To Outsource or Handle it In-House?

Why cost shouldn’t be your only consideration.

Everyone loves a good do-it-yourself project. What could be more satisfying than making over a bathroom yourself or installing shelves on your own? The money saved and satisfaction can be immensely rewarding. The same is true for landing pages, email campaigns, white papers and blog posts designed and/or written in-house by you or your team; they can bring cost savings and satisfaction, too. 

For the savings, the satisfaction, the control and more, doing it yourself is the ideal. But the reality is that things have to line up pretty perfectly for a DIY project to make sense in business. That’s because in business, there’s more than a lost weekend at Home Depot. Without freelancers the work is far from free and comes with the cost of internal time spent as well as the cost of potentially doing it wrong and losing leads, sales, revenue and brand standing as a result. 

Here are a few key considerations for marketers weighing whether to insource or outsource for creative and marketing projects. 

As you save on freelance costs, are you paying in other ways?

Doing it yourself on tasks that could be easily outsourced, comes with an opportunity cost. Hiring a freelancer for lower value tasks enables you to invest your time in high value projects that lead to higher returns. Coming up with the strategy and delegating the executions enables marketing experts to exert their expertise over a much wider swath, encouraging the original thinking of their team members, ensuring quality and maintaining focus on the big picture—as opposed to selecting stock photography, editing video or writing headlines, which can easily be done by others and often with much more attention to detail than a harried upper manager would provide. 

Another way to look at it is simply by looking at it on an hourly basis: freelancer rates are much lower than executive rates; eight hours of a marketing director’s time will always be more expensive than eight hours of a writer’s time, for example. For that reason, it’s always going to be more expensive for a marketing manager to do it themselves.

Is doing it yourself to maintain control really necessary?

When you can handle projects in-house, you can ensure the quality is up to standard and the creative is true to brand standards—oftentimes just by walking down the hall to check on your team. You don’t have the same control when you outsource; however, when you use freelancers, you can create a process for communication and accountability that provides unique advantages.  

The deadlines and project management that a freelancer brings to the table often create more structure and accountability than you’ll receive from an inhouse team (or even by doing it yourself.) You can also control labor costs more effectively through outsourcing. This is because the hours you and your inhouse team spend are often a black hole—out of sight and unchecked. In contrast, freelancers always know where they stand on hours. Whether they’re billing you a project fee or hourly, it’s their job to be accountable and keep you abreast—their business and their profitability depend on it.  

Are you shortchanging strategy by focusing all your attention on execution?

You and everyone on your team have a limited number of hours every day. Spending them on high-value strategic tasks, can lead to large-scale rewards. Dedicating them to executional tasks leads to limited rewards with often short-lived gains. Put another way: if writing the copy for your newsletter leaves you with no time to develop campaigns or product launches, you’ll pay for it over the long run. 

When marketing directors can commit their full mindpower to big ideas, breakthroughs in lead-gen, sales and revenue can follow. Conversely, when time is limited, original thinking is limited, companies fall back on tried and true and potential is limited. In that way, freelancers free marketers to focus on priority goals and tasks.  

Do you or your staff have the expertise for professional quality?

There’s a lot to be said for getting the job done, figuring it out, finding a way and not being deterred by unfamiliar tasks you or your team have never before attempted. In addition, getting it done and saving the money can be a team builder as well as a feather in your team’s collective cap.  

But your market may not see your video or white paper the same way. What is a triumph to you, may not be up to professional standards to them. The impression can do more damage than good. If you need to step up, it makes sense to step out for help. After all, who has a better chance of success? Someone who has written 20 whitepapers or someone who is writing their first? 

Will you follow through, or will there be a cost of not getting done?

The “weekend rule” is a good rule of thumb for viable home improvement projects; if you can do something in a weekend—like painting a room or putting up drapes—your chances of actually improving your home are good. If not, your risk of living with an unfinished eyesore and nagging chore increases. Same is true for marketing projects. Be in it to finish it. If not, hand it off. No one needs a failure on their scorecard.  

Are DIY projects keeping you in catch-up mode?

If you and your team are constantly under the gun to get the monthly newsletter out or post every week, it’s taking a toll. You may be getting it over the goal line each time, but constant emergencies distract you from essential, but less intense pursuits, like keeping up on creative trends, industry opportunities, competitors’ moves and more. They can pass by unnoticed when you’re constantly struggling to manage immediate needs. Outsourcing helps you keep your edge in two ways: by bringing in new perspectives and by freeing you to research, follow trends, find inspiration and look ahead.

Are you always racing and never finding the time for optimizing?

Another negative consequence of spending your work days moving from one rush project to the next is marketing myopia. Just focusing on rolling out campaigns and programs without dedicating adequate time to reporting enables inefficiency and stunts improvement. Without taking the time to see what’s working or not working, you can’t make adjustments that maximize results and optimize spending. Outsourcing your fire drills that distract you without fail—like that weekly blog, quarterly newsletter or monthly Eblast—provide the opportunity to focus on making improvements.

Do you believe you could do it yourself faster than you could outsource it?

Things always look easier than they are. But underestimating the value of experience and under planning often lead to disaster. In home improvement and marketing, there is a process to everything. Processes always take time—but they also save time because they are based on best practices that have succeeded in the past. Freelancers bring process to your project. By taking the necessary steps that you may not have the time or patience for, they increase your chances for success.

The process of having to articulate strategy and provide clear direction is as valuable for the giver as it is for the freelancer because it forces marketers to think things through and make the best decisions.  

Are you considering the effects of dissatisfaction?

Can you take on additional work or assign a heavier workload to your team without creating stress, tension and resentment? People often quit at “the absolute worst time” for companies because they’re overworked. If you’re short-handed already, a vacancy will be devastating. In this way, outsourcing provides staff insurance that supports continuity in your communications and company.

Conclusion:

The cost of outsourcing is a worthy investment when considering the potential costs of doing it yourself, or even doing nothing at all. As companies and workers get more comfortable with working outside the office and collaborating virtually during the pandemic, the process of reaching outside becomes less risky and more routine. And when they consider the value, it seems less extravagant altogether. 

By Conrad Winter, a freelance copywriter specializing in content and copywriting for transportation and logistics. Based in Metuchen, NJ, he writes white papers, case studies, website copy, and blog posts for carriers, 3PLs and industry associations. 

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