If you’re a solopreneur who has been juggling all the tasks in your business, you may be feeling the pressure of getting it all done. But not JUST done. Done and with quality.
You may have considered hiring some support but are unsure what you could be delegating. Or even whether you should.
So what can solopreneurs or small business entrepreneurs do to determine what and whether they should delegate?
The very first thing to look at is what can you afford? Have a good look at your budget, look at your revenue, look at your expenses, and have a good look at those expenses. Review your subscriptions. Have you been spending money on subscriptions that you haven't used in months? And, I know, I frequently hear: “Oh yeah, but I might use it.” Well, how about we deal with it when it comes?
Because if you haven't used it for months and months, chances are you don't need it unless it’s an annual subscription paid per month, but that's a whole other issue. Consider the expenses and consider whether you still need them. As something might have changed in the business itself, and you no longer need this. Maybe you've replaced it with something else, or a new tool has come out that is more affordable that does more. Have a look at that to see if you can't free up a little bit of money in there. And ask yourself before determining how much you're going to allocate to this new person, what can your budget really sustain? Are you going to look at maybe having somebody do a certain number of hours per month? Are you going to look at maybe hiring someone just for sporadic work? Will you be looking more at a freelancer, at an agency? Or you may prefer to have consistency to have that regular touchpoint. That's going to impact how the money is spent and therefore have an impact on your budget. And so think about how you may want to obtain that help and can your budget sustain that?
Make sure that the reason you're getting the help is because it will advance your business. And I know at times we get tired and we're like, “Ugh, I just need help. I just want somebody else to do it.”
And sometimes it's for tasks that we don't particularly care for or sometimes it's just tasks that we're not particularly good at. We might be okay and we understand and we can get the job done, but we can get the job done in let's say eight hours versus a pro can get it done in an hour. So consider whether there would be that savings in time. Now, just because there is that savings in time doesn't mean that you necessarily can afford it depending on what your budget looks like. But do consider that trade off. If I had an extra seven hours to invest in advancing my business, I could get let's say one or two more clients because I would be able to pitch to that many more people.
Something to consider as well, when you're looking at budget, is internships. And I'm not saying take advantage of people and “Hey, I'm going to do an internship because I don't have to pay them.” That's not what I'm saying. If you can pay someone, pay them. But I'm also saying that there are a lot of individuals out there who just would love to gain practical experience. And if you're able to offer something like mentorship, or – assuming they do a great job – offer a testimonial or a recommendation, or if there is some way to pay them back for that work, even if it's not actual money, then that might be really great and might be a win-win situation. Of course, if you do have the funds, pay someone.
Also, there may be individuals who would like to change careers or individuals who would like to try out a new career or they're studying something and they'd love to see how it is in reality. Maybe there are people in your network who are in that situation or maybe people in your network know people in their network who are in that situation.
Along similar lines, you could find someone, another micro business, another solo solopreneur who would be open to exchanging services. Maybe they complement what you offer and they could use what you have and you could use what they have. And maybe you help each other that way and you help each other advance your own businesses that way. So there are a lot of options even when budgets are tight. But again, I know, I think this is the third time I'm going to say it, but if you can pay someone, pay them.
One last note about internships, should it pay off in the sense that the business grows, you get more clients, etc., then maybe that could be part of the agreement. Assuming the person is doing an amazing job, then you hire them and you do start paying them something. So that could work out that way as well. Just be always very, very transparent so that everybody knows what they can expect. Especially because some people just can't afford to do unpaid internships simply because they absolutely need the revenue. So make sure that you don't put any kind of, I'm going to say judgmental pressure, if they say they can't afford to take an unpaid internship. So be very, very clear from the very beginning.
Another thing to consider in this journey to getting help is what kind of help do you actually need? Look at all the tasks that you're accomplishing. Yes, look at the ones that you don't like and you need somebody else to do because you find them draining. But also look at the ones that maybe would take you longer to accomplish and consider potentially having someone else do those to free you up. But again, make sure that it's freeing up for the purpose of advancing your business. Because if it's freeing up so that you can do something else that is not advancing the business, then I would venture it's not a great investment and it may just become an expense.
Yes, of course there's always the need for time to rest and preventing burnout, that's a whole other situation. I'm just speaking generally here. Look at the tasks you're accomplishing and determine what you would like to see delegated and if they can be grouped.
A lot of individuals think that they’ll just find a VA. That's great. But if you have a virtual assistant, it doesn't mean that they can do everything. They may be this amazing person who CAN do everything and can learn to do everything. I've certainly, in my experience, have found some pretty impressive ones who learn quickly and can grow into becoming all kinds of experts. And it's really wonderful when you have that. But I think it's a little unfair to expect that everybody will be that kind of person and will even have the desire and interest to become a Jack and Jill of all trades.
You may want to consider working with more than one person, even if it's freelancers. And if you do end up needing a little bit of everything, you might also want to consider an agency. There are agencies that offer many services, and that could be a way of going to one place, but getting access to an array of experts.
If you are going to be delegating certain tasks and realize you need someone who knows something that you don't, I highly recommend at least learning the basics. I really would hesitate to fully delegate something that I have no understanding of because if there are last-minute changes, then what do you do? And it's again, not becoming an expert at the thing, not trying to learn all the things. It's just knowing enough to be able to deal with emergencies. Unless you have someone who is on retainer and is there to deal with the emergencies, that's possible as well. But even at that, I really like to understand at least the basics to even be able to make appropriate decisions for my business because if I don't understand, then I'm fully reliant on this person to make the right strategic decisions.
For example, if it's an accountant and I don't understand how to read my P&L, my statement of cash flows, my balance sheet, then I'm essentially reliant on them to tell me if there's a problem in my business. Well, I don't want that. I want to be able to understand. I've had a few accountants, for a number of reasons, but my accountants have always been the type of individuals who explain and answer all my questions. So whenever I have anything, they take the time to take me through what it means. And, in time, over the years, I've become very comfortable with how to read those. And now my questions are actually fairly complex and I can look at them and read a lot of information from the financials because over time I've built this knowledge and I've built this knowledge not from reading a book on understanding of financials, although that's good too, but I've done it from actually reading my financials and asking the questions that I have based on this. So in doing that, it takes longer for sure, but it's knowledge that sticks and you just build it over time. But when you're just starting off, at least learn the basics. And maybe that would be a great time to read that book.
The other thing to be considering, once you have your budget and your tasks, is should it be delegated? In my opinion, some things should not be delegated. And I'm going to say, especially if it has a direct impact on revenue and level of service to clients, especially as a solopreneur or micro-business owner, at some point, as you become larger and larger, there is no choice. You can't be there when you have hundreds and thousands of clients at the same time. You will have trained individuals and it will have grown hopefully over time with appropriate training. But when you're very, very small, I would not delegate things that have a direct impact on revenue and level of service to clients.
The other thing about delegating is that for some things, if you delegate them, it will actually create more work for you due to the level of review necessary. And that's something that you want to balance out. What will it involve for you to delegate this? And I want to be clear here, we don't want to fall into the trap of, “Oh, well, there's no point in me delegating it because it's much faster if I do it myself.” Well, okay, fine. At some point you're just going to do everything yourself and you're only one person and you can't do everything, so you're going to have to delegate something. But maybe you start with the ones that the delegation effort itself isn't going to become a burden and the level of review isn't going to become a burden.
What are some factors that could impact that? To start with, the budget is going to impact who you can hire. And the person you can hire may not be at the level that you need to be able to fully delegate everything. So maybe parts of it can be delegated, which would advance the task while not adding burden to the review process.
And so then that would be worthwhile, and that would be a good task to delegate. But like I said, you don't want to necessarily just delegate the whole thing. You may want to delegate part of it because otherwise the delegation itself is going to become a burden.
In some instances, it may just be a question of training. And most of the time, in my experience anyway, when you get that additional help, there is an “onboarding period”, an adjustment period, a learning-to-collaborate period. And it may just be that training, that learning-to-work together, that becomes heavier. That is almost a guarantee that it's going to happen. Not always, but most of the time. Again, in my experience when I first obtained that additional help, it was a burden, but if it is appropriate, it will lessen as the person gets more training, as the person becomes more comfortable, understands better how to work together. And after that, it's going to be a breeze when it works.
Guard against the situations where that is not possible, where the level of review will always remain the same, and then those tasks just become burdensome. Those tasks are not great to delegate. But when you figure you just need to learn to work together, then it's going to become easier. Then those are great to delegate.
One thing you could try is to write out the steps, also known as the standard operating procedures (SOPs). What exactly is involved in accomplishing this particular thing? Is it easy to explain? Is it easy to follow? Is it something that once you've trained someone on it, they'll get it and then they can move on with it. Or is it that, no, it's always going to require a deep dive. And maybe it'll still make sense that they do their part. You do the review part and then it gets completed. But have a look at that. And if it's easy to follow, easy to explain, then it's highly likely that you'll be able to train someone really well. Again, depending on what the budget is and whether you can actually afford to hire someone that is at the level required. But they may grow into it.
In my opinion, the best way to approach this is by trying short engagements. Most vendors, agencies understand that and they are usually more than happy to accommodate and at least get a chance to prove themselves.
Just be transparent from the first interaction so that everyone is on the same page and expectations are clear.
To give it a real shot, I recommend a three-month engagement, even if it’s part-time. This gives enough time to get the collaboration bugs out of the way and actually get something moved forward but not so much to become an incredible burden should the relationship not work out.
See what happens!