I’m a big fan of outsourcing.  There are three legitimate reasons to outsource:

  • To compensate for a complete deficiency
  • Because your time is more valuable than task XYZ
  • Because you need to move faster

Compensating for a Complete Deficiency

Sometimes, you just suck at a particular task.  It’s ok – everyone has deficiencies.  A classic example is design.  If you are a programmer, you probably suck at design.  Stop deluding yourself.  Junk-tastic programmer design is fine while working on a prototype…but get yourself a real designer when you start getting customers.

CompareRC’s design was outsourced to an excellent freelance designer.  I’m handy with photoshop but I would never dare call myself a designer.  I handed this project willingly (gratefully!) over to a designer.  After a few rounds of discussion and sketches, I had a beautiful PSD for my website.

It would have taken me hours to come up with a design that was half as awesome.  Every penny spent was worth it.

If you suck at something, outsource it.  No questions asked.


Because your time is valuable

Another reason to outsource is because your time is valuable.  I’m not saying your time is worth $1000/hour, but as a solo micropreneur your time is certainly your scarcest resource.  For CompareRC, I outsourced the PSD-to-HTML slicing.

This is something that I could have done.  I’m competent at writing HTML and CSS.  However, I would have spent a lot of time fighting CSS to make everything supported by multiple browsers.  I’m good at CSS but it isn’t my day-job.  I would have spent more time than I wanted working on it.

More importantly, this is the prime candidate to outsource.  You can get PSD-to-HTML conversions for cheap.  So why bother?  Outsource it.  Money well spent.


Because you need to move faster

The last good reason for outsourcing is the same reason companies hire employees.  Sometimes you just need to move faster, get more things done.  Sometimes, especially as a solo micropreneur, you need help.

Do you want to be a programmer, or a business owner?

If you answered “business owner”, you need to consider outsourcing important tasks like programming.  Every programmer has a hard time giving that task up.  What if they mangle the code?  What if it’s an unattainable nightmare? Their code isn’t as good as mine!

Well, tough shit.  Deal with it.  Find a good programmer and trust them, fix things where nescessary and be happy that your business is running with scotch-tape and glue.  The alternative is likely not running at all, so which would you prefer?

I outsourced some of the programming of CompareRC, particularly the content scrapers.  Most of my vendors do not provide nicely formatted product feeds, so I have to scrape their sites to get the information.  Scraping this content is important and can be difficult – many vendors have horribly difficult websites to scrape.  I was tempted to do everything myself.

However, each website also takes about an hour to build and test a scraper.  There are at least 50 vendors that I want indexed.  Did I really want to spend 50 hours writing scrapers, while neglecting other equally important tasks (like building category support, parametric search, responsive interface, blogging, marketing, partnerships, etc etc)?

No.  I outsourced it.

Since the task is somewhat complicated, it is not a “hands-off” affair.  I supervise and manage.  I do code reviews and make suggestions.  But it’s saving me literally dozens of hours.


Because you are so damn lazy

Unfortunately, laziness is a reason to outsource…but it isn’t a good one.  Sometimes it is tempting to outsource because you are simply being lazy.  I recently fell into this trap.  I need to make an architectural change on my backend, upgrading my scotch tape to heavier duty duct-tape.  This involved, among other things, making changes to some of the code that I outsourced.

None of the code is particularly challenging.  But since I didn’t write it, I know there will be some time needed familiarizing myself.  This is a very real danger of outsourcing…you sometimes have to accept these negatives.

I could have sat down and slogged through the code, familiarizing myself with it and churning out a few hours of tedious work.

Or I could send it back to my freelancer…which is the option I chose.

Unfortunately, this is a critical piece of the project right now and I am stonewalled on just about every other front.  Until this change is pushed through, all my other threads are blocking.  I understood this and did it anyway.

Why? Because I was being lazy.  Sometimes you just don’t have the energy.  Micropreneurship requires you to dedicate a lot of time in the mornings or evenings, outside your regular job.  Right or wrong, sometimes you just don’t have the willpower to work on things.

This was the case, and it was the wrong choice.  I’m now waiting for my freelancer to finish so I can get moving on other parts again.


So, if you take one thing away from this post, realize that outsourcing is excellent.  But don’t abuse it.  Sometimes you really do need to just get your hands dirty and slog through boring, tedious work yourself.