In today’s digital age, we have numerous devices helping us run our lives “smarter”—our homes, cars, and even our businesses. Everything is connected, intuitive, automated, and working together to make our lives more efficient.
Stephen Covey once said:
“If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting.”
I think this is why people offload many of their day-to-day responsibilities onto smart devices. If there is a way to accomplish something faster, easier, and better, why not take advantage of it? We’re not going to get anywhere if we keep relying on the inefficient and outdated ways of yore.
The same logic, arguably, should apply to employing people.
Outsourced labor is a valuable asset in our always-on, connected world. Whether it be to the accountant who lives down the street or the web developer located in the Philippines, these are the new team members who will help your business be “smarter” in 2017.
The Connection Between Outsourced Labor and Smart Businesses
Not every smart business decision will revolve around the technology you invest in. This is especially true for service-based companies that rely on individual talents and skill sets to round out their offerings.
At this point, you’ve employed a team of intelligent and well-trained individuals to power your company. However, there may come a time when that isn’t enough. While it’s natural to consider how far you can push your team in order to maximize output, you know that’s dangerous territory—not only for you, but for your clients. If you don’t want to sacrifice the health of your team nor do you want to cut back on client commitments, you need to work smarter.
Step 1: Explore the Use Cases for an Outsourced Workforce
You may be in need of outsourced labor if you answer “yes” to the following questions:
- Does your team regularly suffer from employee burnout?
- Do you spend too much time on tasks that you’re not great at solely so you don’t have to pay someone else to do it for you?
- Do you worry about paying for overtime, benefits, and additional taxes for new team members as you scale your agency?
- Have you turned additional work requests away because you don’t currently offer those services nor do you have an employee trained in them?
- Do you have too much work coming in that deadlines are now impossible to meet?
- Is there an interest in your services from abroad, but you don’t have anyone available in that time zone or fluent in that language to provide support?
- Do you find that your current team doesn’t cover the full range of skills required to cater to your clients’ needs?
- Have you recently lost an employee and have no one in place to pick up the slack?
- Have you thought about hiring a new employee, but been reluctant to hire them right away (whether for financial, security, or other reasons)?
- As the holidays approach, do you have to continually apologize to employees because you can’t afford to let them take a break?
This is all about being practical. You know what your strengths are and you know what your team is capable of handling. By confronting the realities of your situation, you’ll be better prepared to outsource route when the occasion arises.
Step 2: Recognize the Benefits of Outsourced Labor
According to a 2016 Deloitte survey, businesses around the globe turn to outsourcing as a means for innovation. While “innovation” can mean different things to different individuals, the benefits noted by Deloitte’s surveyed executives are universally accepted goals for smart businesses:
- 59% rely on outsourced labor to cut costs.
- 45% fill gaps in their team via outsourcing.
- 29% use contractors to scale globally.
- 20% improve efficiency through outsourcing.
These benefits are just the tip of the iceberg. Here are just some of the smart business benefits to think about when considering whether to stay the course, outsource, or hire:
You’d be surprised how many freelance contractors work at discounted rates. Add to that the fact that you don’t have to pay for taxes, benefits, equipment, or additional office space.
Save more money
Time theft is a problem for some businesses. With outsourced laborers though, you only pay for the time they worked (or for the pre-defined amount promised per project).
Nothing’s worse than going through a lengthy hiring cycle… only to discover months later that the person you hired wasn’t a good fit and now needs to be replaced. Outsourcing allows you to try out various individuals with little upfront commitment.
Protect your team
Overworking your team regularly has the potential to lead to a toxic environment and a drop in productivity. Outsourced contractors are a great way to create a healthier, more balanced work environment for everyone.
Some of your team members may want to be a jack of all trades, but is that really the most effective way to work? Enable your team to specialize and focus on what they do best. Then outsource the rest.
Expand your offerings
What does your agency do? Writing? Design? Development? Perhaps you want to test out transcription or video production services. You can add new services more quickly and easily by turning to freelance experts.
If you have clients located around the globe, this may be something to consider. 24/7 work coverage also enables you to deliver projects faster as work gets done while you’re away (or asleep).
So let’s say you’ve identified a need for outsourced labor. You know what the benefits are, and you’re ready to get started. What’s next?
Step 3: Learn How to Work Effectively with Outsourced Labor
Employing a distributed workforce comes with its own unique set of quirks—each of which is easy enough to get around if you know what to expect. Here are some common obstacles associated with outsourcing:
- Language comprehension
- Security or confidentiality breaches
- Honesty (especially as it pertains to hours billed)
- Dedication to company objectives
- Client hesitation (for those who wonder why you’re outsourcing as well as if their information is safe in the hands of non-employees)
Don’t let these obstacles keep you from moving forward. So long as you keep the following tips in mind, you can effectively navigate the outsourcing terrain.
Tip #1: Set your limits.
Before you look for contractors, define what you need:
- How much can you pay?
- How many hours do you want to pay for?
- Will you pay per hour or per project?
Tip #2: Define their qualifications.
Be specific about what you expect in terms of education, skills, work experience, language fluency, location, availability, and so on.
Tip #3: Clarify your expectations.
Develop internal guidelines and documentation that answer questions about your business’s overall objectives, your service offerings, and your process.
Tip #4: Use trusted resources for outsourcing.
You’ve got a few options when it comes to outsourcing labor:
- Request referrals from current team members.
- Advertise remote job openings on your website.
- Create a Craigslist ad.
- Use a hiring platform.
This last avenue may be one of the more popular ones since trusted outsourcing specialists like Upwork, Freelancer, and Guru make the process of finding contractors quite easy. You can set up jobs and allow freelancers to bid on them (giving you the opportunity to pick the best-fit from the lot) or you can contact freelancers directly. These platforms work however you want them to—just be sure to read the reviews, samples, and job history before hiring.
Tip #5: Utilize organizational tools.
You should already be doing this with your in-house team, but its especially important to have organizational and time-tracking tools in place when working with distributed contractors.
Tip #6: Treat outsourced workers like everyone else.
The ultimate goal in outsourcing is to relieve you and your team of tasks and responsibilities you don’t have the capacity for or experience in. But don’t make the mistake of assuming that outsourced labor will be a quick and easy fix to your problems.
If you’re bringing someone new into your business, you should treat them like your full-time employees in order to maintain consistency as well as to ensure a seamless experience for customers. This means they need training (at the very minimum on basic tasks), honest feedback, and clear guidelines. You can’t afford a lapse in judgment or direction to put your business at risk.
To be “smart” (in the digital sense) is to be more efficient, consistent, and effective. In other words, focus on what’s in your wheelhouse and then outsource the rest.
Remember: outsourced labor isn’t just for the small business owner that needs cheap labor. Sure, outsourcing is a great solution for that, but it’s not the only problem it fixes. If you’re getting ready to scale your agency, if you’re looking to expand your team’s capabilities, or if you’re just in a tough spot and need temporary coverage, it may be time to outsource.
What is your experience with outsourced labor? Have you found any other uses for it aside from the ones mentioned above?