Whether in times of financial crises or if one is simply trying to improve profits, managers and small-business owners alike usually think of cutting back and cutting down when it comes to saving money. However, counting paperclips and paying employees a meager salary certainly won’t ensure a happy company atmosphere.
So how can you cut down on overhead costs or extra business expenditures? Think outside the box and take advantage of the latest business trend: mini-outsourcing.
Let Experts Handle Certain Parts of Your Business
Giving your taxes to an accountant every year before filing time is considered normal – but did you know that it’s actually considered mini-outsourcing? That’s right, any part of your business that a subcontractor or external party handles is technically outsourcing, even if on a small scale. For example, a CPA (Certified Personal Accountant) or tax advisor certainly has more expertise in this area than the average business owner. You save both time and money (and a huge headache) by letting an expert handle your taxes.
So why not do the same thing for other areas of your business?
Mini-Outsourcing #1: Virtual Secretaries
Answering phone calls, taking messages, collecting and sorting the post – what if these typical secretarial duties could be “mini-outsourced” for a fraction of the cost? Virtual secretarial services offer many advantages: 24/7 availability for answering phone calls (even during bank holidays), more flexible contracts than you’d have with a full-time employee, saving time and money by not recruiting or hiring an in-house secretary, full dictation services and more. The specific services of each virtual secretarial company will vary, of course, so it’s best to do some online research before trying one out for a month or two.
Mini-Outsourcing #2: One-off Projects
What else can be handled by experts at a more affordable price? There are some freelance marketplace websites where all sorts of one-off (single occurrence) projects can be posted. Freelancers around the globe then bid on the project, saying for which price they’d be willing to complete the project. All kinds of tasks can be posted, such as software/app development, web design, article writing, online marketing, financial consultancy, etc.
CloudCrowd is a site that helps business owners or individuals access services in the area of copywriting, public relations, editing and translating. This service is very similar to the one mentioned above, in that workers from all over the globe can sign in and complete projects in their own time, on a flexible basis. Outsourcing these small tasks are much cheaper than hiring a freelancer or an in-house employee for the same tasks.
Mini-Outsourcing #3: Using the Cloud
“The Cloud” is also known as cloud computing and, explained in simple terms, is basically when you use software that’s not on your own computer. Think about accessing data bases or saving large files on an internet platform. The information is saved on a server in another geographical location, yet you can access and use it through the internet or other network.
Amazon offers cloud computing services, and many other providers offer remote desktop access or file back-up for a much lower cost than you would incur when purchasing an external hard drive or server for private or small business use.
Mini-Outsourcing #4: Crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing is a relatively new trend, which gained much popularity in the past few years. Crowdsourcing works like this: if you have a problem or issue, you would address a large number of people (hence the “crowd” part) to help you. The crowd can then suggest answers, and the best answer is either voted upon by the crowd or selected by the querent. Issues often presented are in the field of software development, programming, data entry and general FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).
Crowdfunding, raising money to finance a project or new small business, is another way that the “crowd” can be accessed and utilised thanks to the internet. Usually, payment schemes in crowdfunding are either donation-based (people donate money for your business to get started) or as micro-loans (small amounts to pay back to an individual, usually interest-free and after a short period of time).
Mini-Outsourcing #5: Virtual Assistants
Most virtual assistants (VAs or VPAs) aren’t based in India anymore, and their reputation is steadily increasing. Now that practically everything can be done through the internet, personal assistants don’t necessarily have to be physically present. Whether you want to schedule appointments, book flights, order flowers or just have some general research done on certain topics, a virtual assistant is a great solution.
Isn’t there a downside to subcontracting or outsourcing?
Well, of course there is a negative aspect to everything in life. Before you start utilising mini-outsourcing, you should generally weigh the costs and benefits. Many payment schemes are insured, meaning you don’t have to pay the freelancer unless he/she actually completes the work. You can also rate the quality and efficiency of the person’s work.
Other points to consider are:
- How much time do you need to invest in training in your new freelancers or subcontractors? Would they possibly be working from a different country or different time zone?
- Is the job you want to outsource your core-competency or is it just a basic task which has to be done but could easily be done by someone else to save your time and energy?
- How much money would you be saving by taking advantage of mini-outsourcing? An analysis of your cost structure can help you to identify high fix costs!
- Would mini-outsourcing release resources you can use to maximize your earnings?
- Are your projects highly confidential (such as for a law firm or medical office), or can information be shared outside the company?
- Does your potential partner ensure you the confidentiality which is required for your project?
- Are there any legal implications (different ways in claiming the expense on your taxes, for example)?
If you have experience using mini-outsourcing, I’d be glad to read about your experiences and opinions! Leave a comment below or get in touch with me via email.