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As companies adapt to changing business environments and higher running costs, the search for sustainable and cost-effective operating models has grown more intense. One outcome of this quickening to action by largely economic circumstances has been a steady increase in the number of businesses turning to freelancers and contractors to get work done for them. These businesses prefer to maintain a lean in-house staff size by delegating relatively less sensitive jobs to remote workers. It seems that this strategy is working for many companies; at least, the rapid rise of the so-called gig economy, with its army of one-man (or woman) enterprises that meet businesses’ need for freelancers, seems to suggest so. However, finding the right person or enterprise to outsource one’s work to isn’t always a straightforward matter. Numerous self-proclaimed experts wait for the opportunity to be handed a task they’ll experiment with; sometimes, the results of those experiments are far from pleasant for the client company. There have even been cases in which firms contracted to provide products or services ‘fold up’ mysteriously- and doing so shortly after receiving an initial payment for the work they’re supposed to carry out. On the whole, businesses that take the option of shipping out some of their work to others must ensure that they guard against the failures and disappointments that might come with it. If you’re currently exploring outsourcing as a cost-cutting or output improvement measure (or have cause to do so in the future), you should ask yourself the following questions before proceeding to contract work to persons outside your company.
  1. What do you want to outsource?
Typically, businesses tend to outsource work that they consider not too crucial to keep within their walls. For some, it’s research and database entry; for others, it’s field marketing and recruitment. The aim for most businesses is to delegate time-consuming work that does not form part of their core operations to individuals and agencies outside of them. This frees up time and resources which they’ll devote to attending to functions that are firmly within their operational concern. Some jobs are widely considered to be too important to outsource. Top level administrative work is an example. Whatever you decide to contract to non-staff people, be sure that it’s not something that’ll cost your company dearly if handled poorly by whoever is taking it on.
  1. Why do you want to outsource?
The two most prevalent reasons for engaging freelancers and contractors are the relatively high cost of maintaining in-house staff, and the absence of expertise in certain areas within companies. In many cases, freelancers are less expensive to remunerate than actual staff. They might also save businesses the cost of keeping a full-time employee who only really has to do serious work periodically. Instead of having people who don’t do that much most of the time lazying about the office and receiving a salary at the end of the month, why not get someone outside of the company to handle such periodic work for periodic pay? Businesses also outsource work that cannot be adequately handled by their employees. In today’s world, you’re not likely to have all the expertise to run things on your own; once in a while, you’ll need some help from elsewhere.
  1. Is the person/firm you’re outsourcing to good enough?
Inquire about the knowledge, skills, and experience of the people you want to contract tasks to. Do they have what it takes to get the job done as you want? Do they know enough about your industry (if this is required)? Do they understand what your expectations of them are? Does their past work (with you or others) show them to be reliable? These are questions you should ask of whoever you consider giving outsourced jobs to.
  1. What are your expectations?
You obviously know what you want the freelancer you hired to achieve for you. With this in mind, you should set targets that they’ll work towards. It might be as straightforward as fixing an item or a software bug, or as extended as actual full-time employment. Define your expectations in measurable terms, communicate them to your contractor, and see to it that they work by the rules you set out.
  1. How will you measure success?
You’re looking at two things here:
  1. How well the people you outsourced work to have handled it.
  2. What the benefits of outsourcing turn out to be for your business.
As for the work done by people who you outsource tasks to, they should be evaluated based on the targets you’ve set out for them. If you’re examining the impact that outsourcing is having on your business, you should have in mind your original intention for turning to agents outside of your walls to do things for you. In this respect, you may consider the cost savings, the extent to which time and resources have been freed up, and how much you have been able to focus on your business’s core operations. These questions should help you make the right decisions about the people you will work with for outsourcing purposes, and know if taking this approach is working for you or not.

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This article was first published on 5th November 2017


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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