If 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.
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 Elance.com or peopleperhour.com 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!