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DIY Automation vs Outsourcing: Should you let someone else automate your business?

Every day you’re bombarded with to-do lists that remind you of work that needs to be done. You have a long list of things that need to be done in your business. You have processes that could be done automatically by your staff without you, but they are currently being done manually.

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Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could just push a button and automate those processes? Think how much more time and money you would save! Here, we’ll talk about the scenarios and the different approaches available to automate your business – and how to decide which option is right for you.

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Table of Contents

  1. Do it yourself
  2. Let someone else do it
    a. Zapier Expert
    b. Hiring a developer
    c. Contracting
    d. Hiring a consultant or vendor
  3. Should you automate?
  4. Conclusion

Do it yourself

Zapier and other off-the-shelf automation tools can be incredibly helpful and can integrate hundreds of different tools and software.

Just as well, there are various niche software products that focus on automating a specific need, such as handling email campaigns with MailChimp or messaging and following up with potential prospects on LinkedIn with ProspectIn or PhantomBuster.

This is probably the cheapest option if you are looking to just dip your toes in automation work. Many platforms offer free trials or free, limited plans. For particularly small operations, they can also be very cheap on a monthly basis. Especially useful when cashflow is tight, and only very simple automations are needed.

Do keep in mind that using off-the-shelf automation tools, by their very nature, will favour a limited scope or capability to reduce complexity. Meeting 80% of 80% of users’ needs might just be what you need.

Let someone else do it

Doing it yourself is cheapest, but there is a learning curve, setting the automations up can be time consuming, not to mention fixing bugs or errors.

The four main ways you can go about it are:

Zapier expert

They’ve used the software and know it inside out. They can implement it expertly and help you save time. Zapier has over 1,000 apps it can integrate, so once you know generally what you want to automate and what tools you use, they can take over. Prices range from $100 for 5 hours, to $200-250/hour.

The downside is that you still have to pay for Zapier, and one of the trickier things is figuring out how much you would actually pay a month. Not to forget the artificial 15-minute delay between trigger and execution. You can find more about the limitations of Zapier here.

Hiring a Developer

Some of the more advanced automations might require more expert implementation that Zapier can’t provide. This is when hiring an expert starts becoming increasingly attractive

If you have a lot of automation work to do, hiring a developer in-house might be the most-effective strategy. They will be able to automate tasks and processes to a much greater degree than off-the-shelf automation tools, without having to resort to workarounds. Having instant support and trouble-shooting in-house is another great plus.

They can also set up a local or cloud server to execute the automated tasks. This will be much cheaper buying a subscription plan with a maximum fixed number of automation executions. Pay-as-you-go, and at a much lower rate, too.

Dependence on a single person, on the other hand, also comes with its own risks.

Contracting

While hiring in-house can be the most cost-effective strategy for some businesses, it could just as easily be the least. You’ll need to vet them to a higher degree, onboard them, manage and motivate them. They might also be “on the bench” often.

Contracting one can be a great compromise. Do ensure that the scope of work is clearly laid out and mitigate some of the risks associated with it e.g. they might change careers later down the line or be otherwise unavailable or much more expensive, in which case you want documentation, being able to edit some of your automations as your business changes, and in some instances, access to the source code.

Hiring a consultant or vendor

This includes many of the benefits of hiring or contracting a developer while doing away with the downsides.

If you are in a high cost of living area, a developer salary could run into six-figures. 

Continuity is a big advantage of going the vendor route, as well as access to the larger skillset, experience, and learned best-practices of the firm vs a single individual.

Moreover, the administrative burden is heavily reduced, and a consultant or vendor can help you assess what to automate in the first place.

The total time you spend with a good consultant or vendor, from initial contact to delivered product, can easily be less than 8 hours of your time, spread across a couple of weeks.

The most important factors that lead businesses to go with a consultant or a vendor are:

Off-the-shelf automation tools do not meet their needs or only partially automate tasks. They want to completely automate certain processes.

They want the job to be done to a high standard without spending much time on it.

They only want to automate a couple of tasks so hiring and vetting developers or contractors does not provide a good return on investment.

Peace of mind: it is easier to see previous results, the likelihood of good business practices being in place is higher, and a company has more on the line in terms of reputation.

Disruption or errors with the automated work would be expensive and disrupt business beyond the savings of the DIY approach.

At the same time, you might face sticker shock. A project can cost a couple thousand dollars, and if your business is not generating enough revenue, you have a cheap labour force, or your processes are incredibly well optimised, the return on investment might not be good.

Should you automate?

If your business is struggling with generating revenue but your employees’ time is heavily spent on repetitive tasks, it might be hard to justify but still be a worthwhile investment. Your employees can focus on higher-value tasks, coming up with new, creative or innovative ways to generate revenue, and help you reach that milestone faster.

Moreover, if you are still finding your market fit, constantly changing your offering or the way things are done, there is little point in automating tasks that might not be carried out in a month or two. Once you’ve found what works, automating afterwards is the way to go, not before.

Conclusion

The first step is the hardest. How do you find out the unknown unknowns? What questions do you ask or how do you approach the subject?

Speaking to those that have done it, whether that’s a friend or a business you’re in good terms with, or even speaking to an expert, can be a great way to start.

A good vendor or consultant will help you identify whether automation makes sense in the first place and guide you. A great one will point you in the right direction if they do not believe you would benefit from their services, or if another approach would suit your particular business needs better.

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