I’ve recently pulled the trigger on hiring help for my ever-growing list of tasks I know I should be doing. Last month, for example, I was hoping to get Facebook ads set up… but the process is such a huge undertaking and so time consuming to get right, with landing pages, covers, images, copy, auto-responders, and then, you know, understanding how to do the ads to begin with, that I haven’t made much progress on my own.
Add to that I have a fairly limited budget. I can’t just hire someone to do ads for me. In fact, I need to learn to do parts of it myself—I’ll explain why in a minute.
What I can do is outsource small parts of the work. For example, I can hire a cover designer to get my covers redone and optimized—which I did. I can also hire someone to create my landing pages—which I’m setting up now. I can have someone take my content and turn it into an auto-responder sequence—which is in process using my Nail Your Autoresponder template.
So how do I break down what could be outsourced and then find the money and time to set up a contractor and get it done? And how do I do it on an extremely limited budget, at a point in my career where most would think I’m not even ready?
My Four Rules For Outsourcing Before You’re Ready
Now that I’ve gotten started with hiring part-time teammates, I’m addicted! I love how much faster things are moving now. One thing I’ve realized is that starting small and starting before you’re ready are both critical to success.
Having worked in startups for years, I have also seen plenty of examples of what to do and what not to do. I’ve seen hires not work out in part due to insufficient training or monitoring. I’ve seen managers go completely overboard with micromanaging, and managers go completely radio silent with having no boundaries, deadlines, or consequences.
Additionally, I sometimes see authors viewing their contractors, freelancers, or employees as an expense rather than an asset—and then treating them like that. Obviously, this isn’t going to be a winning strategy!
To get started, I knew I had to get focused. Having limited resources is truly a blessing, because it forces me to choose the most optimal ways to build my business. Plus, from working with entrepreneurs at all success levels and outside of writing, I’ve learned that no business owner EVER feels like they have all the resources they want. Sometimes people think that earning more money will solve all their problems, but the reality is that prioritizing your projects is what will make your business and life much, much easier! It’s good to learn how to do more with less right now, in the present.
I created four personal rules to help me get laser-focused—feel free to steal them! They are:
Rule #1 – Hire For Income-Generating Activities First
You probably know your short-term, medium-term, and long-term income generating activities if you are trying to build your revenue. Mine are (roughly, obviously not a full list):
- Selling a product or service directly
- Selling consulting services
- Running a promotion on my current product/service catalog
- Getting my books translated into other languages, or onto audiobook
- Sending an affiliate promotion
- Publishing a new release in an already popular series with a built-in fan base
- Writing new books in series with a small but growing fan base
- Starting another pen name or project
When you first start outsourcing, you want to tie your spend directly to income-generating activities. For example, if you know that getting your books up on Babelcube or ACX will earn you more money, but you don’t have time to do it yourself, that could be a good task to send to someone. You know you will make your money + more back eventually, which gets you into the mindset of this work being an investment rather than an expense.
Another example might be optimizing your affiliate links on your website. You may know that if you just got your Resources page up, lots of website visitors would go to it and you’d open a trickle of new income, but you haven’t felt the urgency to get it done on your own thus far.
Rule #2 – Focus On System-Building Activities Next
Most small tasks can’t be tied directly to income generation, but a lot of it can be tied to building a system. For example, you know that having an email list will make your next launch and all subsequent ones significantly better, but you haven’t had time to optimize your website for signups, or to build a landing page, or to go back through all your old posts and add content upgrades, or to add your calls-to-action to the backs of all your books.
Each of these opportunities could be a great chance to continue to build your asset—your email list—which you know will generate income at a later date (on your current backlist, or when you release your new book). Although the task itself is not tied directly to your income, it is tied to your email list, which is tied to your income. So it’s still a good place to invest your limited funds.
Rule #3 – Hire ONLY For One-Off, One-And-Done Activities
As authors, we have lots of ongoing work. Tweets, newsletter updates, blog posts, ad monitoring, and more. At the beginner level, outsourcing these tasks is going to create a huge strain on your finances. Instead, look for one-time tasks that can make a huge difference in your business without creating an ongoing obligation that you potentially can’t meet.
Think about it—being in business of any kind usually creates a volatile cash flow situation. You aren’t receive a steady paycheck every few weeks. Your monthly income is going to vary wildly from month to month, and the only way to gain security is to make significantly more money than you need so you can survive the famine phases.
If your business cash flow has a few down months, and you suddenly have to take over all your social media again because you can’t afford your person, how is that going to look to the outside world? You probably aren’t going to be able to keep up because you’ve filled that time with something else, so your social media activity is going to see a sharp drop-off. And if that task was generating you more money—new subscribers, bigger audience that attracted speaking offers, and so on—your business is going to take another huge hit in revenue and continue spiraling down.
It’s a bit like getting behind on your mortgage… at some point, you can’t get back on top of it, and you lose the house.
If you can help it, stick to one-off, one-and-done activities instead. Some that I am finding in my own business:
- Optimization work on covers, descriptions, and so on
- Landing pages for an email opt-in
- Auto-responder sequence
- Getting my books available for foreign and subsidiary rights
- Creating sections of my website—a resources page, a press page, and so on
If you are like most authors, you have plenty of small projects that you haven’t had time to do. These are the perfect little chunks of your business to start outsourcing, because it’s only a one-time investment. Over six months, these little projects will have added up to massive progress, and then hopefully you’ll have built enough additional income to either do more of these projects or to hire someone a bit more permanently.
Rule #4 – Hire For Simple, Repeatable Activities
I stay extremely organized with everything I want to get done (or should get done) using projects in Asana. One of the habits I’ve gotten into is labeling specific, small tasks with tags based on how I plan to accomplish them or what software I need to use. I originally started doing this so that I could batch tasks—for example, if I was already in Photoshop creating an image for Project #1, I could also create an image for Project #2 while I was there.
A nice side effect of this, however, is that I can see exactly where my repeatable tasks are. I might be creating a landing page to capture an email address for my book, and a landing page to capture an email from a Facebook ad for a different project. Although the content of these landing pages is different, they still both use LeadPages and I could likely create one training video to explain how to accomplish both.
While I may only need one landing page right now, I’ll likely need another 20 in the near future, and hundreds over the course of my career. That means a 15 minute training video on the topic is a solid investment of my time.
So I can set up my “landing page outsourcing” once and invest a bit of time and money now, but in the future I can reuse that same training and get a landing page done again for very little time and a little bit of money. I’ve created a system for magically getting landing pages done in the future, with very little effort on my part—score!
While it takes a bit of work to get yourself set up this way, when you start building systems for your business, you’ll begin to see opportunities for outsourcing.
The next step is to take very small chunks of your system and find ways to siphon that little piece off. Start small and build up as you have more funds and resources to invest. You may end up just as addicted as me to offloading your administrative work to other team members!
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