Since 2011, the time tracking and productivity app, DeskTime has been growing at a pace that some would characterize as ”moderate and steady.”
According to company reports, the app went from zero to 100,000 registered users in six years, managed to attract roughly 4,000 companies as customers, and maintained a lean and constant team size of just seven people.
In recent years, the company has reported an uptick in rapid growth as they reportedly doubled the number of users they attracted over six years within a mere two years, while increasing revenue by 94%. Their secret? Outsourcing.
Two years ago, the company decided to outsource services like marketing, app development, accounting, and more. ”Today, we outsource 13 different skills. For the same money, we could afford a maximum of three highly-qualified in-house employees,” says Artis Rozentals, the CEO of DeskTime.
Here’s how you too can accelerate business growth with the help of outsourcing – told by DeskTime’s CEO:
1. Hire niche professionals instead of a jack of all trades
As the CEO of a growing company, I know the value of time. When your job is to make top-level decisions and oversee everything from company finances to legal strategies, the last thing you want to do is look after a bunch of freelancers and make sure they stick to deadlines. So, I understand the temptation to hire a full-stack agency that does everything for you – from web design and marketing to programming and customer service.
However, when it comes to full-stack agencies, that’s often the story of ”jack of all trades, master of none”. While they have the skills for the job, they might not be the best experts at what they do. It’s like a restaurant that offers everything from Italian to Chinese cuisine – the food might be okay, but it’s not authentic and, therefore, not excellent.
My strategy was to look for niche agencies and freelancers with specific skills. For example, instead of hiring a full-stack marketing agency, we hired a boutique content marketing agency whose expertise was written content – the one thing we were interested in.
Ask the agency or freelancer whether they have partnerships with other agencies and freelancers. For example, the content marketing agency we hired had their own network of other niche professionals they had already worked with – a paid ad specialist, designers, UX professionals, etc. As DeskTime was growing, we became interested in these services and didn’t have to look far for the right people.
2. Set up a system
Managing separate freelancers and agencies is, nevertheless, a challenge. At DeskTime, we have a dedicated in-house employee – the project manager – whose job is to make sure that everyone does their part and that all parts are put together into a finished result.
It took us some time and communication errors to come up with a system that works for all parties and help us manage our projects more efficiently. Here’s what works for us:
All jobs-to-be-done are inserted into spreadsheets, along with descriptions and deadlines. At the beginning of each month, teams go through the tasks and highlight the ones they’re about to work on and set precise deadlines. That way, other involved parties can plan their schedules, too. For example, if the content marketing team has scheduled a blog post on time management tips, the SEO team knows what keyword research they must do and when. So that when the writers get to work, they have all the information and instructions needed.
Email and Skype
For day-to-day communication, we use email and Skype. The rules are:
- If it’s urgent – use Skype.
- If it can wait – write an email.
- If the answer can be found on Google – use it.
Quarterly meetings (or more often if necessary)
Every quarter we have a meeting when all teams and individual freelancers come together to discuss results, hear what other teams see as the priority for the next quarter, as well as talk about what’s working and what’s not.
We are lucky that all of our outsourced contractors are local, meaning – people can physically come to our office and meet each other in person. That improves mutual understanding and collaboration and works almost like a team-building event.
If, however, bringing all your contractors together isn’t an option, I recommend regular conference calls. That way, you’ll ensure everyone’s on the same page and knows where the company is going.
3. Let the pros do their job
Once the system is in place, let people do their jobs. They’re the professionals, so don’t sabotage potentially great results by micromanaging, imposing your opinion and ignoring their suggestions.
Trust the people you’ve hired. At the same time, keep your finger on the pulse and ask for reports and stats – numbers don’t lie and, therefore, are your only way to make sure you’re on the right track.
That being said, keep in mind that some things take time, and you cannot expect quick results. Understand that one article won’t grow your blog readership and website traffic. Moreover, just because you’ve added keywords to your product descriptions, it won’t help you rank on Google right away. While changing one detail in your UX might not instantly skyrocket your conversion rate.
What I’m saying is – know what you sign up for! Do your research. Ask the contractor to share the minimal time needed to see the results. Then, be ready to commit or save your money.
Outsourcing doesn’t differ much from hiring in-house employees. So, choose your contractors like you would choose team members. And remember:
While outsourcing can, in the long-term, be more cost-efficient than having someone working for you full-time, it’s still not cheap. Good professionals are never cheap, no matter whether they work in-house or freelance.
Krista Krumina is a writer, traveler, and co-founder of Truesix Co, a content marketing agency that helps local brands get international attention. She’s written for NY Observer, Thrive Global, The Muse, and many others. Krista covers tech, entrepreneurship, and productivity. She also works with the Draugiem Group, a group of startups that includes Printful, DeskTime, and other tech startups.
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