Can outsourcing help your sign shop? According to SurePayroll, a company that collects data from more than 25,000 U.S. small businesses, outsourcing is on the rise. Just last year, small business contracting grew by 19 percent, while staff hiring only grew a mere 3.4 percent. Clearly, the field of contractors is growing by leaps and bounds, while staff hiring is only crawling along.

Outsourcing is now being viewed as a way for small businesses to keep costs low, eliminating fixed costs such as salaries and benefit packages. Outsourcing projects means going directly to a specialist, a much more efficient way of getting things done. Common jobs contracted out include lead generation, online marketing, and brochure/article writing.

Some companies are also outsourcing general business tasks, such as payroll and accounting, in order to free up their schedules. Web site design, search engine optimization work, business and marketing plans and financial modeling are also popular tasks to outsource. Many sign shops with digital printing facilities have offered digital prints to competitors across the town at wholesale rates. This has been an effective way to provide additional work flow for the shop. And of course, most sign shops have always offered "ready to apply" vinyl lettering for customer installation. So sign making shops have become a part of the outsourcing revolution.

Outsourcing has plenty of benefits: less overhead, overall low cost, and jobs performed by professionals, to name a few. There are, however, plenty of downsides that come when you outsource. Contractors work independently from the company, making it harder for them to be managed and trusted. Some, like all employees, can be irresponsible, turning projects in late, or not providing quality work. At times contractors do not feel the same sense of responsibility to the job as on-site employees do, and they may drop the ball or leave the company hanging.

Make sure and do your research before contracting anyone to handle a project for your company, just as you would with any employee. When working with contractors it is important to have a clear, fully understood contract. If you are outsourcing a large project, you may want to have a freelance contract attorney review the contract before signing. Small details can translate to big losses for your company.

Above all remember, you get what you pay for. Contractor rates are at an all time low, but the best contractors won't be accepting work that could cause them to lose money. While you can hire contractors for extremely cheap, you likely won't get a high quality of work. Expect to pay more for skilled contractors; in general it will be cheaper than having it done in house.

One important thing to remember when contracting out jobs: do not contract out anything that is tied to the fundamentals of your business. Keep the core of what makes your sign making shop special right at home base.