Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff!

- June 5, 2012 4 MIN READ

A Guide to Online Outsourcing in Your Startup

Human resourcing for small and medium sized businesses is broken.   As a business owner, how many times have you been in a situation in which you need something done but you simply don’t have enough staff or the right people to put your plans into action or to keep your everyday operations on track?  It’s a really annoying situation which many startup entrepreneurs have simply learned to accept – we either don’t get what we want done, end up procrastinating about putting plans to action or (perhaps even worse) we end up doing a lot of menial jobs ourselves, when we could be spending time working on bigger picture stuff, like managing staff, doing strategic deals or growing sales.  Alternatively, we can either look at increasing headcount or recruiting some help from a temp hire agency – expensive, time consuming and inflexible to ongoing change.

With the mobile web now ubiquitous, online outsourcing is being discovered by more and more small businesses everyday, pioneering an exciting new segment of the human resources industry which is experiencing rapid growth.

Online outsourcing is not an entirely new concept per se.  For years now, we’ve been using communication channels like noticeboards, newspapers and even online classifieds to post up “staff wanted” ads, usually with a phone number or email address for the applicant to contact us.  Well, the new wave of online outsourcing startups including 99 Designs, Freelancer and Airtasker has simply taken the communication channel and put all the steps required to find new staff together to make it faster, easier and more efficient to get the right person for the job.

So why should your startup use online outsourcing?  The internet has provided the world with an amazing new channel to connect with more people through a medium which can communicate much more information than ever before.  Sounds like a cliché I know, however here are a couple of reasons why online outsourcing will be a must for most small businesses moving forward:

  1. Money – the cost of hiring and firing has become too expensive, especially through temp hiring agencies.  Online outsourcing is low cost as the person who completes your task (the “freelancer” or “runner”) receives the majority of the money that you pay, typically less a small success fee charged by the website or app that connects you.
  2. Time – your business doesn’t have time to post an ad, wait for responses and interview candidates to find a temp resource.  Online outsourcing allows you to post an ad, choose you’re runner and have the job done within hours.
  3. Skills – need an expert in a special type of logo design, cleaning or gardening?  Online outsourcing allows you to tap a much wider pool of talent and sort through the candidates quickly by looking at actual feedback data like reviews on previous jobs or third party references.

So you’re probably thinking “this sounds great in theory, but how can I use online outsourcing in my everyday business?”  Well, here are a few examples:

Hyper-local outsourcing (Airtasker, Zaarly and TaskRabbit)

As the internet continues to grow as part of our real everyday lives, the location of services is becoming more and more important.  For example, when you Google search for a plumber, it wouldn’t be much use to get the results of a plumber in Germany or Indonesia – you want to know where the plumbers are in your city or even better, on your block.  Using location technology now available in most devices, sites like Airtasker (in Australia) and TaskRabbit or Zaarly (in the US) can help small businesses connect with “task runners” in their local area, down to the street number.  This type of “hyper local” outsourcing is perfect for tasks that require a physical presence like setting up new office furniture, a quick delivery or finding people to test your new website or product.


International outsourcing (99 Designs, Freelancer, Fiverr)

Probably the oldest and most well established form of online outsourcing is the international marketplace for tasks that can be completed remotely without ever meeting or speaking with your freelancer who may be located in India, China or anywhere else in the world.  This type of outsourcing is suited to “virtual tasks” like designing a company logo, developing a new website or translating a foreign language document.  One of the big pros for this type of marketplace is the cost (a freelancer working from India is likely to cost you less than the equivalent Australian candidate) and the size of the marketplace (the whole world) however you’ll need to brief your project really carefully to ensure that you can get the result that you want whilst dealing with someone on the other side of the world.


Local online outsourcing (Airtasker, Zaarly and TaskRabbit)

Whilst global outsourcing marketplaces like Freelancer have provided many small businesses with really useful assistance on virtual tasks at a very low cost, one line of feedback we get everyday at Airtasker is that outsourcing a task to someone in another country can present it’s own challenges due to the language, culture and the time differences.  As such, we’re seeing more and more tasks get posted on Airtasker that can be completed online or by phone, but where the person or business wants to specifically find someone in their city (or at least in Australia) to complete their task.  For example, whilst a tax return or the design of a marketing brochure doesn’t require you to physically meet, it’s helpful to be able to work with a freelance worker who understands Australian standards and whom you can contact quickly in the same time zone if you need.  At Airtasker, we’ve even seen smaller startups setup a desk for the freelancer in their office so they can physically collaborate on the task.

As with any new business technology, it will take some time to get the most out of online outsourcing – be patient – as with computers, email and mobile phones, online outsourcing technology will continue to evolve and improve to make your business and personal life even easier.  For example, our team at Airtasker is working everyday on building new features like:

  • Smarter user profiles – with verified user ID’s, tradespeople licenses etc
  • Improved communication– like video conferencing and SMS notifications
  • More customer feedback – as the number of customer reviews grows, we can more accurately help you find exactly the right person for your task.


Who knows? Using online outsourcing to help simplify your business and relieve some of the stress out of your everyday lives at home may one day let you achieve that four hour working week we’ve all been dreaming about!