Outsourcing is one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to running a design business. Although larger design houses or designing studios often outsource too (especially when there is a lack of human resources in the office), however, outsourcing is mainly associated with freelance business. With rapid advancement in media technology, outsourcing has taken different shapes and has expanded its horizon beyond borders.
Nowadays, you can outsource from almost any professional field of business. From individual creative writers and typographers to customer service agencies and invoicing companies, outsourcing offers you a wide variety of fields to choose from. Moreover, the miraculous technology of Internet enables you to outsource from almost any part of the world with no hitch whatsoever. This article refers to some important aspects of outsourcing, its advantages and disadvantages and how does it impact your design business.
Outsourcing – The Concept
Outsourcing basically means to obtain goods or services from an outsider, i.e. the one who is not a part of your business or organization. The business that outsources another company or individual is legally bound by a temporary contract whose duration depends on the mutual agreement between the two parties.
Outsourcing is usually conducted over the Internet which allows you to avail the services of even the most distant service providers. The payment of the projects is also done through online payment services. The company or individual who is being outsourced is termed as a freelancer who works on either project by project basis or for a certain period of time.
Advantages of Outsourcing for Your Business
Hire People from All Over the World
One of the biggest advantages of outsourcing is that you can hire people from all over the world. This gives you an opportunity to enrich your production by adding in services from people from diverse cultural backgrounds and different aesthetic orientations.
Therefore, when you are going for a business pitch, and you outsource co-designers, outsourcing enables you to develop a good variety of design options to be presented to the client with different design perspectives. You can also find some really hardworking and dedicated human resources from all over the world through outsourcing.
Large Network of Employees
Outsourcing allows you to develop a large network of employees for your business. At times when you face a shortage of human resources for a certain project, then outsourcing enables you to fill this gap. Also, in the case of a tight deadline for a certain project, a good number of freelancers can be outsourced to get the work done in time. In case you fall short of your permanent resources, the large pool of outsourced resources keeps your work continuing.
Outsourcing, especially in the case of freelance design business owners, give you the advantage of having your work done by industry professionals, while not having to spend much. On the contrary, if a design business owner hires a certain staff, the expense of his monthly salary, office infrastructure and maintenance, and the overhead cost of managing the staff extends from what you usually pay to an outsourced human resource.
Outsource for Boring and Repetitive Tasks
There must be some work that you have to do on a daily basis and you are bored with it. Outsourcing serves its purpose the best when you do it for the tasks you repeat on a daily basis. For instance, maintaining the billings and invoices is what most design business owners hate to do, yet they are bound to do it on a daily basis.
For this kind of job you can outsource the services of an individual or a company that can manage your invoicing issues every day and make this important task easier for you.
Division of Labour
Outsourcing allows you to divide your tasks and projects so that you can focus on more important aspects and let the outsourced person do the remaining tasks. For example, designers mostly outsource professional copywriters or typographers for larger projects, so that they don’t have to waste time thinking about captions and slogans and can focus entirely on the design.
Division of labour through outsourcing also enables you to test your outsourced resource by assigning them smaller tasks and seeing if they are able to deliver bigger tasks as well.
Best for Seasonal Projects
A common trend among design businesses is that they outsource people during a particular period of time when they have some seasonal or annual activity going on. Outsourcing facilitates projects that have seasonal or cyclical demands to bring in additional resources when you need them and release them when you are done.
Disadvantages of Outsourcing for Your Business
Losing Managerial Control
When you outsource a company or an individual freelancer for either a single task or an entire departmental responsibility, and you both bind yourself with eachother through a contract, it means that you have handed over the entire managerial or operational control of that task to the other party. By doing so, you lose your own managerial control over the project and the outsourced resource will not be bound to follow your organizational ethics, missions and values.
Your outsourced resource will be driven to make a profit from the services that they are providing to you and other businesses like yours.
To avoid losing your managerial control over the project being outsourced upon, add a clear point in the terms and conditions of your contract mentioning the core values of your business and that the outsourced party is bound to abide by them.
Threat to Business Privacy
No matter if your business is of a bigger volume or you run it all by yourself, there are certain business secrets that are meant to be kept confidential from outsiders. However, if you turn your entire project or any part of your project to your outsourced resource, there are chances that your business confidentiality comes under great threat. Especially, if the outsourced function involves sharing proprietary company data or knowledge (e.g. product drawings, formulas, etc), then you can consider your business in serious trouble in terms of privacy.
In order to avoid this, try to evaluate the outsourced company carefully to make sure your data is protected and the contract has a penalty clause if any incident related to business privacy breach occurs.
Production Quality Issues
Most outsourcing companies and individuals are entirely profit driven. The contract between the two parties fixes the price of the services you acquire from the outsourced resource; therefore the only way for them to increase profit will be to decrease expenses by compromising on the quality.
To prevent any issues with quality of production, add a clause in your mutual contract and bind them that as long as they meet the conditions of the contract, you will pay.
As mentioned earlier, outsourcing is mostly carried out through the Internet and the outsourced resource is often located in other town, cities, countries or even continents. Although the highly technologically advanced world has removed the communication barriers, there are still some gaps that cause communication hitches between people of different regions (merely due to time zone factors and technology not being the same in every part of the world).
Image credit: John Suler's PhotoPsychology
Similar cases of communication gaps happen when you outsource from another country or region. The communication is usually done through Internet or telephone which often causes delay or miscommunication between the parties.
Some Outsourcing Websites and Their Reviews
Catering to the needs of outsourcing and its growing trend in the world of Internet, several outsourcing websites were established by different companies in the past decade that aimed to provide inexpensive work solutions to companies and lots of freelance projects to freelancers. Following are a few famous outsourcing websites along with their reviews, pros and cons:
oDesk is one of the most prominent outsourcing websites found on the Internet. Since its inception in 2004, oDesk has been proving as a great source for companies to outsource freelance employees and for freelancers to earn from a good number of projects. The best thing about oDesk is that it has no registration fee and completely hassle-free processing of registration and landing projects on your desk.
Pros and Cons
oDesk offers ‘hourly payment guarantee’ to the freelancers and ‘hourly work guarantee’ for the contractors, however, this guarantee is only for hourly projects. oDesk has declared a minimum hourly wage of 3 USD per hour; but then again, this minimum wage rule applies only to per hour wages and not long-term contracts.
Moreover, oDesk has a corresponding profile that keeps a record of the freelancer or company’s work history, along with its basic data. However, this profile is based on the total number of hours that a contractor/ company has worked, and therefore it is not quite suitable for entry level freelancers/ companies.
Freelancer.com is one of the most common and widely-used outsourcing websites being used by freelancers and small and medium businesses alike. Freelancer.com is a personal favorite of many renowned companies as well as professional freelancers.
Pros and Cons
Owing to the cheaper rates provided by Freelancer.com, it is mostly preferred by companies based in Europe and North America. Unlike any other outsourcing website, Freelancer.com also boasts the widest variety of online job category listings, however due to lower job posting rates, the quality of jobs posted is very low.
Moreover, the customer support is not so efficient and there are reports of repeated spamming on the website. Although Freelancer.com has a ‘Report violation’ button for users, the site needs to be taking their own responsibility for the image and reputation of their business.
Elance is another commonly used and greatly appreciated outsourcing website available on the Internet. Elance dates back to 1998 and is considered one of the pioneers in online outsourcing websites. Due to its longstanding experience in outsourcing, Elance has been able to meet the needs of even the most demanding clients.
Pros and Cons
Elance provides an incredible amount of choice for employers and providers. The percentage of commission is pretty low; however, the employer is required to pay a $10 start up fee. Elance usually attracts employers with a higher budget than the free sites and thus companies with higher budgets look for high quality freelancers. The best thing about Elance is that posting a job is quick and easy and you can link it to your bank account and transfer money for your ease.
99designs is another famous outsourcing marketplace based in Australia and mostly focuses on hosting public design contests along with providing freelance job opportunities. A large number of small and medium businesses are benefiting from this website and its great features.
Pros and Cons
Among the best things which 99designs provides to both freelancers and companies include: 100 percent money-back guarantee, a large pool of designers, unlimited revisions, money-back guarantee, ease of use and value added tips on design contests. However, since 99designs attracts both amateur and professional designers, you may get submissions which are not so great in quality. Even so, one can always filter out bad quality work from best quality work with a little effort.
Senasationaljobs is another interesting job website. Although it is quite a newbie in the world of online job websites, Sensational Jobs has easily made its way to the hearts of job searching designers and developers all over the world.
Pros and Cons
The best thing about Sensational Jobs, that interests most of the employers, is the money-back guarantee and its hassle-free process. For instance, if you are not fully satisfied with the response within 60 days, you’ll be issued a full refund. Moreover, the simplicity of the layout and efficiency of the website’s navigation provide ease of use to the job posting employer. Also, apart from outsourcing jobs, Sensational Jobs provides a large pool of full-time jobs from famous companies.
The jobs at Sensational Jobs are focused on the fields of design and development only. Also, the number of full-time jobs exceeds freelance jobs. Moreover, Sensational Jobs does not require a proper registration of the employer and so the website does not take the responsibility for any damage caused by the use of this website, job postings or the content of any job listing.
Different business owners have different perceptions when it comes to the point of whether or not to outsource. Outsourcing is common among freelance design business owners who often look for support in the field of copywriting, invoicing services and printing. Such freelancers usually cannot afford to hire many human resources, and so they outsource. However, there are some design business owners to whom outsourcing brings much trouble. Such issues include invasion of business privacy, unwanted delays and communication gaps etc. and so they try to avoid outsourcing.
It depends entirely on your business preferences whether you want to outsource some resources for your design business or not. Always consider what is good for your business and fulfills most of your business goals.