Category Archives: Web Production

When to Outsource, When to DIY

outsourcing_0If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you might have a bit of a control streak.  The temptation to tackle most critical tasks yourself, when it comes to your business, is sometimes too tempting to resist.  Doing things yourself is more than just the economical choice, it’s also a way for you to feel things are done right, just as you like ’em.  That said, there’s a LOT to tackle in building an online business, and doing it all is not realistic.  You’ll burn out faster than a birthday candle, and those tasks you do tackle will probably be mediocre at best.  You’re better off focusing on what you – and your company itself – does best and finding experts to fill in the rest.

So which jobs are better left to the pros?  That all depends on your business’s core competency.  If you run a design shop, you’ll obviously not need to look elsewhere for website graphics and logos. But you would be best served to outsource development, sys admin type tasks, and perhaps even your marketing needs.  Below is a list of key roles any online business needs, and advice on when to hold it, and when to hire it out.

Design – Unless you run the aforementioned graphics agency, skimping on your website’s visual image is a bad, bad idea.  You know the old adage – you only get one chance to make a first impression.  Website’s that have poor navigation and lackluster graphics can immediately turn off and otherwise enthusiastic client/customer, so make sure you’ve got your best face forward.  Depending on your business’s focus, you may not need a designer in-house, so outsourcing these needs is a good bet, especially out of the gate.

SEO and Social Marketing – They’re the buzz words on everyone’s minds these days, and for good reason; these are the keys to the marketing kingdom.  They can be deceptive in their perceived simplicity, but don’t be fooled – both are complicated, and most often done incorrectly.  You definitely want to have a freelancer on hand that can cover these for you (or two), but the good news is that if your business is just starting out, this does not have to be a full time gig, and these professionals should not be crazy-expensive either.  But resist the temptation to think you can handle a few tweets and article crafting yourself – it’s much more complex than it may seem.

Quality Assurance – Most business owners can take on the task of owning QA in-house, and even themselves.  The exception to this is if you’re building complex technologies, applications or video games that have intricacies only an expert engineer can help identify.  If it’s a matter of testing your website, navigation and ecommerce platform, you and your team can and should keep this task to yourselves.  Knowing every nook and cranny is critical to your business’s success anyway; QA is a great way to keep yourself truly connected to your audience.

Development – Top programming chops are in very high demand, because unless you are a developer yourself, learning a language is no easy task.  If you’re in launch-mode with your business, outsourcing development is not just a wise move, it’s a necessity.  Until you have stable profits and a clear technology road map, hiring engineers in-house is too expensive and complicated.  The same goes for Systems Administration.  Trust a professional firm or freelancer to guard and format your hardware, and focus on what you do best.

Marketing – Most of your marketing efforts should be a hybrid between internal and external employees.  Keep your core marketing strategies in-house, but don’t be afraid to hire a consultant that is an expert in your niche to advise you on how to best reach your audience.  Most companies go through intermittent phases of intense marketing rollouts, followed by more head-down planning.  Keep the former in the hands of the pros, and the latter close to you.  If you own the big picture vision for marketing your company, you can be well-guided by those who get what you’re after and can help you properly execute.

Deciding whether to do it yourself or find a trusted professional is a burden every business owner must bear.  Be honest about your own talents and capabilities, and known what you don’t know.  By letting your business do what it does best, you are better poised to succeed in your target market.

From Across Town to Two Rooms Away: Becoming a Freelancer

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After 17 years of brutal work hours, wack-tackstic LA commutes, gritty office politics and the day to day grind, I have taken the plunge into freelance fun.  I am a part time healer’s apprentice and part time freelance Web Producer and Writer, applying my almost 2 decades of experience into short term and remote client projects.  Sure, it’s an added stress to chase the next project as you’re knocking out the current one, but the flexibility this lifestyle offers is priceless to me at this stage of the game.  With a teenager at home (starting high school this year!) and a husband that travels 1/3 of every month, it’s so ridiculously wonderful to have plenty of time to spend at the homestead, and not in a cubby hole office.

I have had THE most amazing office experiences, however – starting with 8 years of craziness at the Walt Disney Internet Group.  I feel like I grew up at the North Hollywood building, getting a full on crash course in bureaucracy and creativity at one of the most infamous .dot com’s in the biz.  We launched the very first subscription gaming site – and the second overall subscription site – EVER on the web (Disney’s Blast).  The Wall Street Journal beat us by just a few weeks.  I spent many an all-nighter in the QA and Production departments, eventually landing the sweetest gig in the massive building – Premium Products Producer.  I saw us grow to over 4,000, and then slice our force in half during the early 2000’s bubble burst.  The time spent at Disney was truly invaluable, and although I’ve been gone the same length of time I actually spent in those walls, I still remember every moment fondly, and stay in touch with many fellow Mousers.

Since then, I’ve been blessed to land in many smaller offices, preferring to offer my talents to teams not quite large enough to form a country :)  Card Player was a personal fav; the team there made me smile every single day, and I never experienced any personal office drama.  And the last gig at Rivet was my dream job; I really only stopped working with them because the money dried up (the most significant hazard of playing with the up and comers!)

This is absolutely the right time for me to branch out on my own, however, and I am so honored and happy to do so.  Not knowing where the next check will come from is difficult, but it’s a challenge I’m up for.  Is it true what they say?  Once you go Freelance, you never go back?  I could definitely live with that :)