Why don’t we hear much about personal outsourcing? Probably because it’s generally considered taboo to talk about your personal finances with colleagues and friends.
However, while it might be a difficult topic to broach, I think there’s merit in doing so because without talking about where we get professional help, we aid in perpetuating the misconception that business owners can do everything.
I’ve seen this “do everything myself” approach first-hand as a business owner, especially now that I have kids. And by seen it, I mean I do this far too often.
I first started my business in 2014 before we had any children. In its infancy I had a little bit of trouble taking it seriously because I was just working from my home office alone during the day, and that wasn’t nearly as common then as it is now. Initially I didn’t have enough work to fill a whole day, so I would work for a few hours and then do things around the house.
In the days since I’ve gotten far busier and added two kids into the mix. I routinely pull 17-hour days between taking care of our kids and doing client work (frequently managing both simultaneously). However, I haven’t taken anything off my plate.
Why? I just thought that’s what small business owners did.
And then the pandemic hit. COVID disrupted life as usual, and I started to hear anecdotes from fellow business owners about how they were trying to adapt to life where they had to balance housework and work-work now that their cleaning service had to suspend operations, or that they needed a friend to stop by with a mower because their landscaping company was behind and couldn’t do their lawn. These last few months have made me realize that most people aren’t trying to do it all – they’re just not telling anyone that they’re not doing it all.
So, as we start a new year, I’m not going to resolve to do anything else. Instead, I’m going to resolve not to do some things, and you should too!
What should you give up in 2021?
There’s a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) that business owners need to consider when they decide to outsource personal activities because not doing them certainly frees up more time for things like spending time with family, but it also frees up more time for working. As a result, there’s a numeric analysis that should be considered when thinking about personal outsourcing.
For instance, freelancers and business owners who do project-based work can take on more jobs if they have more time, making the choice to outsource personal activities a financially based decision instead of just a preference-based decision. But this requires knowing how much you make an hour. Don’t confuse this with your hourly rate. How much you charge per hour should include both your desired hourly revenue and the expenses you incur to work.
What Do Business Owners Outsource?
We asked a group of business owners which personal activities they routinely outsource and here’s what they revealed:
- Landscaping and Snow Removal
- Cleaning – House, Pool, Car
- Meal Planning and Preparation
- Car Maintenance
- Pet Care
- Vacation Planning
- Seasonal Decorating
- Food Delivery
- Administrative and Scheduling
- Tax Filing
Here are some of our favorite quotes from our conversations:
- “Cleaning bathrooms or building a website? For me it’s a no-brainer.”
- “I can change my own oil, but why would I? I take my car in and I catch up on emails for the hour that I have to sit there having it serviced and afterwards I don’t have to get cleaned up to get back to work.”
- “I hate shopping for gifts, probably because I’m no good at it. So, I use a personal shopper around the holidays, and let’s face it, everyone is much happier because everything actually fits.”
- “Anyone can pick up a paint brush, but the perfectionist in me isn’t going to be able to sit and work looking at my own swirly brush strokes and fudged ceiling lines.”
Now that we’ve got you thinking, check out these 100 ideas of what to outsource as a business owner to help you take a look at what you could hand off this year.
The Outsourcing Decision Matrix
The best candidates for personal outsourcing are activities that:
- Are necessary
- Are inexpensive to pay someone else to do
- You don’t enjoy doing
- You’re not good at doing
- You don’t feel like you need to control tightly.
Think that kind of activity is a needle in a haystack? Well, let’s break each one down:
Optional activities are much easier to just put off altogether than they are to pay someone else to do, especially for thrifty business owners. However, necessary activities are essential – they must get done no matter who does them. These are the kind of activities you should consider outsourcing because there is going to be a cost to do them, whether you are assuming this cost yourself or paying someone else to get them done.
For activities that fall into a gray area, you’ll need to apply other criteria to see if they pass the outsourcing test.
The less expensive something is to outsource, the easier of a decision it is to make. However, more expensive activities will require that you take on more work to break-even on the service. This doesn’t mean that you can’t outsource expensive tasks, it just means that the decision to do so should probably be examined more closely to ensure it’s a wise business decision.
If you want to do something, do it! For example, some people actually enjoy the restorative process of cleaning (I’m not sure who these people are, but I’ve heard of them), while others really just enjoy the finished product of having a nice clean space to live and work in (that would be me!).
But if you don’t find enjoyment in doing an activity and it makes sense to outsource from a cost perspective, go ahead and hire it out. You’ll free up more time for revenue generating business-related activities and you’ll be happier. This is a mega win!
Be realistic about your own weaknesses. If outsourcing the activity to a pro yields significantly better results than your own efforts, it usually makes sense to hire someone else. Similarly, if you’re a perfectionist, you will likely want to hire a professional to do any job where you won’t be able to live with mediocre results (like the guy we quoted above who explained why he paid someone else to paint his home office).
Remember, for things that can be dangerous or costly if they’re done wrong (like electrical work, plumbing, and your dreaded tax filings), hiring a reputable expert is definitely preferable.
People tend to want to exercise more control over important activities, making them less likely to relinquish control over the process.
If an activity makes sense on paper to outsource, but you’re having a hard time handing it off, try to think about it from another perspective. For example, your annual family vacation may be especially important to you because you don’t take time off very often, making it hard for you to trust someone else with planning it. However, that might be even more reason to hire a professional to plan it for you rather than doing it yourself because a travel agent will have the most expertise to ensure you get the most enjoyment out of the time away from the office.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging, and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and two children and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!