is getting tasks done better than before — when only you were doing them. 

But this doesn’t mean you simply let the outsourcing run unchecked.

Check deliverables and offer feedback

You’ve gathered a list, narrowed it down, figured out the best type of service to use and exactly what they’ll be doing. Once expectations (on both sides) are set, it’s time to turn it all on.

The final step is to check deliverables when they come across your desk.

  • What was promised? Does it shape up?
  • Now that you have it “in hand”, would you change anything?
  • Has this service reduced your personal burden?

Checking progress at regular intervals is a good idea. Certain things will take time: The CFO needs a couple of quarters to show how their advice is determining the outcome of your company’s financial health. An SEO agency needs some time to really get the traffic flowing. 

Offer feedback after each stage. Over time, the relationship and benefit of each outsourced partnership will grow.

Micky Deming

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