How to get started with outsourcing

Are you thinking of outsourcing some of your tasks? There are only so many hours in the day so if you’re going to increase your work, you will need to get some help. One way of doing this is outsourcing.

Rachel Way runs The Work Bees who can help with Rachel Waysupport with recruitment, amendments to your website, temporary business development or a general pair of hands on deck on an ad hoc basis.

We asked her to take the hot seat in our weekly Ask The Expert session to help people wondering how outsourcing works, what you could outsource, and if it really does save time.

This is a transcript of a conversation in the Drive The Network Facebook Group.

What do companies outsource which really helps them grow?

Andy Boothman What is the most often requested piece of work that really helps businesses grow?

Rachel Way It is usually about processes. I have found there is a real pain point at about 2.5 – 3 years of running that businesses realise they need to prepare processes in order to hand over work to new team members. That is the first step of growth for many of them.

Andy Boothman Is there anything business-wise, that you wouldn’t advocate being outsourced?

Rachel Way There are two that I feel people try and outsource to the wrong people or for the wrong reason. One is your Tax obligations. It is something that I am asked for and need to push to the professionals because a lot of business owners will just hand it over to someone else without knowing their legal obligations. So my advice would be if you are going to do it, make sure it is someone really able to do it for you.

Then there are those things that I believe to take longer to delegate than doing them yourself. Travel is a good example. By the time you have gone back and forward with times to leave, times for flights, what you need in addition to your booking. It is doable but my experience is that it takes extra time.

Key things to think about when outsourcing

Rachel Extance What are the key things to think about when you’re outsourcing a task to someone else?

Rachel Way 1. Know exactly what you want to outsource and why
2. If possible make sure it has a process
3. Voice your expectations very clearly
4. Set deadlines
5. Agree how you want to be updated on progress

Sometimes this is where it is hard because you don’t know the best way, or there is no process and a good provider will help you to work through all of this.

Ann Hawkins When someone says they’re overwhelmed, overworked but don’t know where to start with outsourcing, is there any advice you give them that makes it easier to break down tasks or look at what’s possible?

Rachel Way There is Ann, because I love problem solving. I will often talk through it with a client as a starting point, we look at all of the pain points, all of the things they dislike doing, take too long to do, what they enjoy, what pays the bills etc. Then we look at deadlines and then as Andy pointed out, what is acceptable to outsource. Then I create an action plan.

In terms of advising customers to get started in the thinking on their own. I ask them to create a to do list for each day and then work out which things they should be able to delegate.

Ann Hawkins Then thinking about what you said above re tax etc., would you work through their list and advise what you can and can’t do and suggest others who might be able to do the things you don’t cover?

Rachel Way Absolutely. I feel very privileged to be part of a massive network of people who are brilliant at what they do and there is usually a way to support a client with what they need through the network if not through us directly. I work out how best to service that. Would it be best for us to project manage the work through a supplier or does it make far more sense for the client to work directly with someone else who we can refer to.

What’s the first thing you should outsource?

Helen Lindop What’s the first thing you should outsource if you’ve never done it before?

Rachel Way I would say the subject matter needs to be something that won’t have a detrimental effect if it is not done as you want, I wouldn’t recommend customer facing work to start with. That it should be a small project with clear instructions and a deadline date. By being this clear you are far more likely to have a good experience.

Helen Lindop If you don’t have much experience of outsourcing, what should you look for when hiring someone to do work for you? e.g. I’ve seen quite a few people in Facebook groups say they’ve hired VAs who turned out to be not very effective – what signs should we look for?

Rachel Way Oh my goodness Helen, it really can go wrong if you don’t find the right person. First of all, someone you feel gets you and what you do, someone you feel you can trust and has empathy.

I believe one of the elements of what we do that is more unique is that we instantly feel a part of a clients business, we ask questions, we say if we think the approach is wrong, we want to be in it with you and take on a feel of responsibility.

That isn’t always needed but it can make a hell of a difference when someone is really stuck with their business or the workload.

Setting expectations is so hugely important too. I would ask business owners who are doubtful because of previous experiences what they had expected from the individual? What outcomes had not been achieved and why do they think that was? Were they given everything they needed to fulfil the task? Not to point a finger of blame but to ascertain where it fell down.

Ann Hawkins We often talk about pricing in this group. Do you have set charges / hourly rates or do you always give a price for the specific job Rachel and how to do deal with hagglers?

Rachel Way Generally we work on an hourly rate or day rate. The jobs are always different and the degrees of input are also different. I have a rate for the admin level work and a secondary hourly rate when you are needing more input into strategy, approach, advice etc.

In terms of hagglers it depends on the why. If they are asking because they are in a mess and need some support for a while I will agree something with the client, if it is something for the greater good I may well accept a different rate but on the whole I have learnt how to stick to our pricing now. Easier when you are reaching capacity.

Andy Boothman What’s the most unusual outsourcing request that you’ve fulfilled?

Rachel Way The most unusual was probably helping someone file all of their paperwork. Everything personal as well as business. It was an eye opener for me because the individual was so pleased and said it was a life changer. It made me realise not everyone’s brain works the same.

Ann Hawkins Have you ever been asked to do something that you immediately decided you didn’t want to do Rachel?

Rachel Way Yes although I can only think of the one. It was leaving a book review for someone on Amazon on the day the book was released, not having seen it and with the words written for me.

I find that if a client tests my own values that is when I will say no.

Top tips for successful outsourcing

Rachel Way My parting tips:
1. Do learn to trust in the people you outsource too, they often have a great knowledge that you don’t necessarily have, don’t assume what you know is the truth of it.
2. Be cautious on who you go to and whilst there are some fab people on sites like Fiver, there are also a lot that don’t know what they are talking about.
3. Try it with something simple
4. Build a relationship with someone and welcome them and their thinking in.
5. If you don’t know where to start, just ask me, I won’t bite, honest.

Would you like to know more? Get in touch with Rachel Way or follow her on Twitter @TheWorkBees