Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I was a freak occurrence in the freelancing world. But those first few years, I tried to handle every aspect of my business myself. Building a website, translating my website and business communication, administration, accountancy, creating marketing materials… everything.
I thought I was going to save heaps of money, I was going to teach myself valuable new skills in the process, I was going to own every single process of my business. I did all of that, but the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.
You’ll realize you’re in the same situation as I was when, at the end of a long working day, you’re wondering where all that time went. Despite having been the busy bee from early morning on, you just don’t seem to have achieved anything that day.
The moment I realized I couldn’t do everything
For me, the moment of clarity came one day after having lost hours trying to conceptualize and create my company logo and I had just gotten nowhere. I vented my frustrations over a beer with a good friend of mine who happened to be a graphic designer. It just never occurred to me to ask him for help, but he kindly offered to have a go at it for free. A great looking logo fell in my inbox by lunch the next day, and it represented my company until the end. I felt so ridiculous for even having tried doing that on my own.
That’s when my view on how to run my business turned 180 degrees. I was good at what I did, so business was going well. But I somehow didn’t have the capacity to grow any further. For some reason my capacity to take on more clients peaked at five regular big clients and the odd one-timer. I was so busy with running every single aspect of my business myself that I ended up not having enough time to deal with my actual work, my core business. This had to stop if I wanted my business to survive.
Five steps for outsourcing business tasks
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” In this proverb, “If you want to go fast” shouldn’t be read as if you want to advance quickly with the wind in your sails. Rather, it should be read as if you want to vanish and crash miserably and never be heard of again, very soon.
I decided to lose my do-it-all-myself mentality and trust in the expertise of others to the advancement of my own. I accepted that the most effective person is not necessarily the one who does the most, but the one who gets the most done. Mind the passive tense in this sentence. It’s all about the tasks that need to be done and not so much about who does them. So I followed these five steps as a surefire way to improve my business:
- Recognize the processes that are better done by someone else.
- Weigh the pros and cons of investing in outsourcing
- Find the right people
- Prepare your business for growth
- Evaluate your investment in outsourcing.
1. Recognize the processes that are better done by someone else
No matter how good you are at what you do, your business entails processes that aren’t directly related to your skills but are just as vital to its well-functioning. In my case, these processes were: building and maintaining a website, graphic design and general accountancy. Other examples of processes might be: translation, content writing, administration, software development, et cetera. Any process a specialist could do faster and better.
2. Weigh the pros and cons of investing in outsourcing
I was reluctant to outsource because I thought I didn’t have the financial means to pay for professional services. While it was true that I couldn’t afford hiring full-time employees, hiring other freelancers to take over some of my non-core tasks and processes turned out to be beneficial as I could now free up more time to actually make money, which in turn more than covered the cost of outsourcing.
That doesn’t mean you should outsource any task you don’t feel like doing yourself. It’s important to determine what you can easily do yourself and what will pay itself back by outsourcing. Hiring a good accountant, for instance, will save you more money on taxes than his or her fee.
3. Find the right people
You can start by looking through your personal contacts to see if any of your friends can help you, as was the case with my logo. I had a friend who made it a point only to hire friends. He said it was a win-win situation, a matter of trust and helping his friends forward in life. Your immediate entourage is definitely a very good starting point to create partnerships and collaborations.
If that fails, then the Internet offers plenty of services that do just that: Upwork.com (formerly Odesk), freelancer.com, and guru.com offer the services of thousands of web developers, creatives, virtual assistants, customer service agents, et cetera. If you’re on a tight budget, you can even find quick and cheap services for as little as five dollars on Fiverr.com.
4. Prepare your business for growth
The immediate result of outsourcing tasks is that you free up a lot of time. You can then sit back and take things slower or spend more time with your family, making outsourcing a cost. Or you can choose to use that time to expand your core business and generate more income, effectively cashing in on your outsourcing as an investment.
5. Evaluate your investment
Evaluate the effectiveness of your outsourcing efforts after a few months. See if they pay for themselves. Maybe you should look for cheaper alternatives (other freelancers), maybe some tasks lack the priority or are too basic to have them done by highly skilled and expensive freelancers. Perhaps you can keep those tasks for the holiday periods and hire a student or ask your nephew. It’s also possible you’ll decide that you’re better off doing certain tasks yourself in the end (or cancel them altogether).
Finally, you might realize that the administrative workload is getting so heavy that hiring an actual assistant as your first employee is becoming justifiable, making your business evolve from a one-man-show to something bigger.
Did you experience difficulty getting rid of the do-it-all-myself mentality? How did you go about involving other professionals in your business? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments below.
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