What have you outsourced?

Herts, England United Kingdom
Kudos: 11,516
Joined: Jan 1, 2001
What have you outsourced?
31 Jul 2015
What part(s) of your business have you outsourced, or tried to outsource?

Did it work out? Any tips for others?
Andy Geldman, Web Retailer
Please follow on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+
Midlothian, VA United States
Jax Music Supply
Kudos: 2,310
Joined: May 25, 2009
Re: What have you outsourced?
31 Jul 2015
I outsource when I can. I outsource much of my bookeeping. There is a lot of data entry of my inventory each month. I scan (if not an electronic invoice) and put all the invoices and bank statements in a shared dropbox folder for entry and balancing.

In addition to the bookkeeping, I also outsource parts of my programming needs. Although I have a Masters in Computer Information Systems, and was formerly a software developer, it is more efficient for me to have someone else do some of this work. I act as overall designer and write requirements while the programmers I hire do the coding and unit testing. Sometimes it is very small projects that just make my life easier. Most recently I paid someone to create a VBA macro in excel that did some data formatting. I paid $20 to have this done and it saves me about 30 minutes a month. Well worth it and it would have taken me at least 1 to 2 hours to program it myself.

I cannot know every platform, language, and technique that is needed in a multi-channel marketplace. Outsourcing allows me to concentrate on vision "big picture" things while increasing overall productivity. It also is a job creator - even if it is in India.
Derby United Kingdom
Kudos: 49
Joined: Apr 3, 2015
Re: What have you outsourced?
31 Jul 2015
@Andy Hi, as a website designer and marketer I wanted to offer my customers designs for Business Cards and Brochures as part of my service. Sure I can do the design but I cannot print them cost effectively.

No problem, I am discussing a reciprocal benefical arrangement with the lady who does my printing and may get some (web) work back from her too when she can't deliver. Networking is always worth looking at, even if immediate partnerships are not obvious but very much for the future too.

In fact a lot of my services are handled by people who specialise in them, I resell domain names and website designs if that is what suits the clients needs best. Some of these I get a cut of, others I offer regardless because it makes sense to deliver my customers a complete service and not give them chance to look at the competition once I have sold them my proposition.

[Last edited: 31 Jul 2015]
Los Angeles, CA United States
Kudos: 90
Joined: Jan 5, 2013
Re: What have you outsourced?
31 Jul 2015
At Sellbrite, we outsource our HR and Payroll. In this very litigious world we live in, making sure your company complies with the ever-growing list of HR policies and regulations is super important (especially in California, where we're located). Having an HR expert prepare the company handbook, onboard new hires, review documents, etc. is invaluable. We look at it like insurance to keep us compliant and help avoid unnecessary legal issues down the line (not that we're intentionally doing anything that we think could land us in hot water, but ignorance of all the HR laws in your state is dangerous). We're too small to justify a full-time HR hire or department, so outsourcing it makes sense.

Taking the Payroll processing burden off our plate is extremely helpful as well. There's a lot that goes into deducting and paying income taxes, tracking vacation time, etc., and having an expert do this for us is worth way more than we're paying for it.
Israel Israel
Kudos: 123
Joined: Aug 28, 2014
Re: What have you outsourced?
2 Aug 2015
The answer will be different for every company, depending on the profile of the business. With that, after many years and trials (successful and not) I would choose the 3 simple rules first:

  • Never outsource the core business (in our case it's the ecommerce services and extensive programming). Only the surrounding work. Book keeping, head hunting, some design work, create mobile version of the design based on the existing one, maintain the VoIP telephony and servers... The core work has to be done in-house. It's harder in the short term but pays out in the long term.
  • Outsource on project base only. Not by hourly-paid-work-that-never-ends. Define the project, get the time/price estimation, close the milestones, get to work.
  • while calculating costs we add 25% on extensive management / remote work overhead (at least), comparing to the in-house work.

  • Hope it helps!
    Igor Nusinovich, Co-Founder & CEO

    Valigara Online Jewelry Manager
    Multi-channel eCommerce for Jewelry and Diamonds
    United States United States
    Kudos: 333
    Joined: Oct 7, 2014
    Some Pitfalls of Outsourcing
    4 Aug 2015
    I have outsourced Amazon listing, web design, marketing (including social media), SEO, Project Management and template design for Ebay with widely ranging results. I have found an excellent graphic designer in the United States, and had one project manager who was really excellent. I like the overseas lister we've just begun working with. The rest have ranged in quality from poor to merely overpriced (though some were very well-meaning). Some of the issues are:

    Communications: Working with someone in a distant time zone with poor English skills will cost you far more time than you will ever save with their low hourly rate. You're better off paying more and being able to explain verbally to the person what you want. I've spent hours writing long detailed emails which are then misunderstood or partially ignored, and then had to write another long email to explain it.

    Self-Proclaimed "Experts": The ecommerce world has no credentials and is filled with charlatans and liars. That's the sorry truth. I could go on a long rampage about "experts" but the short version is that just because they know more than you do, doesn't make them an expert and it doesn't mean they have any understanding at all about your business or making it successful. Newcomers to ecommerce desperate for success are particularly vulnerable to these people.

    Monthly Flat rate Charges: Many consultants, whether for SEO, SEM, Social Media etc will want to put you on a monthly flat fee, without accounting for hours they've put in. That means that the less they work, the more profitable it is, while for you, you're trying to get maximum work out of them but have no way to track what they're doing. Your interests are immediately at odds with theirs: run don't walk.

    Outsourcers who Outsource: You hire the "expert," but they, in turn, hire someone else to do the work. I was in a situation where I basically did all the work, the Amazon listing contractor hired a third person to do the formatting, who I paid, and he was pretty much an intermediary. It got my items up, which was great, but at considerable expense and work on my part, and he was not at all knowledgeable about Amazon SEO etc.

    When You've Got A Hammer, Everything Looks Like A Nail: These are the people who, because they are experts in a given specialty, tell you that that specialty is the solution to your problem. In actuality, you probably need to try lots of different things rather than going in for a ton of SEM, or doing a million social media posts that no one pays attention to.

    The best consultant I ever hired was an SEO guy who audited my marketing and SEO efforts and showed me I was spending about $75 per click on SEO and that I'd gotten no sales at all from social media. I thanked him and fired my marketing company the next day, and that was the point where I actually started learning about my business and making money.

    You need to understand the basic elements of every platform you sell on in order to make intelligent business decisions. You can't rely on someone to understand Amazon or Google Adwords for you. However, contractors can greatly increase your learning rate and ultimately are essential to a small business. Over time I am finding skilled, reliable people to work with on a regular basis, but it's probably at a ratio of 2-3 failures to every successful relationship.

    Hope this is helpful.

    [Last edited: 4 Aug 2015]

    World First
    Seller Dynamics