Entrepreneurs are hands-on people who like to do things themselves. Many believe this saves them money and ensures things get done to their liking. For certain types of activities, they couldn’t be more wrong!
Turning to experts can save money and time, and get the best results, too. You can't do it all—and do it all well. Five areas of your business that make sense to contract out are legal, accounting, bookkeeping, social media and travel arrangements. And these three rules can help you decide when to turn to a pro or, at the very least, delegate responsibilities to someone else.
- Use them when you pay less than what you can earn with your time. For example, if you charge $150 per hour for your services, anyone charging less for a service allows you to earn more.
- Use them when the risk of loss is greater than any financial savings you could reap from not paying experts, such as legal matters.
- Use them when they offer services you can't do yourself, or at least do as well as someone else.
Sure, you have to be licensed to be an attorney, but with the information available today, many owners can handle a number of legal matters on their own. Online sites, such as LegalZoom, enable anyone to incorporate a business, draft contracts and file for trademark protection. These sites serve a purpose, such as doing some legwork to understand legal options. However, for most people, they aren't a substitute for personal legal advice.
The cost of a legal mistake can well outweigh the legal fees you’d otherwise have paid to avoid the mistake. Don't believe me? I searched the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site for a trademark I wanted to use. I didn’t find it there and went forward, investing money in materials displaying the trademarked phrase. Later, a trademark attorney learned that my trademark had already been claimed by another company. I had to spend additional funds to ultimately secure the rights to the trademark—something I could have avoided by going to the attorney in the first place.
Business owners are required to keep good books and records. Today this is easily done with software or cloud solutions such as QuickBooks Pro or Sage 50 Complete Accounting. Again, it doesn’t take much training to handle record-keeping. The question is, why spend valuable time doing it yourself when you can have someone else do it for you?
Instead, pay a bookkeeper (someone in your company or an independent contractor) to do your books on a periodic basis.
Almost any business owner could easily master tax-preparation software, such as TurboTax for Home and Business, to file annual income tax returns. This option may be helpful for some small-business owners. For others, it may be better to use a CPA or other tax professional. The cost of the services may exceed the cost of the software, but you can save money by:
- Obtaining tax advice you may not otherwise get from the software. This can cut your tax bill in the long run.
- Freeing you from this activity to pursue your core business.
Social Media Help
Social media is vital for connecting with customers and marketing your business. It’s also a time drain. Consider using someone inside your company or engaging an outside social media expert to manage daily postings. It'll cost you money but save you time that you can devote to other business activities. Be sure the person doing this for you understands your business messaging and can speak for you.
Travel Agents and Concierges
There are numerous online websites, such as Priceline and Kayak, to help you book your own air travel, rooms and car rentals. You'll also find attractive pricing as they compete for your business.
Or you can use a travel professional who has access to private unpublished rates, wholesale pricing, consolidators and other options not available to the general public, which can ultimately save you about 10 percent of your annual travel budget (over and above any fees you pay to the travel professional). Advantages include:
- Travel agent. You’ll save time by not doing research for travel arrangements. You have access to a wider range of travel options than if you booked your own trip online. You have someone to contact when you'd like to change original trip plans and can talk to an expert who can explain the rules, restrictions and costs to make changes.
- Travel concierge. This option gives you a professional to turn to when problems, such as flight delays, cancellations or overbooking, arise so alternative plans can be made when needed. A concierge typically is available 24/7.
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Barbara Weltman is an attorney, author with such titles as J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business, and professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and monthly e-newsletter Big Ideas for Small Business® at www.barbaraweltman.com and host of Build Your Business radio. Follow her on Twitter @BarbaraWeltman.