It used to be a question for the biggest businesses: what do we outsource? It’s still being asked around board tables, but now the size of company is immaterial. There’s very little in business that can’t be handed off to an outside expert – even outsourcing itself.
So what are some of the areas you can outsource? Here’s a taster:
- Brainstorming: P&G and Dell famously use crowdsourcing to innovate, but it’s just as easy for small firms. Use social networks or tools such as Rypple or Thoughtboxes to collaborate, share ideas and get feedback.
- Creatives: Manage clever creative types from a distance. Online ‘marketplaces’ are springing up for design talent, ad creatives, writers, programmers… the list is growing: peopleperhour, elance and guru.com are just a few places to find talent. Increasingly, this extends across the workforce: contractors from sales to data entry to web design & software application design will work by the hour. (It sounds ruder than it should.)
- Data storage. From document repository Dropbox to bigger gig guardians such as Rackspace, you can get someone else to house big file servers– and potentially do away with the office altogether.
- Errands: Check out Taskrabbit if you’re in California, agentanything in New York/New Jersey, or Errandsplus in London.
- The FD: Can’t afford a full-time bean counter? Try virtual FD, for example.
- Fitness: OK, you can’t exactly outsource it, but there are plenty of apps and gadgets to help you stay motivated.
- Funding: New crowdfunding sites like CrowdCube (among others) are an alternative to angel investment and are particularly popular for grassroots arts projects, social enterprises and inventors. If you’re more conservative, you can try invoice finance or asset-based lenders but check out this Business Link backgrounder before handing your books to an outsider.
- Ideas: This is more a case of outpouring than outsourcing, ensuring you get ideas down when they occur to you, either digitally or on paper.
- Marketing – from email campaigns to advertising to virtual PRs, this is an area many small businesses would expect to outsource.
- Meetings & conferences (and automating the invites)
- PAs: Use a ‘virtual PA’ to stay on top of things, either with telephone-based services such as Moneypenny in the UK (but your clients don’t have to know that), TimeSvr or AskSunday, to name just a few.
- Project management from our gurus and role model at 37 Signals.
- Retailing: Set up a virtual store and a mobile operation with ease. Then use cloud-based software to manage supply chain and procurement.
- Servers Web-based activity can be outsourced to ‘hosts’ with far greater server capacity than most small businesses could afford independently. Security is usually included in the tariffs.
- Telecoms: Remote working can ratchet up the communications costs, so specialists such as Ezwim or Xigo are worth a look. Just make sure they play nicely with other expense management software.
- Workplace: Like Jason Fried says, ‘work doesn’t happen at work’. You can collaborate online, find a place to park yourself using WorkSnug and take advantage of the boom in cool, central office spaces cropping up in major cities.
- Your life: Eating, shopping, travelling – who’s got time for all that? But if you can’t quite stretch to Quintessentially’s ultra-smart service, you could try the more modest offerings of GetFriday.