If you just started a business, or you’re looking to expand your small business, you might feel overwhelmed by the number of back office responsibilities in front of you.
As you grow, there will soon be no feasible way for you to manage everything yourself, and hiring full-time employees is an arduous (and expensive) process.
The solution to this dilemma, for most entrepreneurs, is finding back office tasks and responsibilities to outsource—in other words, finding freelancers, firms, and other third parties to take on these responsibilities on your behalf.
The benefits of back office outsourcing
Back office outsourcing has several distinct advantages for new and small business owners, including:
The real cost of hiring an employee is much higher than whatever you agree to pay as their base salary. You’ll also have to account for taxes, office costs, equipment costs, and in most cases, benefits.
Hiring contractors or other third parties usually means saving money— which is important if you’re trying to expand on a budget. You can almost certainly find experienced, talented contractors for less than their full-time employee counterparts.
Outsourcing your tasks means you have more flexibility in assigning work; most agencies (as well as solo contractors) are willing to adapt when your workloads are especially high or especially low.
This is especially important if you plan to grow; rather than hiring new people, one by one, you can simply scale with an agency.
You might feel capable of keeping track of your company’s finances, especially in the early stages of your business’s development, but a single accounting error could cost your business dearly.
With a professional accountant, you can rest assured that the work will be done accurately—and the same can be said for professionals in multiple back office departments. Someone more experienced than you will be accountable for the work that gets done.
Time savings and focus
Perhaps most importantly when you’re considering back office outsourcing, remember the value of your own time.
Every minute you spend bogged down with back office work is a minute you can’t spend on more important tasks, like managing your most important client relationships or planning the future of your business.
Hiring someone frees up your time, which you can spend focused on vital tasks for your business.
6 best back office tasks to outsource
Let’s take a look at some of the best back office tasks to outsource:
- Accounting and bookkeeping.
- Marketing and advertising.
- IT and technology.
- Customer service.
- HR and payroll.
- Legal support.
If you want to spend more time growing your business, learn more about these six tasks you should be outsourcing so that you can spend more time focusing on your clients.
1. Accounting and bookkeeping
Accounting and bookkeeping are two sides of the same coin: your company’s financials.
Bookkeeping refers to the day-to-day process of tracking expenditures and income, while accounting refers to more high-level number crunching and strategic planning.
Sometimes, tax planning is considered as a financial responsibility separate from (but related to) these two areas.
There are a few reasons why accounting and bookkeeping are important to outsource, even more so than some of the other back office tasks on this list.
For starters, finances are high stakes. Making a single mistake on your taxes could result in a significant penalty, and failing to keep accurate tabs on your cash flow could ultimately result in the collapse of your business.
There are people more reliable and more experienced than you in this field, so it’s important to trust them—rather than risk committing a grievous error.
Second, accounting and bookkeeping take up a lot of time. Bookkeeping, especially, can be tedious, occupying hours of your day that could be better spent on higher priorities.
There are a few options when outsourcing your accounting and bookkeeping. To start, you could hire a local professional, part-time, to assist you with your work. You could also use an online platform like Upwork or Freelancer to find remote contractors looking for work; just make sure you review their credentials.
You could also hire an accounting/bookkeeping firm or agency; this is advantageous if you expect your business needs to grow since you can stick with the same contact network and workflow.
2. Marketing and advertising
Marketing and advertising are also vital to the success of your business; without marketing, you’ll be relying entirely on natural word-of-mouth and firsthand efforts to increase your brand visibility and grow your customer base.
If you don’t have much marketing experience or knowledge in your own right, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to craft a campaign that aligns with your brand values and cultivates a profitable return on investment (ROI). In fact, if your work is shoddy, or if your brand isn’t presented in a favorable light, a low-skill effort could actually have negative effects on your brand.
Outsourcing your marketing and advertising is also beneficial because it can help you discover marketing techniques you might not have considered; this is especially useful if you’re trying to save money.
A freelancer or marketing agency may know the best way to make the most of your budget, regardless of how much you have to spend.
Though marketing and advertising may not be quite as high-stakes as your company’s finances, it’s still important to choose a candidate with sufficient knowledge and experience.
3. IT and technology
IT and technology needs will vary, depending on the nature of your business and the industry in which you operate. However, no matter what, you’ll likely benefit from working with at least one technology expert.
There are several responsibilities that could fall under this category, including:
- buying new computers and other digital devices
- setting up and maintaining your internet connection
- sourcing and managing cloud services
- setting up and managing local servers
- improving your cybersecurity
Without a proper cybersecurity strategy, your business could be the victim of a data breach or cyberattack — and considering the average cost of a data breach is now $3.92 million, that’s likely not a risk you can accept.
While it’s possible to hire a part-time IT consultant to help you set up specific systems or advise you of potential weaknesses, this is an area where monthly, weekly, or other recurring services are valuable.
IT and technology require ongoing attention and maintenance, so it’s best to partner with an IT firm — assuming you have sufficient tech needs to justify the decision. This may also be necessary even if you have limited technology needs if your personal IT knowledge is low.
Related: Outsourcing IT vs in-house IT
4. Customer service
In the early days of your business, you’ll probably have no issue talking to your customers, helping them with their problems, and encouraging them to stick with your brand long-term. But as your business becomes bigger, with a larger customer base, this individualistic attempt will quickly become folly.
The minutes and hours you spend dealing with individual customer issues will take you away from responsibilities like scouting new locations, hiring strategic partners, and negotiating deals.
But outsourcing your customer service needs is about more than just freeing up time for yourself. It’s also about maximizing your customer retention in the smartest and most efficient way.
Acquiring a new customer costs up to five times as much as retaining an existing customer, and an excellent customer service team can help you make the most of this natural advantage.
If you have a solid customer service strategy in place, you can hire individual part-time customer service professionals, or independent contractors, to help you handle inbound requests with new and returning customers.
If you aren’t sure how to handle your customer service strategy, it might be better to invest in a customer service agency or work with a customer service consultant. From the ground up, they can help you establish a customer service strategy that works.
5. HR and payroll
As you begin to work with more back office contractors and bring on both part-time and full-time employees, you’ll need to find someone to help you manage those employee records.
Accordingly, you’ll need to hire an expert consultant in human resources (HR) to help you build and maintain those onboarding and management systems.
Payroll is sometimes categorized as an HR responsibility, and sometimes as an accounting responsibility. Both departments will play a role in establishing and perpetuating your payroll system. Accordingly, while considering an outsourced expert for your HR needs, you’ll need to keep payroll in mind.
If you’re in need of finding a talented, experienced partner in a role like Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), an HR consultant or recruiter can help you narrow down the field — and hopefully, find the perfect candidate.
If you hire an HR consultant, you might pay for a one-time advisory session, meant to direct you on how to set up a system of your own. Otherwise, you can hire a recruiting firm for your ongoing back office hiring needs, or (like with most of these other departments), simply contract someone for part-time work as you need it.
6. Legal support
Finally, you’ll need to consider legal support. Though it’s the last entry on this list, there can be times where it becomes the most important — especially for sensitive or complex industries.
Working with an attorney can help you tackle complex legal challenges like contract law, employment regulations, and how to limit your liabilities.
A good lawyer will also help you recognize and understand legal issues you might not see coming; there are likely several weak points or legal considerations in your business that you’re neglecting.
A single mistake or oversight could land your business in legal trouble, jeopardizing its future, costing you money, or even landing you in jail (depending on the business structure and severity of the offense).
Most new business owners opt for on-demand legal services, consulting with a lawyer or a firm only as needed — like when establishing a new line of services or finalizing a contract.
However, if you’re growing your business, it might be prudent to retain legal services — again, with an individual or with a firm. That way, you’ll have ongoing access to a legal expert as you make new discoveries and encounter new challenges.
Be aware that legal services are definitely one of the most expensive back office departments on this list. However, don’t be tempted to neglect the need for high-quality legal services for your business.
Is it time to start back office outsourcing?
If you’re starting or growing a business, it’s nearly impossible to get by with full-time employees and your own effort alone. To save time, save money, and improve your work quality and efficiency, you’ll need to outsource some (if not the majority) of your back office responsibilities.
Spend some time evaluating your own strengths and weaknesses and start reviewing candidates to assist you in these efforts; it will be worth your time and money to find reliable partners.
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