Sure, the latest app could shave several hours off your workweek, but collaborating with other experts will help you accomplish far more than any tool.
After all, top entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk didn’t build their companies alone.
If you worked in a large company, you probably had access to team members and colleagues you can collaborate with. But what if your startup can’t afford to hire anybody else right now?
Or what if you’re running a business of one?
If that’s the case, consider outsourcing or collaborating with experts in the gig economy who don’t want a full-time job. You can tap into the skills of other professionals without taking on any of the risks of hiring or recruiting.
I’ve outsourced parts of my business and activities over the years, including designing book covers, developing a website and managing my accounts.
Popular outsourcing services include Onlinejobs.ph, TimeETC and Boldly. You can use any of these services to hire an experienced executive assistant who can help with tasks like email management and arranging meetings.
Last year, I interviewed Jason Chicola, founder of Upwork and Rev. At the time, he told me:
“There’s no question that the gig economy is going to grow a ton. All these companies have lots of venture capital. They’re improving their platforms.”
1. Identify Your Strengths
A new entrepreneur can roll up their sleeves and work on everything because they’ve got time and energy. This approach represents trading sweat for equity.
As the business grows, they’ll run out of time to attend to every part of the business.
If, for example, you’re a great marketer and enjoy attracting website traffic, these tasks represent a better use of time than worrying about technical issues with an app or a WordPress plugin.
After you’ve compiled a list of troublesome tasks, craft a plan for outsourcing them to a freelancer, and set aside a portion of your monthly budget. I recently outsourced my accounting to a professional services company, and it freed up hours of time each month (I also stopped sprouting grey hairs about the books).
2. Decide Your Rate Per Hour
You can spend five, ten, a hundred or thousands of dollars outsourcing parts of a business. So start small.
If you’ve got a tight budget, determine your rate per hour and assign a monetary value to each task you spend time on.
If, for example, you’re a copywriter and set a rate per hour at $50.00, outsource other activities that fall below this rate, like reconciling the books at the end of the month.
As your startup grows, your rate per hour should increase too. Review it each month or quarter and identify what other tasks to hand over. Eventually, you’ll encounter tasks you’re great at, but which consume several hours each week and don’t drive much revenue. Outsource these too.
3. Test Your Freelancers
When I first outsourced designing a book cover, the results weren’t what I expected. I wanted to blame the designer, but I realized I didn’t give him a clear brief about ideal font choices and colors.
If you’re unhappy with the results of an outsourcing project, consider if you opted for the cheapest freelancer in question to save money? If so, could you allocate more budget toward working with a highly-skilled freelancer?
I worked with an online entrepreneur this past year who recommended testing freelancers to see which one delivers. He suggested giving the same low-value task to at least three freelancers.
This low-value test is a great way of identifying who you want to work with and determining if the task is something you can outsource.
4. Prepare Standard Operating Procedures
When you’ve worked with somebody for a while, ask them to prepare standard operating procedures for their tasks. When that person moves on, as they inevitably will, it’s no fun scrambling to prepare standard operating procedures for your new contractor or hire.
While you could take ownership of updating these procedures yourself, it’s better to get to a place where your previous freelancer or hire can brief the new one.
Outsourcing, like any other business activity, takes time to get right, but it will help you save dozens of hours each week or month and grow your business faster. Simply invest time and money into a project upfront, and you’ll reap the rewards tomorrow.