We’ve looked at how to set up your business so that you get the freedom, flexibility and fulfilment that you’re after and, last week, we got more specific as we explored how you can create systems that will free up your time and energy to focus on what really matters in the business. We’ll continue now in the same vein as we focus on why and how you can start outsourcing tasks in your business, even when you’re just starting out and not yet ready to build a full-time team.
What do I mean by ‘outsourcing’?
When you hear the word ‘outsourcing’, you may think of big companies using call centres in Bangalore to save money by replacing more expensive local employees. Really, outsourcing just means using an external supplier for a task rather than doing it yourself – and while it may well be cheaper to outsource to other countries, you can also find good people locally.
Applying this to running your own small business (whether you think of yourself as an entrepreneur, a solopreneur, or a freelancer), outsourcing means using a virtual assistant or a freelancer, or perhaps a small agency, to take on specific tasks in your business so that you can focus your attention elsewhere.
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The obvious benefit of outsourcing certain tasks is that you then have the time and energy to dedicate to other tasks. For many of these tasks, there is probably someone else who can do it faster than you; better than you; or cheaper than you.
Now, you may think that you’re ‘just’ a solopreneur or freelancer, that you don’t have the money to have anyone else supporting you in the business and that you’ll “outsource when…” However, the reality is that you’ll never get to those results unless you free up your time to work on business development, strategy and actually delivering the core functions of your business.
When I first started tentatively handing over some scheduling to a freelancer, my week suddenly freed up. I realised that although I had thought that I had been working hard on the business, I had actually been keeping busy doing relatively low-level administrative and repetitive tasks rather than doing the real work that would ultimately grow the business.
What, when and how to outsource?
Like creating systems, outsourcing is particularly effective when it comes to tasks that are highly manual and repetitive, where someone can follow and replicate a simple, step-by-step process. (And, by the way, this is why documenting your core processes is so key.)
It’s also very effective when the work is not part of your core competencies, and instead requires some very specialised knowledge or skilled expertise.
As to when you should start outsourcing, the answer is: sooner than you think! Again, there’s a limit to how far you’ll be able to push the business with just you doing all the things, and it’s outsourcing some of those things that will help you get over the hurdle and take your business to a completely different level.
Examples of tasks that you can outsource in your business
Here are just some of the tasks that I’ve outsourced in my own business and that you might consider outsourcing for yourself.
1. Creating graphics
One of the first things I outsourced in my business was graphic design. I’m a creative person but I’m more of a writer and definitely not a trained designer. As soon as I want something to look more slick, or it’s something I know I can’t do at all, I outsource this to a professional designer. This might include logo design, creating e-books or pdf resources, or creating graphics for social media. (Of course, if you’re more of a designer than a writer, maybe you’d rather do the design yourself and outsource your copywriting or article writing!).
2. Transcribing interviews or creating captions
If you’re creating videos, then you’ll want to have captions when publishing on LinkedIn or Facebook – this is a pretty tedious task that is perfect to outsource to someone else! Likewise, if you’re doing interviews or podcasts and need transcriptions, it’s much quicker and easier to give that to someone else to do and then you can focus on something where you can add more value.
Tools: I use rev.com, which employs real people and costs $1/minute. (If you want to go even more low cost and you trust artificial intelligence, you can use their sister company temi.com, which charges $0.10/minute.)
3. Scheduling blog posts, emails and social media
This may well be one of the most common tasks that people outsource and as a result there are plenty of freelance social media managers and virtual assistants who can help you out. Although you can and should be defining the strategy and content plan yourself, the actual execution of this is ideal to give to someone else, who can take it and run with it – allowing you to focus on coming up with new ideas and creating the content itself (whether that means writing a blog post or going live in your Facebook group).
Tools: For this, I’ve followed a ‘proper’ hiring process and chosen freelancers to be part of the One Step Outside team. You can also consider using a virtual assistant agency, or checking the Facebook groups that you’re part of, or even going back to your old university to get started with a marketing intern or junior hire.
4. Managing your accounts
One area that most of us do not have a lot of experience in is accountancy. While it’s important to learn about this and make sure we understand what’s going on, staying on top of our numbers, it’s very easy to get things wrong, and very difficult to keep up with all the changes that are introduced each year. Especially if you have a limited company, an accountant can manage things like VAT returns, annual accounts, PAYE, as well as helping you be as tax efficient as possible.
Tools: I use freeagent.com along with a local accountant who was recommended to me by a fellow coach.
5. Editing podcast episodes
Audio editing (as well as more sophisticated video editing) is an example of a task that requires both specific software and specialised expertise. While you can do it yourself, using a free tool such as GarageBand or Audacity on a Mac, if you want to have professional sound quality then this is one area that is best outsourced to an expert.
Tools: I’ve been using Jonathan over at podcasteditingservices.com since launching my podcast back in December 2018. I’m looking at bringing basic editing ‘in house’ i.e. handing it over to one of my freelancers, however, I’ll continue to use this service for more sophisticated editing projects.
Again, these are just a handful of examples of what I’ve outsourced in my own business and it will depend a lot on what type of business you’re in and what your own core competencies happen to be.
If you want to get started with outsourcing in your business, ask yourself:
- What do you absolutely hate doing?
- What don’t you have time to do?
- What don’t you have the relevant skillset to do?
Then, for each of these tasks, have a look at how much time you’re currently spending and how much it would cost to have someone else do it instead.
Next week, we’ll move on to look at how you can best leverage your own time to grow and scale your business.
If you’re hustling away in your new business and not sure how to begin outsourcing some basic tasks, then get in touch to book a free consultation with me. We’ll look at how you can get started with identifying the right areas of the business and how to move forward with finding the support you need.