How to Outsource (on a budget!)

If you guys are obsessed with business podcasts as much as I am, you probably keep hearing the recommendation to "outsource, outsource, outsource!" to help your business grow, and you've got to "spend money to make money". I always kind of roll my eyes when I heard this -- especially when it was coming from business owners that seemed to be in a much different place than I am. (While I'm on my way!) I'm not quite in the place yet to hire full-time staff to join my team. But then it got me thinking, how can I outsource in a more reasonable, do-able way?

The idea of outsourcing comes from the premise that your time is valuable! Focus your time growing your business and on what's most important to you-- devoting your energy to your strengths, things only you can do, and things that make you money. For me -- that focus is PAINTING, and spending time with my family! And then look to outsource or automate as many other tasks as possible. One day (hopefully soon!) I'll have a studio assistant to help take a few less-important tasks off my plate, but for now -- this is a list of five (small) ways I outsource that makes a (big) difference in my business and life!

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1. Know your strengths (and weaknesses) and when in doubt, hire a professional for one project at a time!

While I can't afford a full-time payroll at the moment, I do budget for a professional photoshoot once or twice a year, to use for content on my website and instagram. While I could waste hours, trying to create a janky self-timer set-up and take photos myself, I realize the value in hiring a professional just a few times a year to create really clean, professional shots that elevate my brand.

This also goes for graphic design. As an artist, its sometimes hard for me to relinquish creative tasks that I know I could do myself -- but as I've put value on my time, and realizing my strengths and weaknesses, I'm at the place now where I would prefer to hire a designer to tackle a project that may take her just an hour or two and create something really awesome, compared to me slaving away for a whole day to create something just okay (and eating up precious creative energy).

One tip for hiring creative help when you're on a tight budget -- look for college students! I've found some really talented up-and-coming student photographers and designers looking to build their portfolio, with very reasonable rates.

2. FedEx Pick-Up

Okay, this may seem really minor (and perhaps a bit specific to an artist or product-based Ecommerce business), but incredibly life changing!  I used to spend so much time and energy lugging dozens of packages and taking multiple trips to my local Fed-Ex drop off when I was shipping out my paintings.

I now have a FedEx account that qualifies me for special volume discounts, and lets me schedule same day or next-day pick-ups. It seems like such a small thing, but is such a relief to be able to just sit all the boxes outside of my studio door and leave them for my Fed-Ex guy (who I keep busy enough, I like to think of him as my own assistant ;) instead of having to carry them three floors down and across town! They do charge a small fee -- but WORTH EVERY PENNY.

3. Bookkeeping Software Subscription -- I use Quickbooks!

I've been using Quickbooks "Self-Employed" Online since 2016 and it is a total game changer! it links with bank accounts, credit cards and even PayPal accounts to track all of my transactions. It has a pretty detailed chart of accounts that allows me to filter all of my expenses into, so that when tax season arrives, it just takes the push of one button to create a Schedule C that is all ready to go! 

I'm all about efficiency and automation these days, and love the "Rules" features where you can automatically filter transactions from particular stores into pre-designated categories. (So it knows to automatically filter all Blick.com and Michaels Art Stores into my "Materials & Supplies" account, along with all FedEx transactions into "Shipping", etc.)  And there's an app for it! So you can stay on top of your transactions, and tracks mileage when you're on the go.

Even if you don't chose Quickbooks, really any accounting software that tracks your profit throughout the year,  can change how you view your business' financials and take hours off your plate manually recording it. I now have such a better picture on my business's financial health, can see the patterns of my cash flow year-to-year, and can make much more informed decisions for the future of my business.

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4. The REMINDER app on my iPhone

Okay, this one is really simple, and FREE. Especially since becoming a mom, I feel like so much of my mental energy is just spent trying to remember ALL of the things. I'm a huge list-maker (that I most often forget on my kitchen counter ;) so have recently turned to my phone for my lists and reminders, and calendar alerts. (Grocery lists, to-do lists, painting ideas, etc. etc.)

I create timed "Reminders" for even the littlest things -- it alerts me when its "Time to Pump!", "Time for Lunch!", etc. Which lets me dive all in painting, or whatever task it is that day, without having to be distracted by the clock or worry I'm going to get carried away and forget something. I know I'll be alerted when its time, and that is such a relief to have one less thing to have to remember!

5. Meal Delivery Subscription

I think this is a very millennial service, and something I really didn't get until becoming a mom and taking my business full-time. I have a lot on my plate, and what is literally my least favorite thing to do in the world? Grocery shop. I know - first world problems, but I really hate it, and always put it off as long as I possibly can. I think its usually because I run into at least six people from high school I sorta know from Facebook - and not a fan of small talk! (and its guaranteed to happen when I'm looking especially rough) 

By procrastinating as long as possible, it meant we never have food in the house (my poor husband), would eat out way too often, or I would waste too much time living a real-life episode of CHOPPED trying to throw together some semi-edible meal.

Personally, I use Hello Fresh, (three meals a week, for a family of two) and it is just too easy. It takes all the guesswork and stress out of it, with ALL the ingredients I need and a cute little instruction guide with pictures, to create simple but delicious meals in less than 30 minutes.

This is a little bit of luxury, but since beginning the service three months ago, we've actually saved money when compared to eating out, and it again saves me the time and energy to spend it instead with my family and growing my business.


Would love to know how you guys "outsource" for your life and business? 

For me outsourcing is really just looking for services and tools that help save me time, money, and relieve that mental burden that weighs me down and inhibits my creative flow!

I've been (kind of) keeping a secret.

So I feel like I've been lying to you guys for the past few years (or at least a lie by omission)... people who know me in real life know this about me, but those out there in the online community may not have realized that I am in fact, NOT a full-time artist. Since graduating college, I've consistently maintained a part-time job while painting part-time. But that all changes now -- I have left my part-time position to be a full-time artist! (well, full-time mom, too. But I'll get to that in a bit.) 

I have been so, so blessed to work for incredible companies that have been some of the biggest cheerleaders in supporting my art career. From my very first job out of college, I have been very intentional with where I chose to work-- seeking places that would inspire me, teach me, and respect my desire to pursue art. Initially working at the coolest art center in Southern Maryland -- shout out to the crew at Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center!! The hours were long, the pay was little, but it fed my creative soul and built many relationships I still have today -- in fact, they even invited me to be a juror and curate a "Sky" inspired show last year!

Since then I have worked in a bit of a different field, Accounting! (I was an art major in college, but also minored in Mathematics, and am kinda a numbers and spreadsheets nerd!) Working for the hippest company in my hometown -- a holdings company that owns a marketing and design firm, movie theaters, and most recently opened a restaurant. HighRock Group has been those cool kids I always hoped would invite me to sit at their lunch table, and finally two years ago the perfect opportunity arose to join their team. Their entrepreneurial spirit has taught me so much these past two years, and fed my soul as a business owner.

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Up until this point, I have always felt balanced and inspired by both worlds of art and accounting -- the colorful, open-endedness of painting against the black and white of numbers and spreadsheets made sense to me. It was a balance I felt comfortable with (but perhaps stagnant in.) But now enter a little boy named Edward Avery, and that whole balance gets flipped upside down. To be a good mom, I just know I can't make all three work, which has helped make this decision to leave my job that much easier. Logistically to make mom/artist life work, we have chosen a daycare provider for Ward three days a week, to give me solid studio time. The other days of the week, I'm going to leave flexible as baby time at home, and some days bringing him into the studio with me depending on my projects/commitments at the time.

I am now over six years into this art journey, since graduating college, and am just now taking the leap to full-time. I have slowly, but steadily grown my online presence and community of collectors and have reached a point financially where I feel confident (with a whole lot of anxiety thrown in) that I can make this work and contribute to my household.

 I really believe you DON'T have to be a starving artist to follow your passion; you just need to be strategic in the decisions you make, keep art a priority, but also be realistic. Over the next few months I'll be using this blog to write more on my path to this point in my career -- I'm afraid there's no get rich quick secrets, but I'll share a few tricks of the trade and what's made the most impact for me.


As always, THANK YOU for coming along on this journey. It's all only possible because of you guys! Comment below with any specific art/business questions you'd like me to answer on this blog platform. (I'm going to *try* to blog weekly!)

 

with love, Allie.