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!
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.
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.
Full disclosure, I am an affiliate for HelloFresh, and QuickBooks so will receive a small compensation for anyone that uses my referral! But all of my opinions are my own, and I swear I wouldn't recommend anything I didn't truly use and love!
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!