I have a slight tendency to do everything myself.
Like, a lot of managers get accused of micromanaging, being task-oriented, and checking boxes instead of actually leading.
And I was one of them when I was still working for someone else.
And I’m still that person, but self-employment and business ownership makes it look a little different.
It makes it look like being cheap (I’m not), being clueless about the value of hiring out (I’m not!), or a workaholic (…I plead the fifth).
I promise I know better. I promise I am willing to invest my money to make more money.
…it’s just really hard to do that.
This is going to sound like a brag, but I promise I don’t mean it to come off like a “look at me I’m sooo special” kind of thing.
But here’s the thing: I have an MBA. My MBA included an accounting concentration, which means I know accounting. I have no need to hire an accountant because I know how to be an accountant and can run my own numbers successfully. I don’t work as an accountant because I don’t know the field well enough to do it for other people comfortably.
But in the process of getting my MBA, I also got a scholarship to pursue my CMA certification for free, which is pretty sweet. I’m studying the material for it, although I likely won’t bother to take the exam and get the actual license. Again, I don’t want to be an accountant for other people (nor do I want to be on the hook for doing even more continuing education).
Point is, I don’t need to hire a CPA because I will at least have the knowledge of a dysfunctional, entry-level CMA. So I’ll save my money there. This is probably a mistake because I don’t know the tax laws in and out in their entirety and will probably miss a deduction or credit somewhere that a CPA could have caught and more than paid his or her fees back.
But I won’t. I’m stubborn.
And that mentality kind of carries over into the rest of my business, too. I write this blog myself. I do all the graphics myself. I did the design myself (well, I use a theme, but I made my changes myself). I know how to do those things. I know PHP, (X)HTML, and CSS. I know how to use Photoshop and know basic design theory (and, to be honest, I use Canva [that’s an affiliate link] for a lot of it – work smarter, not harder, right?).
When it comes to real estate, I initially decided to get my license because I had the time, had gotten it previously, found out classes had gotten cheaper since a few years ago, and wanted to save the commissions for selling and buying investment properties, but wanted to be able to do it the same justice as an agent would.
And in the meantime I remember how much I loved real estate, so I decided to pursue working as a broker for others, too.
And then decided to get my mortgage broker’s license, too…
Are we sensing a pattern?
As a real estate agent, your primary activity is generating leads (so you can then get listings). Why would I pay for leads when I can search Craigslist and dial the phone for myself until my fingertips go numb?
When I get a listing, why would I pay a professional photographer to do a shoot of the property when I own a DSLR and know how to use it, know how to color grade, know how to compose a photograph and find focal points myself?
Why spend money hiring professionals when I’m passable in most everything I do?
And I would bet anything that I’m not alone in this.
There’s a reason why solopreneurs work alone: most of us are competent, driven, focused, and know ‘enough’ about damn near everything (and when we don’t know something, we look at how much it costs to learn it).
I mean, I don’t think this is unreasonable. When I had a leaking hose spout in my yard, I could have called a plumber, but we decided to go buy some teflon tape and a tool to shut off the water supply at the street. It took us a few hours and $40, but that’s still probably cheaper than a plumber (and we’ll never have to call one for that particular problem again).
Hell, I’ve been cutting and bleaching my own hair for close to five years now. It took me a lot of mistakes (we’re talking extreme texture-of-overcooked-spaghetti damage, hot roots I don’t know how many times, piss-yellow hair, GREEN HAIR…), a lot of time, and a lot of money, but I have finally learned how to make myself look presentable without a stylist, which has saved me hundreds of dollars (and will save me hundreds more), but it came at a cost. Sometimes, that cost is just looking like trash for a couple of weeks because I can’t be bothered to do a cut and color. At times, the cost is a little worse than that.
They say time is money, but when you’re a smart, broke person trying to launch a business in the middle of a pandemic, time seems like the less valuable asset.
But there comes a time when you have to stop.
There comes a time when you can’t keep working 20-hour days doing everything yourself. Maybe you’re not there yet. It’s okay. Come back here when you start going gray before 30 (and I’m not even talking about your head, hunny).
But eventually, you will reach the point where it makes no sense to keep doing what you’re doing. At some point, you’re going to have to hire help. Maybe it’s when you’ve truly reached your maximum capacity for a workload. If you’ve gotten to this point, you’ve probably also streamlined a million times over and found ways to automate (or at least speed up) certain processes for your business. But you still can’t keep up with everything that needs to get done.
That’s okay! In fact, it’s really awesome and enviable.
But you’re gonna go crazy.
There’s another issue, too: it means you’re not really focusing on what you do best, which means you’re not doing as much business and making as much money as you could.
The fact that I can take my own photos, find my own leads, do my own accounting, write my own blog posts, and [insert the long, long list of all the other ways I avoid thinking about the general state of affairs] does not also mean that I should.
You can, and it’s great, but you honestly shouldn’t.
Let’s break it down like this:
First, make a list of all the things you do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis.
Then, categorize those things on a basis of whether they directly lead you to making money or not. Generating leads makes you money. Accounting does not. Selling advertisements makes you money. Writing blog posts does not.
Now, you have to choose your own adventure and it depends heavily on what you’re actually good at and how much time each thing takes. If you are good at the things that make you money and they take you small amounts of time, you’re in a great space. Hire a staff for everything else, right now, and then spend all your time doing the money-making activities.
If you’re good at all the things that don’t make you money and suck at the things that do, you have two choices: you can either hire someone to, for example, sell for you, or you can spend some time and money learning to improve yourself in that area (and then see the previous scenario for the rest).
Chances are, you’re somewhere in the middle, though. Maybe you’re okay at sales and okay at everything else, like I am. That’s okay. Focus on getting better at the actual money-making things over time. In the meantime, find the most painful, inefficient tasks that take you the most time and cause the most inconvenience and find low-cost solutions to them. I wrote a lengthy sales letter for prospective clients, for example, but I don’t want to spend the time to make it look pretty, so I’m going to hire someone off of Fiverr (yep, affiliate link) to do the layout for me. I’m not particularly good at it, it’s going to take me a really long time, and I can justify the costs to save myself the stress (and, to be honest, have a much better promotional material to get more leads).
That’s the process.
Start small. Start with cheap services that will get you the best results for your money. Start with your pain points – the things you suck at, the things that take you the longest, the things you procrastinate on anyways – and go from there.
Other options for more repetitive tasks could include hiring a virtual assistant (or even a personal assistant) on a part-time or per-task basis, like doing research. Or there’s a good chance that someone in your field has created a specialized service that can provide exactly what you need, no matter how niche it is. Real estate agents do this all the time by purchasing, for example, FSBO and expired lists, generally scrubbed for do not call registrations.
Focus on doing the things that make enough money to keep paying others to do the rest.
Evaluate periodically to make sure whatever you chose is helping you run your business better, too. Don’t blindly keep throwing money at a problem. Shop around, for sure. But don’t spend too much time doing that, or else you’re replacing “graphic design” with “shopping for and managing graphic designers.”
Don’t keep a tight fist on your money when you’re running a business. Keep a tight fist on your time and your stress level. Those are significantly harder to get back should something go wrong.
If you liked today’s post, make sure you subscribe for more content like this. Maybe you can even find someone on Fiverr to read it for you! Also leave a comment if you’ve already successfully made the transition from a do-it-yourselfer to a delegator as a solopreneur. Has it worked well for you?