Understanding the Difference Between Nearshoring, Offshoring, and Outsourcing

Nearshoring, offshoring, and outsourcing are all different strategies for getting tasks and projects outsourced. But do you understand the difference between these three strategies?

Stefan Maritz
Stefan Maritz
December 14th, 2022
Understanding the Difference Between Nearshoring, Offshoring, and Outsourcing


The world is changing, and so is the way of working for many companies. Since the beginning of the pandemic, business leaders and managers have had to make changes in their business strategies due to many different trends in the market, such as people who want to be working remotely. Embracing this trend, we see more and more companies working towards having a solid outsourcing strategy. This trend opened doors for companies to prioritise their core activities, work more efficiently, and have more work done in the same amount of time. As there are different options to get tasks and projects outsourced, let's look at three primary approaches; nearshoring, offshoring, and outsourcing.

The current trends around nearshoring, offshoring, and outsourcing

When we dive into these three topics, we can see that nearshoring, offshoring and outsourcing numbers are increasing rapidly. According to research conducted by Gartner, it is shown that 88% of companies are looking to nearshore in the coming years due to different benefits such as cost savings and access to talent (Gartner). Nevertheless, additional research showed that the nearshore market is expected to grow by 8.9% between 2021 and 2027 (Research and Markets).

The nearshore market is not the only one experiencing growth - if we look into the offshore market, research conducted by Statista showed that the estimated global offshore market will reach $1.4 trillion by the end of 2022. This is a 7.8% increase from 2021 (Statista). And let's not forget to mention there is an increase coming around global spending on outsourcing. It is forecasted that companies will spend almost $731 billion in 2023 on outsourcing globally (Exploding Topics).

What are the differences between the three methods?

Nearshoring, offshoring, and outsourcing are three common but different business strategies that involve transferring work to a third-party provider. While these strategies are similar to each other in some ways, they still have distinct and important differences that should be taken into account when a business decides to use one of these strategies. 

What is nearshoring, and what are the pros and cons?

As we speak about nearshoring; nearshoring is a rising business strategy that involves relocating business operations to an external firm located outside but close to the nation's borders. Unlike offshoring, nearshoring relocates to a country in its immediate region. An example of nearshoring would be a Tech company in the Netherlands outsourcing its development operations to Poland or Ukraine. There are many benefits and drawbacks to nearshoring, but here are some pros and cons to consider. 

Pros of Nearshoring

The first advantage of using nearshoring as a business strategy is increasing efficiency. Businesses can easily and quickly communicate with their nearshoring partners, resulting in increased efficiency due to the accessibility of nearshoring locations. 

In addition, nearshoring allows companies to be more agile in responding to changes in the market. It helps the company pivot its strategies to take advantage of new opportunities quickly. 

Nearshoring is all about relocating business operations in their own region; an advantage that can be considered is working within the same time zone. Since the company is in the same time zone as the nearshored country, the company can also easily continue communicating with the overseas team. Therefore, updates can be given faster without waiting because of time differences.

Cons of nearshoring

Important disadvantage businesses need to consider is political and/or economic instability. Companies should remember that nearshoring still involves operating in a different country. When the country they operate in experiences this instability, it will affect the project or operations, leading to several consequences such as delays, cost overruns, etc. 

Another disadvantage a company should consider is that they have limited options. Remember when we said that nearshoring is all about moving operations in the same region? When you use nearshore, you have limited options for suppliers due to the fact that they are geographically close to your region. This makes it more difficult for companies to find the right partners to work with.

And finally, deadlines and projects might take more work to be in synchronise. A lack of communication between two teams in different countries, cultures and languages will make achieving deadlines for the company more complicated. Also, take into consideration that countries have their distinct national holidays as well, which makes syncing deadlines even harder. 

What is offshoring and what are the pros and cons?

In contrast to nearshoring, offshoring is a business strategy that includes moving business operations to a more distant location. Nevertheless, this business strategy also involves taking advantage of the lower labour costs and other advantages of operating abroad. An example of offshoring would be a company in The Netherlands outsourcing its digital marketing to a team in India or South Africa. While offshoring has its benefits, it has some disadvantages as well. Here are three pros and cons of offshoring. 

Pros of Offshoring

One of the biggest advantages of offshoring is reducing costs as a company. A company can save money when they use this strategy if they, for example, move their operations to another country where labour and raw materials are less expensive. This is, of course, beneficial for companies with limited budgets or that want to expand their operations without making high costs. 

Another advantage of offshoring is having access to a larger pool of talent. Companies can source the best and brightest talent around the world, which gives the company access to create a global talent pool. 

Finally, offshoring can also help businesses increase their efficiency. By taking advantage of time zone differences and leveraging the expertise of foreign workers, companies can speed up their processes and reduce the amount of time it takes to complete projects.

Cons of offshoring

An important disadvantage of offshoring to consider is cultural differences. As aforementioned, offshoring is all about moving an operation to a more distant location, so the chances of cultural differences are even more prominent, which can lead to possible issues. In addition, when there is a lack of communication and understanding, cultural differences can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication, which can negatively impact the quality of work. 

Additionally, another disadvantage a company will face is quality control challenges. The company might need the ability to monitor work more closely. Therefore, the company may be unable to ensure that the quality of the work that needs to be done meets its expectations and standards. 

Finally, we have to keep in mind that not everyone speaks the same language. Therefore, the last con a company needs to consider is the language barrier. Without the ability to communicate effectively, companies may not get the most out of their staff working abroad. 

What is outsourcing, and what are the pros and cons?

Outsourcing is contracting out services and processes to a third-party provider instead of keeping them in-house. It is a cost-saving practice that provides access to specialised expertise and resources, which allows businesses to focus on their core activities. Also, outsourcing comes with a few pros and cons to consider.

Pros of outsourcing

To start, one of the essential advantages of outsourcing is cost savings. When businesses outsource some of their operations, it gives them access to reduce some costs such as overhead costs, labour costs, and operational expenses. This will help the company to use its available resources in more critical and essential areas. 

Nevertheless, when a business decides to outsource, it also gives them access to expertise. Outsourcing can provide businesses with access to specialised skills, expertise, and resources that might not be available in-house. 

Furthermore, outsourcing as a business strategy helps the company to focus on its core activities. As managers and employees have a lot on their plate, they sometimes need to remember to manage their backlog and prioritise their activities and tasks. Therefore, when companies outsource their non-core components, they can shift their focus back to their core activities. 

Cons of Outsourcing

The first disadvantage of outsourcing is management difficulties. When you use outsourcing, you can potentially lose control and overview over specific projects, tasks, or processes since another party handles these. This makes it challenging for companies to ensure that the outsourced tasks or projects are managed appropriately, which leads to doubts about the quality of delivery. 

Another potential disadvantage of outsourcing is communication issues. Businesses may have difficulty communicating their needs and expectations when dealing with third-party providers. This can lead to insecurities if the delivery goes well. 

Finally, when outsourcing certain operations, companies have to keep confidentiality and security in mind. As outsourced services and processes are now handled by outside parties, companies have to make sure that the right agreements are made to avoid a breach of privacy.


After outlining the pros, cons, and definitions, what are the main differences between nearshoring, offshoring, and outsourcing? Offshoring is moving a company's operations to a distant location, while nearshoring involves relocating operations to a nearby country in the same region. On the other hand, outsourcing is a process where business contracts work with a third-party provider, which can be in their own home country or across borders. All three approaches can benefit a business, but offshoring and nearshoring involve moving operations to a different country, while outsourcing involves contracting specific tasks or services. 

Having a strategic outsourcing partner can help you to manage your backlog and shift your focus again to core activities.
Talk to an outsource specialist today to see how we can help you get the work done that you don’t get to!

Get news, insights and resources in your inbox

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter where we cover topics around workforce planning and management.