New survey finds outsourcing is on the rise

Larissa Ham

Eighty per cent of solo operators are now willing to outsource business tasks – up from 27 per cent in 2012, according to a new survey from online community Flying Solo.

The survey of more than 1000 business owners showed that while the number of businesses seeking outside help tripled, the majority of respondents (60 per cent) were reticent to delegate offshore.

Flying Solo founder Robert Gerrish says the last such survey, undertaken in 2012, showed that overwhelm – “or wearing too many hats” – was a massive issue for solo operators, so it made sense that outsourcing was on the rise.

Top of the list of outsourced tasks was accounting, followed by web design, graphic design and bookkeeping.

Gerrish says sites such as Freelancer.com and Upwork have increased awareness of outsourcing. Business owners are also getting more used to “letting go” as tasks such as accounting increasingly move to the “cloud”, he says.

“[Business owners] are getting the message that actually you don’t have to do everything. It’s better for your business if you do what you’re good at and get support in some of those other areas.”

The survey also found that 85 per cent of solo operators were happy in their work, with flexibility and autonomy topping the list of benefits of going it alone.

Word of mouth remained the best marketing tool for survey respondents, with 84 per cent of soloists using it effectively.

However, there were also challenges. Finding enough clients or customers came in at number one, following by not having enough hours in the day, and dealing with too many aspects of the business.

While money was not the greatest motivator, survey respondents reported higher income than Australian averages. Twenty per cent of solo operators earned more than $100,000 a year, and the average household income of respondents was $114,000.

“We’re always pleasantly kind of surprised that they’re doing rather nicely financially,” says Gerrish.

Word of mouth remained the best marketing tool for survey respondents, with 84 per cent of soloists using it effectively. Website referrals and repeat business tied for equal second.

As online networking continues to rise, the number of solo business owners attending face-to-face events at least once a month dipped – down from 56 per cent in 2010 to 36 per cent.

However, small business owners found the time to spend more hours than ever staring at their smartphone screens.

Almost two-thirds of respondents admitted to sleeping with their smartphone beside their bed – a habit more prevalent in those aged under 40.

Larissa Ham

Larissa Ham is a Melbourne-based freelancer. She write for publications including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The New Daily and Forge magazine, and also shares money saving tips at Hey, Little Spender!

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