This morning I sat on some very comfortable lounges and worked while someone brought me coffee (as least she would have if I drank coffee) and other someone’s washed my car for me. It was not only pleasant but practical. They did a better job on the car than I would and I didn’t lose any time while it was done. Watching them work made me think about Outsourcing and the impact it has had on our lives.
I work in IT-land where Outstourcing is a part of the everyday. Most companies have at least part of their services being provided from India or parts of Asia.
Of course in this day and age, no one remains unaffected. Even if your company still does everything in hourse, if you need to lodge a call for assistance for any number of services (your phone company springs to mind) there’s a pretty good chance you’ll end up talking to someone on the other side of the world from you (unless perhaps you happen to live in India, then you might be calling the guy in the cubicle next to you).
For small business owners it can be a godsend. They can focus on the things that they are good at and have someone else do the bits they aren’t. Like their accounts for example or web design. You might be able to bake wonderful cupcakes but have trouble making them look apealing online. Pay someone who IS good at it to do it for you. Makes you look good all round.
We already know about this in the work arena but can you outsource your own life? The short answer is Yes.
In 2007 a guy named Timothy Ferris published a book called the 4 Hour Workweek. I remember seeing it in the bookshop and having a flick through. Who wouldn’t want to work only 4 hours a week and be good and rich? Sure! I’ll take that. However on my brief flick through there wa a lot about generating passive income and frankly I didn’t think any of it would apply to me. Turns out I was wrong.
Last year my friend Valerie Khoo who runs the Sydney Writing Centre tweeted about reading it and how very useful it was. Since then she has met Tim and been further inspired by him. You can read about it here.
As Valerie is a pretty savvy operator I decided to have a look and spent a day reading it. I was suprised that it actually had application for me. At the time I was managing a team that included an off-shore group. It had some excellent tips on how to work with them to get better results. And it worked. I was impressed. Then life continued on and I didn’t think of it again.
Recently I had a conversation with my very wise sister who told me that she wanted to spend her money on making her life easier. As busy working woman with a multitude of commitments including small children, husband, a house under rennovation and other personal commitments, she doesn’t want to be wasting her time on tasks that she doesn’t need to be doing. She has set an excellent example in this regard and as she told me: why would a pregnant woman want to chase a 2yo around while she tries to by toilet paper when someone else can do it for you.
I think she’s right. The question is just how much of our lives can we outsource to make it worthwhile. Let’s consider. Working women for years have outsourced childcare. Sure, for a lot of them it’s not a choice but for some it is. Also for centuries the rich have had the poor come and clean their houses. Fast forward to our time and having a cleaning person is extremely common and no longer the domain of the rich. Recently we organised to have a couple of strapping young men work in our parents garden as it was getting to be too much for them. Small businesses performing the tasks we might not want to have flourished.
Here are some examples of the sorts of services people can pay for now:
- Car washing
- lawn mowing/gardening
- handy man services
- installation of electronic items
- installation of furniture (particularly flat packed furniture)
- house cleaning
- Grocery deliveries
- flower deliveries
- Personal shoppers
- Personal Assistants
- Dog Walkers
Some of these work for some people and others prefer to do things themselves. I am not sure I’d ever hire someone to buy gifts for me but I might use the consierge service on my credit card to help me find a particular present.
I’ve read a few articles about having an outsource personal assistant. There are a number of companies geared around that. But what do you get them to do?
Things you Don’t want to Do
Love housework? Go for it. If you hate it and would rather have someone else clean your toilet each week then maybe outsourcing is for you. Hate washing your car like me? There’s a service for that. Let’s face it Accountants exist for a reason – because the rest of us hate doing our taxes. Look at your life, aren’t there a few jobs you hate doing that someone else would be willing to?
There are often tasks that need to be done on a regular basis. Like expenses or making travel arrangements. What about filing? Even filing your email? Could someone else be handling these important yet boring jobs for you.
Your To Do List
Take a look at your To Do list. See some things on there that have been there for a while? Sorting out boxes of photos or researching a new Health Fund/Internet Provider/Super fund. Given the right parameters maybe some of these tasks can be done for you leaving you free to tackle the other items on your To Do List.
And to get you thinking of some other ideas, here’s a fun little article about Outsourcing your stuff for $5.
As with everything, there are some downsides. Almost every article I’ve read talks about time (and therefore money) wasted due to the outsourcer misunderstanding the requirement. Regardless of whether you are dealing with a native speaker or not, make sure your request is specific, clear and has an end date/time. This was probably one of the best piece of advice I got out of the 4 Hour Work Week and I think it doesn’t necessarily apply to outsourcing. If you are asking anyone to do something for you, whether it’s a team member or your children, be clear about what you want and put a timeframe on it.
Tim had an excellent example of this. He had asked his offshore assistant to line up some interviews for him. This was done though it took a while. The only problem was that they all thought it was a job interview whereas Tim wanted to interview people for an article he was working on. An easy mix up if you aren’t specific about what you want. We fall into this trap a lot, it makes sense in our heads so we assume it will to other people. The trick is to spell it all out without appearing to treat them like children (unless they are your children in which case that would be appropriate).
It’s all food for thought. Outsourcing in all it’s forms is here to stay. Who knows, maybe I will get someone in to clean my bathroom…. I certainly hate doing it.