How to outsource on a tight budget

smart-725843_640If you’re running a part-time business, you’ll be very short of time. You can automate a few  tasks, but the only real way to buy more time is to get help from other people.

The problem is that you can’t outsource work unless you’ve got the money to pay for it. You need the time to earn money, but you can’t get that time until you’ve got someone else working for you!  It’s a vicious circle.

Here are three ways to break that circle…

1. Local freelance help

Have a look around for people who would like short-term flexible work. There are many mums out there who would like to boost their income, but don’t want the commitment of starting their own businesses. The same could be true for teenagers, students or retired people.

You could recruit local teenagers to do the post office run – a great help if you run an online business. If you’re working from home, you could get a babysitter to entertain your children while you work. All of these options could save you time compared to hiring temporary staff in the usual ways, such as through an agency.

But you don’t have to outsource just business tasks. If housework takes up a big chunk of your time, why not outsource that? Cleaning costs less than many business services such as bookkeeping, so it could make good sense to outsource the housework first.

If you’ve got a nagging doubt that this is exploiting a cheap source of labour, the trick is to make sure both parties benefit. As a teenager, I know I would have welcomed the chance to do something more interesting than the usual newspaper rounds and shop work, not to mention the extra cash. You could also offer them a reference if they need one.

But isn’t this taking work away from other businesses? Wouldn’t it be better to give work to a qualified virtual assistant than a teenage neighbour?  My take on this is that when you’re starting out, you simply don’t have the money to pay a professional. The professional isn’t losing out as you can’t afford her anyway!

With a little time and outside help, you will get to the point where you can hire a bookkeeper or virtual assistant. But if you struggle on alone, you may never be able to afford one.

2. Barter

Not quite outsourcing, but it’s a way of doing what you do best and handing the other stuff to someone else. If you’re a (very!) amateur web designer, handing over your website to a start-up web designer could save you hours of struggling. Meanwhile, you could do what you do best for them in return.

End result: you get your website done in less time than you could do it yourself and it doesn’t cost you money.

3. Go overseas

Outsourcing overseas isn’t just for big business. You can hire people on or to do programming, writing, design work and more. Those that are based outside Western Europe or USA are usually much cheaper than freelancers in the UK.

Now this could be worrying for several reasons – are these people being exploited? What is the quality of work going to be like? What about overcoming cultural differences? All need careful consideration, but I’ve been surprised lately by the belief among some small business owners that outsourcing in the UK is ethical, but outside the UK it’s exploitation.

I went to Mumbai with my previous job and I worked with an Indian team for about three months in total (both in the UK and India). They were incredibly professional, hardworking and very well qualified. It would be completely wrong to write-off Indian IT professionals just because they live in India! Cultural differences were much less of an issue than I thought they would be – these guys were used to working with Brits, they’d been doing it for years. As for the low cost – the cost of labour is lower in India, so they can afford to charge a lower hourly rate.

I can’t speak for China, the Philippines or Eastern Europe as I’ve no experience of these places, but I feel it’s not fair to disregard a freelancer just because they aren’t based in the UK. Outsourcing overseas isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely worth thinking about.

So there you have it – lots of ways you can get affordable help with growing your business. If you’ve got any more, please drop me a comment!


  1. great advice – thanks for sharing it here

  2. Hi Helen, this is Nicole Miller from (formerly known as I hear about the exploitation issue a lot as well, but I don’t think people realize that although the amount paid for work may be small to us, that same amount is often much larger to the worker who receives it, and therefore, doesn’t necessarily indicate poor quality work. $100 to us could be $1,000 to a foreign worker who is subsequently certainly willing to do a good job for it.

  3. Daniel Priestley, the social media guru and head of Triumphant Events, which runs events with international speakers, says that no business should be without what he calls ‘web ninjas’ – teenagers who are web-savvy and can do things in minutes that would take us hours! They are also thrilled to earn a few pounds for something that is second nature to them and it’s good training for the future.

    • Judy, I agree with you there. Do you happen to know where you can find a teenage web ninja when you need one? I guess it’s just a question of networking and keeping an watching out for one to come along! I often have a rant about the fact that we don’t teach entrepreneurship to kids (that’s how to start and run a business, rather than an academic study of how big business is done), so working with a web savvy teenager could be really helpful to both parties.

  4. Thanks Julia, glad to help!

    Nicole, thanks for sharing your experiences. In the UK over the last few years we’ve heard a lot about foreign workers begin exploited and of course it’s something to be aware of. But very few Brits have worked with foreign workers in their own country and seen just how well-qualified and efficient they can be. Also, the UK is one of the most expensive places in the world to live and I think we forget you can get a lot more for your money in many other countries.

  5. The teenage offspring of friends are useful contacts! Many schools now have schemes to encourage entrepreneurship and maybe they would help match you up?

  6. I agree that out sourcing is a great way to leverage your business or even personal time. Clearly it’s important that there is a win-win relationship with the person doing the work and this is reflected in the article and the points re: local economies etc

  7. What a great post Helen. Its so true. It is important to outsource to give you time to do other work. Do not see it as a weakness. If someone can do a job better than you it is better than you struggling to do a job you cant do well.

  8. I just started my own online business so I appreciate all your suggestions – one thing I did not realize was how much time it would actually take to get things done especially when you have to do it all yourself and work a full time job and make family your number one priority.

    I am doing this so run my own business full time and leave my job – At my current job I always think “I am working my butt off for someone else! I want to work this hard for myself and for my own business – imagine how successful I could be if I put this much effort into my own business” Well now, I am going to find out because I will be officially launching my online store (and ready for business) at the end of October and I CAN’T WAIT!

    I think outsourcing some of the work is a good idea – focus on what you need to focus on and outsource the little things because it will allow you more time in the long run.

    • Thank you Krista! I can really relate to the ‘working my butt off off for someone else’ thing! All the very best with your online business and let us know how it goes.

  9. hi there great advice i need someone to do my ad copy for press releases etc need someone in inda whois baby savy anyone any contacts

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