Over the last few weeks we have been talking time hacks, working less and making more! Let's continue on with that fabulous theme, because who doesn't love free time and a bigger bank balance?
Today we are talking... outsourcing!
"Outsource" might be one of the all-time golden goose of business buzzwords. All the successful business gals about town bandy the word around like a sparkling trophy of success.
I, myself, outsource lots of tasks. I have Virtual Assistants handle my diary management, invoicing, social media posting, and so much more.
But is outsourcing right for you and your business, and how do you know when you can afford it?
I will have what she is having...
I thought I was lagging behind with my online business. I would see all the successful online entrepreneurs singing the praises of outsourcing just about everything in their business. I would often wonder what they did all day because they seemed to have outsourced pretty much everything.
While they were sipping cocktails at pricey business retreats, enjoying what seemed like unlimited yoga classes, and mani and Pedi treatments and I was cyber watching with envy. Website maintenance, community management, social media scheduling, sales page building, facebook advertising.... the list went on... they were having fun, I was hustling away...
Slap me sideways and call me Steve
I had no clue that many of those successful people didn't actually make a profit. My entire career has been reliant on me creating not just sales for the companies I ran, but profit. To me, you start a business, and the first thing you do is create profit. It had never occurred to me that people generating massive amounts in sales weren't making money.
When I found out I was shocked! Seriously shocked! It made no sense at all. What was going on? Why didn't they just do some of the stuff themselves and make some money? Who was dishing out this "outsource everything to be successful" advice? Who was keeping a roof over their heads and snacks in their fridge? Who was paying for their wine gosh dang it!! How were they affording to live?
I had so many questions...
So you shouldn't outsource anything, right? Wrong!
I am not saying you shouldn't outsource. You absolutely should outsource the stuff you're not great at doing or the stuff that costs you less per hour than you could be making doing other things. If you're already making money, then why not buy yourself time and freedom.
There is zero point in me trying to shop, cook and clean for one person. I throw out a lot of food (cooking does NOT come easily to me) and eating the same meal four nights in a row isn't my idea of a good time. If I am prepping a client's cash flow transferring data from a Profit and Loss to a spreadsheet is not a great use of my time. I can pay someone much less than I could be making to do that task for me.
Outsourcing to create "time."
Outsourcing to free up time is a great idea. Who doesn't want more time in their week? Especially busy ladies with kids and growing businesses! I know a few of you that would do unspeakable things for just one hour of free time. But here is the deal, if you want to grow a profitable business and you actually need to pay yourself, then here are my best tips...
Before you go paying someone to free up some time for you must know your numbers! Yep... I said it... those dirty words again.. YOUR NUMBERS!
Outsourcing shouldn't be something you do just because the experts say you should, it should be something you plan for and budget for. It should be a growth strategy you introduce to your business, to allow you to free up more time, or focus on your zone of genius.
It's such a powerful strategic move, but if you do it just because you think you should and so you have more photos of you doing cool stuff for the gram, or because you simply can't be bothered doing it yourself then outsourcing could kill your profits, dead. The cost will blow up your expenses and murder your margins.
So before you outsource here are the 5 questions I would ask (just for starters) before paying for help. If you're already outsourcing, then this will help you self audit:
- Is your pricing strategy profitable (can you actually make money or not)?
It seems so obvious, you have a business, you sell your product or service, and you make money. You checked out your competitors, you tried to match or beat their pricing, maybe you thought about what your customers could afford to pay, and now you charge what you charge, and you think you make money.
But do you really? Maybe, maybe not. You need to know your pricing strategy is profitable before you outsource. If you're in Profit Lovers Members Club, I suggest you head to the Pricing Kit asap!
2. Are you overservicing?
If you're selling services like design, coaching or consulting, then this one is for you! Every minute you overservice a client by not sticking to your own boundaries, allowing them to overstep your boundaries or providing a premium level of service for a budget price you're cutting your own profits.
Maybe you don't need to outsource, maybe you just need to reclaim your time from customers or clients. Maybe you can afford to outsource by reclaiming your time, and bring in more customers or clients so you can hand off the work you don't want to be doing.
3. How is your productivity?
Something that really bugs my profit loving soul is seeing tasks outsourced to free up time when the outsourcer does nothing productive all day anyway. If you're the type of business owner who is always in a flap and thinks outsourcing is the only way to get everything done, you're looking at the wrong solution. You need to sort your own productivity first, so you can then outsource and effectively use the time you free up. Otherwise your paying for time that you're never going to utilise effectively anyway.
4. Can you automate instead of paying someone?
Why pay a human to do a task that automation could have taken care of you for you? Before you outsource, look at what can be automated. You might need to invest a little money in the setup, you might need to subscribe to a service, but if the investment is going to allow you to create time and space to make more money then it's a great place to allocate money.
5. Are you going to be the bottleneck?
In theory, outsourcing should create time for you. In reality, outsourcing can add a heap of tasks to your list that need to be done before your outsource-ee (there is no chance that is a real word) can do their part. Therefore, you could, in affect end up feeling more overwhelmed and pressured than you do now.
If you buy blocks of time for example, you need to be organised and focused enough to fill that time with clear direction and tasks. If you're overwhelmed, this can be really tough. Outsourcing is often not as simple as, I don't want to do my bookkeeping anymore so let me hand it off... or I am sick of creating marketing content so I am giving that to someone else. That "someone else" is likely going to need guidance and information from you to get started.
In my case, I have a Virtual Assitant that will take my video and turn it into multple pieces of content for social media, my blog, YouTube, Pinterest, my email list.. my paid ads... it's vital for the growth of my business, I wasn't able to do it all myself so I handed that off. That doesn't mean I don't have a big part to play still, I need to identify the best content ideas, create a content plan, write the scripts, sit in front of the camera to record the video, upload the video and email the script links etc. If I don't do those things, my VA can't do her stuff. I bottleneck her.
If you're going to outsource effectively, you need to have a plan already; otherwise you will frustrate everyone, create more work for yourself and waste money.
So what should you outsource?
Finding someone to take over the tasks in your business so you can focus on making money is a stellar idea. Spending two hours a week scheduling social media posts when you could be working with clients who pay you $150 per hour is simple maths. Pay a virtual assistant $30 per hour and go make your $300!
This only works IF you don't sit on your hiney staring at the ceiling, or worse, at social media. You may as well schedule the posts yourself and save some bucks if you're not going to be focused with your time, as I mentioned before. Productivity is key to getting the best bang for your outsourcing buck.
Outsourcing the tasks you can't figure out how to do
I am stubborn. I am also a control freak. I probably should not be offering up advice on outsourcing stuff you don't know how to do because I will sweat and swear and cry until I figure things out. The upside is I know how to do literally everything in my business, but I am not sure I should be proud of that.
If you're stuck at a point where you have maxed out your brain capacity or you just don't have the technical knowledge to complete a task in your business, then outsource it. It's a smart investment, and you can get back to the business of making money.
My one disclaimer here is if there is something in your business you know will cost a lot to outsource then give it a go first. Be persistent. Take the time to watch YouTube tutorials and just try. I get frustrated with how quickly I see people give in. The one thing I hate hearing the most is "I can't be bothered" Be bothered! Your future could completely change by being bothered. Mine certainly did! My online course income would be a big fat ZERO if I gave in every time something challenged me. Now it makes up 70% of my revenue, and I work from home (usually pant-less).
If you're already profitable, buy yourself some free time. There is no need or benefit to martyring yourself in business, do everything, being everything to everyone and burning yourself out. If you're making money, and your comfortable then buy yourself some time. I literally just had this conversation with my course creators who is making $23k per month on average in profit. She has kids, she has a husband and she feels a lot of mummy guilt, so we are looking for ways to buy her time.
That means a cleaner, someone to take over her content sharing strategy and someone to create graphics. Things she values, but doesn't need to be doing herself and can pay someone to do. Because she is already running a very profitable business, she can buy herself time and she can use that time to stare at the ceiling, peel paint from the walls or watch endless Netflix crime doco's.. she doesn't need to be productive with it.