Full disclosure: I make a very good living as a freelancer, but I also employ several assistants, so I understand the wisdom of finding tasks you should outsource. This has been a necessary part of my business, but I’ve had some hits and misses. It’s important to choose only the BEST people at the right prices.
We have to wear a lot of hats as online business owners. The most important and unique element is to create our content – bake the cakes, make the crafts, show off the fashion, or create the posts. Those tasks aren’t easy to outsource as they are part of our zone of genius. But we also have to do customer service, bookkeeping, and hardest of all – tech support.
That’s why I focus on offering technical support services, because I know that a lot of people aren’t comfortable with computers or handling the technical aspects of setting up and maintaining a website. I also offer a service to set up newsletters and Email automations. That can be surprisingly complex process, but I’ve been doing my newsletters for years, so I don’t mind helping others. Check out my HIRE ME page.
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you are coming out with a new product and need graphics for it. Let’s also assume for a minute that you are not a graphic designer. Not by a long shot. You also don’t have any experience with graphics software and no images to work with for your marketing. You can:
A: Create crappy graphics that won’t sell your product
B: Spend hours going through a crash course in graphics and try to come up with something decent
C: Outsource the graphics to someone and let them come up with something WONDERFUL.
C: Sounds like a no-brainer to me, and that is just one example of the type of tasks you should outsource to others when you just don’t have that particular skill or talent. Especially if it’s a task you only need to have done occasionally. If it’s holding you back from launching or moving forward on your journey towards success, it’s best to outsource it. Find someone with the skills, expertise, and tools you lack and let them take care of it.
We do this all the time in our personal life and most jobs. You don’t acquire a bunch of tools and go through training when your toilet is broken. If you are handy and enjoy that kind of thing, you may take care of the basics, but for anything serious, you call a plumber. Same when you need a new outlet or want to upgrade the wiring in your home. Treat your business the same way.
Yes, there’s value in having skills and being able to bootstrap your business. But there comes a point where it makes more sense to outsource. You’ll be able to move faster and focus on the tasks you enjoy and are very good at. Stop wasting your valuable time and energy on skills you aren’t good at and maybe don’t need to learn.
How To Make Outsourcing Pay For Itself
Does this title sound too good to be true? Trust me it isn’t. While I can’t guarantee that outsourcing will pay for itself right away, or ever (no one can), I can share with you something you can do to give yourself the best shot at reaching this goal. And who knows, you may end up making way more than you’re spending as a result of starting to outsource.
What this is about is mindset. Here’s how to approach outsourcing. You start by deciding how much you want to spend per month. You can start by thinking of the tasks you want or need to outsource and pricing them. Then choose based on those numbers what you can afford to hire out right now. Or set aside a certain percentage of your monthly income for outsourcing. This can be something as small as 10%-20% percent. Keep track of it. If you want, stick it into a different bank account. Then spend it wisely on what you need help with the most.
That’s a very smart strategy and it frees you up to create more quality content and even spend more time focusing on income-producing strategies like setting up Discovery Calls with potential clients, working on courses or webinars, creating fabulous video content that will get you more visibility. This definitely can help you earn a lot more income every month and who doesn’t want that?
For example, let’s say you hire a VA to help with your weekly newsletter and social media marketing. You pay her $200 per month. Your task now is to increase your sales or your income by at least $200 to cover that bill. How could you make the best use of the time you’re saving by not having to deal with your newsletter and social media? What can you do to spend it in a way that makes you more money?
Here are a couple of ideas:
- Create a new product and launch it this month.
- Set up some split tests to improve conversions on a few of your existing products.
- Find five new affiliates to promote your existing products.
- Offer an hour of coaching per week.
- Create engaging content that drives more traffic.
- Set up a new list building funnel that sends new subscribers to one of your bestselling low-cost products.
- Start a membership site and work on recruiting new paying subscribers.
Now does that $200 investment sound like a pretty smart bargain? You betcha!
While not all of these examples will work for your particular business model and your own plans for how you want to run your business, they should help get the gears moving. Brainstorm a few ideas and give one or two of them a try. See what works and what doesn’t. Then keep going.
Increase your outsourcing budget. Hire more people or give your existing team more hours or more projects. Keep bumping up your income. All the extra work you do on high-level tasks will start to multiply and hopefully help you reach that next level of income.
But I Can’t Afford To Outsource Yet
Definitely, if you are starting on the ground floor and aren’t making ANY money yet (or very little) you probably can’t afford to outsource yet. But that’s OK. You can start planning with an eye to figuring out how and when you are going to want to outsource. Keep in mind, outsourcing doesn’t have to cost that much. You don’t have to hire a full time person or sign up for a large package. You can start small and it can start to pay off for you almost immediately.
You can also look for VA’s who are fairly new and are still pretty affordable. Many overseas have a very reasonable pay structure and do terrific work. My first assistant was from the Philippines and she was very affordable. She is still with me nearly 3 years later and even though I have given her several pay increases, she is still more affordable than my US-based assistants. And she’s very conscientious and does beautiful images for my clients.
Think about where you want to start. What do you need immediate help with? This could be a task you’re stuck on that keeps you from launching or improving a stream of income. Or it could be a low-level, time-consuming task that keeps you from spending your day working on things that will make you money. For many of us, customer service and email support is one of those tasks.
If it’s something you don’t enjoy and you waste a lot of time on, outsource it and then spend that time working on getting more traffic to your site or launching that next product. You’ll quickly make up what you’re spending on outsourcing and then some. Review your budget every few months and adjust as needed.
How do you make this idea work when your monthly income is still tiny? Great question. Let’s say you’re just starting out and are on a shoestring budget. Let’s also say you are making $500 in profits per month. Twenty percent is $100. That isn’t much if you spend it all each month. But what if you save it for a couple of months and then use those two hundred dollars to pay for a chunk of time to have someone create a bunch of social media posts that you can cycle through, using automation software to make it hands-off. Or have someone install that shopping cart script you need to launch your paid coaching program. You get the idea.
Then as your income grows, your outsourcing budget will too. Before you know it, you’ll be able to afford a part-time virtual assistant or graphic designer to help you get more done. Give it a try and never ever think that you can’t afford to outsource.
How To Determine What Tasks You Should Outsource First
When you first start to consider outsourcing, it can be tough to decide what you should outsource first. There are so many different tasks, so many options, and so many people to consider for the job. Let’s take a look at some of the variables involved to help you make the best decision for yourself and your business.
Where Are You Stuck?
The first place I’d look when deciding what to outsource is to look at what you’re stuck on. Is it getting your website set up, or shopping cart software installed? Maybe you need graphics for your new product and you can’t quite get the right look. There are lots of tasks we get stuck on. Sometimes it’s worth figuring out how to do them ourselves. More often than not, they are worth outsourcing.
By having someone else take care of the step you’re stuck on, you can move on. You can make progress. Take the next step. Get your product to market and boost your bottom line. Yes, outsourcing is an added expense, but often you’ll find that being able to get your product or service out there more quickly (and looking more professional) quickly profits more than you spent on outsourcing.
What Sucks Up Your Time And Your Sanity?
Look at your day or your week. What are some of the tasks that claim most of your time? Or what is the stuff that continually gets put on the back burner because you really don’t want to do it? Those are things that may be better outsourced. For example, if you find yourself wasting too much time on Facebook any time you log in to do some marketing or interacting with your audience, it’s probably something you should pass on to a VA.
For me, it’s Instagram. I took an instant dislike to that platform from Day One and I never have found a way to like it. It feels too restrictive with not being able to use proper links. So, when I do it, I do it rather grudgingly and I think it shows – zero engagement because my posts and captions are rather lame and forced. So, I outsource it and my engagement goes way up.
Or how about creating pinnable images for all your content? If it doesn’t get done because you don’t enjoy it, hire someone to do it for you. Identify two or three tasks like that and start outsourcing them. Use the time you’re saving on money making tasks. I do this one all_the_time. My design skills are getting better with good templates and years of experience, but I still prefer to have others do my graphics work and I’m happy to pay for it. It’s not terribly expensive – I usually pay between $1.50 and $3.00 per image.
I hope the information in this article is helpful. But that’s all it is. Information, advice, ideas. At the end of the day it is your business and your circumstances are unique. Do what is best for you right now. What’s weighing heavily on you? What’s sucking most of your time? What’s keeping you from falling asleep at night? That’s probably a good place to start.
Most importantly, don’t overthink this. You can always change course down the road. It’s not the end of the world if you outsource something that you end up taking backing back to do yourself later. What is important is that you make the decision and take action.
When It’s Time To Call In The Pros
There are two good reasons to consider outsourcing something. The first is to free up your time. This usually involves something you know how to do; it’s simply not the best use of your time. Posting on social media comes to mind here.
The second reason to find tasks you should outsource is for something you don’t know how to do. Something it would take you a long time to learn. Especially if you don’t have a lot of interest in learning this skill or if it’s a one-time thing. Installing shopping cart software is a good example. Or if you break something on your website. Sometimes if you try the do-it-yourself route, you’ll just dig yourself in deeper.
I have at least 3 different WordPress Experts on call at all times and I can usually get some freebie help from my hosting provider on simpler issues. I may need those experts only once or twice a year, but when I need them, I know where to go!
Or let’s say you tried to do it yourself. You followed a tutorial and got WordPress installed. You found a template you kind of liked and added it. You’re trying to tweak things to make them work for your needs, but things aren’t working out the way you’d hoped to. You keep getting errors. You’re getting frustrated. You’re putting in long hours trying to do something you’re not good at and you’re about ready to cry.
In that case it may be time to let a pro take over and clean things up for you. They may be able to do it in 15 minutes and save you hours of tears and frustration. Note that you should learn how to do the basics like updating plugins and adding images.
I hope you give outsourcing some of the tasks that are frustrating you or holding you back a try. You’ll find that the progress you make and the income you generate as a result of smart outsourcing far outweighs the cost of paying someone to do it for you.
Coming Up With A List Of Tasks You Should Outsource
When you first start to outsource, the biggest problem aside from finding good people, is deciding what you should or want to outsource. Online business owners usually fall into one of two camps. They either want to outsource everything, or they can’t think of a single thing they are ready to let go. It depends on how much control you feel you need to have over what you do with the tasks that result in the income that puts food on the table.
The good news is that you don’t need to do either it all or nothing. Especially if you are a bit of a control freak, you’ll want to start small. There’s no need to outsource everything, and most of us don’t have to keep doing everything ourselves. This then brings up the question of where to start. I don’t know about you, but lists help me figure this out. Why not come up with a list of tasks you want to outsource?
This will help you as you move along on this journey towards outsourcing more. It makes it easy to pick the first few tasks to hand off to someone like a virtual assistant and it helps you see at a glance what you may be able to stop doing yourself over the next few months.
Think about tasks you dread doing. Think about things that take up a lot of your time. Get suggestions from fellow online business owners. Look at the pages of a few different virtual assistants or talk to them and find out what they do for their clients. Come up with all sorts of ideas for things you can consider outsourcing. Then walk away for a bit. If you come up with fresh ideas down the road, feel free to add them to this master list.
How to Find the RIGHT Person for the Tasks you Should Outsource in Your Business
Before we wrap this up, let’s quickly talk about how to approach the other big outsourcing problem – finding the right people. You’ll often find the best people by asking others for recommendations. This is true when you’re looking to hire someone to clean your house, fix your roof, or help you grow your business. Talk to other business owners, ideally those in either a similar niche or with a similar business model and ask who they are using. Most online entrepreneurs don’t hire anyone full-time and are happy to share contact information.
Don’t feel uncomfortable about asking for references from your prospective candidates and examples of past work. Be cautious about signing long term contracts or paying out large sums of money in advance. Maybe even ask for a trial period of a few weeks before you lock into a long-term commitment. I get it, clients will not pay you sometimes, so freelancers have to protect themselves. BUT – there are a lot of flaky and inexperienced people out there (I’ve come behind many of them) so you need to protect yourself.
Here are a few ways you can protect yourself:
As I mentioned – check references and past work. Feel free to compare prices, but you might want to go with the median price. You don’t want the bargain-basement choice and you may be paying too much for the top-shelf candidate.
Get recommendations from bloggers or business owners you recommend
Check their work frequently until they earn your trust. This is one time you don’t want to be completely hands off. Check spelling, check alignment, font, and color choices on graphics. Check that your schedule and standards are being maintained. Make sure that work is delivered on time and is high quality. I am a complete stickler for responding to messages immediately and always delivering graphics on time. I’ve fired assistants who couldn’t stick to a proper schedule.
Don’t be too shy to speak up if you see ANYTHING that looks amiss, especially in the beginning. I’ve seen some VA’s who will just throw junk posts out there just to get the paycheck and that can ruin your account.
Big warning – DON’T go into one of those big VA Facebook post and ask for a helper. You WILL be sorry because that can trigger a shark-like response where you will just be mobbed with desperate (and not-so-great VA’s) promising to work for free or anything they can to get a spot.
PS: Don’t let people work for free – it’s unethical. Maybe half-price during a trial period, but it’s demeaning for people to do work without being properly compensated. If you ARE a VA, don’t work for free. It’s not a good strategy and doesn’t make clients respect you. Would you let someone fix your car or paint your house for free?
Here are some other resources you might enjoy:
Blogging resources I love and recommend:
Tailwind – I’ve been working with Tailwind for about five years. They are the pin scheduler of choice and it is jam-packed with great features. If you haven’t already, sign up for a FREE month of Tailwind HERE.
Legal Templates – You are required by law to have a certain package of legalese on your blog. You need to have copyright notices, privacy policies, and various other terms and conditions to protect yourself from being sued. The package I recommend is created by Amira Law – a lawyer who specializes in all aspects of blogging and internet business legalities. Learn more about these Legal Templates HERE.
Pinterest Resources – Pinterest is definitely my jam. I can do a personalized Pinterest/Tailwind audit where I go over your account with a 30-point checklist and then set up a Zoom call with you to give you TONS of suggestions. Order your Pinterest Audit HERE.
HIRE ME – I make a full-time living taking great care of my blogger peeps. I’ve done Pinterest Management for the last six years for dozens of clients. I can also set up mailing lists, automations and build pop-ups for your site. Or I can also build you a simple website or take over your monthly WordPress maintenance. To learn more – go HERE.