Strategically Outsource to Optimize Personal & Business Life

28 Apr

Ever wished you could be in two places at once to get more things done each day? Or wished you had a second set of eyes, hands, or skill set to power through that work load quicker? Imagine the time and mental space you’d free up.

You could finally start that blog, write that book, take that class, or do just about anything you have always wanted to do but simply didn’t have time for.

The good news is you can have all that extra time (and more) by mastering just one skill: Outsourcing!

Konrad Braun - Indian Elephant Shrines
Me visiting my programmer in India. I’ve been outsourcing my programming to him since 2008

In this post I am going to go through the basic ins and outs of outsourcing and how you too can get started in as little as 5 minutes.

Why Outsource?

A number of years ago I was sitting at a restaurant when I overheard two older gentlemen catching up. One of them says “I heard you retired a couple months ago. How is that going?”

The second gentleman responded “yeah I did, and I’ve been so busy… I don’t know how I ever got anything done when I was working full time!”

They both chuckled.

The number one reason for outsourcing is: time. Once you get addicted to outsourcing aspects of your life (especially your business life), you will be amazed at how much you can get done working a whole lot less than you ever have.

The best part about outsourcing though? Expert help doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. There are extremely talented people all around you and all around the world just waiting for someone like you to keep them busy.

So – by outsourcing – you are not just helping yourself. You are also helping other people put food on their table. It’s what I like to call a “win-win!” for everyone involved.

What to Outsource

Outsource the things you hate doing or are not very good at doing. Maybe start with a list of things that overwhelm you. These can be personal things as well as business things. I’ve even heard of people outsourcing aspects of their jobs. Crazy, right?

Delegate Boring TasksI say you’d be crazy not to!

Outsource Your Personal Life

I know of someone who absolutely hates doing laundry. She lives alone and her apartment does not have a washing machine, so every weekend she had to take a couple hours out of her schedule to sit at a laundromat and do her laundry.

One day she was so fed up, she outsourced her laundry to a retired granny who was looking for something on the side to keep her busy while also giving her a few extra dollars to spoil her grand kids with.

Now – once a week – she drops her laundry basket off early morning at this granny’s house on her way to work and stops by on her way home to pick it up. Lo and behold the dreadful laundry is freshly washed, dried, and folded inside the basket. No drama… and yet it costs her no more than $100 per month.

Another person I know got tired of cooking every day, so he has a chef come in once per week and precook various meals. This way him and his daughter eat healthy home-made meals every day of the week without the stress of having to cook. He insists it’s cheaper yet more delicious than eating out.

A more common task to outsource is cleaning. We have had a cleaning lady come in 2 to 3 times per week for an hour or two to clean the house, beds, laundry, etc. When you work from home and you have a large house to take care of, this is a HUGE help… and allows you to stay focused on your family (or business projects) without the stress of a messy home.

All of this (and so much more) in your day to day life can be outsourced IF you’d rather pay someone than do it yourself.

The same goes for writing that book you have always wanted to write. There are plenty of very experienced ghostwriters and editors just waiting for someone like you to kick-start their next writing gig. And depending on the scope of the book you’re writing, you would be surprised how affordable hiring experienced writers can be.

Outsource tasks in your personal life that drive you up the wall or that just seem to never make it off of your “One Day” to do list. You’ll be surprised by how much mental space frees up to focus on things that matter most or that you actually enjoy.

Outsource Business Tasks

If there is one thing we learned during the 2019 – 2020 pandemic, it’s that a great many of the jobs currently done from office cubicles, can be done virtually from home. This comes with huge benefits for business owners and employees alike.

  1. The business owner saves on not having to pay rent or electricity for the office space. Not to mention save on all the coffees the employees consume at the owners expense, hah.
  2. The employee gets the benefit of not having to commute to and from work every day and gets to work in his or her pajamas from home. Heck, they could potentially even relocate to a more favorable location (why not?) and work 100% remotely through the internet.

My point is, if your business work load can be outsourced through the internet, why would you not do it? Hire someone to do the work you hate doing, don’t have time to do, or lack the skill set to get done. Things like:

  • video editing
  • software development
  • customer support
  • PowerPoint creation
  • blog content creation
  • editing & proofreading
  • research
  • legal consulting
  • software development
  • project management
  • etc, etc.

Just about any tasks under the sun that does not require an in person presence can be outsourced online. The secret is finding out which tasks you can let someone do for you and then find that someone who can do it as well if not better than you.

Where to Outsource?

It really depends what you’re looking to get help with. If it’s for something local, talking to your local friends is probably the best place to start. If that doesn’t yield any prospects, try asking in your local Facebook community or list your need/offer in the local online classifieds.

There are a great many people looking to have a side gig and if that is all you need, you should have no problem finding someone who can meet your need at a price you’re willing to pay.

How to Outsource Around the WorldIn regards to online outsourcing (my specialty), I mainly use Upwork nowadays. It’s super easy to set up an account and within just a few minutes create a job listing describing what you’re looking for. It has a slight learning curve to it but when you’ve done it once, the second time is a breeze.

Remember that the listing does not have to be long. Short and sweet (to the point) is usually what I go for and I have a plethora of candidates to chose from within just 24 hours.

The best part? Upwork has a mobile app that allows you to manage all your outsourcing via your smartphone. Meaning you can be in communication with your workers while on the go. I love it!

I am always impressed with the level of skill available to me through Upwork for very reasonable rates. For example, I recently had a children’s book author – with 300 some published books to her name – rework one of my stories that I had planned to turn to a children’s book. It cost me $100 USD and – as expected – she did a FANTASTIC job. How crazy is that?

If it’s something minor, I have used Fiverr as well in the past but it simply isn’t what it used to be. It’s a third rate outsourcing platform at best now. Upwork gives you a lot more and more targeted options.

What if You’re A Control Freak?

I get it. I am a control freak if there ever was one. Somehow the old saying “If you want something done right, you got to do it yourself” is something I can relate to all too well.

The truth however is, my list of 100 things that I dragged with me for years, would largely still be undone if it had all waited on my time and inspiration. So not only is my mind a lot clearer for not having those 100 things haunting me every day, my business has also exploded.

Was every hire a magic problem solver? Nope. I won’t even pretend it was. However, seeing where outsourcing got me versus where I would be if I hadn’t outsourced, I would pick outsourcing every day of the year.

Hire a Project Manager

One thing I’ve been attempting to do is train one of the people I outsource to to become my project manager. Especially for projects that will require work on an ongoing basis.

So basically, instead of me trying to explain what I am trying to accomplish to a dozen different freelancers, I explain it well to my project manager and he sees to it that everything falls into place. This kind of trust and relationship takes time to build but if you find someone who can march to your beat, this becomes a lot of fun.

Create Systems & Guides

Another thing I do, I make extensive guides listing what and how I am needing tasks done. This way I get very clear in my mind as to what I am needing the freelancers to do, it also let’s the freelancers know exactly what my expectations of them are, and most important of all: If I ever need to hire a new freelancers for that (or similar) role, I already have a thorough guide I can start them off with.

This has been a huge time saver for me!

So yeah… I am a control freak and my detailed guides show plenty of evidence supporting that.

In the end, instead of obsessing over the details that – in the grand scheme of things aren’t that important – I try to remind myself to focus on the end goal and assume the freelancers do their best to help me get to that goal. Unless they clearly weren’t following my detailed instructions, but I’ll get into that later.

Finding that Perfect Person

Most people research their workers more than they research the political candidates they vote into office. Change that. Have a quick look at the people who applied to your listing and quickly eliminate the ones that don’t match what you’re looking for.

Heck, I often times go as far as eliminating people just because the vibe I get from looking at their profile doesn’t feel right. No point in going into a working relationship with someone you can not see yourself working with.

Once you’ve done your first round of candidate elimination, you will likely be left with a handful of people you could see yourself working with. Now look at their work history (if they got one), their ratings and reviews, and get a better feel for each of the remaining candidates.

Send them a message. Don’t trust their claims and promises too early. Ask for samples of previous work (if relevant).

I’ve been looking at polished profiles a few times that make me go “this person seems to tick every box of my checklist” and yet when I start chatting with them or ask them for samples, it becomes quickly evident that their profile isn’t an accurate portrayal of their skills or abilities.

Example: I recently wanted to hire a content writer for one of my blogs. I had this person lined up who seemed to match my needs exactly. Once chatting with them I quickly realized their grammar was way off. In this case I ended up not hiring them.

While I never discriminate against people from foreign countries (I believe everyone deserves a fair shot and some of the most talented people I’ve hired over the years have been from non-native English speaking countries), I simply can not have subpar work being done for me. I have no problem paying well if the value is there, but the value has to be there.

If it’s for an ongoing project, I often hire two people and give them both a small paid task to see how they work. I quickly eliminate the one less suited for the job or switch them to a project that is more suited for them.

Now… give it time. It takes time to get to know a worker just as it takes time for them to learn how you tick. The relationship gets built as you do more and more work together.

Once you have that gem of a person who over delivers time and time again and you would hate for them to leave you, increase how much you pay them. I often look at their other ongoing work (on their Upwork profile) and make sure I am the highest paid client they work for. So if they need to let go of a client, I am the last on that list.

And guess what: If you have the right person and you take good care of them, they will do the same for you!

Hire Fast, Fire Faster!

I want to lead this point with a caveat: In absolutely every hire, treat the person with the utmost respect as though you just hired your grandmother. No matter what happens. Zero exceptions.

Just because you pay someone does not give you a right to abuse them. So do unto them as you would have them do to you should the roles be reversed.

Proceed No Further Wooden SignWith that said, know when you are being abused or taken advantage of. This often happens while they smile at you or pretend to laugh at your jokes.

If you ever feel the person you’re trusting with your business isn’t giving you their best or isn’t taking your work as seriously as they should be (like taking shortcuts or dragging out 1 hour worth of work to last a week), I find it’s best to cut ties and move on to someone more aligned with your vision.

I have had it happen a few times where a person tried making a life’s career out of a days worth of work. It always stings when this happens. It’s not a fair exchange of value and it upsets the spirit of trust, and I refuse to do business with people I don’t trust!

Paying Per Milestone vs. Per Hour

I often try negotiating a “pay per task” or “pay per milestone” deal instead of an hourly deal just because I prefer paying for value instead of time. This way if they get the work done quicker, they benefit, and if they drag their feet, you’re not paying them to do so.

In both scenarios you want to make sure they are not taking shortcuts and that the work done really is up to your expectations. If they come short, point it out and ask them to fix it. Often times it was a lack of communication on my part that lead them to skip a beat, so your communication has got to be thorough.

If you have given them a second chance and they are still not delivering to your standards – despite you outlining your expectations in detail – pay what you owe them, close the contract, and then replace them. There are too many over qualified people out there looking for work to entertain someone who isn’t delivering.