Did you hear the one about the programmer who outsourced his own job? I read about it on Slashdot.org, the ‘news for nerds’ Web site. A pseudonymous poster wrote, ‘About a year ago I hired a developer in India to do my job. I pay him $12,000 to do the job I get paid $67,000 for. He’s happy to have the work. I’m happy that I only have to work 90 minutes a day, talking code. My employer thinks I’m telecommuting. Now I’m considering getting a second job and doing the same thing.’
Very funny story. But with a kernel of truth.
Many of you have heard me speak of a Florida personal injury attorney who grew extremely wealthy by marketing heavily for PI cases, employing a well-trained paralegal to do triage and pick out the good cases, and referring them to practicing PI attorneys for a split of the fee.
Often attorneys are stuck on the idea that they have to perform the work themselves, or employ someone full time to do so. In fact, that’s not so. And you should look at your current workload, legal and other, and think about which ones might be profitably outsourced….you can start with the obvious, like bookkeeping, and proceed over time to the outrageous, like your own role.
The Benefits of Outsourcing
(much of this material is adapted from an article by Heather Robson Ouzts)
Every business has a host of resources at its disposal. Each employee offers a unique combination of skills, plus companies have hardware, software, phone lines, fax lines, Internet connections, email, and more. All of these resources contribute toward getting the job done. But sometimes all of the resources a company has at its fingertips may not be enough. That’s when outsourcing can be a lifesaver–or at the very least, a project saver.
When you outsource a project or part of a project, you are enlisting the services of an independent contractor (IC). The services available from ICs are numerous and varied. You might need someone to do administrative tasks, or paralegal work, or co-counsel, or just about any other task imaginable. Instead of heaping another responsibility on the shoulders of your already-stressed-out staff or hiring another person that you will have to find work for during the next slow down, you can look for help from the outside.
Pay for only what you need
In most businesses the amount of work comes in cycles. It is a familiar drill to us all–one month everybody at the company seems to have more work than they can handle, the next month, they’re searching for things to do. One of the wonderful things about outsourcing is that you never have to find things to keep an IC busy, so you will never pay for anything more than exactly what you need. A lot of ICs charge by the project rather than the hour, so you get a good project estimate up front. Another bonus-ICs handle their own taxes and health insurance.
Get a higher level of experience
Oftentimes ICs have a higher level of experience than what you might be able to afford in a full-time employee. Many ICs have worked many years as full-time employees and reached the point where they realized they could go it on there own–be their own boss, focus on the kinds of projects they like to take, and have more control over their working environment. You can take advantage of that experience without budgeting for a new full-time employee.
Get an additional, often more objective perspective
ICs make great sounding boards. They’ve been around. They know what’s been tried, what works well, and what doesn’t. They aren’t as close to the project as you are and can usually offer a fresh and valuable perspective on what kinds of solutions might work.
They are great in a pinch
When the deadlines are looming and there just doesn’t seem to be anyway to get everything done that needs to be done, ICs are great. They are on a different pace and schedule than you, and though they might be busy, too, chances are you will be able to find one who will be able to meet the deadline you need. In crunch time you can use ICs in different ways. You might want to delegate a critical project with a nonnegotiable deadline to an IC, putting some distance between the project and the office crunch. Or you may want to call in an IC as backup, giving them back-burner projects to handle, so that when the office crunch ends, you’re not behind.
They come with their own infrastructure
Many ICs prefer to work out of their home office. They have a rhythm worked out and feel more productive in the environment they’ve created for themselves. So, unless you absolutely need an IC to work onsite, you’ll find that most ICs come with their own infrastructure. They have their own computer and programs. A legal secretary will have MS Word, Adobe Acrobat (or Acrobat Writer), and possibly an HTML editor; a paralegal may well have HotDocs, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, or other programs that will seamlessly integrate with your office. These programs are all substantial investments. If your company doesn’t already have them, the initial cost of a new employee who knows them will be much higher. On the other hand, with an IC you don’t have to worry about that.
Outsourcing is a cost-effective way to increase your resources
Many law firms who have never outsourced a project before find the idea a bit stressful and a bit strange. How can you know that the project will get done? How can you be in control when you have someone working for you who isn’t there? While these are understandable concerns, they aren’t well-founded. A reputable IC has built his or her reputation by doing work that is done on time for prices that match the work’s value. The bottom line is that for many projects, outsourcing to an IC will often result in higher quality work for less money than doing it in house.
What tasks in your firm might be profitably out-sourced?