Research and reports
Need more time to grow your business? Outsourcing can help manage necessary but time-consuming business admin for you, so you can focus on what’s important.
Whether you need support with marketing and accounting to help your business run smoothly or you need a short-term solution to staff training, outsourcing could be the answer.
This guide will help you understand what outsourcing is, the pros and cons, and examples where outsourcing can help your small business.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the outsourcing definition is to “obtain by contract from an outside supplier” and to “contract work out.”
This could mean payroll outsourcing, IT outsourcing, or even outsourcing business processes and HR as your business grows.
As a small business owner, chances are you’ll be used to working on every part of running your business, from sales and marketing to actually delivering the service or product itself.
If you’re finding you don’t have the time or skills to do certain tasks, it may be time to consider outsourcing. Here are just a few ideas of processes and functions that you can easily outsource to help you grow your small business.
Accounting and bookkeeping are often outsourced by small businesses. It’s important to get the process right so you don’t risk getting penalties from HMRC, but it’s also time-consuming and challenging if you’re not a financial expert.
Getting a professional accountant can save you money as you won’t have to spend time learning how to balance your books and pay your taxes.
Getting your marketing and SEO right helps you attract customers and grow your business, so it can be worthwhile bringing in some experts to help. An external marketing agency can take care of everything from creating content and adverts to website design and social media. Meanwhile, an SEO agency can support with website performance.
If marketing isn't something you enjoy, working with the creative experts can help get you started.
Perhaps you have an online shop and work with manufacturers to design and make your products. Or maybe you need help from a courier to deliver your products to customers. By outsourcing these processes, you’re able to spend more time focusing on your strategic direction and sales tactics.
Are you thinking of developing a new product? It’s important to spend time researching the market and understanding your target audience so you know what competitors are doing, and how you can stand out.
Focus groups, surveys and insight gathering all take time, so it’s common for small businesses to outsource this research phase.
You’re probably dependent on technology for your business, but what happens if something goes wrong? Whether you need help with your web design or have faced cybersecurity threats, you’ll need support from an IT expert.
Outsourcing technology could cover a range of tasks, including IT support, security, hosting, data storage, and network recovery and maintenance.
Let’s say you own a dog walking business and you’re attracting more clients (and dogs) than you have time to manage.
If you’re finding that a lot of your time is taken up with organising your finances and you’re turning down work, you may be missing out on growing your business to its full potential.
Using software solutions from a third-party and engaging an external contractor are both considered forms of outsourcing as you’re essentially giving up control in an area of your business to another provider.
If you're not sure what to outsource, start by thinking of your strengths and weaknesses. Annelise owns a small bridal shop called The Fall Bride. She shared her secrets to business success: "Understand your strengths and weaknesses – capitalise on the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses.
"When you’re just starting out you need to wear many hats but won’t be an expert at all of those different roles – figure out what is essential to outsource to ensure business success."
Outsourcing means you can scale your business up and down depending on the need, without having to spend money and time hiring and training new staff.
Other benefits include:
The nature of outsourcing means you’re relying on a third party to meet the high standards you set for your business, so you need to be sure you use a provider you can trust.
Disadvantages of outsourcing include:
To help mitigate some of these risks, it’s important to have a clear service level agreement (known as a SLA) with your providers so you can set the level of service you expect. You don’t want to risk losing money or even reputational damage with your clients if your provider isn’t up to scratch.
A SLA makes sure everyone is clear of their responsibilities. It also means you can set measures of performance so you know if the arrangement is working or not – and the penalties if the agreement isn’t met.
Depending on your business insurance policy, you may need to let your insurance company know if you start outsourcing or subcontracting work out to a third party.
It’s important that you check that any subcontractors have public liability insurance in place before they carry out any work for you. And, depending on your arrangement, you may be responsible for their health and safety. If this is the case, it’s likely they’ll need to be covered by your employers’ liability insurance.
If you’re just outsourcing software solutions, then this isn’t likely to affect your cover, but it’s always a good idea to check your policy documents.
As we mentioned earlier, using third-party software can be a way of outsourcing certain business processes. For example, you could use:
Remember, it's important to consider your profit margin when deciding whether to outsource part of your business. Think about money and time that it could save you. If you think it'll help your business in the long run then it may be a good option for your business.
What’s your experience outsourcing? Let us know in the comments.
Photograph 1: VAKSMANV/stock.adobe.com
Photograph 2: Friends Stock/stock.adobe.com
Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.
We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer
6th Floor99 Gresham StreetLondonEC2V 7NG
Sol House29 St Katherine's StreetNorthamptonNN1 2QZ
© Copyright 2023 Simply Business. All Rights Reserved. Simply Business is a trading name of Xbridge Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Financial Services Registration No: 313348). Xbridge Limited (No: 3967717) has its registered office at 6th Floor, 99 Gresham Street, London, EC2V 7NG.