Outsourcing is not just about Microsoft getting a few thousand software professionals in India to create software for them. It is about options available to you, the small business owner, to enable you to cut costs and increase efficiency.

There are many companies that specialize in using their expertise to make life easier for small businesses. In fact, you may already be outsourcing without realizing it. Who looks after your computer and software? If you are not an expert, you probably have a maintenance contract for this. You have outsourced your computer maintenance to someone who has the knowledge to do a good job.

If you tried to learn about it and do it yourself, you would be wasting time that could be more profitably spent elsewhere. So what else can you outsource? Here are a few examples of where you can get great results and avoid the cost of employing someone full time to do the work.

• What about your accounts? Hiring a full-time accountant is expensive and there may not be enough work for him. Outsourcing this to a professional will not just ensure accuracy in the results but you will be able to get expert analysis on your financial performance.

• Producing newsletter and catalogs. If you don’t have the creative flair, professionals will be able to do a better job.

• Running email campaigns

• Managing contests and sales campaigns

• Managing your website

• Keeping customer records

• And so much more. If you want to outsource, there will be someone ready to do it for you.

However, outsourcing is not a miracle cure for all ills. While outsourcing, make sure that you keep all sensitive confidential data under your control. Sure, you may have to part with some of it to the outsourcing company to enable them to do their work, but know what you are giving and why it is needed. It is important to work only with reliable outsource service providers. Some of the things you need to look for in selecting the right companies are:

• What is their track record? How long have they been in operation and what has been their growth? A company that is not growing has problems.

• Will they provide you a client list and references? This is a sensitive area and many companies are bound by confidentiality agreements. But tell them why you want to know and see what they can give you.

• Will the company provide you with extensive details of the work they do for others? This is not a good thing! They could give the same information about your work to other companies. Avoid these companies. Their eagerness is often driven by desperation.

• While pricing is important, stay away from those who quote exceptionally low rates. They are likely to cut corners in the quality of their service.

• What is their technology like? If they are using the second rate or out of date software, their results will be of the same standard.

• A good outsourcing company will have expertise in its field. Are they will to talk, advice and guide you about how to get more bang for your buck? These are the kind of people to look for.

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