Managing a small business means concentrating on what makes your business unique and profitable -- not wasting time on mundane administrative tasks. Save hassle and save money by outsourcing them instead.
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The ability to access cloud services online means it's easier than ever to outsource the purely functional parts of your business and concentrate on the more interesting and challenging aspects. Handing over dull tasks like payroll can save time and cut down on mistakes; outsourcing design makes sense if you don't have any skills in those areas yourself. Not every business will need to outsource every single one of these tasks, but it's worth considering each of them.
If you do outsource, make sure you stick to these three simple rules:
- Seek out referees. Don't just sign up because a service looks good. Talk to people who have actually used it. This may seem time-consuming but it's worth it -- why invest in a service you haven't thoroughly investigated?
- Don't sign a long-term contract. Providers will often offer a discount for a 12-month or longer contract, but that's a long commitment if it turns out not to be suitable. Aim for a month-by-month or on-demand contract; if it turns out to be a good choice, you can always switch to the longer-term deal then.
- Make sure that you've specified exactly what you're getting. Check that delivery dates and service uptime are locked in as part of the deal
Your IT Infrastructure
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Unless your actual business is in IT, running your own servers makes no sense. Using an external provider for email, office apps and business apps means you don't have the hassle of maintaining equipment. It also provides an automatic backup, since your data isn't stored on the premises.
You can approach this in a variety of ways, from hosted services provided by a local retailer to packages sold by internet service providers to services from global providers such as Google Apps For Business and Office 365. The options you choose are often a matter of confidence and pricing. If you're not comfortable with technology, a local reseller can be the best pick. If you're happy to work with online support, the global options are often cheaper.
Your Financial Systems
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There are two aspects to consider here: using hosted accounting software to cut down on the on-premises options you require, and considering outsourcing book-keeping and payroll tasks to an external provider. Even if you do all the books yourself, you'll want to use an accountant to double-check and to make sure you're complying with all relevant laws and claiming appropriate deductions at tax time.
A payroll service becomes useful as soon as you have more than a handful of employees: you're either going to need to pursue that option or hire someone yourself to handle the books. As a business owner, you have better things to do with your time than mess with payslips and bank accounts.
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Some roles require staff on the spot: you can't run a restaurant without a cook and some waiters. But for one-off larger projects, hiring temporary workers can make much more sense -- and with services like Airtasker, Freelancer and Sidekicker you can easily find temporary workers for anything from packaging up a big order to delivering it. Not sure if it makes sense? Check our guide to when a task is worth outsourcing.
Marketing & Design
Designer picture from Shutterstock Marketing and design is a good specific example of where using external providers makes sense. A small business is unlikely to have enough design work for a full-time staffer, so using an external provider makes sense. For one-off projects, as well as the general freelancing sites mentioned above, check out 99designs.
While marketing is an activity you'll want to monitor closely yourself, using an external provider can make sense, both for one-off projects such as search engine optimisation or ongoing tasks such as social media promotion.