One of the best pieces of advice I ever received, with regard to the success of my own consulting practice, was that I should look to outsource as many things as I can – as early as I can. The determining factor behind what I outsource is, “What tasks and duties can someone else do that free me up to spend my time generating revenue?”
As a solopreneur, it’s likely that you do everything yourself. I get it. Money is tight, so it’s cheaper to just do it all yourself. However, this is one of the more common mistakes most consultants make. Being CEO, CFO, COO, VP Sales & Marketing, Customer support, accounting, head cook and bottle washer makes it very hard to really grow a successful practice. It’s easy math actually; for every minute you spend supporting your business (with things that aren’t your greatest strength or could be very competently done by someone else) you take time away from leveraging your greatest strengths and focusing on activity that creates wealth for your business.
Here’s a simple litmus test. For any activity that you currently do to support your business, ask yourself, “Could someone else do this just as well – perhaps even better – for less money than what I charge per hour to consult?” If your answer is “yes”, than that task or activity just made the outsource list.
As an entrepreneur, you enjoy the luxury of having it easy(er) when it comes dealing with this dilemma. You are responsible for crafting your own role, and you don’t need to convince anyone else of what your duties should and shouldn’t be. You are the boss here. As a comparison, this becomes much harder when you have to try and convince a boss (i.e., someone else) to change your responsibilities.
This certainly puts your in a weird spot, however. Where do you go to offload those tasks that still need to be done? The best route to take is outsourcing.
Now outsourcing, of course, isn’t free—and the last thing you want to do in any fledgling business is take away vital cash from the business. But trust me when I say that as soon as you can afford it…do it! You will really appreciate the returns, especially in the time you can reinvest in applying your strengths and generating revenue.
Here are some of the most common tasks I often see consultants outsource:
- Website development and management
- Scheduling/Administrative work
- Graphic design
- Newsletter writing
- Proposal writing
- Accounting and taxes
- Data entry
Once you’ve settled on outsourcing, make sure the first things you seek to hand off are “non-revenue generating” tasks or duties. These kinds of time sucks should be on the very top of your list. Nothing should be more understandable than the logic of “The more time you spend on things that don’t directly generate revenue, the less revenue you will make.”
In regards of where to outsource, you basically have two options. The first is to pay someone else to do it, and the second is to barter with someone else, which we’ll get to next. There are plenty of great resources out there for virtual assistants who can do, love to do, and do very well, a ton of the things you will probably come up with in your “not me” bucket. Delegate, and try to find someone who loves to do what you loath to do.
A virtual assistant is usually someone who works from home and has a great talent set. However, that also means that they might want to only work a few hours per week and need some flexibility. Virtual assistants can be extremely talented, hard-working, and an incredible asset to your practice.
To learn more, here are a few sites I recommend, all of which screen any virtual candidate quite rigorously:
Poke around for a while and see what’s out there. Once you feel comfortable that you know the landscape well enough, give some serious thought to outsourcing even just the worst offenders in your list. You’ll be glad you did.
And, if you just simply (truly) can’t afford to outsource even a few things, consider bringing back to life something that all cultures have done for ages…bartering!
Basically, talent bartering is finding someone who has a talent where you do not—partnering with someone who is strong where you are weak. This is where you partner with someone else to swap—or barter—each other’s complimentary talents.
Additionally, this bartering means that you’ll be swapping duties with someone else that is also struggling with their own issues of dependence on a non-talent.
Simply put, if you need to outsource something, but can’t afford to pay someone yet, see if you can find someone who can do that work for you and make a trade of your expertise for theirs.
Some examples might be:
- Offering to consult to a web developer who has her own company, but needs some advice.
- Barter your consulting with an accountant who is struggling to grow his business.
- Swap services with an attorney who can easily provide you with some contract templates, in return for your help with internal personnel issues.
Remember, being an entrepreneur often means delegating. Don’t try to do everything by yourself, and your work will be better for it! Not only will you be more passionate about what you do (because you will do more of what you love and less of what you “had to do”), but your revenue will actually improve – as you’re ensuring that your time is spent only on those areas of your business that create the greatest value.
It’s a little (to a lot) scary at first, but I predict that once you hand the first task off to someone else, you will get addicted.