What is outsourcing? Outsourcing is the process of finding an agency, freelancer or specialist in any given field of expertise and passing over the workload to them so that it can free up time for you to focus on running your business, save you money and reduce the risks associated with supporting staff in-house. It is also a way of accessing skills and experience that can drive business change without having to train staff and take the risks of doing something for the first time.
Since the early 90s, outsourcing was seen as a stable way for businesses to remove the fixed costs associated with the day-to-day running of business processes. It also became an efficient way for businesses to take up the latest innovations from within their chosen industry without having to invest up-front in products and training for staff. To this day, outsourcing is more important than ever and an important part of building relationships with professionals from other industries.
What are my options if I decide to outsource?
There are specialist suppliers of outsourcing services within the UK which all have their own distinctive advantages and disadvantages. Freelancers are sole traders, who usually work for themselves and this line of work is their main source of income. They normally charge a fixed daily/hourly fee and are often experts in one particular niche service so are often the first point of call for a company looking to outsource certain work aspects.
Agencies are larger organisations that specialise in various complementary aspects of the type of work you’re looking to outsource. For example a design agency will often be able to provide marketing advice, websites, mobile-apps, printing design and branding. Whereas a freelancer might only be able to provide one or two of these services.
Agencies, however traditionally work out of larger offices and have much more staff to accommodate the increased workload and as a result their fee’s normally reflect this, being a rather expensive alternative if you’re just starting out as a business owner.
How do I know an outsourcing partner is good?
Check their portfolio. Every freelancer or agency should have a portfolio of previous work they have completed for clients, you need to check that their style of work matches your company’s brand expectations. Sometimes the work they have completed might not be to your taste, but this doesn’t mean it wasn’t appropriate for the industry they were working in at the time, or for a demographic you might not be knowledgeable in.
Therefore, it’s important to check for ROI (return on investment) figures, or statistics which show how successful their projects have been. If they don’t show these, it raises cause for concern.
How do I ensure I get good value for money?
The answer is to submit a detailed brief, the more descriptive you can be about your requirements and goals the better a freelancer or agency will be able to provide a service that fits your brand guidelines. Normally you’ll get the opportunity to have a consultation with your supplier who will ask you various questions to ensure they understand what you’re looking for, this normally then follows a quote for their services and a contractual agreement which protects both you and your supplier from any misunderstandings moving forward.
Getting more out of freelancer and agencies is the end result. If services are measured or there are incentives linked to projects, they will be supplied properly. So consider stating that there is potential for ongoing work if the initial project is completed to a satisfactory standard.
Can I negotiate a contract?
Of course! There will always be margins for any and all types of outsourced services. Are you going to need them for an extended amount of time? If so, suggest a fixed monthly/daily rate instead of hourly billables. Work this into the contract to cover revisions, overtime and any additional work that might need to be implemented part-way through the contract period.
Have a list of questions you want to know the answers to before you sign anything and ask for a cooling off period to be written into the contract (usually 7 days in the industry standard).
Outsourcing can be a lucrative and cost-effective method of getting business done to a higher standard and in a timely manner than doing it yourself. It free’s up valuable time which you can spend on expanding your business, forming new relationships and selling more products.
Always look for what you are going to get out of it before approaching freelancers and agencies and make this clear from the get go.