A Way to Say Yes.
Six years ago, I received the business opportunity I had been longing for: A major parenting magazine hired me to write a bi monthly feature on child development. It was steady work at a great pay rate that would result in fantastic portfolio pieces.
There was only one problem: The offer came two weeks before I was due to give birth to my second child. Accepting the job would mean that I’d have a 2,000-word feature due before my son turned a month old. How would I juggle a newborn, a toddler and a deadline while also battling sleep deprivation during what was supposed to be my maternity leave?
But I couldn’t say no. So I found a way to say yes. I realized I could get the job done as long as I didn’t try to do it all myself. That led me to the smartest – and most lucrative -- decision I’ve made so far in my freelance writing business: outsourcing.
1. Identify time-consuming -- and dreaded -- tasks.
While I couldn’t farm out the writing or the interviewing, I could hire someone to do the time-consuming job I dreaded most: transcribing my interviews. The team at CLK Transcription could turn around a 30-minute interview transcript in less than a day. I quickly realized that not only did this reduce the amount of time it took me to finish a project, thus boosting my hourly earnings, it also allowed me to take on more work. Spending money helped me make more money. In the first year, my sales went up 61 percent.
2. Remove roadblocks.
In hiring what is essentially a clerical support team, I did what Business Coach Nicole Dean calls “blasting through the roadblock” that was holding me back from growing my business. By trying to do everything myself, I was limiting my own success as well as tethering myself to my business in ways that can be unhealthy.
“Solopreneurs create jobs for themselves,” says Dean, author of Outsourcing to Multiply Your Profits. “Most people start their own businesses because they want freedom, but you don’t have the freedom to take a vacation if your business is 100 percent tied to you. To outsource, you have to let go of things.”
Ideally, your business should be able to run, and generate income, without your micromanaging it, Dean says. With the proper support staff you can be more flexible with your schedule, take vacations and handle life’s emergencies without fear that your business will suffer.
3. Do the math.
Sometimes the thought of paying someone else to do something you can do “for free” is a hard sell. But it shouldn’t be. When Mallory Blair, co-founder of Small Girls PR, did the math, she realized it was cheaper to hire a bookkeeper than to keep doing the task herself.
“My bookkeeper’s rate is less than half my billable rate,” she says. “This means I have five to 10 more hours a month to devote to, and charge, clients. Plus, I have a professional doing what they do best who helps me clearly analyze where our expenses are going. That contributes to the bottom line in a less quantifiable, but obviously highly valuable, way.”
4. Keep your eye on the bottom line.
The first things to let go of, Dean says, are the tasks and responsibilities that take you away from profit-generating work. Stacy Kildal of Kildal Services LLC, an accounting and technology consulting company in Waterford, Mich., saw her bottom line increase by 10 percent in just a few months after she started outsourcing all her administrative work. “I used to dread the callbacks with prospective clients I had to make every morning,” says Kildal. “I knew my time could be better spent on more productive tasks. Now, I have more time to spend with clients and ongoing projects. I can't believe I waited so long.”
Make a list of everything you have to do and put a checkmark next to the items that don’t generate income. Then start asking people in your business network for recommendations on people who can help.
5. If you can’t outsource, barter .
If paying someone just isn’t economically feasible right now, Dean recommends trying to barter your skills with another small-business owner. For instance, if you are a web designer you might swap services with someone who can develop your marketing plan. Or try hiring an intern. Tara Horn finds interns to be less costly than hiring a professional and enjoys their attitude toward the job. “They are eager to learn, willing to try new things and aren’t yet stuck in their old ways or practices,” says Horn, CEO of Pearl and Clasp in New York City.