2013 has been the year of “systems” for me. We’ve streamlined a lot of the underlying tech behind IMPOSSIBLE, hired a couple of team members, and started automating a bunch of processes to make it easier to scale things as we start executing the plans for growth around here.
As part of that, I’ve started to really focus on outsourcing tasks. I used to do every single thing myself. Part of it was my control freak nature (I like to be able to sign off on every last thing), and part of it was necessity (I had to bootstrap things).
However, as we started to scale, I realized that I needed to start getting out of my own way. It’s not only that I shouldn’t try to keep doing everything myself, but also that I simply can’t. If IMPOSSIBLE is going to be what I want it to be, I need to get out of my own way.
Note: Sometimes the hardest thing you’ll have to do is to get out of your own way in order to let something be as successful as it can be.
The chances are that you’re working on parts of a project that you don’t need to be doing. So, here’s the challenge: get out of your own way, starting tomorrow. Stop being a control freak, and start outsourcing things you don’t need to be doing.
This can be tough, so I’ve started small, with seven major things you’re probably doing in your business/ life that you should start outsourcing tomorrow.
Not next week. Not next month. Tomorrow.
Here we go:
Stop wasting your time by posting on social media.
You’re convincing yourself that you need to do it, but you don’t have to. You can outsource 90% of this automatically. You can train someone for 9%, and you can pop in to fix the last 1% when you’re absolutely needed.
Social media posting is not the most effective things you can be doing with your time. Outsource these tasks & spend your time elsewhere.
This might be tough, and it might take a bit of time with your VA before you can outsource your email, but you should do it.
Email is a waste of your time. The reason it’s so insidious is that it’s reactive. Very seldom are you progressively moving the needle by simply responding to email. It feels productive, but you’re not actually doing anything.
However, before you outsource it, you can clean up 75% of your email, by doing these simple things:
- Search “unsubscribe” in your inbox, and unsubscribe from 90% of your newsletters (minus this one of course).
- Remove social media notifications, or create filters that automatically tag them as “read” or “archived”, and file them away in a dedicated folder.
Once you do that, give your VA instructions to clean out your inbox using the guidelines below:
If an e-mail requires your immediate attention, ask your VA to flag it with a star, and then respond to it within 24 hours.
If someone wants your time, use the double opt-in technique Nick talks about here:
Simply ask whoever wants your time to follow up with you on Tuesday next week. Most people won’t actually respond, and you’ll cut the ones you have to respond to in half.
If someone is simply begging for your time with little to no personalization, and it’s borderline spam, have your VA delete the email.
If an item is not urgent, and doesn’t fall into any of the other categories, have your VA flag it as an “action” item. Then, when you’ve knocked out every other important task on your list, answer these emails.
- Feedback of any kind
You should outsource all of these.
Whenever you have a product or service to sell, you’ll have to provide some sort of support. Here’s how to minimize the time you spend here:
Make a list of the twenty most common questions you get via email or support. Answer all of these thoroughly, and turn them into an FAQ. Refer people to the answers whenever they ask one of the common questions.
For refunds, give your VA a script. Here’s an example:
I’m sorry to hear that [product name] didn’t live up to your expectations. I can certainly provide a refund. If you can send me your order number and receipt, we’ll process that right away.
You might have to make three different scripts to start, and you may have to end up with a few more depending on the products you sell, but, chances are, you’ve already written one or two of these already. There’s no need to write them again.
You just need to give your VA access, and share these scripts with them via a Google Drive account, and you’re ready to go.
If there’s a simple problem that most people run into, make a screenshare video to show them how to fix it step-by-step or how to get the information they need. If you want to get customer feedback, make a Google form. Track this, and incorporate the feedback into your next product release or iteration to cut down on even more email in the future.
Do you do anything in Excel?
If you do, first you should make a macro for it.
If you don’t know how to make a macro in Excel, don’t even bother learning. You can hire someone on Elance to do it for you for $50.
Sound expensive? You’re not valuing your time enough.
This is way simpler and much less frustrating than programming it yourself, and if it saves you two hours of work, it will pay for itself multiple times over.
I’ve just started doing this.
I was really averse to this in the beginning. It’s probably the Midwestern work ethic that’s built into me, but I have a hard time having a “maid” or someone come and do seemingly basic tasks for me that I should be capable of doing. It seems way too ritzy for some normal person like me. Only British people have butlers, right?
Then I did the math.
It takes me two hours to clean the house, do the laundry, do the dishes, and keep things from looking like a disaster zone.
Did I mention I hate doing all of the above tasks? They suck my energy, and waste my time. Not to mention, if I don’t do them, my mental space is just as jumbled.
Housekeepers cost ~$60 twice a month. Totally worth it.
Editing & Scheduling Content
Stop doing this yourself.
If you’re a writer, focus on writing. Put it down on paper, write what you need to write, and then let someone else edit it, schedule it, and get it live.
It’s amazing what the last 10% of publishing takes out of you. Writing is the easy part, but the editing (and especially the publishing) provides way too many convenient excuses for you to avoid actually publishing and putting the content out there.
I’ve taken myself out of this phase of writing. Once I get a piece to 95%, I send it to Joanna to edit. Once she’s done that, I take one last look, and sign off on any edits. Then she gets it ready in WordPress, adds any good photos, and schedules it to go live.
This not only saves time, and keeps me organized, but it also lets me create more content on the whole, and keeps my stupid lizard brain from stopping me doing what I need to do.
These are seven tasks you can start outsourcing tomorrow. I’m going to talk more about automation and outsourcing in future posts. If you have more questions on this, let me know in the comments, and I’ll do what I can to answer them.
Photo credit: D. Sinclair Terrasidius