Outsourcing is a huge global market, with it carrying an estimated $88.9 billion in value in 2017 alone. That’s a hefty sum, and it’s not surprising that companies are interested in outsourcing chunks of their business (as we’ll find out).
So what is it about outsourcing that makes it so appealing to both large and small businesses, even when they already have a solid in-house team? And what do you and your brand need to consider when deciding between keeping a web project in-house or outsourcing it to others?
We’ve assessed the things you need to keep in mind when you’re outsourcing your website project, as well as the steps you can take to make sure everything goes smoothly. If this is the first time you're considering delegating projects and tasks to an outside entity, there's a lot to consider. The process is a bit different than what you'd expect from your in-house team, and it may seem daunting to undertake.
We’ve also put together a comprehensive list of the advantages of outsourcing website projects to an outside company. Oh, and we’ve even considered the potential downsides, as it’s important to understand the risks associated with outsourcing any project or process, not just a website project.
What Website Projects Can You Actually Outsource?
The tasks and processes that you can outsource will vary from industry to industry and company to company, but there are several common business processes and tasks that businesses prefer to outsource. Things such as:
Within each of these tasks, you’ll obviously have variables that determine which are more common. For example, outsourcing development projects is a popular choice for organizations as it’s often the case that web developers might be required for a one-off project, rather than an ongoing position. Likewise, with accounting tasks, you might find that you just need some help around the time that you have to file your taxes each year.
What you'll notice is that most of these projects and responsibilities are self-contained. They aren't lengthy or ongoing tasks that take constant communication and back and forth. They are projects that are relatively easy to tie up into a little bow and send off to an outside organization.
What Are The Advantages Of Outsourcing Website Design And Development Projects?
We’ve narrowed the advantages of outsourcing down to five. These are the five biggest advantages to outsourcing any project, but specifically a website design project.
There may well be more pros to outsourcing than what we’ve suggested but in most cases, you’ll at least benefit from one or two of these should you decide to opt for some external help.
1. Cost savings galore!
First up, it’s everyone’s favorite - cost savings. That’s right, in many cases if you opt to outsource your website project you’ll probably cut costs in the long-term. How? Well, hiring an expert or agency for 1-3 months as a contractor will likely cost you substantially less than hiring a full-time employee.
This is what is known as labor arbitrage and it’s arguably the biggest pro when it comes to outsourcing. If you can get more bang for your buck for the same services, if not higher quality services, elsewhere then why wouldn’t you outsource your work to an agency or freelancer?
For example, say you’ve won a website project that you estimate will take 3 months to complete from start to finish. During that project, you’re going to need to carry out a UX analysis on the client’s current website to figure out how their users are currently navigating through their site.
You might want to outsource that particular stage of the website project to a UX design expert while you focus on the other stages of the project. What might take you a full week could only take a UX expert a couple of days.
You also avoid the long-term liability and tax implications that come with hiring a full-time employee. For example, think about a web design agency. Rather than having an internal team of say 12 employees, they might be able to reduce that number to six employees and outsource additional work that those six can’t handle as and when it’s required.
2. External consultants bring a fresh perspective to the table
Outsourcing a web project brings an element of fresh perspective and creative flair to the table. When you hire someone external to carry out part of the process, or the entire project, they’ll have new ideas, different opinions, and access to different knowledge that you or your agency might not have.
For example, say you outsource your website project because you’re a bit swamped internally at the moment and you need some support with back-end development. The developer that you hire might be able to suggest a more efficient way to build sections of the design or offer insights on what they did on a similar project in the past.
Because you traditionally only use employees or internal company resources, you might have missed out on the chance to hear from developers who have worked on projects of a similar design.
3. Using experts who are specialists for higher quality results
Outsourcing web projects to specialists is a surefire way to increase the chances that the end result is of higher quality. Coming back to an earlier example we used when considering the cost saving benefits of outsourcing your website projects. If you were to hire the same UX design expert, he will probably give you a day rate for the time it takes him to complete the work required.
While that rate might be higher than what you’re currently paying your internal designer, the UX specialist will likely be able to deliver a more refined, advanced analysis of the client’s current website.
Would you rather be able to pinpoint exactly where users are currently frustrated, or would you be ok with having to take a stab at it? We know what we'd happily opt for …
4. You’ve got the whole world to choose from
It’s a good point to emphasize the perks that come with outsourcing in relation to the variety of talent at your disposal. You’re not restricted to the few employees you have available in your office. You can literally outsource to anyone in the world (excluding budget and language barriers of course!). That’s the beauty of outsourcing.
Say you’ve taken on a website project for a whiskey distillery. Until recently, finding a talented graphic designer in Spain who has 16 hours free next week and exclusively works with food & drink brands would have been difficult.
Now, you can find that exact person in a few clicks.
Last, but definitely not least, you can typically expect to save hours and hours by outsourcing. When you attempt to hire a full-time employee you’ll generally have to go through a rigorous process which will take up quite a bit of time itself.
An outsourced worker can switch on and off between projects and doesn’t have to be an integral part of your team - they can just be slotted into the process when they’re needed to do one important task, e.g., write some code, create some designs, or whatever else it might be.
There’s also the time-saving perspective from a contractor or freelancers perspective. If they’re balancing several projects at once, you’ll typically find that their attitude might be more along the lines of, “let’s get this project done fast, and to a high standard.”
Why? Well, as a freelancer, making revisions or multiple edits to your projects is a huge time sap, and although it’s important to make sure you’re delivering the best possible final result, it can be frustrating for everyone involved if a project takes longer than expected.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Outsourcing Website Design and Development Projects?
This all might seem a little too good to be true if you’re a skeptic, and to be fair, in some cases your concerns surrounding outsourcing would be valid. We’ve put together a few commonly accepted risks that can often turn into ‘cons’ that are associated with outsourcing projects.
These may not all apply to you, but they are worth-while disadvantages to keep in the back of your mind.
1. Outsourcing can require significant planning and ongoing communication
It’s a rarity that we reference sources from over 10 years ago, and it’s a testament to their quality that they’re still relevant today. In 2007, Gabriel Fuchs, Management Consultant at IBM, wrote for CIO on the importance of communication within outsourcing. As Fuchs discusses, the onus is on the project manager to ensure that the communication between client and contractor is at the very worst, stable.
Even with the help of messaging platforms and calling software that is integrated into the previously mentioned platforms like Upwork, PeoplePerHour, and Fiverr, communicating with temporary workers or remotely based colleagues can be frustratingly tough.
Think about time zones, to begin with. If you’re based in San Francisco, and your agency needs some help with the back-end development of a website project, you might look to Europe or Asia for some assistance. Say you were to hire someone from Portugal to carry out a few weeks of work, they’ll be operating at least 8 hours ahead of you, and thus, you’ll have a small window to directly communicate with them via anything other than text or emails.
The planning that goes into outsourcing can reduce the time and cost savings that you’ve originally anticipated on making as well. For example, if a team member has to find an extra 5 hours of her week to allocate towards outsourced project management, what tasks will she have to cut from her current work schedule? And who will authorize her to make those decisions if she wants to cut what was previously considered an “important” weekly task, for example?
2. They might be experts, but do they ‘get’ your brand or audience?
This is always a looming concern when a company or agency outsources their projects, particularly design related work. Will an experienced UX designer who’d never heard of your brand or company until today really have a better idea about what should or shouldn’t be included in the design of your new website project than your current design team and developers?
Maybe, but it’s a tough decision to make, and in some cases not having to make that decision and sticking with what you’ve got would be the best option.
Having an in-depth understanding of a brands audience, their user expectations and beliefs is something that develops over months of working on several projects and tasks. With that in mind, it’s difficult to see how outsourcing certain projects could ever result in a freelancer delivering as thorough and well articulated final submission as an internal team.
3. Your reputation depends on the work of others
You could argue that this stands true from the moment that you hire employee number 2, but it’s particularly apparent when you start using external contractors and freelancers who have no ties to your company other than financial gain.
Regardless of whether or not your client is aware of it, when you are outsourcing a project your reputation is at stake, and it’s in the hands of someone you’ve probably never met.
It’s fair to say that there are plenty of people that you could outsource to who would do a great job, but there are also others wouldn’t get close to your expectations - finding the right fit for fast delivery while maintaining quality isn’t easy.
Outsourcing Website Projects Successfully And Easily
You might be thinking “wow, outsourcing suddenly sounds so much scarier!” If so, don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a difficult process, but it’s important to put in place a plan that will ensure you can outsource to the right people, at the right time, and in return get what you and your clients expect. Here are a few tips to help you when you’re outsourcing website projects.
1. Don’t just pick the first option you come across
Hey, what’s the rush? Ok, you might be on a tight schedule, but there’s no reason why you can’t shop around a little, right? Put together a process which allows you to give each candidate or agency a quick screening.
This might consist of a few quick questions that you ask each person or a quick 10-minute call that helps you build a clearer understanding of their background and experience. Regardless, make sure you do this for your shortlist of potential people you’re going to outsource to and then you’ll be able to compare and contrast options rather than diving straight in with whoever contacts you first.
2. Ask people you trust for recommendations
You don’t have to rely on your own research or spend hours browsing through job sites. Ask people you know and trust first. Do you have a former colleague who chose to outsource web development projects in the past when they needed some help? Maybe, a friend runs a digital agency who regularly outsourcing graphic design work?
A quick message or email can potentially save you hours. What’s more, a recommendation for a particular person or agency is probably more reliable than a review from someone you don’t know.
3. Get set up on freelance platforms to make your search quicker
If you don’t have any friends or colleagues that can help out, you can always use platforms like Upwork, Fiverr and PeoplePerHour. Each has their own perks, but they’re stuffed with talent, and although it’s important to keep a close eye on reviews, ratings and job success scores, you’ll struggle to find a better place to outsource your website projects.
Creating your profile is usually a pain-free process, but it’s important to create a clear, well-presented and articulate job posting for the task or project you’re outsourcing. If you want to appeal to the highest quality candidates you need to stand out in terms of:
What you need, both a concise version and a detailed version
What your budget is
What criteria you’re going to use to judge candidates, e.g., years of experience, qualifications, etc.
How long the project will last
If there are any language or location requirements
What the means of communication will be, e.g., will you need to speak with them when they’re probably sleeping in a different time zone
Will you require a sample piece from them or are previous examples suitable?
You’ll be able to use these points to determine whether the candidate is likely to carry out the project effectively, or if there are likely to be sticking points, e.g., English isn’t their first language, or their rate is much higher than your budget.
Tips To Remember When Outsourcing Website Design And Development Projects
With everything we’ve discussed thus far in mind, it’s clear that there are several elements to building a website than just coding. It also requires elements of graphic design, copywriting, and UX design.
That said, the development of your website is crucial, and if you’re going to outsource to an agency or freelance developer you should keep a few things in mind to mitigate the risk of the final design being riddled with bugs.
Spend extra time asking a potential developer about their portfolio of work and focus on work that closely relates to your own business or industry.
Focus on how the developer likes to communicate and collaborate with their client (you!). Communication is the key to success when it comes to outsourcing web development and it can have a profound impact on how successful the project will be.
Ask for examples of how they’ve applied their previous lessons or mistakes to their future work. Learning, and learning fast, is vital.
The Final Word
Outsourcing, when used effectively, can be a great way to streamline your business processes and deliver high-quality work to your clients. As we mentioned, it’s important to consider the potential pitfalls and implications should you fail to outsource your website project to a reliable freelancer or contractor. That said, here are the main advantages of outsourcing website projects summarized:
Cost savings vs. hiring a long-term employee
Outsourcing brings a fresh perspective to the table
You’ll typically be hiring a specialist, not a generalist
You can choose from anyone, anywhere in the world
The time your team/you will save could be worth more than the outsourced project itself
Whether you choose to work with an in-house team of full-time employees, or you decide to delegate tasks to a design outsourcing agency or development company, there are a lot of factors to consider. Both options will require strict project management, dedication and passion for the project and your brand. But depending on some of these factors, the pros of one option will probably outweigh its cons.
Each company is different, with different needs that take priority. But if you keep these points in mind, you'll make the decision that's best for you.