Five Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask before Outsourcing Anything

Do you always seem to have too much on your plate? Are there things you'd love to do to market your business, but you don't have the skills?

If so, you're not alone. Most entrepreneurs discover that if they want to grow their business, they need help.

That means hiring an employee; outsourcing to agencies, freelancers or Virtual Assistants; or cloning yourself. Since the former can be pricey, and scientists are still working the bugs out of the latter, savvy small business owners end up outsourcing.

Personally, I've always tried to outsource as much as possible—especially anything I don't like doing or am not good at.

Even though I'd been a manager before, somehow I thought outsourcing would be easy. Because I was going to hire professionals who didn't need a bunch of training and handholding.

Boy was I ever nave...

For some strange reason I'd assumed that the people I hired would actually know what they were doing because they'd been in business a while. I also made the fatal mistake of assuming I could trust referrals alone.

The result? My first big outsourcing snafu... I ended up going through two bookkeepers in less than two years, and spending more than $3000 fixing all the problems they created!

Literally every time I got my books back I had to spend hours combing through them for errors. And finding plenty. The worst was when my bookkeeper told me, "Wow, none of my other clients look this closely at their books." Can you say "fired"?

Lucky for me, even though I didn't know that much about bookkeeping or QuickBooks, I did know what went on in my business. So it was easy to check for inconsistencies and missing entries.

But it's not so easy when you hire someone to design a Website, create a logo, or write your new Website content. Because unless you know a good bit about sales and marketing, you have no way of knowing if they've done a good job or not... At least not until you've put it out into the world and tracked the results. And at that point you may have already spent a ton of money only to see little or no return.

You see, sadly, there is a dirty little secret about hiring "creatives" (IE Website designers, graphic designers, copywriters, some Virtual Assistants and even many marketing consultants) that most entrepreneurs don't know...

"The vast majority of these creatives know little to nothing about marketing, advertising, branding or making sales!"

Sure, it seems logical to think they would-especially since they help build and/or design brands, logos, advertising, Websites, brochures, sales letters and more. But you'd be surprised how many technically skilled writers and designers don't.

I've personally had Web designers suggest things to my clients that are proven to decrease click-thrus and sales. And I know more than one person who's wasted thousands on a pretty Website that wasn't profitable.

I've heard graphic designers make bad recommendations about postcard mailings. Then, later admit they've never studied direct mail or advertising, or even worked in sales.

And don't get me started on copywriters. I once thought I would grow my business by hiring a team of killer writers.

Unfortunately, I discovered plenty who could write an interesting article or product description. But when it comes to using psychology and proven marketing and copywriting techniques to sell on paper, they were clueless.

So, what's a busy entrepreneur to do?

You could learn about sales, marketing and advertising yourself. But that can take years of study to really understand. Or, you could hire a proven marketing consultant or coach like me to make sure things are on target.

The other option is to carefully screen creatives before you hire them so you can find ones with the right expertise.

How? By looking at their work samples, and asking them these five simple questions...

1) "Who came up with the concepts?" Oftentimes creatives are simply doing what others tell them, which is fine. But you should know this beforehand because you or someone else will need to tell them what you want.

2) If the concept is theirs, ask, "Why did you choose this direction?" Ideally you should hear responses like: to target a specific market, highlight a USP or benefits, encourage sign-ups, work in a variety of media, or support the brand promise, etc.

3) "What kind of results (IE sales, leads, sign-ups etc.) has your work generated?" If they can't answer, chances are good they don't know much about effective sales and marketing.

4) "Where did you learn about sales, marketing, branding and/or advertising?" It doesn't matter whether they went to school or are self-taught, but they should be one or the other. If they are self-taught, find out which experts they follow and what books they've read to make sure they aren't just winging it.

5) "Can you give me three client references I can call?" Be sure to ask those clients not only about their results, but also about the process of working with that person. Some creatives do amazing work, but the process is a trip to hell and back.

Remember, pretty doesn't always equal effective. And awards are not a sign of sales success. You need to outsource to experienced professionals who really know how to grow your business' bottom line.

2011 Stacy Karacostas. All Rights Reserved. www.theunchainedentrepreneur.com
Practical Marketing Expert and Business Lifestyle Architect Stacy Karacostas is on a mission to help other savvy entrepreneurs unchain themselves from their business. Discover how to market and grow your business with less effort, help more people, make more money, AND still have a life by grabbing your own copy of her *F*R*E*E* "Success without Shackles Starter Kit" at http://www.theunchainedentrepreneur.com


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