“If you want something done, do it yourself.”
Such is the mantra of many makers, entrepreneurs, and artists. Ours is the realm of elbow grease, D.I.Y., and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We’re used to working alone—on just about everything. We make all of our goods from scratch. We do all of our own marketing. We spend hours making things from hand instead of using a machine that does it in seconds.
We are fiercely independent, devoted to the purity of our craft.
But sometimes, that independence might get us in our own way.
Sometimes, it might be a better idea for us to outsource certain aspects of our process.
Now, before you grab the torches and pitchforks, allow me a moment to explain.
I’m not asking you to hire a factory in China to manufacturer your products and depersonalize everything. Instead, outsourcing different things that we don’t enjoy—or are terrible at—can help us streamlining our process and allow us to put more of ourselves into our work.
Only Do What Only You Can Do
When we work for ourselves, we often spend a lot of our time on menial tasks.When I first opened the shop, a lot of my time in the shop was spent sweeping the floors and tidying up materials areas. Both are necessary things.
But every time I picked up a broom, I had to put down something else that I was working on, whether that was designing new products, planning new classes or events, or contacting local vendors to stock in our gift shop.
I couldn’t not do those menial tasks: nobody wants to come to a filthy shop. But I was hardly the only person with the ability to do them.
However, finding someone else to do all the big picture stuff was out of the question. After all, how am I supposed to find someone to run my business for me?
If you don’t have a brick and mortar, you probably don’t need to spend time tidying up for customers. But you’re probably wasting time doing something that you could hire someone else to do for you. It might be social media marketing, checking your emails, or something equally tedious.
When you take the burden of those tasks off of yourself, you can focus on doing the stuff that you actually want to do.
Jack Of All Trades: Master of None
The small business owner wears many hats: CEO, marketing agent, accountant, secretary...
But that doesn’t mean you’re the best person for each of those jobs.
Our first few years, we handled all of the bookkeeping ourselves. A couple times a year, we’d sit down with all of our bank statements and copy every transaction into a spreadsheet, then organize each of them by category.
Once, I was so overwhelmed by it that my husband Nat did all of it.
Needless to say, neither of us are expert accountants. We were able to figure it out, but since we didn’t know what we were doing, it took two whole weeks for us to work through the whole year. And during those two weeks, we couldn’t get much else done.
Since then, we’ve realized that there are like, experts you can hire to do that for you. And those people will do a better job of it than if you do it yourself. Last year, we outsourced our taxes to an actual tax expert, and did the stuff we’re actually good at while they were working on it. Since then, I’ve been trying to learn more about finding a more regular accountant to even help with things like payroll month-to-month account management so I can spend less time on stuff I’m still trying to understand and more time on the things I’m good at.
To be frank, I was a terrible accountant. I was slow, sloppy, and inefficient. If I had an accountant that did their job as poorly as I did, I would have fired them.
If we get real honest with ourselves, we might see some places in our responsibilities where we deserve to be fired. Keeping ourselves in those ineffective roles doesn’t help anything. Fire yourself, and find someone who actually knows what they’re doing.
Time vs. Money
One of the biggest struggles of outsourcing work to other people is the financial cost. We might scoff at the price of hiring a tax preparer, or feel like it’s too big to fit in our budget.
But as the old saying goes, “time is money.” I might pay a few hundred dollars to an accountant, but I get back two weeks of my own time that I can use on more fruitful endeavors. I can spend time doing the things that I’m actually good at—and that can grow my business. Instead of hunkering down for two weeks with several months’ worth of banking statements, I can focus on creating new classes, making new pieces, and supporting the members at my shop.
Some of the other creative female entrepreneurs I meet with regularly have hired other people to manage their Facebook pages, Pinterest boards, ship their online orders, and even check their emails. It certainly costs more than doing it themselves, but the time they get back allows them to do more of what they actually love to do—you know, the stuff that actually gets them paid.
It’s easy to think of your business’s budget in strict monetary terms. But don’t forget how much time you might be saving yourself—and what you could do with that time. You might actually be able to make more money than you spent outsourcing...
Go Forth And MAKE
Outsourcing can be a dirty word. It conjures up images of Chinese-made, cheap commercialized crap. But in reality, outsourcing the parts of your workload that you don’t enjoy (and are just plain bad at) can free you up to do more of what you love, allowing you to put even more personal attention into what you make.
So don’t be afraid of outsourcing. Fire yourself from all of the positions you’re doing a bad job at, and find someone who can free you up for what you’re actually good at.