To cop a phrase from a now-defunct line of automobiles, this isn’t your father’s outsourcing.
Outsourcing is one of the most promising home-based business opportunities and small businesses around. But to say great opportunities exist in outsourcing as many people might see it — a small business happily taking on work that a large company no longer wants to do in-house — barely skims the surface of what is fast becoming a deeper and more prosperous pool.
But that’s not to suggest that the old-line version of outsourcing isn’t flourishing. As the economy continues to sputter, many large and medium-sized companies are increasingly opting to outsource certain services rather than underwrite the salary and benefits of full-time employees. For small and work at home-based businesses offering anything from payroll services to office cleaning, that spells a steady stream of reliable business.
“Employers are simply less likely to hire in a down economy,” says Kim T. Gordon, president of the National Marketing Federation, a small-business marketing and information service. “Particularly in hard-hit areas like tech, employers are looking to outsource more and more. It’s growing across the board.”
So outsourcing services are in demand, but don’t sit there waiting for a desperate phone call from the CEO of BigCompany Inc. imploring you to rescue their payroll services.
Instead, hit the market, and don’t bypass small and medium-sized businesses. Think about it: The very nature of a small operation — limited budgets, limited personnel — make them particularly reliant on outsourcing to address services they simply don’t have the means to keep in-house.
“Small businesses — say, those with 15 to 20 employees — definitely have to rely on outsourcing,” says Gordon. “They have accounting and database needs, but often not enough money to do it themselves.”
Take that logic a step further to include home-based businesses. If a small business with a dozen bodies is caroming off the walls trying to get everything done, a work at home business owner trying to go it alone is like a harried pinball trying to touch each and every bumper. And, again, that spells outsourcing work at home opportunity.
“In a way, home-based businesses are really the kings and queens of outsourcing. A lot of them may be outsourcing every function connected with the business with the exception of the core business itself,” Gordon says.
Wanted: outsourcing coordinators
So how to bring together the businesses that need outsourcing and the businesses that provide those services? Gordon says this problem opens up yet another window of business opportunity: home-based and small businesses which serve as outsourcing conduits, connecting the outsourcing needy with specific services.
“Businesses really need somebody who can coordinate outsourcing — finding the right people to fit the need,” says Gordon. “Acting as a central hub to bring the two together is really a rising new sort of enterprise. And it’s not just for businesses, either. Consumers are looking for this sort of thing as well, no matter if you need someone to babysit or clean your gutters.”
If you do set up shop as an outsourcing coordinator, you’ll want to follow these simple rules:
Recommending a contractor who never shows up or an accountant who can’t quite get a handle on addition’s sneaky buddy (read: subtraction) is the hemlock cocktail for an outsourcing referral business. Build an extensive database of service providers and make absolutely certain they’re dependable. Interview each and every one and ask for — and check out — their references. If you think it’s necessary, use their services yourself so you get a first-hand view of the quality of their work. Says Gordon: “It’s essential that they’re of absolutely of the highest caliber you can find.”
Recommend more than one service
One effective strategy to ensure that your clients hook up with an outsourcing service that fits is to suggest more than one candidate. That way, not only does your customer have some leeway in selecting whom they wish to work with, your business comes across as a legitimate source of extensive resources — something that brings customers back again.
Offer interview services
Not every company looking to outsource some element of their business wants to take the time to do the necessary legwork. As an added service, offer to do the selection and hiring yourself. You’ll offer your client additional value and you’ll increase your revenue, as more responsibility inevitably warrants higher fees.
One final thought: Don’t forget to flip the outsourcing formula around. Even if providing outsourcing services or serving as a coordinator won’t work for you, don’t dismiss the idea of outsourcing some element of your home-based or small business yourself. It’s not just an issue of necessity. Outsourcing certain aspects of your business leaves you free to focus on the responsibilities and tasks that you do best. And, down the line, that means you’ll be a small-business owner with the practical and creative freedom to prosper.
“I know a transcription business that outsourced its typing service so that the owner could market the business; that company tripled its business in just two years. Knowing when to outsource can be one of the keys that ultimately allow even the smallest of businesses to generate a six-figure income,” Gordon says.