In Business and in Everyday Life: To Outsource or Insource?

Sometime back in the late 90s I thought it would be cool to teach myself HTML with the hope of creating my own website. I bought a book and forged ahead, not really knowing what kind of website I wanted or what kind of information to present. (At the time, I think I was envisioning something like an aggregation site, linking to other pages dedicated to my favorite musicians and composers – from Frank Zappa to Igor Stravinsky.)

Since I was a computer programmer, learning the HTML code was easy enough. Back then, you coded HTML in a regular text editor like Notepad, and then when you wanted to see how it looked as a webpage, you just opened the file in your browser. Voila! Web formatted text and graphics!

But as I started to tweak the code, trying to get the look and feel the way I wanted it, I quickly learned that my patience for graphics, spacing, and the infinite shades of color was not – let’s just say – very forgiving: Do I want this shade of green? FONT COLOR = “#009900.” Save. Refresh browser. Nope. Okay, how about this shade? FONT COLOR = “#009933.” Save. Refresh browser. Nope. What about this one? FONT COLOR = “#00CC00.” Save. Refresh. That’s not it.

And on and on it went … Needless to say I never finished the site, and eventually found more interesting things to do with my spare time.

Fast forward to 2011, when I first started to seriously consider becoming a solo attorney and opening my virtual law practice. Knowing my graphic design limitations, I knew I was not the best person to take on the task of building a website that would serve as my home base on the Internet. I could write and organize the substantive content, but I freely accepted the fact that the trial-and-error involved in setting the color combinations, designing logos, and choosing the placement of every frame on every page was something that had to be outsourced.

Solo practitioners are used to wearing many hats; it just goes with the territory. We not only have to be knowledgeable in our area of practice, we have to be marketers, bookkeepers, budget forecasters, office managers, phone screeners and tech support. It’s easy to get bogged down with the details of some tangential task, like figuring out why your wireless printer no longer recognizes your laptop. But there’s a point at which doing that tangential task is just not an economical or efficient use of your time.

Unless you’re a “trust fund baby,” we all recognize that budgets are not limitless. And those 24-hour days aren’t going away anytime soon. So as small business owners, we should embrace the concept of outsourcing certain discrete functions in an effort to maximize our most precious resources: time and money.

If you think about it, outsourcing in your business is just an extension of what you do every day in your personal life. The realities of our household income, family budget and expenses require us to prioritize the choices we make on a regular basis in order to meet the needs of our families.

Hardcore do-it-yourselfers excluded, we outsource all kinds of things either out of convenience, lack of knowledge or skills, or simply to save time. When we hire someone to cut our grass, dry clean our dress shirts and pants, and fix that strange clanking sound in our car, we’ve made the decision that either our time or our money are better served by outsourcing that service to someone who can do it more quickly and efficiently than we can. In that case, each of us has gained something valuable from the transaction.

Personally, I have no idea how to dry clean a good pair of pants, but I know it looks really good when it’s done right. Good thing the dry cleaner has the knowledge and the equipment to do the job , and will do it for me at a price I am willing pay. Now I can concentrate on writing another blog post, or drafting that living trust for my newest client.

Because for me and my business, outsourcing just makes sense. And really, who insources anymore, anyway?

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