You don’t have to go it alone—save time, money and your sanity by outsourcing.
Mary Beth Cauthen isn’t afraid to admit she’s not a numbers person. Since she opened her Rome, Georgia–based studio, The Dance Centre, she’s outsourced all of her bookkeeping. It costs her $2,500 annually—a big chunk of her studio’s budget—but Cauthen says it’s been well worth it for the past 32 years. “I trust the accounting firm I use implicitly to keep me on track with changing tax laws,” she says.
Even though you’re the only person who knows what’s best for your business, there comes a time when you must delegate some of your responsibilities. Outsourcing—contracting out an aspect of your business to another party—doesn’t have to mean rerouting your customer service calls to a remote company in India. By freelancing out parts of your biz, like bookkeeping, marketing and website design, you’ll free up time and money to pursue bigger business goals and improve your work-life balance.
If You Want It Done Right…Get Someone Else?
Not sure what to pass along to a freelancer? Make a list of every task you have in your business and ask yourself of each one: Do I enjoy doing it? Is it creative? Is it taking too much energy? Look for tasks you don’t have the expertise for, that would be done better, and faster, by someone else, like: hiring a seamstress to make costume alterations; automating a recurring process, like registration, by using studio-management software; finding an administrative assistant with social-media savvy to spice up your e-mail blasts.
For $500 per month, Donna Muzio of The Dance Center in West Chester, Pennsylvania, hires freelancers to do the studio’s website and graphic design—her admitted weak spot—including new studio promotions, e-mail blasts and calendar updates. “There are professionals in those fields who are trained to do a fabulous job, and that is one area that should be left to them,” says Muzio, who had no reservations about handing over the design element to others. She stays in constant contact with her designers, to update schedules or inform clients of any changes or events coming up. Despite leaving such an important part of her business to others, she’s never felt she’s not in control. Plus, “all other aspects of The Dance Center are done in-house,” she says.
Clear as Crystal
When choosing an outsourcing partner, you want the best fit. Jill Tirone, owner of DanceFit Marketing, recommends finding a contractor with a similar work ethic and systems; asking how he or she will handle the project; and always reviewing his or her work before hiring. “Sort out the mess first,” she says, “and then hand over the right pieces to the right person.” Before Cauthen hired her bookkeeper, she did her homework. “I think it’s extremely important to get recommendations from other small-business owners,” she says. Muzio found her designers through word of mouth.
Once outsourcing is in place, the next step is crucial: communicate. Not communicating your expectations will lead to frustration and failure, according to Tirone. “Assuming contractors are thinking what you’re thinking will lead to disaster,” she says. “Teach and train them, and communicate effectively.” Cauthen gave her bookkeeper her personal cell number, so that he could reach her immediately with any questions. “We talk over the phone probably six or eight times per year,” she says. Keeping the lines of communication open, she reports, has prevented any major issues over the years.
In the end, be confident about what you’re outsourcing—and what you’re not. If you believe you’re the best person for the job, chances are, you’re right. “Outsourcing something just because you don’t want to do it can lead to problems,” says Tirone. “You may be the best person for the job, even if you don’t want to be.” DT
Tina Benitez-Eves is a New York City–based writer who’s written for Men’s Fitness, Women’s Day and The Village Voice.
Where to Look for Help
Personal network Start with your own network of people. Ask friends, family and associates for referrals. Good for: hiring faculty and administrative assistants.
Upwork Business owners submit a job posting and receive a link to interested freelancers’ portfolios and work history. Good for: video editing; website design.
99designs Gather graphic-design pitches from various designers before choosing your perfect collaborator. Good for: logo design.
Tools to Try
Google Drive and Dropbox Store and edit documents, photos, presentations and spreadsheets via cloud storage.
Trello Create virtual bulletin boards for studio projects.
Asana Track each step of a project, from start to finish.
To Pay by the Hour, or by Project?
You want to save time, but you don’t want to lose money when outsourcing. Website building, graphic design and logos should be paid as a project (not hourly), to prevent a freelancer from charging extra or never completing the project.
Negotiate Like a Pro
Know your maximum budget and stick to it—though consider offering a bonus or incentive for completing a project sooner than its delivery date.
Set up tiers of payment to help you stay on track and on budget. When you define the services your outsourcer will provide, set milestones. Then pay based on those milestones. For example: Implement three milestones, and pay a third of the total once each is complete.