Outsourcing for Architects: Boosting Your Profits and Saving Time
Think about the different ways you spend your time with your architecture firm.
You obviously excel well in areas of architectural design and workflow, but you also need to work on other areas to improve your business; like communicating with clients, handling finances, marketing your services, and even setting up a nice website with catchy copy and pretty images.
The problem is that you don’t have time to spend on all of these tasks, so you are forced to take away time, effort, and money from the items that truly make you succeed. You lose focus on the tasks that you are good at. Not to mention, you lose chances of finding new clients when you find yourself wasting time on accounting and graphic design work.
Many small business owners think that it is responsible to take on all the tasks at the same time, or they don’t think they have enough money to hire a freelancer to contribute in some ways. The problem with this mentality is that you slowly suck up your own time and hinder your chances for growth.
Outsourcing is a necessity if you want to take your small business to the next level, so let’s take a look at the fundamentals of small business outsourcing so you can boost your profits and save time.
A Perfect Example for Why You Should Outsource
A few weeks ago I started designing an image for my website, but then I remembered that most of the designs I come up with are usually a little amateurish. I actually have some design experience from an old job, but I could never match-up to someone with a graphic design degree. I also needed some CSS tweaks done on my site, and I’m usually pretty good at this, but this got me thinking: could I have someone else do it and save me some time and money?
There’s a good chance I could have designed this image and modified the CSS in 3+ hours. But instead of completing the work myself, I decided to find someone with the relevant experience and skills.
I decided to hire a freelancer who agreed to complete the work for $15 per hour. I actually sent out an email to a freelancer I had previous contact with. This took me about five minutes to send out the email. If I had needed to setup a job listing through Elance or another outsourcing site it might have taken me 15 minutes.
I figure the job would need to get done within the next two days. With a site like Elance I usually receive responses to my postings within the hour, so this isn’t a huge time-suck, and I can work on other stuff while waiting for replies.
Let’s say it would have taken me three hours to complete the job myself. This means:
- I saved: 2 hours and 45 minutes minimum.
- I only spent: Around 15 minutes working on this task.
The freelancer only took an hour and a half to design the image and modify my CSS, which meant that I only had to spend $22.50 on the whole project.
Was This Outsourcing Experience Worth It?
Let’s say I try to make around $100 per hour when working for my clients. If I were to spend three hours creating an image for my site and changing the CSS I would have potentially lost $300, since I could have been spending that time elsewhere.
Instead, I only wasted 15 minutes, spent $22.50 and hopefully used the saved time to gain additional money. Even if I slacked during that saved time, I know for a fact that I would have easily made up that $22.50 to break even. In the end, the outsourcing project was worth it, and most of the time these projects are.
I like to look at every little task that I encounter throughout my day and ask, “Could someone else do this for me?” Since most of these tasks save me a few significant hours, I can expect to save from 20-40 hours per month just by outsourcing my work. If you really take advantage of outsourcing you can save up to 100 hours per month.
The problem that most small business owners encounter is that they feel they need to work on every small task themselves, sucking up their valuable time and impairing their ability to grow their business.
What Are the Areas You Can Outsource?
This is one of the toughest parts of outsourcing. You want to figure out the areas where you don’t exactly excel and reach out to people who can do the job better. The last thing you want is to hire someone who can only get the job done with a fraction of the quality that you could give yourself. That said, the outsourcing options are endless.
You can outsource anything from answering your phones to working on your social media accounts. There are typically three areas that your outsourced jobs might fall under during your search:
- Occasional skilled jobs: These jobs usually require someone who has experience and expertise in a particular industry. You probably don’t plan on reaching out to them all the time, but the occasional check in with a financial analyst or marketing expert always helps. Think of these people as your consultants who can come in at anytime to give the best advice possible.
- Jobs that require repetition: This is the stuff that is ongoing but boring and tedious. Think about data input, checking emails, improving social follower rates and more. You usually don’t need someone who is particularly skilled, but a person who is a real grinder.
- Jobs that require certain skills: These jobs are the items that you either have no idea what you are doing with or you don’t excel. They are the tasks that require some sort of schooling to learn a skill, like graphic design, accounting, or web design. Leave this to the experts. You shouldn’t have to check in with them that often anyways.
How Much Can You Spend on Outsourcing?
There are two types of timelines you will typically be hiring for: The one-off jobs and the ongoing jobs. The one-off jobs are things like web design and copywriting. Once they are done you can typically move on then maybe come back to modify them later. The key to handling a special one-off job like this is to post on a job board and receive multiple bids from different freelancers.
Checkout their portfolios and understand how each one fits into your budget. This gets into knowing your budget long before hiring someone. Understand your budget and be ready to negotiate with people to get your rate, but also consider the quality and increase your options by turning to job boards.
For the ongoing jobs, you want to understand how long each task takes you to perform yourself and how much that time is worth to you. If you figure out that you make around $100 per hour then you have a nice base as to how much outsourcing can help you.
If you spend 4 hours per week on your emails, this should come out to a $400 value for you, since the time could be spent getting that money elsewhere that is more aimed at managing clients and handling new leads.
If you can find someone to field your emails for $50 per hour, and they take 4 hours every week, then you have already saved quite a bit of time and money.
Your Outsourcing Search
After you figure out the areas you want to outsource, you need to conduct a thorough job search to find the best talent. Here are some ways to make the most out of it:
- Post to job boards: These are usually filled with people who are willing to work hard for reasonable rates. You also get a nice supply of applicants who you know are targeted towards what you are looking for.
- Post to social media: Work through sites like LinkedIn to seek out freelancers and companies who offer services in different areas. You can typically post job listing on social sites, but you can really hone in on the right candidate by completing your own search with relevant keywords.
- Talk to people for referrals: Reach out to your professional network to see if they have recently used anyone to create graphics for them or complete accounting work.
- Think about turning to local schools: College students are often willing to work for cheap in order to include items on their portfolios. This typically works best for creative work like design and writing.
Selecting the Right Person for the Job
Once the job applications start coming in, it starts becoming difficult for you to sift through the mess and figure out exactly which person is right for the job. Here are some tips to help you find the right person for the job and kick out the people who will eventually make your job a nightmare:
- Make the job listing short and to the point.
- Include specifics so they know what they are bidding on.
- Review all the materials these freelancers send in.
- Create shortlists to quickly cut out people who aren’t right for the job.
- Ask questions related specifically to the job description to understand how experienced they are.
- Check any ratings or referrals you can find online (a quick Google search can work wonders).
- If you really want to weed out people and locate the winners, give them a small related task to perform with their application. Just don’t go overboard or it will look like you are just digging for free work.
Working with Your New Hire
Once you hire the perfect candidate you can’t just turn to them and dump a bunch of work on them. Expecting immediate comprehension is a little silly, since everyone needs at least a little training, and you don’t want your small business to look bad because a freelancer didn’t know what to do.
The best way to start is to test out their skills with a small project. Think about paying them for half of the project upfront, then giving them the rest upon completion. This minimizes risk on both sides and helps you understand if you are truly a perfect fit. It’s also wise to sign a contract so that both parties don’t feel cheated down the road.
One trick is to actually hire two or three freelancers from the mix and ask them all to complete a few small projects for pay. This gets some of your work done and you have a final test to choose the right option.
The best way to get started with outsourcing is to speak with a freelancer or contractor to fill one of the tasks you need completed. Work with them for a few weeks to become familiar with the way they work. After that, you can expand the amount you outsource to other people or even send more work to that initial contractor.
Virtual assistants are a great way to get started, because you don’t have to spend much money on them, and they typically help you handle multiple tasks such as answering the phones, sending emails and even managing your website.
Graphic design is also a nice area to start with, since you can quickly weed out the poor designers and choose one to fulfill tasks that would save you time. After all, if you’re an architect working on your graphic designs all day, you’re certainly not helping out your business much.
Let us know in the comments if you have any questions about how to outsource your work. When was the last time you outsourced something to save 20 or even up to 100 hours per month?