To outsource or not to outsource?

Running a small business means juggling IT, marketing, purchasing, accounts, HR etc, as well as working for clients. I’m sure I’m not alone in facing the dilemma of whether to do all the tasks yourself or outsource. I’ve been in business for over 15 years and have tended to do the former. My company is not complex, and I’ve managed to figure out what’s been required.

However, this year I opted to call in the help of a design agency to refresh the company’s brand and website. Good project management requires admitting when you don't have all the skills needed to do the job!

Full disclosure: the design agency in question is Head-E design run by my colleague Ian but what follows below is not intended to promote his business in particular. It’s been an interesting experience being on the client side of an outsourced project, and what I want to do here is provide a personal case study on the potential benefits of bringing in specialist help. So, here are 5 reasons why outsourcing was the right strategy for my business in this instance:

  1. Expert Guidance: A key question when outsourcing is whether you’re paying for something that, frankly, you could do yourself. With this particular design & development project, it is fair to say that what has been produced is a much better solution for meeting my business objectives than I could have achieved in-house. The initial ideas that I had sketched out in the brief were limited by my limited knowledge of what was actually possible. By integrating new tools that I wasn’t aware of, a more engaging and information-rich platform has been created.
  2. Design for manufacture: My original scheme for the design of the website would have been a headache to build because I didn’t understand the implications of some of the features that I wanted to incorporate. Through the design process, the scheme was nudged towards alternative layouts that would be a lot easier and quicker to build.
  3. Seeing the wood for the trees: An in-house team is often too close to the subject matter and will make assumptions about the audience’s knowledge or use jargon without thinking. For me, it has been invaluable having a 3rd party prepared to say that something doesn’t make sense, or to point out gaps in messaging.
  4. Professional polish: Not only is the finished site more interesting and feature-rich than would have been achieved had I taken on the job myself, but it incorporates the finishing touches such as bespoke designs and imagery that bring my brand to life and reflect the professionalism that is a core value for my business.
  5. Time: OK, so this is almost a no-brainer. Outsourcing frees the client to focus on doing everything else. For some managers, perhaps doing the job in-house seems feasible because there is a window of opportunity ie. temporarily spare resource. What is not necessarily factored in is the time that will be taken up on the unexpected, such as waiting for tech support when elements don’t work as advertised, or as happened with my site, a page had to be re-built after it seemed to vanish into the ether during testing! So for me, the benefit of outsourcing has meant not being insanely busy trying to develop a website whilst also delivering client projects; and the knock-on effect of that has been faster time to completion.

What is your experience? Do you outsource or feel perfectly happy doing everything in-house? Are there aspects of your business that you would never outsource? I look forward to your comments.

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Fran Bodley-Scott

Fran is a business communications consultant specialising in customer and stakeholder relationship marketing. She started out in engineering and product development before moving into marketing and business development. Fran brings a blend of marketing experience, system thinking and creative design to client projects. She is a thought leader in applying marketing thinking inside the organisation and is passionate about improving business effectiveness and efficiency through relationship marketing.

If you are interested in talking with Fran about your project, please get in touch.