When I first started my business while on mat leave — and in an attempt to save money and get going fast — I tried to DIY almost everything. I quickly realised in that way madness lies. Instead, I started working out what I should focus my own efforts on and, crucially, where I’m better off getting support and outsourcing tasks.
If you’re feeling frazzled and unfocused, it could be that the overwhelm is coming from trying to do it ALL by yourself. So, when should you DIY a business task and when should you outsource it? Here are four scenarios where, in my book at least, outsourcing wins every time:
When you HATE doing the task at hand
If you really, genuinely dislike doing something, it often leads to procrastination, time-wasting and general faffing around rather than focusing on the job at hand. Check first if the task is absolutely necessary (not every business *has* to have a blog for example), and if it is necessary, then consider if you could outsource it.
Is it a massive pain sourcing website images? Find writing copy boring? For every task you dislike, there’s a person out there (probably another self-employed parent trying to put weetabix on the table) who’s making a business out of doing that exact thing for a living. Give them the job instead! They’ll be well chuffed at the new business and you’ll have one less stress. Win win.
When it adds up
If you can potentially earn more in the 2.5 hours it takes you to clean your house top to bottom than it would cost you to get someone else to do it – then its a no-brainer. Outsource!
Cleaners generally cost £10-£15 an hour depending on location, and as a freelancer working from home, outsourcing just this one task could genuinely make a huge difference to your productivity and focus. Personally, I found trying to work with mess around me a big mental distraction and would regularly end up spending my evenings cleaning after the baby was in bed = zero fun. Getting a cleaner was one of the best business decisions I ever made.
Don’t forget too that — even if it doesn’t add up financially — it might still make sense to buy yourself time, especially if it gives you back some precious ‘white space’ to think, create, focus; all the things that often, after we become parents, we just never have any time left over for. If you need it simply for your sanity; then that time you’re buying back is worth its weight in gold.
When it’s NOT your skill set (you’ll do a crap job)
When starting a business its tempting to just have a go at DIY-ing everything yourself to keep costs low — social media, accounting, website… the list goes on. It’s normal as a startup to need to be a jack/jill-of-all-trades to an extent, but what isn’t normal is continuing to try and do everything yourself as time goes on, without ever considering support.
When you work for yourself, you are first and foremost the CEO of your own mini empire and no self-respecting chief exec ever tried to do the whole thing themselves! Part of the skill of being the boss is knowing when to bring in support; identifying your weaknesses and shoring them up with help, so that your overall business doesn’t suffer as a result.
So, honestly, what are you really rubbish at?! What would definitely be best left to the experts so that you can focus on being the best consultant/designer/producer/coach you can be?
Websites are a classic example. I started my business off with a simple DIY wordpress site then, after a year, invested in a web designer when I wanted to up my online presence and had something more substantial to shout about. I was 100% in need of an expert to design a site that met my needs as I knew the alternative was spending literally weeks slaving away over online tutorials and still ending up with a low-rate version of the big vision I was hoping to achieve.
When you are STUCK!
If time is of the essence and you aren’t getting anywhere fast, it’s time to call the cavalry rather than throw in the towel. Stop and realise that what got you here, may not get you there and seek out the support you need to get moving to the next stage: with your ideas, your next client, your sales.
Try to pinpoint what it is you are struggling with exactly. Then seek out someone succeeding in whatever it is you’re trying to do. Look for support, help and mentoring that’ll get you moving. I’ve worked with several business coaches and mentors over the years, that have each helped me in different ways to get unstuck, gain support with strategy and focus in on my ideas.
Whatever business support you are after, do your research and choose wisely, as they need to be a good fit and give you what you need. Don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials, a consultation or examples of previous work — all the good stuff that as freelancers we should most definitely be offering to potential clients ourselves.