Balancing Act / Cindy Krischer Goodman: Consider outsourcing some tasks

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Todd Paton has a booming Miami business getting customers noticed on the Web. One tool he uses is generating online press releases to build brand awareness and create links that will send traffic to a customer’s website. But Mr. Paton, owner of Paton Internet Marketing, acknowledges that writing the releases is not his strong suit. Rather than spend his time doing it, he hires out the task.

“You have to value your time so you know what is or is not a good use of it,” he says.

As a proliferation of outsourcing sites spread, today’s business owners have more options for hiring out tasks. For some small firms, outsourcing has had a compelling impact on their growth, productivity and bottom lines.

An important first step in outsourcing is figuring out what doesn’t make sense for you to do personally.

Mr. Paton suggests dividing your income by the hours worked and coming up with an estimate of your time value. Then, factor in the time it would take you to become an expert at a specific function and complete it. “Often you find you are spending time on something you could have done by an expert for a lot less than your time is worth,” he says.

How much you can you expect to pay a contractor depends on the type of work you’re buying, the skill level and location of your provider, and your own preferences. For example, Mr. Paton goes to eLance to find U.S.-based freelancers and pays about $30 a press release.

Elance and oDesk, which merged in 2013, are two of the most popular marketplaces for employers to connect with talent on an as-needed basis. They are joined by an ongoing rollout of sites that give business owners access to a global pool of human capital such as virtual executive assistants, marketing directors, graphic designers, transcriptionists, paralegals, Web designers, human resources consultants, bookkeepers, public relations directors and information technology specialists.

Lesley Pyle founded HireMyMom.com seven years ago to allow owners in need of outside expertise to tap mom professionals. For many entrepreneurs, the new demands of technology are the most natural tasks to outsource, Ms. Pyle finds.

Mande White-Pearl, a South Florida marketing strategist for female entrepreneurs, says that when a business owner outsources, she needs to understand the specific outcome she wants from whomever she hires.

She locates her freelancers on oDesk and has paid $5 to $50 an hour, depending on the task. She typically gives small projects to new hires, testing them before doling out ongoing tasks. “Over time, I have gotten much better about being clear on what exactly it is I need people to do. If I have had a bad experience, it has been because I had not properly communicated what I needed, wanted or expected.”

The sites make money by charging the employer a fee that equals a share of the total amount paid the freelancer.

For more creative tasks, business owners are finding talent on Fiverr.com, which introduced a mobile app in December. Ms. White-Pearl says she has used Fiverr to find individuals to do video editing, logo design, animation and proofreading, and she has spent from $5 to $40 to get the job done.

Kevin Michael, managing partner of Invizio in Coral Gables, Fla., runs a business that provides IT support to local companies. However, he says, he recently became a vendor on OnForce, a network of independent IT professionals.

“If you are a small business and trying to grow, adding headcount isn’t what you want,” he says. “It is much better to find someone with expertise who is affordable. Now you have more time in your day, and you’re still getting what you need done.”

Cindy Krischer Goodman can be reached at balancegal@gmail.com. 



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