As your business grows, leveraging the benefits of outsourcing becomes an absolute must if you want to keep your sanity. However, there can be a lot of hesitance around looking for and bringing on support that may hold you back from getting started.
Sometimes, the business owners I’ve worked with before have tried outsourcing or delegating in the past, and it was a disaster, so they’re hesitant to try again. Sometimes, they aren’t sure where to even start, so they worry it’ll be a waste of time or money.
The reality is that you cannot enjoy the benefits of outsourcing if you don’t prepare ahead of time. As with so many things, you won’t be effective at outsourcing or delegating without the right tools and support for both you and your team.
For instance, It’s simply unreasonable to hire an assistant and expect them to intuitively know what you need and how to do it.
But don’t worry, there are many simple things you can do before you hire to make your outsourcing and delegating more effective. Plus, you can get started on them now even if adding to your team is a bit in the future for you.
Here are four things you can do this week that will help you when you’re ready to harness the benefits of outsourcing for your business:
1. Start Task Lists
One of the most common objections I hear from business owners when it comes to outsourcing is: “What on earth would I have them do?” Enter task lists! I have two types of lists I recommend to my clients when we first start working together.
First is an “I hate” list.
As the name implies, this is simply a list of tasks you’re doing that you’d rather not be doing anymore. Start by spending 10-15 minutes brainstorming all the things you’d be ecstatic to never have to do again. Then, keep the list handy on paper or in the cloud, so you can add to it as more tasks come to mind.
When you’re making this list, think about the things that you constantly procrastinate completing or the things that feel heavy and draining even though they’re actually super quick tasks.
Bookkeeping is a good example for many business owners. This is something that, depending on the business, can be a super quick thing to complete, but many people dread it so much that they put it off for the entire year. They convince themselves it’s an all-day task, so they can ignore it, when in reality, it may only take an hour to reconcile your accounts each month. That’s what makes this a task ripe for the benefits of outsourcing! Finding a bookkeeper ensures it gets done in a timely fashion, gets done correctly — and even more importantly — means you don’t have to do it anymore.
Start a daily, weekly, periodically task list.
Here, the goal is to simply document what you are currently spending your time on.
By identifying the tasks you are doing daily and weekly, patterns will start to emerge that help you identify where the bulk of your time goes. Look for things that are done the same way every time — these are a great place to start when it comes to outsourcing since they’re easier to document and systematize.
Don’t get too hung up on analyzing whether or not you should be doing those tasks at this point — just focus on what you are doing. The goal is to start collecting data so you can make informed choices about what you keep and what you delegate once you’re ready to enjoy the benefits of outsourcing.
Once you have both your “I hate list” and your task list, look for the overlap between them. Identify things that show up on both lists with frequency, and determine whether it makes sense to outsource them. Similarly, start grouping tasks together by skillset to see what type of team member could take them on.
Once you identify tasks you want to delegate — now or in the future — you need to start documenting how you do them. You can only truly enjoy the benefits of outsourcing if you have systems and processes in place for how you do things. Without them, you’ll struggle to hand them off to other people in an effective and efficient way.
If you’re already maxed for time, this can seem like a very overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be as simple as recording a screenflow the next time you do the task. Then, when you do have someone to pass it off to, you can give them the recording to watch, and type up the steps!
Action step: Make a list of 3-5 daily or weekly tasks you’d love to delegate. Schedule time in the next five working days to document how you do those tasks. This will get you closer to enjoying the benefits of outsourcing without a lot of stress or impact on your normal schedule.
3. Start Small
As tempting as it might be to dive in with both feet when it comes to outsourcing, starting small is often the better way to go. Give yourself the time to adjust to delegating and working with someone else on a regular basis without a huge bill tied to it.
I’ve seen business owners struggle with outsourcing unnecessarily because they hired someone to work a huge amount of hours right out of the gate with the added stress of a big expense tied to it. This leads to a lot of pressure of feeling like you don’t want to waste that time and money, so you fill in that time with random tasks that might not make sense.
Instead, start with just a few hours a month, and only delegate the specific tasks that you have already prepared to delegate!
For example, a common thing I like my clients to start outsourcing is their weekly blog and newsletter. While they create the content, they shouldn’t necessarily be the ones adding it to WordPress and MailChimp (or whatever systems you use!).
This is a contained task that generally takes 1-2 hours per week to complete. It’s one that’s also easy to start documenting because it’s generally done the same way each time. So, if you start by hiring someone to help with this and get 5-10 hours per month, you immediately have a major task to fill the bulk (if not all) of that time.
Then, as you get comfortable working with someone, you can decide to add more tasks as needed. If you’re like many of my clients, once you start enjoying the benefits of outsourcing, you’ll see your revenue grow, your stress decline, and your overall work-life balance improve!
4. Consider Starting with a Service
Many entrepreneurs did not go into business to manage people, and thus, the idea of having a team can be really daunting. This can hold a lot of entrepreneurs back from finding their first team member.
One way to dip your toe in without as much managing is by looking for an assistant through a VA service. There are many domestic and international services to choose from, and you will find that costs and quality vary quite dramatically.
With a service, you will often have an account representative who can help manage your assistant. You will also often have a structure provided around how to assign tasks, the necessary turnaround times, and how to provide feedback.
Many services also have training and support they provide for their assistants, so if there’s something you need to have done that they don’t know how to do, they can reach out to their internal team for support. This is a huge benefit when you’re just getting started with integrating an assistant.
It is important to note that while international services are often far cheaper than domestic ones, it is not always the right way to go if you’re looking to manage less. In my experience, internationally-based team members often require a lot more management, at least initially, than a domestic-based team member.
I’ve worked with dozens of VAs from the Philippines, for instance, and while the quality varied just as dramatically as any other team, the ramp up phase required a lot more hands-on time for me than other types of services. It took a few tries for me to find the right service, but the one I work with now is fantastic, and my Philippines-based VA is an integral part of my team who saves my life on a regular basis.
Whether it’s through a service, word of mouth, or a job posting, finding the right person can amplify the benefits of outsourcing in an incredible way! The key is to prepare effectively before you get started with delegating and outsourcing. This will help you take advantage of the magical benefits of outsourcing much faster than you thought possible.