No matter the size of your company, it’s unreasonable to expect you’ll be able to hire in-house staff for all the activities you need.
You need some activities so infrequently (such as web design) that it makes no sense to hire someone permanently. Other activities (like customer service) require specialist skills, perhaps even round-the-clock attention. Yet others (including tasks covered by a general virtual assistant) only take a few hours a week, but they tend to be repetitive and are likely a waste of your valuable time.
The solution for all these situations is to outsource.
How Does Outsourcing Work?
Outsourcing usually means contracting a freelancer who works independently, although it’s also possible to outsource an entire team. You choose the hours you want and pay the person or team directly — there’s no need to add freelancers to your payroll or offer them any benefits.
You can find professionals and gig workers to outsource in many places, including through agencies and on job sites. However, one of the best places to look is outsourcing websites. These allow you to search for the exact skills you want and find candidates who charge a rate that’s within your budget. You can often interview your top choices to come to a final decision.
Types of Outsourcing
To decide what you may like to outsource, it’s worthwhile considering the different types of outsourcing. There are five main ones.
All companies need a range of IT services, and it often makes sense to outsource the majority of these services. There are dedicated IT outsourcing websites where you can find coders and other IT professionals. However, you may find an even wider selection on some of the larger general outsourcing websites.
Under the category of professional outsourcing fall activities like accounting and bookkeeping, legal, admin support, and purchasing. Many businesses outsource a variety of their professional services, as it can be much cheaper than hiring in-house staff.
If you have a project on the horizon and lack the skills to carry it out yourself, you can outsource an individual or team to do it for you. Not only will this work out less expensive, it may be unnecessary to hire a new team member if you’re unlikely to have a similar project in the near future.
Alternatively, you may only need support with a particular task or operation. Process-specific outsourcing gives you access to the skills and resources you lack in house.
If you’re an entrepreneur with an idea for a product or a small business looking to expand your product line, outsourcing your manufacturing may be essential. You can outsource the entire process or just the aspects that are the most difficult.
The Top Outsourcing Websites
You can find freelancers, gig workers, and teams for all the above on outsourcing websites. You have many options, but these are some of the best outsourcing websites.
When two of the largest outsourcing platforms (oDesk and Elance) merged and rebranded back as Upwork in 2015, the digital outsourcing landscape changed significantly. Upwork was a giant, and it became the go-to place for many businesses looking to hire freelancers. There’s a wide variety of talent on the platform, ranging from freelancers who are just starting out to experts with years of experience — and everything in between.
If you dedicate just a few minutes to writing a detailed job post explaining what you need, you’ll receive a large amount of interest. Alternatively, you can invite freelancers to apply to your job. It’s easy to find just what you want in terms of skills and budget. You can choose to pay by the hour or a set rate for the project. Plus, you can hire a freelancer just one time or establish an ongoing relationship.
Best for: outsourcing a wide range of tasks at any skill level.
Another platform that has grown in recent years is Freelancer. The second-largest platform on the market, it’s a direct competitor of Upwork.
Freelancer has absorbed many of the smaller platforms, such as Rentacoder, which was an IT outsourcing website. This has helped Freelancer build up a large network of professionals. You can find a freelancer yourself or post a job to attract candidates, and you can pay by the hour, project, or milestone. In fact, the system works much the same as Upwork.
Best for: finding talent all across the globe at a rate suits you.
Fiverr allows you to hire freelancers for a minimum of $5 and a maximum of $500 per task. All prices are in multiple of five and are per project only. You can browse through a range of set services, including graphics, programming, digital marketing, and business tasks like data entry, project management, and legal consulting.
Best for: standardized services, especially when quality is less important.
Unlike many other platforms, the majority of freelancers on Guru are based in the U.S. This is useful if you want to avoid communication difficulties or work with someone in the same timezone as you. Although Guru offers a variety of services, its greatest focus is on programming and development.
A feature that many users like is that the platform sends you a list of “gurus” that you may want to consider for your project. This eliminates the need to search yourself.
Best for: IT services from U.S.-based freelancers.
Unlike other outsourcing websites, FreeUp pre-vets freelancers before it allows them to join the platform. The site says it recruits only 1 percent of freelancers it interviews, which ensures the work is always high quality. Nonetheless, prices are reasonable, ranging from $5 to $75 an hour.
After you request a project, FreeUp will pair you with an appropriate freelancer within 24 hours. There are also account managers available for guidance with your project.
Best for: times when you’re concerned about quality or want support choosing freelancer.
Despite its name, PeoplePerHour allows you to pay either an hourly rate or a fixed rate. Its distinguishing feature from most other outsourcing websites is that you can contract workers for both virtual and onsite work. Plus, it allows you to choose between paying in US dollars, Euros, and pounds. To find success on this platform, it’s important to communicate well with your freelancer before you start working together.
Best for: finding freelancers to work on site.
How to Avoid Outsourcing Website Scams
A major reason why businesses decide to hire employees instead of outsourcing is fear of scams. Business owners are often afraid that the freelancer may produce low-quality work or disappear after receiving payment for the project.
In fact, it’s relatively easy to avoid scams and have only positive experiences with outsourcing websites.
1. Pay After You’ve Received Work
Just as you need to know that you’ll receive the work you’re paying for, freelancers need assurance that they’ll receive payment. Some use this excuse to demand a portion of the payment upfront. The risk is that freelancers may take your money and disappear.
The solution is to use one of the many outsourcing websites that offers payment protection for both parties. Platforms tend to hold funds in escrow, releasing the money only once the freelancer has delivered your work. It’s for this reason that you should never work with freelancers who request payment off site, despite the cost savings you’ll gain.
2. Choose Reputable Freelancers
You can find lower rates if you choose a freelancer who has no experience on the platform, but this puts you at a much higher risk. Finding a freelancer who has at least a few reviews from satisfied clients will show you what quality you can expect. It also means the freelancer is less likely to disappear in the middle of the project.
3. Split Projects into Smaller Tasks
Freelancers may say they are capable of taking on a project that is actually beyond their abilities. This is particularly likely to happen if you’re offering a good rate for a large project.
To ensure you’re making the right choice, it’s a good idea to split the project into smaller milestones. If you’re unsatisfied with anything after the first milestone, you can ask the freelancer to make the necessary changes. In the case the freelancer is unable to meet your standards, simply end the contract and find someone else. You won’t have wasted too much time and money.
If you want to pay by the hour instead, bear in mind that most outsourcing websites allow you to set a limit. This will stop the freelancer from charging far more hours than the project should actually take.
4. Ask to See Samples of Work
Freelancers should always be able to show you samples of past work. If you have any suspicions that the work is not from the same person, rule out the candidate. The freelancer could be gathering samples online (which puts you at risk for plagiarized work) or you may have stumbled upon an agency pretending to be a freelancer.
5. Do Basic Background Checks
For freelance work, you often only need a few hours here and there or a one-time project. However, if you need someone to work part-time or full-time, you’ll need to make sure the freelancer does have the availability. A good tactic is to check LinkedIn profiles to ensure candidates don’t have a full-time job on top of freelancing or gig work.
As your business grows, you’ll most likely need to outsource many tasks. It’s a good idea to experiment with a few platforms until you find one that works for you. Keep potential scams in mind to avoid bad experiences. In time, you should be able to build a network of freelancers you can rely upon for a variety of tasks.