Knowing When You Need to Outsource
Whether launching a website or redesigning one, you need to allocate limited resources carefully. Bandwidth is rarely free. And a growing website will consume as much of your own time as you're willing to give.
When Do You Need to Hire Help?
Some aspects of developing your website might benefit from an extra set of hands or a professional's expertise. Here, then, are some factors that will help you decide if you should hire some help.
- To meet a deadline. There are times you simply have to complete something by a certain time. Perhaps you have a limited marketing opportunity, an annual event critical to your audience to cover, or a competitor moving into your turf. In these cases, finding a professional to assist you may pay you back in additional audience, reputation or market share. However, adding more people late in the process rarely helps you make your deadline. Decide on whether to outsource some work as soon as the deadline is known, not when the deadline has nearly arrived.
- To do one-time setups. While it may be an advantage for you, or your staff, to be able to make basic modifications to your site's technical underpinnings, there's little payoff in learning how to install or configure most server software packages from scratch. An experienced consultant will be able to get you up and running more quickly than you could yourself, allowing you more time to focus on filling the site with content.
- To supplement your expertise. Sure, you could buy a book, take a course and become an expert in, say, search interfaces. But becoming a master at all aspects of web development could take years, and you still wouldn't be able to keep up-to-date with every latest web advance. Instead, focus on the areas that play to your interests and your abilities. Hire someone to do the rest, as needed.
- To do drudge work - sometimes. While answering customer service e-mail or cleaning spam out of the forums might not seem like fun, it does help keep your fingers on the pulse of the site. Consider putting off repetitive tasks for when you hit a down period, or plug away while you're watching TV. On the other hand, some drudge work, such as reformatting tables, has little redeeming value; hire someone to do that.
- To build it right the first time. If you know clearly what you want, it's almost always cheaper to build it the first time than it is to renovate an existing website. That's because there are issues that require extra work during a redesign (data migration, backwards compatibility, fixing poor initial choices and dealing with the expectations of existing users). Outsourcing can help ensure that your first time is done right. Once you have a firm foundation, you can add on yourself. On the other hand, if you're uncertain about what shape the final product should take, it might make sense to do a quick initial design yourself and follow it with a redesign once customer feedback (and revenue) starts flowing. Just expect some costs to be associated with this process.
Always remember, the more clearly the project is defined, the less cost and effort it takes to spot and fix problems. A mistake that costs $1 to fix in a site's planning stages might cost $5 while in production, or $25 once the site is launched. The place to start is a good request for proposals (RFP) that specifies what you want at the end of the process.
> READ NEXT ARTICLE: Writing an RFP or Specification