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When You Should Pay Someone Else to Do the Work

November 25th 2020

Startup entrepreneurs are notoriously frugal. Many guard their pennies, often attempting to negotiate for the best price possible, or decide to do work themselves so as not to have to part with any cash. They work to keep plenty of money in their bank account, in case a slow period or downturn occurs. They want to be prepared.

That’s all good, but it can also be stifling. Holding so tightly onto money can actually limit growth.

Sometimes it makes more sense to pay someone else to complete tasks for you. Yes, it will cost you money, but it will free up time you can invest in other high value tasks.

But how do you know which tasks to delegate and which to complete yourself? There are a number of tests, or questions to ask yourself to make that determination.

What can you earn per hour?

One popular tactic is to calculate how much your time is worth – that is, how much do you earn per hour, on average. Based on your annual or monthly salary and the number of hours you work per month, how much do you earn for every hour you work?

Some consultants and service providers use their stated rate for this exercise, which is fine, though it probably won’t take into account the nonbillable work you do that would potentially bring that rate down. It’s always good to look at your potential hourly earnings, however, especially if handing off the nonbillable stuff is possible. That will mean you can generate more revenue because you’ll have more time to devote to the tasks that make you money.

So let’s say your hourly rate is $50. That’s how much you could earn per hour if you didn’t have more mundane activities like filing or typing up notes or boxing up orders to attend to.

Your next step is to identify people who can do all the nonbillable work that you generally do during the day, and who charge less than $50/hour. That might mean hiring a cleaning service to come in at night once a week, so that you don’t have to stay late to do it. Or hiring a shipping and receiving employee to be responsible for all of those efforts. Or paying a college intern to spend a few hours per week handling admin tasks. Or paying a virtual assistant (VA) to be your right-hand team member.

Consider doing a time study to see how you spend your time during a typical day. That can help you identify nonbillable tasks for you to offload as well as the amount of additional revenue you could generate if you weren’t responsible for those activities.

Can you train someone else to do the work?

It’s possible that someone else can do a lot of what you do if you can take the time to show them how to do what you want done. This is generally true if the work to be done is not your core service. For example, you could teach someone else how to process orders, how to conduct online research, or how to create PowerPoint decks just the way you like them.

However, there are some activities that may actually be in your zone of genius – the work that is at the core of why people come to you. Maybe you are a brilliant architect or artist, maybe you’re a copywriter or a web designer, or perhaps you’re a personal stylist with a unique way of drawing out your clients’ true beauty. The part of that work that is in your head, based on your experience, training, and perspective, can’t be outsourced – nor should it be.

But everything else that needs to happen in support of that? Yes. Look for ways to teach others to do the ancillary tasks, so you don’t have to.

If you can teach someone else to do work that you’re currently doing, and which you don’t have to be the one to take care of it, you can free up as much time per week for billable activities that you were spending on that other stuff.

This is true for product-based businesses too, though the connection isn’t as direct. If you could be making calls to potential distributors or retailers instead of printing out shipping labels, or writing email messages, or paying invoices, you would be creating new business relationships that could potentially yield sizeable revenue.

Do you want to learn how to do the work?

Some business activities, like web design or social media management, you could learn how to do. But do you want to? Do you need to? Unless these are in your zone of genius – part of your superpower – OR you’re so intrigued you want to learn how to, find an expert and hand the work off to them.

It’s very likely that paying an expert to do the work will result in it getting done faster and better than if you kept the work for yourself.

And, face it, we don’t all need to become experts in every aspect of our businesses.

So start to keep track of the tasks you attend to everyday that you could potentially delegate to someone else, and estimate how much more time you could free up for yourself. Then work on finding those skilled people willing to take on that work, for a fee.

That’s how you build an empire, even if it’s a one-person million dollar venture.

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