As I’ve mentioned here before, probably the weakest weapon in my web arsenal is the ability to design a good, unique, site layout. I’m pretty good at using Photoshop, as well as other design packages, but my big roadblock is artistic skill. I’ll be the first to admit that a design that can take me 20 hours to do could take someone with artistic skill an hour and completely blow mine out of the water. We may be on the same skill level with Photoshop, but a true designers ability to work with color, layout, and flow is really something that can make the difference between an amateur and professional looking layout.
Knowing this weakness and instead of getting frustrated and wasting my time working on crappy designs, I play to my strengths instead by outsourcing a lot of my design work. Outsourcing has kind of a negative connotation, especially in North America, because the first thing a lot of us think about when we hear that word is loss of jobs to cheap Indian call centers. While that is definitely one type of outsourcing, the actual definition is much more broad. Basically, it’s the idea of giving a job to another person in order to free up your own time and money to work on other things.
Do the people you give the work to have to be in another country outside your own? Absolutely not! Outsourcing could be as simple as getting a friend to do designs while you work on the back-end logic. Even if you don’t know someone who is willing to help out, there are literally hundreds of sites on the web that can easily help you out with almost any aspect of your online business.
Here are just a few examples, for a really comprehensive list of freelancers, check out the monster list of freelancing job sites.
It’s not just programming and design you can outsource either. You can hire people to help you write your blog or even just to be your personal assistant and help you maintain your schedule ( assistu, ivaa, b2kcorp ). Basically, if you can think of a task, there is probably a service or auction site out there with people just itching to help you get it done.
Now I know what you’re saying, this stuff must cost a ton of money and how can I afford to hire people to do any of this work for me?
To be honest, when you look at the work from the perspective of time spent to do it yourself, I think in most cases it actually is cheaper to go with an expert. Take myself for example, I recently was in need of 5 unique WordPress templates on a specific topic. Each one was on the same topic, but all 5 designs had to be different. To come up with those designs myself, would have taken me literally 10-20 hours, and the end result would have been workable but far from amazing.
Instead, I put up a project listing on eLance, and I paid a designer $200 for the layouts (I just needed Photoshop mockups). So if I value my own time at say $25 per hour, at a minimum I would have wasted $250 doing the designs myself. Instead, I received 5 excellent designs and while those were being done I managed to launch all 5 sites. So basically, I doubled my throughput and saved myself a designer’s headache in return.
I think you’ll also be surprised at just how cheap some jobs can be done. For me, I always assume design is really expensive because I estimate it based on the time it would take me to complete the same task. In reality though, a designer takes a fraction of the time it takes me to do the same work and so in a lot of cases it really isn’t that bad at all.
In the end, it all comes down to maximizing your efficiency and playing to your strengths instead of succumbing to your weaknesses. You should always try to improve in areas you need work, but you don’t want to do that at the expense of progress for your business.