A note from Natalie: I first wrote The Beginner’s Guide To Outsourcing And Building A Global Team On A Budget in 2013 and this post below is a fully updated version of it with new tips, tools and strategies for you.
I want to let you in on a rather big secret…..the most successful entrepreneurs in the world do NOT do everything themselves.
They outsource the work they don’t love, so that they can focus on the things they do love, what they’re great at and what gets them in a state of flow.
Richard Branson has built his multi-billion dollar empire by hiring people who are smarter than him and getting them to run his companies.
If Richard can do it, so can we.
So why don’t we emulate him and others who have learned that alone, you can do great work, but with a team behind you, anything is possible!
Over the years I’ve had many honest conversations with fellow entrepreneurs about this and here are the four main reasons we don’t.
Four Reasons Entrepreneurs Do Not Outsource:
Our inner `control freak’ and perfectionist tendencies mean we don’t think anyone else can do the tasks it takes to run our business better than us, so we keep on doing it, day in and day out.
We’re usually running on a minimal budget and don’t think we can afford to hire really talented people to delegate a shit ton of work to, even though that’s exactly what we need to do!
We have no idea how to actually go about hiring anyone or finding the right person to outsource work to and so it’s simply easier to keep the status quo and wear the ‘badge of busy workaholic’
Even if we do think we know how, we ‘think’ we don’t have the time to train new team members and trust them with the important work we desperately need done.
If you believe any of those statements above to be true, then this post is for you.
First off they are ALL excuses you’ve built up in your mind for not taking action.
Secondly, you’re not alone in your way of thinking but you HAVE to change or you will stagnate or burn out, and I don’t want that to happen to you.
Want to learn how to make your first hire in 30 days or less, learn what to outsource and how to build your Dream Team?
Then read on as I break down the steps I took to start outsourcing and some of my favourite tools and services you can use to get started outsourcing.
How To Build A Virtual Team From Scratch
I have built my team quite slowly but surely. The first hire is always the hardest, and trust me it gets easier from there. Then outsourcing becomes addictive!
For me this was a virtual assistant. I had tried and failed to find someone suitable a few times in the past. I’d looked on job sites and reached out on social media.
I went through a few people who just didn’t quite cut it, and I think maybe the reason they didn’t is I wasn’t prepared to give away my control at that point.
Usually my expectations were way too high and I wasn’t clear on exactly what role I wanted them to fulfill.
I also wasn’t prepared to pay them enough as frankly I didn’t `think’ I had the budget.
I eventually found my first Virtual Assistant called Margaret, based in India, from a referral from an entrepreneurial friend in February 2012.
I hired her just two weeks before I headed off on my 6,500 cycling expedition down the east coast of Africa, which meant I’d be offline for over two months.
I hired her through Upwork on a contract and she worked around 5-12 hours per week at an hourly rate of US$6 back then – yes ridiculously affordable.
Upwork is the largest online marketplace of freelancers around the world, where you can find and hire someone to do almost any task or outsourcing job you may have.
When you hire them you both e-sign a contract that protects both you and the freelancer, so you don’t have to worry about them running off with your IP (intellectual property) or stealing your work.
Upwork automatically tracks your freelancers hours and shows you what they’re working on, using their logs her screenshot software, and then automatically bills your credit card each week, as well as sending you an invoice and timesheet breakdown.
What to hand over and outsource and when:
For those of you reading this wondering where to start, I have to say that once you get comfortable with giving up control on things `only you can do’, outsourcing starts to get addictive.
You realize you’ve been a fool for way too long trying to write your newsletter, edit your blog posts, create all your content, edit your audio or video and manage your appointments, email and PR.
Margaret had excellent English, plus the time zone she worked in was great, it meant that at least one of us was working when the other wasn’t.
Taking the first baby steps to outsourcing
What I initially did was just start out with some very simple tasks with her that I felt I could hand over. If they weren’t done properly, it wasn’t going to be critical.
Too often I think we get very caught up in what is really critical and what’s not.
Your life will not be destroyed if your newsletter goes out with a small grammatical mistake, or your virtual assistant (VA) uses the wrong template or publishes your blog post under the wrong category!
So I started with her formatting my draft blog posts with keywords, tagging and putting in photos, and just making sure they all looked good. This saved me 30-60 minutes each blog post.
Then I progressed to her helping with formatting my newsletter, which at the time was much fancier, and then cleaning up my lists with duplicates (before Mailchimp offered that service themselves).
Naturally when I hired her I found out what experience she had and what areas she excelled in, as well as what she wanted to upskill in, so I could ensure she could grow too.
The next massive time saver was answering the growing amount of contact queries that I got through my website that were always the same.
They were asking for guest posting or advertising opportunities, or templates from my eBooks. So I wrote up some basic responses to those and she would use those based on the type of email she received.
She installed one of my favourite tools, Canned Response – it’s an extension in Gmail, whereby you save a written response, and then simply insert it into a new email.
Top Tips for training your team
Take ten minutes now to create short instructions for your Virtual Assistant on dealing with emails you get through your contact form or to your business address.
The easiest way is to make a short `How-To’ video using Loom – an awesome tool that allows you to create a new screenshare video recording and send it to your team member.
You can share the link directly, send it from Gmail, embed it on a website, or use the Facebook or Twitter share buttons. Here’s a blog post from Loom showing you how.
You can also have it transcribed into am SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) by your new team member (and written up in their own words).
Or you can use a service like rev.com where you simply insert a URL or upload a file, and someone on their transcribes it for you at $1 per minute, and usually returns it completed to you within a few hours!
Keep these `How-To’ documents stored in a central folder you share with your VA and team on Google Drive or Dropbox so people are always accessing the latest file.
When you get a new hire they already have the details right there on how to do that task. Neat huh?
Want to learn exactly how to use Upwork to find and hire the right person for your business, and then my step by step methodology for training them up?
How to Hire For The Growth of Your Business
Hiring Margaret was a necessity before I headed off on the ride of my life across Africa and since then I’ve had no less than 30 contractors be part of the Suitcase Entrepreneur team.
At the most I’ve had eight people working for me at one time, and this is typically during a major project like a website relaunch and systems overhaul, or a program or product launch.
I have never had a full-time employee or anyone working more than 25 hours per week. This is due to some great systems and sales funnels that automate a lot of the work we have to do, and make it easier for myself and my team to focus on what we can do to improve the business.
More simply put, we continue to streamline our processes so we work ON the business not in it.
I suggest you start small and expand as and when you need to.
The easiest way to consider who you need on your team and who to hire next is to create a simple organization chart, put yourself at the top as CEO, and then fill in all the other roles your business specifically needs.
Initially YOU will put your name to almost every role, until you begin to hire strategically, and eventually fire yourself from all of these roles, so you can enjoy life and have a business that runs without you.
The second hire I ever made was a WordPress expert, because while I consider myself tech savvy, screwing around with code and tweaks on my website and blog is just not something I need to do, frankly.
So along came another referral, from a former coaching client, who raved about Alejandro (Alex) based in Mexico.
I sent him an email and loved his super positive response on how he’d love to work with me and make my business shine.
He worked with me for the first two years of my business and I could throw anything at him and he’d make it sound like the best on earth.
He was on a monthly retainer that was super affordable back then (around $250), and he did unlimited changes and updates and tweaks to my site every month.
It worked great until he became so popular from my referring him to clients, and other people doing the same that he tripled his rates and changed his working preferences to just work with a few key clients who needed him for more regular work.
Next up I hired a graphic designer to do logos, eBook design, adverts, sales pages and more.
While you may love doing this part yourself, using tools like Canva and PicMonkey do to cool designs and templates, once you start adding up your hours, you’ll no doubt be surprised how many hours you’re actually spending on this work that could be easily outsourced, so you can work on revenue generating tasks.
My next hire was a podcast editor as my former intern, who’d done a great job and was off to greener pastures. Once again this was a referral thanks to my friend Jaime Masters, of Eventual Millionaire.
Rolly is an expert editor and based in Philippines. I hired him via Upwork, so once again I get billed only for the amount of work he does, and this I pay through PayPal.
From day one I realized I did not need to editing audio. I simply record my podcasts on Skype, using Call Recorder to capture the MP3.
I then drag this into my dedicated Google ‘Unedited Podcast’ folder that Rolly has access too and so he receives a notification it’s done, as well as I create a task using Asana.
He works his magic and puts it in the `Ready For Upload’ file.
He does around 8 hours per month and edits multiple podcast sessions at a time as I usually get several done in advance for bulk editing.
Luckily, due to the fact that we’re currently on the same time zone, my podcast I’ve recorded the day before is often ready the next morning and my VA Angeline has it ready in a draft blog post for me to proof.
It’s that type of flexibility and responsiveness I really appreciate in virtual teams.
Putting It All Together
As you can see, you build your team one step at a time, and each time you do, you’re able to give more control and responsibility over to them, and become a better leader.
As a result I’ve implemented better structures to manage my team. This includes monthly planning calls with key team members, and a weekly report from my VA Angeline that covers off on the key business metrics, what she’s working on and what she’s achieved last week.
Regular communications with my team happen on Slack, with tasks and projects being tracked on Asana, and SOPs (smart operating procedures) and documents, spreadsheets and plans being hosted and accessed in Google Drive.
It has really been for me about painting a clear vision of where I want my business to go and then bringing them onboard with that. In April 2017 I went on a three month digital sabbatical while my team ran my business, all thanks to outsourcing and building a great team I trust and love.
If you want to learn the complete step by step approach to doing all this, through short ‘look over my shoulder’ training videos, and LIVE ‘doing’ sessions of coworking together then register for my upcoming Freedom Lab