Outsourcing can be a tough decision to make in the early years of your fashion company – you are tempted to save the dollars, be a superhero and do everything yourself. Even when you do decide to take the leap into outsourcing, how do you go about it? How do you manage it once you’ve started?
Before You Outsource
This relies on an inherent understanding of the value of each hour of your time. If you are a sole owner you have to maximize your time on your core competencies – production/design and revenue generating activities and then minimize time everywhere else.
Early on in starting my company, I assigned a dollar value to my time. If the person I could hire, for example to do photography, was below that value it made it easier to justify the decision. Second to this was the actual time it would take me to execute versus someone who was highly specialized. In this case by the time I bought a lens, figured out photoshop and retouching, I could have instead sourced new buyers and converted a sale.
There is no one size fits all solution in making this decision but make sure you have your own method of assessing the costs and benefits that takes into account costs, time and expertise. Also take a look at previous tips on outsourcing different parts of your business.
The Outsourcing Process
Whether you are enlisting an agency or a freelancer make sure you have a contract with very clear time frames and either a fixed project rate or hourly rate that you are comfortable with.
For freelance work, a general good rule is to start with no more than 4-6 weeks worth of work. This leaves you less exposed if the relationship doesn’t work out but also gives you enough time to assess their skills and strengths.
I have personally used sites like Freelancer, ELance and TaskRabbit for outsourcing but honestly, the best hires have without exception come via recommendations through friends and networks. Before you go through the more time consuming route of hiring online, I would recommend posting the project to your networks on LinkedIn first.
After you Outsource
Freelancers and vendors, unlike full time employees, are not as invested in your company and brand – they probably have multiple projects and clients. To that end, you have to incentivize them differently to make sure that the goals you laid out are being met and the work meets your standards.
Establish the level of communication you expect and set that up in advance, for example, a weekly call or a Google doc you’d like them to fill out of progress against goals each week. On a less formal note, lay out your general way of working. I always prefer over-communication via email especially when I am busy and I don’t have as much time to interact face to face or on the phone. Setting these types of expectations early on will lead to a lot less pain further down the line.
On a final note, always remember why you outsourced in the first place and hold yourself accountable to that. Outsourcing is principally to save you time so that you can instead spend those valuable hours on growing your business. Stay true to that and have a clear idea of what you will do with that additional time to reap the full benefits of outsourcing.
If you have any particular tools or tips for outsourcing, let us know in the comments below – we would love to hear your feedback.
Image via Chris Zerbes