In one of the funnier stories I’ve come across lately, there’s a 6-figure developer who decided to outsource his entire job to China, still show up at the office each day to watch cat videos and do social media, email his boss an update at the end of each day, and then go home and collect an income of “Several Hundred Thousand Dollars”. He was paying the Chinese firm about $50k/yr (they found invoices on his computer!) Must be nice! Here’s the background on this guy – link.
So, just for fun, I started thinking about which components of my job I could outsource if I wanted. I’m an outsource myself essentially (I transfer manufacturing processes from site to site in pharma/biotech), so I’m always thinking about outsourcing in general, but not so much about MY job. As a project manager, when I think about what most of my days are comprised of, I could actually find very little to outsource, aside from just firing me a hiring someone else to do the same job:
- Running Meetings – Obviously I could never get away with outsourcing this to someone else. So I have to either be there in person or over the phone running several different team meetings most days.
- Drafting Memos, Documents, Presentations, etc. – I’d struggle with this one, since most of these are personalized to stuff only I know. Plus, some of my projects are confidential and I could be fired/sued for sending info to even someone else within my own company, let alone a guy in India.
- Meeting Minutes and Agendas – If I could get past the confidentiality piece, I could probably save an hour or two a week on minutes. That of course would mean that someone would have to be able to read my writing (I barely can) and I ‘d probably have to scan every set of minutes and email them. Then I’d have to pick out all the stuff I wrote down that I don’t actually want emailed out. May not be worth the trouble.
- Data manipulation, interpretation of technical, planning, regulatory into a plan – Sometimes I end up getting a data dump of regulatory assumptions or planning data that I need to pull together into a coherent excel file to track everything from when we’d file a hundred markets to when they’d be approved, etc. This often takes over a full day for various points in a project. But it would probably take a ton of time showing someone what I need and how to do it. Not sure if it would be worth it unless I wanted to pay someone else in my group to just do it!
- MS Project Updates – Similarly, I’m usually updating an MS Project Plan on a server which ties to other activities, resourcing, milestones, etc. I need to base it on a recent meeting, so probably wouldn’t be worth outsourcing that either. I’ve really reduced how much time I spend doing MS Project updates as well since I’ve found my time is better spent dealing with actual issues rather than updating project plans constantly.
- Emailing – I spend a fair amount of time sending emails to people who owe me stuff or replying to people who want stuff from me. Unless someone’s in my head, they wouldn’t be able to do this for me.
- Personnel Management – I spend a few hours a month in 1:1 meetings, coaching, helping others with their projects, year-end appraisal, etc. I have to do that obviously
- All the Other Stuff – There’s a ton of other stuff that fills a day that you can’t even quantify and most of that is fluff, waste. So, no outsourcing that!
In essence, for my main job, probably nothing worth outsourcing individually. That’s not to say some lower paid person couldn’t do my job to some degree. But I couldn’t outsource pieces. The main theme of this decade is and will continue to be how automation and robots are taking tons of American jobs. This trend will only accelerate and you should pay attention to this new threat as well. Perhaps focus on the higher skilled jobs paying 6-Figures (get free 6-Figure job postings emailed weekly actually from TheLadders to see the types of jobs that aren’t easily replaced).
How About Blogging? Well, I do and have outsourced a few things here and there. For one, for a while, I had JT, blogging extraordinaire writing here and at ETFBase. He writes great stuff and I’ve kept him writing weekly at ETFBase, but I figured I could keep up with a couple posts a week here so I’ve switched my writing focus here, while he actually writes most of the stuff at ETFBase now. It’s not a real high traffic site, but occasionally an ad deal comes in or an article gets picked up in google search so I’m at least making a little more there than I’m paying out! Of late, I’ve outsourced my blog design instead of trying to do it myself like I used to.
CAD-Sourcing – As you may be aware I’m also co-founder of a CAD Outsourcing Firm. It’s pretty virtual! We were doing well enough last year that my partner, the main brains behind the operational piece, was able to quit his job and go full time. He’s automated everything from bookkeeping to getting the grasshopper phone system to send voice to text emails when clients leave messages to using CAD drafters overseas to complete all sorts of work in the US. It really begs the question as to when more companies will finally embrace external services to the degree they could. Quality and control are always issues for all companies, but for overflow or lower complexity work, it’s SO worth it. Fixed costs, overhead, benefits, HR problems, and everything else that comes along with an in-house drafter is forcing many firms to head in our direction.
Other Stuff I Outsource – I pay a tax guy, paid a roofer to repair my roof after the latest storm, was paying a pest control guy I finally cancelled after my budget awakening, pay someone to teach my kid piano even though I probably could at his level, pay for dry cleaning since I hate ironing and so does my wife, I always pay for oil changes instead of doing it myself and pay for a few other things I could possibly do myself. On the flipside, I’m saving probably $450 this weekend by putting in a new kitchen floor myself instead of paying the $1.99/ft fee from the big box store contractors. I’ve always mowed my own lawn and we’ve had mixed practices with painting in the house. At the end of the day, it comes down to how much you value your time and whether you feel you can do an adequate job yourself.
So, I’ve kind of jumped around in this article and would be interested in hearing your thoughts.
Could You Outsource Parts of Your Job? Which Parts and for How Much?
What Kind of Stuff Do or Don’t You Outsource at Home?