Outsourcing various tasks is an incredibly attractive concept to many of us; you can save time and (hopefully) money by offloading a repetitive or time-consuming task which you probably don’t enjoy doing anyway. What’s not to love?
However, whilst outsourcing is almost inevitable for any company wishing to grow, you need to be 100% certain that you’re making the right decision before you ship any old task off to another far away country. Not only do you need to be comfortable that the person on the other end of the conversation will do these tasks well, but (more importantly) you should be considering whether the task you’ve chosen is right to outsource in the first place.
By considering the various aspects of both the task and the act of outsourcing it, you can sit comfortably with your decision in handing off the duty to another party.
How Difficult Is The Task?
First up, you need to assess how difficult the task you wish to outsource is. Try to examine it from the perspective of someone who has never carried out this task before and has no prior knowledge of it, as this will help you gauge how long the training period would take for the VA to pick it up.
To put it bluntly, the more difficult a task, the longer it will take the new member to complete (especially the first few times they do it); if your chosen outsourced activity is tough as nails, don’t expect that it will be done faster or even at a similar speed by an external source.
Remember that the difficulty of any task can be softened a little with a thorough employee onboarding process, and by documenting your SOPs, as this automatically provides clear instructions for anyone and everyone to be able to complete a task up to your team’s standards.
Are There More Important Issues Lacking Attention?
The whole point of outsourcing a task shouldn’t be to give you more free time to do whatever you choose. Instead, it should be to hand off a time consuming, less important task to someone else in order to tackle the issues which only you can complete.
For example, if you find that your days are full of content promotion duties when, in fact, you should be producing said content, alarm bells should be going off in your head. At some point or another this will happen to both you and the rest of your team as the company grows; in the same way that startup founders learn to hand off tasks to other team members, you need to bite the bullet and assess whether your time could be better spent.
If there’s something which you could be doing of higher value, it’s a prime candidate for outsourcing.
Could The Task Be Automated Instead?
This is a biggie. Some tasks, such as managing invoices, transferring customer data and organizing events in your calendar seem, at first, like perfect choices to outsource. After all, pretty much anyone can do them quickly, and you could spend your time better by securing future sales, or working on the next big project. Then again, why employ a human to spend their days on these tasks when they can be automated for a fraction of the price?
Business process automation is serious stuff; not only can you save the time it would take for another person to do the task for you, but programs like IFTTT and Zapier can even carry out these tasks for free (depending on the complexity and apps involved). If you’re considering outsourcing a task which involves getting two or more apps to synchronise, automation is a much better option.
One example is using Likeable Local to automate your social media output. Likeable Local creates tailored feeds of social media content and schedules it to drip out across your accounts on different platforms. You can also put it in charge of setting up social media ads that get results because they take the guesswork out of amplifying your reach.
Another example could linking your PayPal and Xero accounts so that new invoices are automatically created for each and every PayPal sale you make. Communication on separate apps like Trello and Slack can be centralized by making any added cards, comments, attachments, etc, report into a Slack feed of your choice.
Your own creativity is truly the limit with automation; if you can think of a way to get your apps talking that Zapier and IFTTT can’t manage, why not blast out your own API integration?
Are You Gaining Value By Outsourcing?
This may seem like an odd question to have to ask when considering the questions you’ve already asked, but it’s a fantastic way of ensuring that you’re making the right decision with the given task. By now you should already know how difficult the task will be to a fresh face and what more important tasks you could be achieving with your newly saved time. The extension of this is to consider what you gain by outsourcing the task against the costs of doing so.
There’s a very good reason that I avoided saying “money” in this question, as the value you gain isn’t always in hard cash. Let’s say, for example, that you’re paying a total of $200 for a one-off task to be outsourced and, with the time you save, you test out various applications that your company are thinking about using. It’s true that you didn’t make any money during that saved time, and so that’s you $200 out of pocket, but weigh that against the experience or knowledge you’ve gained and it suddenly becomes a much better use of your time.
Alternatively, you can take the hardline approach of money; if you’re spending more than you’re gaining with the saved time, consider either outsourcing another task or tackling a more important and valuable issue with your newfound time.
Is There A Security Risk With Outsourcing This Task?
This question can relate to a couple of potential issues with outsourcing a task. First, you need to consider whether or not any sensitive information is involved in the task you want to hand off. If so, consider the security offered by the person you are outsourcing to; typically, this should be a privacy agreement which prevents any important data leaking, but you can never be too careful.
If the potential security risk is high, it goes without saying that you should probably deal with the task internally. If not, then go right ahead and enjoy the benefits brought up by the previous questions!
Benjamin Brandall is the head of content marketing at Process Street where he writes on SaaS, productivity and startups.
He also runs a personal blog on writing and UX.
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