Todd Paton has a booming Miami business getting customers noticed on the Web. One tool he uses is generating online news releases to build brand awareness and create links that will send traffic to a customer's website. But Paton, owner of Paton Internet Marketing, acknowledges that writing the releases is not his strong suit. Rather than spend his time doing it, he hires out the task.
"You have to value your time so you know what is or is not a good use of it," Paton says.
As a proliferation of outsourcing sites spread, today's business owners have more options for hiring out tasks that detract from generating income and having a balanced life. For some small firms, outsourcing has had a compelling impact on their growth, productivity and bottom lines.
An important first step in outsourcing is figuring out what doesn't make sense for you to do personally. Paton suggests dividing your income by the hours worked and coming up with an estimate of your time value. Then, factor in the time it would take you to become an expert at a specific function and complete it. "Often you find you are spending time on something you could have done by an expert for a lot less than your time is worth," he says.
How much you can expect to pay a contractor depends on the type of work you're buying, the skill level and location of your provider, and your own preferences. For example, Paton goes to eLance to find U.S.-based freelancers, and pays about $30 a news release. Rather than spend half a day on the task, hiring it out is worth the expense.
Elance and oDesk (which merged in 2013) are two of the most popular marketplaces for employers to connect with talent on an as-needed basis. They are joined by an ongoing rollout of sites that give business owners access to a global pool of human capital such as virtual executive assistants, marketing directors, graphic designers, transcriptionists, paralegals, Web designers, human resources consultants, bookkeepers, public relations directors and information technology specialists.
Lesley Pyle founded the website HireMyMom.com seven years ago to allow owners in need of outside expertise to tap mom professionals. She finds small-business owners increasingly coming to her site to hire skilled, work-at-home moms to build or design websites, create social media followings and manage email marketing campaigns. For many entrepreneurs, the new demands of technology are the most natural tasks to outsource, Pyle finds.
"There are constantly new and better ways to do things online. Unless you enjoy that or have time for that, it's an easy one to put on your delegation list," Pyle says.
To ensure quality from freelancers, sites such as Elance, oDesk and Freelancer.com allow the hiring party to see how previous clients rated prospective vendors' work, as well as detailed profiles of the vendors and what they charge. There is no charge for freelancers to post profiles on the sites and to apply for jobs.
The sites make money by charging the employer a fee that equals a share of the total amount they paid the freelancer. Expect to pay U.S.-based contractors higher fees, but remember, with offshore providers there may be a language barrier. Fees are paid per hour or per project.
For more-creative tasks, business owners are finding talent on Fivver.com, which introduced a mobile app in December. While the site is now far from the original everything-for-$5 concept, the costs of specific jobs are straightforward. White-Pearl says she has used Fiverr to find individuals to do video editing, logo design, animation and proofreading, and she has spent from $5 to $40 to get the job done.
With the increase in demand, a variety of models for online hiring are gaining popularity. Sites like OnForce and FieldNation have created networks of independent workers in the same specialty who can be hired per gig and dispatched to a job site as opposed to working remotely. In spring 2013, OnForce introduced a mobile app to help pair the buyer with the freelancer who might already be out on a job nearby.