The startup game can often feel like a game of chicken and egg. You need cash to create infrastructure, yet you need infrastructure to generate more cash.
The best way to get through this stage is to engage vendors in various categories that can serve as your company's team. Hiring, training, managing and retaining employees can be a full time job on its own.
When you are just starting out, it's beneficial to work with professionals who are doing what they do in their specific niche day in and day out, allowing you to do what you do best and focus on scaling your company.
Here are a few areas to use outsourced vendors:
Graphic Design and Marketing Materials
It is best to use freelancers that you can afford, rather than to hire an in-house design employee (or try to do it yourself). You can arrange an agreement to give a freelancer a specific amount of work per month at a rate that works for both of you. As you work on your business growth, your freelance graphic designer can continuously be working on keeping your brand look and feel fresh and consistent.
The key here is finding a freelancer that understands your brand, speaks your language, and is content with the compensation arrangement. Freelancers can be found online through platforms like BeHance or Shopify referrals.
Public Relations and Marketing
This is an important revenue-generating part of your model. Very often startups think about PR as being expensive without any guarantee of performance.
You can engage a freelance publicists that does a stellar job who is willing to work on a pay for performance basis. You will only pay them if they actually get placement for your brand - whether it is a celebrity wearing your product, a media publication writing a review on your product or broadcast coverage.
While it may be a challenge to find a freelance publicist that will work on this type of arrangement in your specific industry, it is worth the search.
It is vital to know your numbers and have proper reporting early on in your growth so that you can make wise decisions to scale your business. Hiring an in-house bookkeeper or accountant can be costly and ineffective. You will not be getting the type of reporting or financial management that you need from the level of bookkeeper you would afford to hire early on.
There are companies (i.e. Stage 1 Financial) that serve as your outsourced financial management team providing services like bookkeeping all the way up to CFO consulting on various levels. As you grow, you can add on more complex services to meet your companies needs.
Out of the Box Software
It is easy to come up with an idea for a specific software program that meets your companies needs. It is more important to focus on the main operation of your company. Adding on customized software means that you would need to engage in-house employees or retain an outside company to maintain your custom software. When you use an out of the box software system for your operation, you save yourself the headache of troubleshooting and allow the software company's customer service to be an extension of your company's team.
It is better to tweak your operation to fit an out of the box software than to create a custom software that needs continuous maintenance (unless of course you are a software company).
It's important to stay lean and focused on your main product or service offering, especially in the start up stage.
Customer Call Centers
If customer service cannot be handled online, and you must have actual human operators for your business model, using an outsourced call center can really help scale your business quickly. While outsourced call centers can have a negative reputation, there are plenty of companies out there (i.e. Task Us) doing it better and providing quality service that fights the stereotype.
Ask yourself what areas of your company you can hand over to a professional and be their client, so you can focus on what you do best. Tackle each area and build a team of vendors that will support your brand till you are large enough to hire full time in-house individuals that are the best in their field.