Bringing Up Business | Outsourcing 101: What Outsourcing Isn't | Kansas City Wedding Photographer Merry Ohler
Outsourcing. The concept is one that strikes both excitement and terror in the hearts of solopreneurs everywhere. The idea that we might be able to move a portion of the workload off our overflowing plates sounds like a miracle, but at the same time, we shy away from change because we have put so much into growing our business to this point. It's our baby, our muse, our pride and joy. We could never trust someone else with the ins and outs of everything we've worked so hard to create, right?
I've been there. I'm a wife, mom to three-under-five, storytelling photographer, writer and entrepreneur educator. I love that I am able to choose my hours and lean in to the things I value and care about, but I have learned that running all aspects of my business on my own while being the kind of wife, mom and person I want to be is simply not attainable. I have to create breathing room somewhere.
I'll never forget the morning I finally realized I just couldn't do it all on my own anymore. The number of unread emails in my inbox flashed 142, and I could feel myself beginning to panic. How on earth would I be able to clear and respond to all of those emails fully, schedule consultations with three new brides and plan my content calendar in the 11 minutes remaining before my children would wake? The stress of maintaining the varying aspects of my rapidly growing business was at an all time high, and as much as I tried to keep it from spilling over into other areas of my life, I was failing.
What most people don't consider is that when we are growing a business, we are far more than simply the business owner.
We are also the salesperson, the customer service department, the branding expert, the marketing director, the content creator, the social media manager, the admin, the accountant, the investor, the brand representative, the creative director, the writer, the blogger, the graphic designer, the employer, the employee, and so much more. Unless you've been in that position, there is truly no way to fathom that kind of responsibility and pressure.
And that is on top of our roles as spouse, parent, daughter, sister, friend, or mentor.
My husband was concerned for me. He could see that I was overworked and feeling burned out. My patience with my children was wearing thin, and I wasn't being the kind of wife and mom I wanted to be. I wasn't able to make time to take care of myself because I was too busy just trying to survive and desperately hang on to this crazy dream I had of building the life I wanted.
In that moment of panic, I stared at the computer screen in front of me. I took a deep breath, then blew it out in frustration. I need someone else in this with me, I thought.
Can I be transparent with you here? Before I reached the point when I actually began to consider hiring help, I always felt that outsourcing was cheating. Yep, I said it. And I'm willing to bet that if you're being honest with yourself, you have felt (or maybe even feel) that way too. I had read blog posts and listened to podcasts in which the hosts extolled the virtues of outsourcing everything - editing, social media, emails, fill-in-your-blank.
But when it came down to how I really felt - I just wasn't on board. I mean, I AM my business. I AM my brand. No one else will have my particular voice, my particular experiences, my particular heart. I couldn't hand off the very things that set me apart from everyone else, right?
Maybe you recognize some of your thoughts and feelings echoed in my own here. But ya'll? I had it all wrong. I failed to understand that outsourcing is only ever what we want and need it to be. We can outsource as much - or little - as we want. We can outsource tasks and responsibilities forever - or just for a season.
That's the beauty of working for ourselves, friends! We get to call the shots!
Once I began to fully apply that understanding to my daily life and decision-making process, I discovered that many of my thought patterns about outsourcing had been completely backward. In an effort to spare you some time, energy and sanity, I want to share with you a few things I've learned that outsourcing isn't.
1. Outsourcing isn't about making our personal business impersonal.
It's about figuring out our strengths and where our time is best spent in growing our business, then creating the space we need to do our most important work.
When we stop to take an honest look in the mirror and evaluate our strengths and weaknesses, we are actually serving our clients and customers better. By being objective about what we can do, versus what we should do, we signal to ourselves that we are ready for growth. We are able to step off the crazy hamster wheel we've created, collect ourselves, make a plan and proceed.
When we aren't bogged down with the routine tasks that are not our strengths, our minds are clearer and we are able to focus on those things that only we can do. Think...editing images, blogging, networking at community events, meeting with clients...the list is endless.
2. Outsourcing isn't as complicated as it first seems.
Outsourcing sounds like something only big corporations can do. I get it. We've all had the same thought. But the truth is that outsourcing is truly only as complicated as you make it.
Don't want to hire someone you've never met? Fine, don't. Put out some feelers and hire someone you know and trust to take on the role. Don't think anyone else could do the work like you do? Okay, then train them to do the work like you do. Don't want to pass along your editing because that's what you think sets you apart? Then don't.
You are the boss of your business, right? Start acting like one. Seriously. Think about it. Everyone started somewhere. Think about the last boss you worked for. Did they spend time doing the tasks that anyone with a brain or ability to learn could have done? Of course they didn't! They learned to train and delegate - and the likelihood is that they passed off some of those tasks to you so they could focus their attention where they could make the most impact. Why aren't you doing the same?
3. Outsourcing isn't too expensive.
This is the objection that I personally struggled with the most, and I'm willing to bet it's a chief concern of yours, too. How in the world am I supposed to pour money I don't have or can't spare into this, Merry? I hear you. I felt the same way. However, since outsourcing the tasks that took me wayyyy too long anyway, I have found that I am freed to spend my time in ways that serves my clients better and also helps me to book more of my ideal clients. The growth I have seen in my business directly correlates to when I began to outsource tasks I had no business trying to do.
A better question is, can you really afford not to outsource? Where are you relationally, mentally, emotionally, physically? Are you able to care for yourself and those around you? Or are you burning the candle at both ends and praying desperately to stay afloat?
4. Outsourcing is simply hiring help when we need it.
Friend, hear me when I say this: Outsourcing is literally exactly the same as hiring help. It IS hiring help! I'm not sure where we pick up this wrong belief that outsourcing is somehow different than hiring a part time employee, but it is DEAD WRONG. The natural progression for a growing business is to hire help as we outgrow the ability to manage it all on our own. So why do we fight it so much? Instead, shouldn't we celebrate that all our efforts are finally paying off and our business has grown to the point where we need help to continue serving our clients and customers well? Rather than moaning and moping because we can't keep up with all our work, let's throw a mini party and celebrate our success!
5. Outsourcing isn't a negative solution to a problem.
From the way some creative bosses say it, you might think the word "outsourcing" is a dirty word. Maybe you know what I mean because you've heard it or because you've said it, but either way, you know what I'm talking about. For the longest time, I thought outsourcing was a negative thing. Perhaps it was from the way others in my field talked about it, or perhaps it was because the word conjured up pictures of American jobs disappearing. Either way, I bought into it.
Outsourcing the right way has given me the freedom to enjoy my business again.
It has given me permission to be the boss, rather than the employee. It has given me room to breathe, both creatively and literally. It has given my husband his wife back, and my kids their mom back. It has given me time to take care of myself, to plan out my goals and put those plans into action.
Perhaps you found some of your own objections mirrored in mine above. Have you found yourself struggling to stay afloat lately? Are you drowning in the day to day tasks? Do you find that you have trouble seeing the big picture anymore? Are you feeling burned out?
If you answered yes to any of the above, subscribe below and make sure to come back for the next installment in my series, Outsourcing 101: How to Determine What and When to Outsource!
I'd love to know - what are your thoughts about outsourcing for the solopreneur? Have you ever or do you outsource? What changes has that made for you? Let me know in the comments!