The Beginner’s Guide To Outsourcing And Building A Global Team On A Budget

Posted on /by Natalie Sisson/ in Entrepreneurs / 27 comments
TSE 2013 Complete Company Plan And Vision

I think you’re amazing entrepreneur for fighting to build a business that matters every day, but let’s be realistic, you’re not a super hero.

So it’s high time you quit trying to do everything yourself while trying to build a world class business.

The single most important lesson I’ve learned as an independent, stubborn, `I can do it all’ type of entrepreneur is this:

Alone you can do great work. With a team behind you, you can shoot for the moon and at least reach the stars.

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 is it so many of attempt to do everything in our business instead of bringing in others in to help us grow?

From personal experience and in talking to you, I believe there are four reasons:

  1. Our inner `control freak’ and perfectionist tendencies mean we don’t think anyone else can do it better than us.
  2. 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.
  3. We have no idea how to actually go about hiring anyone or finding the right person to outsource work to.
  4. Even if we do think we know how, we just 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.

I’m happy to talk about how I’ve built my global virtual team in the last 18 months, so you can apply this to your own situation.

I’ll also break down the steps I took and the tools and services I used so you can do this yourself.

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.

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 somebody through a referral and Margaret is a complete gem. She is based in India and is happy to do the work that I throw at her.

She works around 5-12 hours per week based on the amount of work I have for her, and she’s ridiculously affordable.

I hired her through Elance, so she simply logs her hours and uses their screenshot software to track what she’s working on when, and each week Elance automatically bills my credit card and sends me an invoice and timesheet breakdown.

Elance_Screenshot

To be honest I don’t look at that as I’m no `big brother’ and trust what she’s doing. But she also breaks this down in a spreadsheet so I can see how long tasks are taking her, and adjust what I give her where necessary.

What to hand over 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 is based in India and has excellent English, plus the time zone is handy as one of us is always working on something, especially when I’m in the Northern hemisphere and wake up to find work she’s done.

Taking the first baby steps to delegation

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 BYOB book. 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 Tip for training your team:

Take 10 minutes now to create short instructions for your VA 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 Jing or MeetingBurner.

You can also have it transcribed into a word document by your VA (and written up in their own words), so they can then add to it, and update it accordingly as your processes change. Make sure you include a link to the video stored on Dropbox or as an `unlisted’ YouTube Video.

Keep these `How-To’ documents stored in a central folder you share with your VA and team on 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

Growing Your Team

Hiring Margaret was a necessity before I headed off on the ride of my life across Africa.

I had done a lot of pre-scheduling and prior set up of tasks, but knew I needed someone overseeing the day-to-day interactions, emails and social media updates.

The next hire I made was a WordPress guru 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 the lovely Amy Clover, 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.

To this day he’s been one of the greatest supporters of my work and any project I throw at him he makes sound like the best thing on earth.

He’s on a monthly retainer that is super affordable, and he does unlimited changes and updates and tweaks to my site every month. You may wonder how this works and he makes any money.

First off, on some months I have very little work for him compared to others so it all balances out. His turnaround time is usually 24-48 hours and for more complex stuff I give him a lot of lead time and heads up.

Secondly I kept referring him to my clients until he couldn’t take on more work – luckily he always makes time for me.

Top Tip for project management

Use a simple free project management tool like Asana where you can log tasks and due by dates, assign it to your team members and include a short comment too. Once complete they mark it off. I use it for my own tasks and create key projects under my one account that I assign the tasks too.

Managing projects with your team with Asana

Within a day, he will usually just make simple tweaks and make my landing pages look better, optimize plugins, put in testimonials, format membership site pages and embed code, and much more.

It’s taken a lot of `faffage’ time off my hands – if you’re not used to that word, it means all that time you spend `tweaking’ stuff in the hopes of optimizing your site, that you really should leave to the professionals.

Hiring Strategically

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 heaps to Jaime Tardy).

Rolly is an expert editor and based in Philippines. I’ve 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 Dropbox folder for podcasts that Rolly has access too and so he receives a notification it’s done. I record my short 5-10 second intros on my iPhone and email Rolly the file direct. 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.

The other night at 9:30pm when I was about to publish my podcast I realized I’d asked him to put the wrong episode introduction on the fab interview with Ashley Ambirge.

Luckily, due to the fact that we’re currently on the same time zone, he read my email and changed it within 10 minutes, and it’s that type of flexibility and responsiveness I really appreciate in virtual teams.

Recognizing Gaps In Your Team

I highly recommend you put together an Organizational Chart for your business. Hat tip to the lovely Beverlee Rasmussen for showing me this many years back.

Even though you might be a solopreneur, that doesn’t mean that you can’t think of yourself as a full grown company and start on filling the roles, so you can remove yourself from them.

Remember your aim is to not work in the business, but on it.

Typically you keep yourself as the CEO – or Chief Adventurer, as I’ve labeled myself – and then you start to hire to fill the rest, bit by bit. It works best if you hire the most pressing need based on your business expansion plans for growth.

It’s up to you to decide whether you want permanent full time staff, permanent part-time or freelance contractors. I’d suggest a combination of all of these works best.

Here’s my Organizational Chart so you can see how I’m going about building my fantastic virtual team.

TSE 2013 Complete Company Plan And Vision

So it is that my most recent, and important hire Cher came to be. She is my Chief Happiness Officer and Online Business Manager and I’m actually training and mentoring her up as well as paying her to step into that role.

She came to me through my $100 Change Program, where she was on my early access email list and replied one day to volunteer to help me out, as she so loved the concept.

I had no idea in what capacity to use her initially, but judging by the email she sent and the energy that bounced off it I knew she was a key communicator, networker and get it done kind of gal.

We had a Skype call, talked about her degree in communications and PR she was finishing, her former work experience and more importantly what she wanted to be doing.

I started out by asking her to work on the PR and outreach aspect to get publicity for the $100 Change Program and contact some key change makers to partake too.

She went on to do up all of the inspiring Pinterest image quotes for this program saving me a ton of time, and doing up this infographic of what Suitcase Entrepreneurs want to learn.

Now we’re working closely on guest post and speaking opportunities, streamlining my business processes and building out content for upcoming product launches, as well as taking advantage of Amazon publishing.

Unlike the rest of my team (which I aim to change), I’ve met up with Cher in Naples, Italy in a hillside villa to discuss her role and visit Herculaneum together.

Team Suitcase Entrepreneur Natalie and Cher Hale in Naples

Then in London, England in December last year for strategic planning, and no doubt in the US this year at the World Domination Summit.

Like the rest of my small but efficient team, she’s somebody I trust completely. She’s based in the US who can communicate with the same level of efficiency as me, who’s very keen to learn and hungry to learn about online marketing, affiliates, and ecommerce.

I’m currently paying her on a monthly retainer and also doing 1 hour of coaching/ mentoring with her a month as part of that.

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 weekly planning calls with Cher on Skype covering what she’s accomplished, what she needs help with and what’s next.

I have twice monthly calls with Margaret when we go over the key metrics, what she’s working on and anything she’s stuck with. They both send me a simple email report with these bullet points in advance of our meeting.

I email and instant message Alex regularly to discuss work he’s doing and to make sure we’re on the same page. Rolly and I only email around podcast episode times and it’s short, sweet and action-focused.

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 January, on my digital sabbatical, I wrote my 5 page painted picture of where I want my business to be in 3 years time.

Hat tip to Cameron Herold from his book Double Double: How to Double Your Revenue and Profit in 3 Years or Less.

It’s an inspiring read of the work where I want my company to go and what my lifestyle will look like in the future. It includes my team as a critical part of making this happen.

I’ve sent it to Margaret and Cher so they can buy into it and get a feel for where I’m going. I think Cher reads it more often than I do!

Along with this I have my 1 Page Biz Plan that is incorporated into our 2013 Plan of Attack spreadsheet, so we can each regularly read the goals and strategies needed to grow the Suitcase Entrepreneur.

I think it’s helped immensely to show them that they’re part of that vision, and to keep us all focused on the big picture.

In my next blog post, I show you How To Make Your First Team Hire: A Step-By-Step Guide To Outsourcing.

In the comments below I’d love to know about your experiences in outsourcing and building your team.