Outsourcing: Finding The Help You Need Without Breaking The Bank

Buried under the minutiae of everyday work? Since adding more hours in a day isn't an option, you might want to to consider outsourcing. Here's how to do it on a budget.
August 16, 2013

As a small-business owner, how do you find the time, talent and resources you need to grow your business without breaking the bank? I’ve often found myself wishing for more hours in the day to get done what needs doing. Since I’ve discovered and put into practice some tips for effective outsourcing, however, I’ve been able to put those wishes to better use.

And a bonus? I’m left with plenty of cash in my business kitty to get done all of that stuff that needs doing.

Let’s look at two of the biggest challenges for small-business owners when it comes to outsourcing: trusting people with money and day-to-day details.

Financial Assistance

The financial side of my business used to be the biggest bog-down in my day. Here are the three shifts I made to make the financial cogs in my small-business machine take care of themselves so I can do what I love: my actual business.

  • I hired a CPA. I worry about retirement. I worry about keeping the IRS happy. I worry about what I owe, to whom and when. I also used to think that a computer program was the best solution for taking care of tax-related business. Now that I've made the shift to a CPA, I have the confidence of knowing that I have a human being with a financially savvy brain plugged into every number that has a dollar sign in front of it. And yes, he’s more expensive than the online tax prep software I was using, but he’s looking out for me. As my business grows, he points me in the right direction and knows my tax picture and how it changes year to year. The result? I now have a better business entity to match my financial goals (I’m an S-corp and am an employee of my company). I also have a great retirement account that reduces my tax obligation while helping me save for retirement. The best part, however, is not having to clear a weekend afternoon to do my taxes every year. Hates that, Precious. Hates it. Cost-savings tip: Find a CPA who works on a flat rate for creating your tax returns each year and one who’s amenable to a phone call here and there without the nickel-and-dime routine.
  • I hired a bookkeeper. My CPA and my bookkeeper talk all year long (and no, that doesn’t cost me extra). For the first time in the six years I've been in business, I have a clear picture of where every dollar I earn goes and what those dollars get me. My bookkeeper runs my payroll and makes sure my taxes, business license fees and other expenses are paid (and on time). He also produces amazing things for me, like profit and loss statements, which is incredibly helpful when you’re trying to do something like get a mortgage as a small-business owner. With the money side of my business taken care of, I have plenty of bandwidth to go out and earn more business, and I know I’ll have the time to give those clients the attention they need. Cost-savings tip: The more complicated your business is, the more money a bookkeeper will cost you each month. Ask your bookkeeper if they have recommendations for streamlining any financial part of your business to reduce the time it takes to reconcile your accounts. 
  • I found a killer invoicing program. I used to have to handle contractor payments through my bank and then invoice clients through a separate invoicing program. I also used to have to process all my credit card payments through PayPal. Now I have one solution for everything—I’m a proud customer of Bill.com. I can invoice clients, receive payments via credit card or eCheck, and pay contractors directly from my bank account using a single interface. I’ve also left PayPal behind for a much more cost-effective merchant services provider that integrates directly with Bill.com. The benefit? I get all of this for just $24 per month, and my bookkeeper loves the simple Quickbooks sync feature. Cost-savings tip: Most small-business invoicing software has similar features. Make sure you’re not paying for fancy features you’re never going to use. Portals like WePay and Stripe or Harvest can offer exactly what many businesses need—the ability to get paid electronically—without all the bells and whistles.

Day-To-Day Details

The minutiae kills me. Setting appointments, doing simple research, maybe cleaning up some older posts on my blog—it all kills me. I’d much rather be getting things done. The only problem is, I don’t really want the burden of an employee and I can’t guarantee how much work I’ll have for an assistant from month to month. Here are two powerful resources I’ve found that allow me to run screaming from the minutiae yet know it’s all dealt with on a dime:

  • For simple requests, I use Fancy Hands. It’s a network of U.S.-based virtual assistants who can do everything from scheduling travel and conference calls to performing research for articles and blog posts. This subscription-based service has both personal and business plans that range from $25 to $65 per month (which amounts to about $5 per task—wowsers!). I love how the business plan allows me to send Fancy Hands tasks right from Basecamp (another wowsers!). They even have a mobile app that allows you to schedule and check in on requested tasks on the go.
  • For more complex requests, I use virtual assistants. I won’t say that finding a reliable virtual assistant is easy, but the legwork is worth it. I now have three go-to virtual assistants who charge from $20 to $60 per hour, and they’re worth every dime. I have one who’s great at writing and formatting white papers, one who’s an administrative goddess and can handle more complex research tasks and anything WordPress-related, and one who’s a technology goddess who's able to handle tasks in some of the more specialized software I use. My VAs allow me to scale my business without the burden of hiring an employee or over-promising that I’ll have a specific amount of work from one month to the next. So where can you find one? Well, I’d say you could outsource overseas for rock-bottom rates, but that’s not my style. I found all of my VAs through social media by stating the skill I needed, and the responses just poured in.

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