Large companies have long saved costs by outsourcing certain tasks to cheaper labor markets. As long as they get quality results--say from phone-based customer service workers--customers rarely care. Now, several web companies offer overseas outsourcing suited to medium- or small-businesses; you'll be able to save costs over local help, expand your business without adding employees, or both.
Many services are available, including Brickwork India, Get Friday, Longer Days, MyEmployee Solutions, and Tasks EveryDay. Costs typically range from about $7 an hour to $1,200 or more each month, depending on your needs. For example, some of the cheaper services are great for simple receptionist tasks. Others offer workers with MBA degrees, CPA certification, IT background, and other relevant experience at a higher cost.
In this shaky economy, these solutions make more sense than scaling up your workforce. I like to think of them as a test; if you sustain more business with outsourced help, then consider adding permanent employees. And if you've had to reduce your company size, maybe you can restore some of those missed roles through outsourcing.
Zack Stern is a freelance writer and editor based in San Francisco.