What Can I Outsource

What Can I Outsource?

what can I outsource

A common question we’re asked regularly at Richardson & Richardson is “What can I outsource?”

Small business owners often wear multiple hats and have limited resources, making it challenging to focus on core business activities.

Outsourcing certain functions can be a strategic move to allow you to concentrate on your core competencies. Here are some functions you can consider outsourcing:

Bookkeeping and Accounting:

Outsourcing financial tasks like bookkeeping, payroll, and tax preparation to a professional bookkeeper or accounting firm can ensure accuracy and compliance while freeing up time for strategic planning.  Most companies should have an accountant to discuss tax strategy, estate planning considerations, and year end reporting.

Remember, an accountant is not a bookkeeper.

A bookkeeper or bookkeeping firm will be less expensive than engaging a CPA for monthly financial reconciliation and reporting.  Your accountant may or may not have bookkeeping talent on staff.  As with all outsource functions, most of your monthly payments to a firm vs. a person cover the owners margins, not the staff doing the work.

If you can find a reliable contractor for bookkeeping you can expect to spend much less.  For example, my first bookkeeper was a retired accountant in my mom’s knitting group, and she charged less than 800 dollars a month.  To this date, she was the bookkeeper that I most enjoyed working with and who required the least amount of paperwork submitted from me to do the work.  She retired, and I moved on to a series of outsourced bookkeeping firms each charging 4-5x as much as my first contractor.  Eventually I was able to push the management of that vendor to an operations manager.

Administrative Support

Virtual assistants can handle administrative tasks such as email management, scheduling, data entry, and customer support, enabling you to concentrate on essential decision-making.  If you’re direct hiring a virtual assistant, be prepared to support them.  Expect to spend a few months teaching your new VA how to best work with you.

Unlike a professional executive assistant, a VA won’t have the ability to act with intuition or initiative.  You’ll need to build process and checklists to get the most value out of your investment.  It’s a good idea to consider redundancy in this role.  You can hire a VA through an established agency quite successfully.  Costs can vary wildly – offshore solo practitioners on Fiverr might charge 20 dollars a day while an agency employing US-based native English speaking VAs might charge US 300 or more daily.

Digital Marketing

Outsourcing tasks related to digital marketing, such as social media management, content creation, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising, and email marketing, allows experts to optimize online presence while you, the owner, focuses on business strategy.  Before outsourcing digital marketing, it’s a good idea to understand the fundamentals of PPC or SEO.

Some firms are strategic, while some are tactical.  Are you looking for a digital marketing strategy?  Strategy is normally a one-time engagement while execution is paid monthly.  Avoid “cookie cutter” niche-specific digital marketing firms – while they’re often inexpensive they’re also ineffective.

Your story should be unique to you.

Your strategy should be aligned with your own business goals.

Outsourcing digital marketing can be a blessing or a curse.  Do your research.  Check references.  Remember that marketing agencies market themselves better than they market anything else and the people that sell you the services are not the people who’ll be fulfilling them.

If you’d like recommendations for marketing agencies we’ve worked with and trust, please email me!

IT Services

This is a no-brainer in our world.  Ian owned a Managed IT Service Provider for over 20 years.  I have worked with 1300 IT firms.  If you need a recommendation for IT Support for your city or niche, email me!

Small businesses often benefit from outsourcing IT services like network management, cybersecurity, software development, and tech support to ensure systems run smoothly without the need for an in-house IT team.  Most MSPs charge per user or device and you’ll pay a fixed rate monthly for services.

Nothing breaks?  Good.  That means they’re doing their job.

Everything breaks?  You don’t pay more – which is great, you don’t want an unexpected bill that might mess with your cash flow.

Pricing for outsourced IT services varies from city to city and industry to industry.  A health care clinic will have different requirements from a marketing agency.  Pricing in New York, NY is wildly different from pricing in Omaha, Nebraska.  On average MSPs we have worked with charge 100-300 per user.  300 is incredibly high outside of major US markets unless you have very unique requirements.  If you’re planning to outsource your IT support, get several quotes and talk to your peers and competitors about who they’ve worked with.  If the quote seems much lower than the median, the company may not be operationally mature or financially stable.

Most well-established IT firms will charge around what their competitors do – they’ve all done the math on how to keep the lights on and make money and they want to be competitive but they won’t undercharge.  A very low quote means you may be risking substandard support from an immature firm.  A very high quote means get a second opinion.

Make sure you talk to your MSP/ITSP about cybersecurity.

If they don’t demand you implement security, they’re not an MSP you should be partnering with.  Your obligation around security extends to protecting your vendors and clients.  Don’t be the business owner that causes another business to go bankrupt because your IT systems were compromised.

Human Resources

HR functions like recruitment, employee onboarding, benefits administration, and compliance with employment laws can be outsourced, allowing the business owner to focus on managing the team effectively.  HR is one of the things I’d consider outsourcing first, especially if you haven’t yet built processes for onboarding new team members or invested in an employee handbook and contracts that are written for you by a competent attorney (vs. taking your peers contracts or asking GPT to write it for you.)

Legal Services

Unless your business is “law firm” this should be one of the first outsourced engagements you pay for.

Contract drafting, legal advice, and compliance issues can be outsourced to legal firms or sole practioners, ensuring that the business operates within the legal framework for your city, state and industry.  While a monthly legal retainer may seem like a huge investment I’ve never had a legal issue that could be resolved for less than a few thousand dollars.

Some industries have legal services that use templates they customize for you.  It’s not a bad idea, but trust me when I say you’ll want a good relationship with a great lawyer.  It’s better to have one and not need them than need them and not have them.

I stopped reading contracts or negotiating contracts years ago – I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know how that client redline might impact the contract terms.

Content Creation

For businesses requiring regular content production (blogs, articles, videos), outsourcing to freelance writers, designers, or content agencies can save time and maintain quality.

Avoid content syndication, it’s counter to the purpose of content marketing.

Your content strategy should be yours alone and tailored for your business goals.

Croocial can help you with this.   You don’t need to partner with us to ask us to review a proposal, by the way – so if you’re trying to decide what you’d like to spend your marketing budget on, we’re happy to give you our thoughts.

When considering outsourcing, it’s crucial to vet potential partners carefully, ensuring they align with your business’s goals, values, and quality standards.

Clear communication and well-defined contracts/agreements help establish expectations and ensure successful collaboration.

If you’re still asking yourself the question “What Can I Outsource” it might be time to ask “When Should I Outsource?”  

When Should I Outsource?

What Can I Outsource?  A Lot.  When Can I Start Outsourcing?  That’s a question only you can answer, but there are ways to make the decision – most of them financial but some very personal.

I would look at your opportunity cost first – what could you be doing with the time you’re spending running your own payroll, creating dozens of Twitter graphics or Facebook posts or reading 30-page vendor contracts?  Your time is not free – you know how much it’s worth because you know what you make per hour.  And odds are, if you had less to do that was non-billable, you could bill more time.

If your billable time is worth more than the amount you’d spend on an outsourced provider or if you have more work than there are hours in the week, it’s likely time to consider outsourcing some of the tasks that are getting in the way of you performing “highest and best use” or HABU owner activities.

Outsourcing Can Have a Positive Impact on More than Your Business

One of the things Ian and I both feel like we should have done differently is give up more of our day to day activities much sooner.

We missed a lot of time with our families and the negative impacts of that linger.    If you’re feeling pressure at home, it’s probably time to consider handing off some tasks so that you can take back some family time.  While people don’t talk about it much, entrepreneurship is very difficult on marriages and mental health.

Time with your partner and kids and time to focus on your interests and your health is never a bad investment.

Outsourcing the things that take up energy or cause conflict outside of the office are also considerations when it comes to freeing up more time.  Having a personal assistant, a housekeeper, a reliable child care provider, a dog walker or other help can make a big difference in your stress levels.  Pay someone to mow your lawn, pay someone to pick up your dry cleaning or your groceries.

Struggling with your mental health?  Please talk to someone sooner rather than later – depression and burn out are very common for entrepreneurs.  Ask for help.  I don’t know a single business owner who hasn’t experienced one or both from time to time – consider a peer group for moral support and professional services if necessary!

If you’re interested in a business health assessment that can help you determine your path to outsourcing some day to day tasks, schedule some time with Carrie to talk about it, we’re happy to help you plan to outsource the right things at the right times.

 


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