No matter how hard you work, you can’t add more minutes to your day. You can, however, allocate your time more efficiently to get more important things done in the time you have. One way is to outsource tasks and activities that are not directly contributing to the core and growth of your business.
What should you outsource?
Almost any task, activity or role can be outsourced, depending on your needs and the size of your team. In the main, a good rule of thumb is to outsource those that require attending to only occasionally or those that require a specialized skill or qualifications you don’t have in-house. An example of the former would be IT support. Many firms are not large enough to warrant having a full-time tech specialist on staff. An example of the latter would be a certified public accountant.
In our 2022 Interior Designers Survey on Fees, Salaries, and Competing for Talent, we asked interior design firm owners which services they outsource. Nearly three-fourths said a bookkeeper. More than half use a freelance photographer or photography services firm. About a third engage the services of an attorney on an as-needed basis.
Outsource to expand your team
It just makes good sense to outsource professional services like bookkeepers, CPAs and attorneys. Outsourcing can also be an effective way to add more expertise to your team without incurring a lot of additional expenses. If you’re positioning to grow your business or are experiencing a sudden boost in demand, consider outsourcing one or more of these services.
For most smaller firms, it’s not economical to hire someone, even part-time, who is trained in CAD, Revit or other 3D-rendering software; video, augmented reality or virtual reality media; or to produce plans and renderings. It’s also not the best use of time for the staff you do have. Outsourcing these kinds of tasks not only frees up time to work on other aspects of a project, but also can speed up the design process.
Most interior design firms need to market more but often are reluctant or too busy to put in the time and effort to market effectively. An experienced marketing assistant can help to bring in new business and keep the project pipeline primed throughout the year. The additional revenues will more than pay for the cost of outsourcing and a sound marketing budget.
Social Media Assistant
To compete for clients and projects interior designers nowadays need to be visible and active on a range of social media platforms, each of which has its own idiosyncratic way of managing posts and users. A savvy social media assistant can optimize your presence to increase your exposure and cadre of followers. They can also assist with creating and posting content, from tweets to blogs and articles, that will showcase your expertise on design techniques and topics.
Graphic Design / Web Designer
When you style a room to add to your portfolio of project photos you want every detail to be perfect. By the same token, the materials that frame those photos in your promotional materials and on your website need to reflect the same level of excellence and design sense. A trained graphic or web designer knows how to use their medium. Whether it be print or pixels, a good designer can engage viewers with your firm and designs, luring them in to learn more.
Public Relations / Communications Assistant
Ever wonder why certain celebrities or personalities keep popping up in your news feeds day after day? It’s because they hire PR and communications services to crank out stories about them and feed them to the media. You probably don’t need a PR specialist most of the time. But if you’re rebranding your firm, entering into a new market, launching a new service, publishing a book, or have recently received recognition for your work, a PR specialist is just what you need to get the word out to those you most want to reach.
Do your homework
To get the most from outsourcing, follow the same process you would use when hiring a new employee. Talk with trusted colleagues in your network to get recommendations. Check out the websites and social media channels of freelancers or service providers you are interested in. Interview candidates and ask for references and samples of their work. Be clear and specific about your needs and expectations. Once you’ve hired an individual or firm, set out explicit policies and procedures for how you’re going to work together, communicate and manage tasks or projects.
On an hourly basis, outsourcing will often cost more than an employee. When you factor in other costs such as benefits and other compensation, payroll taxes, rent and equipment, training, and the number of hours for which you are billed, outsourcing can be the better choice for the kinds of services listed above. And what if you’re unhappy with the results? Well, it’s much easier to switch to another individual or service than to fire an employee and recruit a replacement.