Workflow and process automation platforms can be found for businesses of all sizes -- from Sharepoint and Salesforce, at the enterprise level, to Zapier and TallyFy for small-to-medium-size businesses. But process automation takes only so much of the load off for any business.
For a startup or small business, any reduction in overhead lets you shift more revenue to operational growth, while simultaneously freeing up your time. Outsourcing can provide continuity, operational expense control and risk management. It can also improve your work/life balance.
Here are five tasks you can easily outsource to contribute to the growth of your business, while freeing up your time.
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1. Content marketing
Content marketing is the use of easy-to-digest content that is designed to educate your target audience without being too "salesy." The objective is to generate leads, but content also nurtures the relationships you have with those leads to improve your chances of closing a sale.
Over 40 percent of companies have an executive in their organizations who is directly responsible for content marketing. Unfortunately, small businesses like yours may not have the budget for that.
Rather than spending your time producing and distributing content, or hiring a marketing team to tackle it, I recommend outsourcing it. According to a report by LinkedIn based on a survey of marketing professionals, 75 percent of marketers are outsourcing content in some way.
You can start small by hiring a freelance writer, or you can employ an agency. Both options will save you money, and help you build better relationships with your customers.
Research from the American Psychological Association shows that when you multitask, or manage multiple projects at once, you can experience a 40 percent drop in productivity. Your projects take longer to complete, and you increase your overall stress levels.
“Juggling is an illusion,” writes Gary Keller, chairman of Keller Williams Realty. “In reality, the balls are being independently caught and thrown in rapid succession. It is actually task-switching.”
On average, multitasking costs the global economy more than $400 billion annually.
You really don’t want to make mistakes when you handle the finances for your business. I’ve outsourced bookkeeping in just about all of my ventures. You often get the experience of a team when you outsource. I’ve used services like Indinero.com for a lot of my back-office tasks.
I highly recommend outsourcing your payroll, given the numerous requirements, regulations and tax laws. "Payroll" goes well beyond simply calculating the hours of and salary payouts for employees. One mistake with payroll can trigger tax audits and cost your business thousands of dollars.
In 2014 alone, the IRS levied more than $2 billion in fines against small businesses as a result of mistakes, omissions and improper filings.
Rather than handling your own payroll, or maintaining the overhead of a full-time accountant, outsource your payroll to a reliable service. Companies like Wagepoint or Intuit can help you avoid costly mistakes, and free up your time so you can focus on running your business.
4. Conversion optimization
Most businesses generate leads through online marketing, and the content you produce works to convert them into leads. According to Search Engine Land, the average conversion rate across most industries is just over 2 percent, with the top 25 percent of sites seeing conversions at 5 percent or higher.
There’s a lot you can do to improve your conversion rate, but it’s a time-consuming process. Depending on your business model and margins, even a small lift in conversions can add tens to hundreds of thousands or more in annual revenue.
“The discovery of what matters is important,” writes Peep Laja, founder of ConversionXL. “If you figure it out, you know what to optimize, and where . . .You can learn what matters through testing and research.”
Instead of trying to manage, test and track the continuous cycle of changes, you should work with an agency that specializes in conversion optimization.
5. Scheduling and administrative tasks
It’s easy to get bogged down in dozens of small tasks that eat up your time each day. As a small business owner, you need to focus on your core processes to grow your business. When you hire a virtual assistant, you’re paying only for the hours in which tasks are being handled, and you can eliminate a lot of wasted time spent on emails, appointment-setting and other repetitive tasks. When you automate employee scheduling tasks using software, you can focus less on busy work and more on the big picture.
Outsource your weaknesses.
There are a lot of areas to outsource. Look at your team, your processes and the work you have to do on a regular basis. Consider outsourcing those areas where you and your team struggle. Also, look at the difference in costs between a full-time hire and outsourcing. That difference alone could help you decide.