How To Make Money By Knowing When To Work Hard And When To Outsource

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After blogging about online stores and helping others with their online businesses for the past several years, I’ve started to notice a disturbing trend among entrepreneurs in the small business community.

These days, it seems as though everyone is looking to outsource. And by outsource, I mean everything!

  • “Steve, can you recommend someone to install my site for me? I want things up right away.”
  • “Steve, how do you feel about pre-fab ecommerce stores? I’d rather not have to deal with the details and make money asap.”
  • “Steve, can I just pay someone or a service to find vendors for me?”
  • “Steve, what do you think about this place that will find and sell me surplus goods? All I have to do is post them on Ebay”

Now on, I’ve been known to talk about leveraging your time effectively. I’ve been known to rely on computers to do the heavy lifting. I’ve even recommended outsourcing some of your work so you can focus on the important aspects of your business.

But there’s a time and a place to outsource and a time and a place to put your head down and start busting some ass.

Outsourcing Vs Hard Work

Throughout the blog and my online store course, I talk a lot about working less hours so you can spend more time with those that you love.

And while it’s true today that our business does not require that many hours in any given week to run, it’s important to realize that things weren’t always that way.

Related: A Peek Into The Glamorous Life Of A Small Business Owner

During the early days of our online store, my wife and I did our time and sacrificed many nights and weekends to get our business off its feet. In fact, we did a lot of things the hard way because we didn’t know any better.

For example, I implemented and modified our shopping cart all by myself. I spent countless hours going through and trying to understand every last bit of code regarding the website. I painstakingly learned php, mysql and css/html by reading O’Reilly books in my spare time.

Could I have benefited from outsourcing some of these early design tasks? Definitely. But I’m glad that I chose the painful route.

Today, I know and understand every line of code for my shopping cart inside and out. I know how to program for the web and debug various problems with our server as they arise. And I pretty much don’t have to depend on anyone else for most web related aspects of our business.

In fact if I were to do it all over again, I’d choose the exact same method of painstaking torture that I endured while launching our business.

The Downsides Of Outsourcing

Despite the fact that I often talk about working less to enjoy life more, I actually love working hard and busting my butt. Why? It’s because whenever I bust my ass, I learn a ridiculous amount.

Earlier this year when I was working on the mobile version of our website, I contemplated contracting the entire job out. After all, I didn’t know a single thing about designing for a cell phone. I didn’t know a single thing about designing for tablets.

And when it comes down to it, I probably could have saved a couple of months and gotten my mobile site out much sooner.

But during the process of designing the mobile version of my online store, I learned a hell of a lot about designing for touch screens.

Related: Prevent Your Online Store From Becoming a Money Pit By Learning Some Basic Skills

I learned the nuances of tapping versus clicking. I learned the subtle differences between a desktop site and a mobile site. Hell, I even learned about human psychology and how customers interact differently on a phone versus a full blown computer.

But what if I had outsourced the project? Mostly likely, I would have come away with very little knowledge. I wouldn’t know how to make any changes myself. I probably wouldn’t have learned a thing. And even worse, how would I have known whether the contractor I hired did a good job or not with my mobile site?

After all, without understanding the nuances of mobile design, how could I judge what “good” truly meant?

Whenever you outsource something without a strong grasp of the underlying principles of what you are outsourcing, you are putting your business at risk. Furthermore, you are making yourself dependent on someone else for support.

I know several entrepreneurs who have outsourced their websites to web designers only to continuously funnel extra money for small changes and bug fixes here and there.

Whenever a change needs to be made, they have to phone their designer and wait a few days for their fixes to be implemented. And if they can’t track down their designer? They’re out of luck.

Is that the way you want to run your business?

When To Outsource

Don’t get me wrong. There is a time and place for outsourcing. For example, if you are on an extremely tight deadline, then it makes sense to outsource. If there’s a task that is completely orthogonal to the core competency of your business, then it makes sense to outsource. If there’s a task that you absolutely detest doing, then it makes sense to outsource.

But outside of the above factors, you need to sit down and ask yourself whether it makes sense to do some of the heavy lifting by yourself.

After running my blog and my course for quite some time now, I’ve found that most new entrepreneurs are in such a big hurry to start their businesses and make money right away that they miss out on the sheer enjoyment of the experience.

Sure, outsourcing can speed things up. You might think that an expert can do a better job than you can, but how will you know unless you give it a shot?

After all, the effectiveness of hiring someone to do the job depends largely on how well you can communicate exactly what you want.

Instead of rushing through the process and going straight for the money, why not take a step back and focus on what you can learn instead?

I have several students in my create a profitable online store course that came in to my class terrified about technology. But after walking them through the basics, they have since learned how to design and manage their own websites! Here’s one of my favorite testimonials.

Steve’s course has given me enough technical knowledge to create a professional website which I deemed impossible without any technical web skills.

While I value the money that my online store brings in, I’m even more thankful about everything that I’ve learned in the process.

After all, the knowledge that I have gained from actually doing the work has made me much more marketable should I ever need to find work or start another business. And the best part is that this knowledge has already paid for itself many times over!

Whenever there’s a problem with any technical aspect of our business, I can usually fix it myself. Whenever something needs to be changed on the website, I can do it by myself immediately.

Effectively, I have made our business more self sufficient and that much more profitable in the process.

The Best Way To Outsource

If you ever do decide to outsource different parts of your business, you should focus on outsourcing things that you already know how to do but hate doing. If you already possess the knowledge, then there’s no point in wasting your time on a task unless you enjoy doing it.

Also, it makes sense to outsource tasks that have nothing to do with your core business. For example, if you are not a law firm and you need to draft a contract, it makes sense to hire a lawyer.

But if you run a web based business, you should take some time and learn about the web. Take some time and understand the technology that is the foundation of your business. Before you hit the outsource button, try and understand everything there is to know about what you are trying to outsource.

Making money is fun, but learning something new and becoming more knowledgeable is the most important facet of entrepreneurship.

Nothing beats hard work and I guarantee that you’ll become a better person because of it.

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?

If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

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21 thoughts on “How To Make Money By Knowing When To Work Hard And When To Outsource”

  1. Ahmen! Love your article and thanks for distinguishing the adv and disadv of outsourcing Steve.

    I am developing an iOS app right now and it doesn’t make sense to learn how to design the graphic and programming in Objective C. The time that it takes for me to learn those myself totally outweigh the cost of outsourcing them.

    But I am looking forward to bust my butt on the marketing part of it!


    1. Cool! What is the name of your app and what does it do?

  2. Sherve says:

    I’ve outsourced several web designs in the past and ironically, I’m a web designer myself!

    The hardest part about the outsourcing process is that you have to know what you want and be able to draft an extremely detailed specification. Sometimes I wonder to myself whether it would be faster to do things myself. Drafting a good spec can take just as long as the entire project itself

    1. Hey Sherve,
      I can totally relate. Most people go into a project giving their designer freedom to decide what is best. But when they actually see the end result, it ends up being a mess because they either don’t like what the designer has done or they haven’t been specific enough with their intentions. It definitely can take a lot of time.

  3. Hope says:

    If it’s easier to outsource and you have the money, then why not?

  4. I agree about being able to get your head around what you’re doing before you outsource. Then if you outsource later you know what to expect and can tell if someone is trying to fleece you. You can also better help the person working for you when you have an idea about language of the product.

  5. Steve, great post. I think you have some great thoughts on when you should outsource. The main reason why I outsource some functions of my business is so I remain focused on the areas that I DO have strengths in and remain focused on why we are even in business. I think if I try to do too much, I will get burned out pretty quickly and then will end up working “in” my business, not “on” my business. One thing I need to work on is managing my time. I only have pockets of time to work on the business, so sometimes it is hard for me to switch my brain from mom to business.

  6. Manny says:

    Hi Steve nice post.

    I have gone through outsourcing in the Philippines and still do for my logo design business. I have also used staff for seo and customer service.

    My staff are great at what they do, and while I can do most things I cant design and I cant code and we do logo design and websites for clients. However in saying that I worked hard on understanding every part of logo design and have a very good eye for it. I can confidently tell whether a designer is designing in illustrator or photoshop, I know the difference between HTML, PHP, different CMS platforms and the process of designing PSD’s and then coding those. I also have a marketing background so design and creativity is in me.

    So my take on this is I work hard on marketing and business and understanding my core business by asking designers and coders alot and by reading alot and researching a heap. But I dont go to the extent of actually designing or coding myself.

    I also spend alot of time finding good people in the Philippines.

    On the other hand there are some things I wont outsource. Things like research, strategy, even the design and layout of my sites and client sites is driven by my ideas (I use powerpoint). I also learn about conversion optimization and AB testing and therefore have a strong understanding of UI design etc but again I do the wireframe and even color schemes and give a very good designer my layout, design and vision and they use their skills to make it a reality and make it look awesome.

    So I agree with what your saying you cant outsource the most important things and you cant have an outsourcer run your business, thats your job and it hard work.

    1. Hey Manny,
      Sounds like you know what you are doing. Outsourcing works especially well when a task is fully encapsulated and completely separate from other things that need to get done. But in general, I always like to take a stab at it before handing the reins to someone else.

  7. I agree on the fact that outsourcing speeds things up, so while it is a productive decision, one shouldn’t do so unless absolutely necessary.

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  9. What a perfect post! totaly love it and you are right, it’s so meaningless just to outsorce the work and not to enjoy the journey of an entrepeneur’s life

    “A person who knows how to do it, it’s a good employee
    A person who knows what to do, it’s a good boss”

    We should learn how to do to tell other what to do, that’s it

  10. No matter what type of blog that you have, one of the
    best places that you can advertise your blog is to
    join a blogger forum. After all, everyone who posts
    there has a blog and thats the main subject.

  11. Outsourcing is good for support when you are busy and you don’t have time to spend on that job or when you just don’t want the job done by yourself. But if it’s outsourcing because of the lack of skills or what not, that’s another story and should be reflected upon before outsourcing.

  12. If one does everything, then he’s not running a business. He’s more of a worker than a business owner, isn’t it?

    But like you say, Steve, doing it all on your own from the start makes you learn, and builds your character too. Then outsourcing for the next time round.

    Great post.

  13. I normally go to elance and freelance websites to get my stuff outsourced. I used to make alittle bit of money of the side but after reading this article, I hope my skills got upgraded. Outsourcing is just one of the ways to make money online.

    You should focus on more ways.

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