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How to outsource cleaning, home maintenance, childcare and more

Too many tasks, not enough time? Plenty of people can lend a hand, if you know where to look.

using drill to make drawer
Last updated: 05 August 2019

Struggling with your work-life balance? You're not alone. Over 45% of Australian women and 36% of men admit to always feeling rushed and pressed for time. 

One way to inject more balance into our lives is to outsource the tasks we don't want to do so we have more time for the things we love. 

If the idea of spending your Saturday scrubbing plaque from your shower screen makes you want to scream, consider these outsourcing tips – and buy yourself some 'me time'.

Cleaners

The 2016 Census found that 26.5% of employed women and 14% of employed men reported doing more than 2.5 hours of housework a day. Why not claw back some of that precious time by hiring a cleaner?  

One of the easiest ways to find a cleaner that you can trust is through an agency. Many agencies give you the option to book in a regular clean or just a one-off (such as spring cleaning or end-of-lease cleans). 

The cost can range from $20 to $50 an hour. Some agencies may also offer a discount for your first clean as an incentive to go with them. 

Don't just assume that your venetian blinds will get done – always check first

Most agencies will offer a 'satisfaction guarantee' and have their own insurance (up to a certain amount) and their cleaners will have their own equipment. If it's not stated on the website, you can also ask for a breakdown of what they'll do in each room, so you know what's included. Don't just assume that your venetian blinds will get done – always check first.

Another way to find a reputable cleaner is through community noticeboards, local Facebook groups, or outsourcing sites such as Airtasker.

Handypeople

It's often the jobs that sound simple that end up taking up most time. Need to fix that dripping tap that's become the background noise to your dreams? Don't want to watch YouTube videos on how to do it or make a trip to Bunnings for a washer? Sometimes it's just easier to call in a professional.

To find a handyperson, check online franchises and directories, such as hireahubby.com.au, Yellow Pages, 1300 All Trades or mrhandyman.com.au – an Australia-wide handyperson franchise, or get recommendations from friends or local Facebook groups. 

Of course, if you rent, you should contact your landlord first if anything's gone wrong with the property or the fittings included in your lease.

Gardening and lawn work

The best way to find someone to bring their green thumb to your yard is through word-of-mouth – check out local Facebook groups or ask a friend with a really nice garden.

Failing that, there are directory services such as Hipages that will collect quotes from gardeners in your area for you to compare. You can expect to pay about $40 an hour. 

There are also franchises such as Jim's Mowing, which have a host of skilled gardeners who have their own equipment and come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Or why not ask shops that sell lawnmowers? Some stores may have the details of a local lawnmowing business. 

Errands

Got a small job you need doing quickly? You might want to try posting your job on airtasker.com – an online service that works like a virtual community noticeboard. It connects you with people living nearby who can help with any number of tasks from housework to computer problems to major rubbish disposal. Oneflare and TaskRabbit are similar services.

But be thorough – always check online profiles and other customers' reviews before choosing the person you think is best for the job. Once they've finished it, you can leave an online recommendation for them, much like on eBay.

Always take care when meeting people you've found online. Feel free to ask for identification and, if at any time you feel in danger, call 000.

collecting grocery delivery at front door

Getting your groceries delivered to your door means you'll never have to hear the phrase "unexpected item in the baggage area" again.

Meal prep and grocery delivery

A meal delivery service that comes with a recipe (based on your preferences) and the exact amount of ingredients you need can be a huge timesaver – it can also cut down on food waste. Services such as Marley Spoon and Hello Fresh even let you to customise your box. Three meals for two people will cost you between $47.95 and $69.95 a week.

If you don't have time to cook at all, then a prepared meal service might be the answer. Businesses such as The Dinner Ladies and YouFoodz deliver prepared meals (you choose from their range) to your house so that all you need to do is heat them up. And because these meals are often freezer ready, you can order them ahead of time and whip them out when you're particularly busy. 

Alternatively, if you're happy cooking but can't face going to the supermarket, Woolworths and Coles will deliver your weekly shop for you, or you can click and collect it to save yourself a delivery fee (where available).

Babysitters and nannies

If you need someone to watch over the kids now and again, and you've used up all your favours with family and friends, you'll need a good babysitter. 

Babysitters should enjoy working with kids, be capable and responsible, and hold a First Aid Certificate.

mother in car saying goodbye to child and nanny babysitter

Babysitters and nannies can help parents with their work-life balance.

Something else to consider is whether they have a Working with Children Check (depending on where you live, it may be called Working with Vulnerable People, Working with Children Clearance, Ochre Card, or Blue card). A check of this kind is required for most people working with children, whether paid or voluntary. 

If you need a more permanent arrangement and can't or don't want to use a childcare centre or family day care, employing a nanny might be a better option. You'll have more control around your child's activities, and it may suit you better if you need flexible childcare. It might also be more economical if you have more than one child.

Before you start looking, decide:

  • if you want a full-time or part-time nanny
  • if you'd like them to live in or out 
  • if you want them to have childcare or teaching qualifications
  • if you want them to have a First Aid certificate or a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) qualification
  • if you want them to do housework, such as cooking and cleaning
  • if they'll need a driver's licence and/or can use your car
  • what level of experience you'd like them to have.

Dog walkers

If your dog is copping the short end of the rarely thrown stick because you don't have time to give it the exercise it needs, a dog walker could be the answer.

Check petcloud.com.au (which has a partnership with RSPCA Qld) or google 'dog walkers'. Some will also offer dog washing and grooming.

Before you hire a dog walker, make sure your dog is vaccinated, desexed (if over six months) and not aggressive.

It's also good to meet the dog walker in person, not only to check that your dog is comfortable with them, but also to check that you trust them too, as you may need to give them your house key if your dog is indoors. 

It's good to meet the dog walker in person to check that you trust them too, as you may need to give them your house key

There aren't any official qualifications for dog walkers, but you could check if the walker is registered with the Pet Industry Association, the body that represents pet services and ensures members adhere to their national code of practice. 

The RSPCA also offers a pet first aid course in some states, which might be desirable for a dog walker.

There are also 'doggy daycare' centres that can take your dog for a whole day, and will provide a walk or two and usually plenty of other dogs to play with.

child searching for clothes in a drawer sorted the konmari way

Let a declutterer simplify your life.

Declutterers

If you can't face the idea of channelling your inner Marie Kondo, there are plenty of professional declutterers to do it for you. After all, the less cluttered our houses are, the less stuff we need to dust (or pay cleaners to dust).

You can search for declutterers who are accredited members of the Institute of Professional Organisers through their website: iopo.com.au.

Laundry and dry-cleaning

Got a pile of clothes languishing on a chair in the corner of your bedroom that you plan on taking to the dry-cleaner (sometime, maybe)? There's an easier solution, and it lies in your phone.

Door-to-door laundry services are growing in popularity in Australia and  several companies are popping up in different cities. 

Door-to-door laundry services are growing in popularity

If you live in Perth or Sydney, Laundromap will pick up your drycleaning and laundry, clean it and drop it back to you. Prices start at $4.95 to dry-clean a shirt and $6 per kilo for your laundry. Like all drycleaners, they can't clean everything, but they also have a quality guarantee whereby they'll reclean anything you're not satisfied with.

Dryz is a similar service operating in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. Just make sure you read the Google ratings before you entrust them with your clothes.

Your rights when outsourcing

Regardless of what service you're using, you're within your rights under Australian Consumer Law to ask for a repair, replacement or refund if the work wasn't up to scratch – that is, if what you paid for:

  • was done carelessly
  • wasn't completed
  • was done by a person without the necessary skills for the job
  • wasn't in line with what you asked for (for example, you asked a handyperson to install a dog door and your dog can't fit through it)
  • didn't give you the results you asked for (that tap is still dripping)
  • wasn't completed within a reasonable timeframe (you should always agree on a deadline with the contractor).

The first thing to do is approach the business or provider directly, explaining why you're unhappy with the service and what you'd like them to do about it. If the person you're dealing with won't help you, ask to speak to someone with more authority, such as the manager.

If you're still not satisfied, contact the ACCC (accc.gov.au / 1300 302 502) or get in touch with the consumer protection agency in your state.

Your responsibilities when outsourcing

If you're employing people to help with domestic chores, such as cleaners, handypersons or even assistants, most states require you to have Domestic Workers Compensation Insurance. 

But the details vary for each state – for example, in NSW, you don't need this insurance if you're paying all staff less than $7500 a year in total. 

Contact WorkCover in your state or territory to check whether you need it, how to arrange it, and what you can expect to pay. And if you're using an agency for their services, check that they have their own public liability insurance.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Email us at factcheck@choice.com.au or read more about fact checking at CHOICE.

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