When you’re running a small online business, it can be hard to keep on top of everything. Either you’re going to be doing all the work yourself (without much time to relax), or you’re going to be delegating out tasks to a new team who aren’t always sure what they’re doing.
If you want to run a business that stands the test of time — you should seriously consider outsourcing some of your work (it’s a great thing to do and will eliminate a lot of stress). Here’s a guide to outsourcing for ecommerce merchants — get the experts in, and see the money follow.
The Case for Outsourcing
Outsourcing elements of your business makes business sense — you can pay a small monthly fee for expert software, or consultancy charges for expert input. Spread the cost of your business with strategic outsourcing and get the best possible ROI from your business activities.
- Have a strong onboarding process for freelancers or consultants — including having appropriate non-disclosure agreements or documents in place. Remember, people won’t be able to help unless you give them the data they need, and you won’t make a good impression with important contacts if you’re not organized. Be careful about sharing sensitive data — people will take advantage, so always protect yourself.
- Ecommerce operations can be hugely streamlined with smart integrations that automate repetitive business tasks — from logistics and invoices, to emails and pricing. Shop around for the software other merchants swear by — you don’t have to commit to everything right there and then, but test a few ones during free trial periods. Try to find complementary applications that work well together — there are plenty of smart integrations that connect up marketing with financials and logistics with customer service.
Outsourcing isn’t cheating, though it’s a good idea to know how to do things for yourself, even if you do outsource most business staks. Being clued up will make it easier for you to quality check work and stay in control of your business.
Use Outsourcing to Design an Affordable Workforce
Finding staff online and outsourcing allows you to build a team fast without the traditional headaches of staffing — and it can be extremely affordable (especially if you stumble on burgeoning professionals building up their portfolios). You can hire people on short contracts, or even just commission one piece of work from them. Equally, you can work with the same person for years, building up more of a traditional professional relationship.
For one-off freelance jobs, you might want to consider the likes of famous freelancer site Fiverr. The unique selling point of Fiverr is the fact that it puts you in touch with freelancers who will do jobs for as little as $5. (That’s just the lowest price though, and there are more comprehensive services which can cost up to $500). Examples of some of the work that you can get done for your ecommerce business through Fiverr include:
- Graphic Design: If you need a logo (or any other graphic) put together for your site, then this could be the easiest option to get some quick designs
- Video Production: If you’re after a simple video for marketing purposes, then that’s another one of the services you can obtain through Fiverr. This one definitely saves you a lot of hassle
- Audio: Want a little jingle for your business, perhaps? You might like to look through the cheap audio services that are available
- Editing: Do you want somebody to look over a particularly important piece of writing? For example, the text on your homepage? Editing services are among those available
- Writing: Do you need content for your blog or renewed product descriptions? If you don’t have money to pay a fulltime writer, you could just find writers through Fiverr and pay on a piece-by-piece basis.
There’s more too, but that list does a good job of highlighting the most popular services available through Fiverr. The prices are a lot lower than you’d expect to pay regular freelancers, so this is definitely one of the best choices for ecommerce businesses working with low budgets.
Motivating Overseas Workers
Another option for businesses looking for cheap work is to look into hiring overseas workers as ongoing virtual assistants. While they may not be present in the office, virtual assistants can play a very important role. Overseas freelancers can still make a comfortable living, even if they are being paid comparatively less than domestic staff: get clued up on the pros and cons of offshoring.
Sites like Upwork provide the easiest way for you to get in touch with overseas freelancers. Here’s what you need to consider:
- Admin Tasks: Any online business is going to have a lot of menial, admin-type work that needs to be done. If, for example, you’ve got a huge backlog of data entry work that needs doing, a virtual assistant could be the ideal choice for this task. VAs are often integral to ecommerce operations such as customer service, order management, marketing, and SEO
- Communications: A potential downside of hiring virtual assistants is that there can occasionally be an issue with communication. If somebody does not have English as their first language, it’s not surprising that they might occasionally misunderstand instructions. With this in mind, it’s always important that you take the time to communicate as clearly as possible — Skype and chat programs like Slack are popular options. It’s important they feel respected and part of the business
The VA model has both strengths and weaknesses — make sure you go into this with your eyes open. Many successful entrepreneurs run their business with the support of a whole ARMY of VAs. Here is a useful article on how to get started.
Hiring in Web Expertise
Probably the most common thing that ecommerce managers want to outsource is web design and development, and you don’t just need the experts on hand during the build phase — you need access to a good developer on on most days!
Some web environments allow for easy updates you can manage in-house, others are a bit more complex. When choosing your ecommerce environment, make sure you factor in ease of use if you are going to need frequent updates (hiring in a developer especially every time you need to change a product description will be expensive).
Having a designer or developer oncall is also better from a security perspective — they can ensure that your site and code are regularly updated. Factor this into your annual planning with quarterly cyber security updates.
The most important thing to consider when outsourcing development tasks is to balance price with expertise and security: trying to get a bargain price on a development project may backfire. Favor certified developers and reputable agencies. Shopify have their own developer directory, (styled as ‘Experts’) but for WordPress development, you are going to have to rely on word-of-mouth and recommendations. (A lot of agencies can handle WordPress websites, but you’d be better off going for an ecommerce-focused one). Drupal and Magento require slightly more specialist development skills, but as content management systems you can pick up the basics pretty fast.
Stress-Free Customer Service Operations
Managing customers can’t be 100% automated, but a lot of it can! Use services like AI-chatbots, live chat, social media managers, and outsourced telephone operations to streamline your in-house operations. Always balance quality of service with prompt delivery: speed is essential here.
Sending out personalized customer emails will be a lot easier if you invest in some good email software that allows for automated templates.
Have you considered telephone sales? Telemarketing won’t always pay off, so it’s good to try outsourcing at first rather than getting somebody on a contract. It’s good to experiment with all the different mediums of marketing. A lot of people dismiss telemarketing as spammy, but it can be very effective.
Even if you don’t go for the outbound sales package, you definitely need to have an inbound call center, and outsourcing it can help you take your operations to 24/7.
Better Marketing Results Through Investment
These days, it’s worth your time to hire in a digital agency in order to improve your website’s backlink profile and generally manage your SEO and digital strategy. Digital marketing is an ecommerce lifeline and you need to give it everything you’ve got. Doing it all in-house will slow you down and stop you from growing faster: remember, you need to spend money to earn money.
Here are some of the things a reputable agency should do for you:
- Get you links from respected, authoritative sites
- Give you a site audit to help improve onsite SEO (here’s how to prioritize SEO throughout your store)
- Provide an overview of your rankings for keywords
- Find out which keywords you should be aiming for
- Carry out competitor research
Before you make any arrangements, it’s good to do a bit of your own research and make sure that the agency you are interested is adhering to SEO best practices. A bad SEO agency could do more harm than good.
So that should give you a good idea of what sort of work you can have outsourced, and where you can find the people to do it. Having people work in-house may be the traditional ideal, but it won’t always be practical. Outsourcing allows your business to cover more ground on a smaller budget, while simultaneously not using up too much of your office space. Which outsourcing services have you found useful in the past?
With a good ten years’ worth of experience within the ecommerce industry, Patrick knows a thing or two about running an online business.