Over drinks the other day, I was chatting with my friend Louie. From the way he was morosely staring into his beer, it was obvious Louie had problems. After the second round, I asked him what the trouble was.
“I’m getting divorced,” he replied, “my wife dumped me for my ex-best friend.”
“That’s tough news, Lou. How did it happen?”
“I’m not 100% sure. They became really close after the vacation in Mexico.”
“If they were taking vacations together, Lou, they were already too close.”
“No, no. It was supposed to be a vacation for my wife and me. We had pre-paid reservations and vacation time scheduled from her work. Then the only other engineer in my office broke his leg and I had to cover for him.”
“So you cancelled your vacation?” I asked.
“No, with the non-refundable deposit and my wife’s vacation schedule, I asked my best friend Fred to go with my wife. I thought, ‘What could go wrong? She’s my wife and he’s my best friend.’”
Lou’s plight is yet another example of what can happen when you outsource the wrong tasks. Louie outsourced his second honeymoon to his best friend and learned the hard way.
So, besides honeymoons, what are some of the other tasks that you should NOT outsource? Here are a few:
- Don’t outsource the payment of your virtual workers. By this I mean don’t naively give your VA your PayPal or XOOM login and tell them to pay themselves. The burger flippers at McDonalds don’t get blank checks at the end of the week with instructions to pay themselves; so why should your virtual workers? If you eventually expand enough to need someone to handle worker payments, hire an outside accountant.
- Don’t outsource vague tasks. “What’s vague?” you might ask. Vague is, “I want my website to look better and draw more traffic!” What’s “better” and how much is “more”? These kinds of instructions are useless to a VA and have no definable end point. A better instruction would be, “I want my site to have a two column layout with a full width header. The header should contain my photo and the site logo.” It’s still not precise, but it would give the VA a starting point.
- Don’t outsource the “you” in your business. Whether your style includes pictures of your cats in costume or always starting an article with a lame story (ahem); these are part of what makes a website author unique. I made this mistake early in my outsource career. I tried several different writers, whose talents ranged from execrable to excellent, but ended up re-writing everything they submitted. I was re-writing to make them sound like me. After several months and several writers, I finally concluded that I wasn’t producing any more content than if I had written everything from scratch.That’s not to say that outsource writers are useless. You can use well written articles submitted to article directories to drive traffic to your site. A well-crafted sales page can be a thing of beauty. All of these can be written by outsource writers and used by you.
- When it’s cheaper to do it yourself. This includes those times when it’s faster to do it yourself. Think about a one-off task, testing a new WordPress theme to see how it looks, for example. You could have your webmaster make the switch, notify you, then review the changed site, decide you don’t like it, then have your webmaster change it back. Wouldn’t it save time and money to make the change yourself? Your Webmaster’s time should be spent doing repetitive tasks that support your business (backups, updating plug-ins, site verification, etc.).
- When you dispense advice that could have legal consequences. Sure, your outsourced writer might be the acknowledged expert in tax write-offs using chinchilla farms, but that might only apply to his country. If any of your readers take that advice and get in trouble with the IRS, they will be blaming you. That’s why I don’t give legal advice in these columns. I can only tell you what works for me.
Those are the five major items that I don’t outsource (six, if you count honeymoons). Note that your skill set and inclinations might be different. If you absolutely hate to write, then by all means get a good writer to compose great content for you. If you dread tweaking your websites, then get your Webmaster to make all the changes you want.
If the above items have you worried that your current business structure (having your chinchilla farm owned by an LLC, incorporated in your cat’s name, and used as a tax write-off), is on shaky ground; you’re right to be worried. So, you might ask, “What is a reliable source for legal information?” I can recommend Legalzoom.com. They have packages for almost any business or personal situation.