Small Business Owners: Outsourcing Vs Keeping In-House

Most of us have learned very early on that we simply can’t do it all as business owners, or even within the realm of our own team. Outsourcing work, no matter how small or large the project, has become a game-changer in recent years, and I’m sure I don’t speak for myself when I say that it’s really elevated the content and type of work we produce. However, that doesn’t mean that looking for alternate ways to get the job done is always the answer – there are plenty of ways to keep your efforts in-house as well.

What industry pros are outsourcing

Not only can hiring an outside expert to pitch in save you some time and frustration, but doing so ensures that they have one area to focus on, rather than delegating a job to your team that already juggles many tasks.

Admin work is something that’s generally pretty easy to outsource (given the workload), and we know better than anyone that the day-to-day tasks aren’t what we’d like to spend a lot of time on. Shannon Tarrant of Wedding Venue Map says, “I recently hired a virtual admin to handle the customer service side of my business. My passion for sales and marketing was held back by having to worry about the customer experience. Sales have grown 200% in one month just having someone to help manage the part of the business that I liked the least. I always thought that adding help to my team meant full-time employees, which I didn't have the budget for. But, finding a virtual admin that can work 15 hours a month has given me back so much time to focus on growing the business instead of only working in it.”

Brittny Drye of Love Inc. recently outsourced Pinterest management and has noticed a huge shift. About her new help, Drye says, “She has her finger on the pulse of the most recent algorithm changes, and works in the same industry that I’m in, so she’s well-versed with what works within the wedding space. Pinterest is a strong traffic driver but it’s not something that I enjoy doing, so I definitely wish I had made this leap sooner.”

Photo courtesy Nadra Edgerley of Nadra Photography and Blue Elephant Events and Catering

What’s better left in-house

Here’s something that not all business owners will tell you—it’s okay if outsourcing doesn’t always go according to plan! Unfortunately, it can come with considerable trial and error, and the ROI may not always be worth it. This simply means that you can reel it back in and brainstorm another plan of attack, whether that’s hiring a well-versed employee to tackle the task, or taking the time to do your own research.

Keep in mind that the person you contracted may not be the best fit, and it could be a matter of trying new people until everything falls into place. Trip Wheeler of SB Value notes that their attempts at outsourcing haven’t always been successful. “It didn’t work because of chemistry. In cases when outsourcing has failed, it’s usually because the third party didn’t fully understand our expectations. In one case, they didn’t understand our industry and it was really hard getting them up to speed on the lingo, the culture, etc. so none of the work was really applicable.”

It’s also important to consider that who you outsource your work to should have considerable experience handling internal data, if that’s the route you’re willing to take. Sandy Hammer of AllSeated says that they’d specifically never outsource anything with sensitive or private data. “We would never outsource coding especially. We could outsource design, but not the hard coding part of the product. It can become a conflict, and you are not constantly able to watch over the process. Another area we would not outsource is our operations side of the business.”

If you’re allowing someone outside of your business to work as part of the team, make sure that their tone matches well with that of everyone else. Mary Angelini of Key Moment Films advises against outsourcing anything that makes your business unique, namely your branding. “I love the personal contact with our clients, and I’d like to maintain that personal touch during the booking process. I will never outsource sales and client nurturing, because I want my couples to connect on a personal level.”

If you’re ‘that vendor’ who seems disorganized or struggles with executing, then that could create a domino effect that negatively impacts other vendors. Reputation is everything in the event industry, and vendors want to work with other vendors who are reliable and can deliver a good quality service.

The struggles of outsourcing

Contracting someone else isn’t always as simple as handing over the task and expecting results. In fact, there’s a common fear surrounding outsourcing and giving up control, and in the event industry, the first impression is always important with your client.

You want to make sure you’re giving everyone the best version of your business, and that you’re well-organized and competent. Jake Anderson from FeteTech says this is especially hard when outsourcing other vendors to pull off a wedding. “If you’re ‘that vendor’ who seems disorganized or struggles with executing, then that could create a domino effect that negatively impacts other vendors. Reputation is everything in the event industry, and vendors want to work with other vendors who are reliable and can deliver a good quality service.”

Outsourcing itself can be an incredible investment, and Katie Easley, owner of KatieEasley.com agrees that this generalized fear boils down to the costs associated with doing so. “If there is a failure, how can you recoup that cost when most wedding professionals and vendors are already living event to event? It can be hard to rationalize spending extra money on outsourcing when you have to pay rent, and you’re still waiting on your next event to pay out.”

Unfortunately, you also have to realize that, because those that you hire are typically part-time employees, it’s not uncommon that they’ll also be looking for other work. Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services used to outsource labor, saying, “I hired independent contractors that were in the same field, but soon realized that those people were trying to poach the business on-site. It made me realize that I needed employees and began keeping everything in-house!”

As a fellow small business owner, it’s important that we understand there’s no shame in hiring outside help. Sometimes, that’s the best solution and we reap more benefits than if we were to try and train employees ourselves on what we (don’t) know!

Meghan Ely

President, OFD Consulting, Richmond, VA

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. 

Photo: Melody Smith Portraits