“You do all that? You must be exhausted!”
That was the verdict I received after explaining my one-person enterprise to another business owner at a networking event in New York City. She was right; I was limp from years of going it alone.
That statement convinced me that it was time to find outside assistance. As I searched, my main concern centered around the cost rather than how much time and revenue I lost every day I didn’t have help.
How many of you focus on the bottom line the same way I did rather than concentrate on the benefits from outsourced individuals who contribute to growth and freedom?
There are 20.8 million independent entrepreneurs in the United States alone, according to the 2006 Nonemployer Statistics released by the U.S. Census in August 2008. How are they finding help to generate the corresponding $970 billion in sales?
Although hiring help would be a major step forward in my business, I was nervous. I asked people on Twitter for examples, but I still wasn’t convinced. Then I realized that long-time friends of mine, who I spoke with practically every day, had all of the answers.
Roz Miller Choice, former news reporter turned real estate investor, and one of my mastermind group partners, found herself at a crossroad last year. Her project list grew longer each day, but she didn’t think there was enough money in her budget for hiring.
“There was no other way to stay on track and move forward,” said Choice, who owns HouseOffTheMarket.com. “I’m doing too much by expanding into a note-buying business and writing a book. My mind is beginning to work against me.”
Choice found help by placing an ad on Craigslist.org. Twenty-five candidates responded, and two were hired. One was dismissed almost immediately due to her lack of commitment. The other continues to live up to expectations. “My assistant knows what I want before I say it, and most times she takes it upon herself to try a technique that streamlines the project more than I imagined.”
As for the cost factor, my mastermind partner can see big benefits in terms of earned revenue and more time for vacations. She recently declared, “I can’t run this business without her.”
Dr. Flora Morris Brown, author and entrepreneur, toyed with the idea of outsourcing. When she decided to write a companion book to her Web site, ColorYourLifeHappy.com, that’s when she committed to finding help.
Rather than go online for support, Brown asked a colleague for suggestions, which led to a referral living in a neighboring town.
“She was doing occasional work for a client of my colleague. I called and talked to her by phone, asking about her computer experience, which types of tasks she has done for other clients, and determining her availability.” They met in person when it was time to start the first project.
This assistant completes a variety of tasks, including indexing blog articles, creating Word documents from handwritten material, and researching for Brown’s forthcoming book.
How does payment work? “I stagger her projects. Since I pay her by the hour, I can control my costs. To free up money to afford her, I continually cancel services I no longer need or restructure services under contract.”
In the first example, the assistants worked directly in my mastermind partner’s home office, while the assistant working for Brown maintained an off-site location.
Listening to my friends convinced me to overrule my mind and hire a person to complete tasks that systematize my business. My new-found assistant, referred to me by my mastermind buddy, monitors social networking sites, performs research that lets me launch products and services faster, and updates blog posts.
Like my friends, I found that the money portion easily fit into my budget because I was now free to develop material that clients request as part of their service packages.
Here are five ways to hire it done, even if you’re convinced there’s no budget for staff.
- Set a trial time. Let the assistant know ahead of time that the assignment is for 4, 6, or 8 weeks. From there, you’ll know if the arrangement is working and how to proceed.
- Seek help from local colleges. Intern placements can be scheduled through college counselors who can also advise you about how other business owners set payment terms.
- Decide exactly what the person will do and how you will communicate each project. Email may not always be the best method, so set time aside to speak by telephone, in person, or through Skype.
- Set up a common intranet area where you and the assistant can keep detailed instructions of how projects are maintained. I created such an area through Google Apps using my name with the dot net extension.
- Ask trusted friends if they are working with or know of someone who can assist you. It’s amazing how you can overlook people close to you who have all the answers.
Now a question for you: how do assistants, virtual or on site, help you maximize your time? Or are you still facing exhaustion?
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About the Author: Shirley George Frazier is chief marketing officer at Solo Business Marketing, a professional speaker at worldwide business and marketing conferences, and author of Marketing Strategies for the Home-Based Business: Solutions You Can Use Today. Shirley twitters at @ShirleyFrazier and blogs at the Solo Business Marketing Blog.