All of us are limited in the time and energy we have. Everyone requires a balance of work and rest, and no one person can do it all.
This is especially true when it comes to business. There are so many responsibilities, it can be tough to keep track of it all.
If you are looking to grow and scale your business, at some point, the question needs to be asked:
“Should I do the work myself or outsource it?”
This seemingly simple question has more to it than you might think, and in this post we will explore this.
In addition to this exploration, I will be sharing with you my experience with outsourcing and offloading work, and discussing when I think it’s appropriate to do the work yourself or if you should outsource it.
Should You Do the Work Yourself or Outsource it?
First, with a lot of these side hustle and business discussions, we need to set the stage.
For the purpose of answering the question of “should you do the work yourself or outsource it?”, we need to establish some guidelines.
Let’s get this one out of the way: if the revenue is there, outsourcing is generally a good thing to pursue – be it in a digital business or physical product business.
Many of us would love to build a business which spits out money each and every day. Wouldn’t it be great to be on the golf course every day and not have to work? 😉
Unfortunately, not everyone is in a situation in which they can just outsource everything.
Instead, let’s frame this question and answer in terms of a growing business.
This growing business is a business where you have launched, but are still working 10-20 hours (if part time) a week trying to get sales, make tweaks, perform operations, and grow the business.
This business might be digital or it might be physical. In my case, I’m going to talk about both sides of the spectrum.
Again, let’s keep in mind we are talking about a growing business where you have a lot of things to get in place, and at the same time, a lot of things to continue to do on a daily basis to ensure operations go smoothly.
When You Should Do the Work Yourself
Nobody has an unlimited amount of free time. Many of us have kids, friends and family that take up a lot of our time.
If we are trying to build a business on the side of our day job, we probably have, at maximum, 30 solid hours of work that can get done per week.
With such limited time, you may wonder when it makes sense to outsource the job or to just do it yourself.
Here are three times when it makes sense to do the work yourself:
If You Enjoy It
My recommendation is that you should always do the task if you enjoy it.
Whether that’s accounting, web design, social media, etc., if you enjoy it, then by all means, keep doing it!
At the same time though, if you find yourself dreading doing a particular task, then it might make sense to look for someone who enjoys doing those things.
If You Don’t Have the Financial Means
In addition to asking yourself what you enjoy doing, there’s also a cost factor that must be considered.
When starting a business, making sure you don’t run out of money is incredibly important.
If you aren’t bringing in many sales or a lot of revenue, then doing the work yourself is probably a better choice until the cash register starts ringing.
If You Have the Expertise
The last thing you should consider when outsourcing is if you have the expertise to do the work.
Many people don’t do their taxes by themselves because the tax code is complex, so they hire an accountant or use tax software.
Similarly, with a business, there might be tasks you don’t necessarily know how to do but are necessary to the success of your business, like web design, IT work, or contracts with a lawyer.
All of these are things you should consider when deciding to outsource or not.
When You Should Outsource the Work
In theory, outsourcing should create less work for you and save energy later on as other people or technologies are helping you complete your tasks.
While it doesn’t make sense for everyone to outsource help, for some people it makes a lot of sense.
Here are two times when it makes sense to outsource the work:
If You Hate a Task
As I mentioned in the last section, outsourcing the work makes sense when you don’t necessarily like what you are doing, but are getting paid to do it.
For example, I’m not the biggest fan of doing social media marketing, so if I can focus on doing what I love – web design, customer service, and content creation – then my product will be better.
Finding a good social media marketer would be very beneficial and is something that I have actually done for my business.
There are pros and cons to each, but if you do decide to hire someone, you can hire them as an employee (which comes with a whole mess of laws, costs, and regulations) or as a contractor (less regulated but with a lot more risk because there’s not much skin in the game for the contractor).
If You Don’t Have the Resources or Expertise
If you’re selling a physical product and trying to grow your business, it’s likely you’ll have to outsource some of the tasks.
For example, I don’t have access to a warehouse, and my time is very limited, so rather than using all of my time to source, package, and ship my items, I rely on outsourcing to handle that part of the equation.
Most people don’t have this ability.
Using outsourcing to handle this part of the job allows me to run my business.
This is where I am right now, and I want to share what I’m currently doing with you right now.
My Experiences with Outsourcing
Currently (like literally this week in the middle of August), I’m talking with a few fulfillment centers to discuss the outsourcing of my kombucha tea subscription kit business.
I’m doing this for a few reasons:
- To scale, with a physical product, since I don’t have access to a warehouse, outsourcing to a dedicated fulfillment center with the technology to do this efficiently is a great choice
- I need to prepare for the Christmas season.
- Last November and December, I ended up getting about 40 orders which took a significant effort on my part (and also significant space in my house) to fulfill the day before New Year’s Eve.
- I’d like to explore eCommerce and One-Time Purchases
- This is something that I can’t do in my current work because of the time and space commitment
Right now, my product margins are pretty solid, but this doesn’t consider the work I’m putting in.
Currently, I estimate the profit margin at about 30%, but again this doesn’t consider the hours I’m putting in, the storage and energy costs, and a number of other things I’m ignoring because I’m doing the work for free.
Unfortunately, I only have pricing from one of the fulfillment centers (I’m still waiting on a few other quotes), but with this quote, my margin would still be around 20%. I’m definitely in favor of doing this, but am still going to wait to make sure it’s the right choice.
Things to Keep in Mind When Outsourcing
While outsourcing can be great for your business, there are some things you should keep in mind before you take the plunge:
Understand Your Needs
Before you just start hiring people willy-nilly, you’ll want to know if it even makes sense for you to outsource. The easiest way to determine this is to write it out.
Make a list of all the jobs that need to get done.
Narrow the list down between jobs you don’t like doing (a good outsourcing candidate), and jobs that you both enjoy and perform well (these jobs should be your focus).
Now that you have your list, you’ll want to start looking for candidates who can help you with tasks.
The best way to do this is to start small. Instead of trying to outsource everything all at once, focus on one critical area you need help with, and find someone to help.
For example, you could look around for a virtual assistant who could help with basic administration tasks for just a few hours per week.
Create an Onboarding System That Works
Working with someone new can be difficult. Neither of you are familiar with the other person or their work, and new employees aren’t mind readers – they need guidance.
A great way to make things easier for your new employee is to have onboard systems in place when they arrive.
Creating a system that outlines what needs to be done based on the tasks you do on a daily basis is a great starting point for a new employee. It gives the employee an idea of what needs done and gives the employer piece of mind knowing that if they follow the system, their work should be satisfactory.
These onboard systems ensure that your employee is not only aware of their duties, but that the workplace is ready for them as well.
Check out this article from the Society of Human Resource Management on how best to integrate a new employee into their work environment using onboarding.
Try a Trial Run
When outsourcing someone for your business, perhaps the best thing to do is perform a trial run.
This allows you both time to see if you’re a good fit for each other and if you mesh well together.
If it doesn’t work out after a week or two, then you can both agree and move on amicably. If it does work out, your employee can continue to work and you can agree on a longer term contract.
Finding Good Help Can Be Hard
There are so many freelancers out there looking for work that it’s not always easy to find good ones.
Make sure your potential employee has references, and ask for examples of previous work so you can get an idea of how they perform the task.
For example, if you’re hiring someone to help you with Pinterest, you want to make sure they’re experts. They need to know how to create visually appealing pins, drive traffic, join group boards, etc.
Communication Is Important
If you’re hiring someone to do some work, it’s likely they won’t live anywhere close to you – they may not even be located in the same country!
This can make working together difficult, but it can still be done.
When your employees work remotely, it’s essential to have several functioning forms of communication in place. Whether that’s using email, texting, phone conversations or video chat, keeping in touch with your employees is a must.
Follow up any verbal instruction with written instructions and ask people to relay information back to you in order to check that they have understood your message.
How Do You Outsource Your Work?
In the past, and currently, how you go about outsourcing your work is dependent on the work you want to outsource!
For fulfillment, I was performing Google searches and looking at a number of sites. My target was a company in the United States and a company that is focused on helping small businesses.
We will see how the next few weeks go, but I’m definitely excited for the future here! Being able to step away from the daily operations and focus on growth will be exciting and a completely new endeavor for me. In the coming months, I’ll definitely share this progress with you and give you my recommendations and takeaways from this process.
Concluding Thoughts on Doing the Work vs. Outsourcing
All of us have a limited amount of free time.
At the end of the day, determining whether you should do the work yourself or outsource is a personal question.
The easiest way to figure out it out is by asking yourself some questions:
Do you enjoy doing the work? Do you have the capital and expertise to hire out the work?
It might make sense to do that if your time is limited and your bank account can handle it.
I’m still exploring this path more and more, but with outsourcing, I do believe scaling becomes a little bit easier as you’ll be able to continually focus on what’s next and not fall face first when an unexpected rut in the road comes into your path.
Readers: Have you ever outsourced for a job or project? What’s your take on this question?