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Beyond Solo: Don’t Do It All Alone

At some junction on the road of your freelance journey you’re going to become overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. If you are just starting out, you’ll probably have no choice but to suck it up (unless you’ve got a stash of cash to lean on), put one foot in front of the other and carry on.

It’s all part of the start up phase and we’ve all been there.

I often get asked how I get so much done. And I often look at other freelancers and ask myself- how do they get so much done?

When you’re starting out, it’s hustle. But you can only sustain a certain go go go hustle for so long.

At a certain point, too much hustle will make you feel the opposite of freedom (and that’s why you’re in this business in the first place, right?)

So how do you continue to get so much done, and grow so much when that constant hustle doesn’t feel right or possible anymore?

Hire help.

If you’ve been in business for a year or two, you’re making decent money and feel like you’re stuck on a treadmill that’s going way too fast, it’s time to think about getting some help.

You may feel like you’re still trying to hit your income goals and you shouldn’t be giving money to someone else for tasks you can do yourself.

But what you need to realize is that you are spending a lot of time on small repetitive tasks which take away time you could be spending on bigger picture (and higher profiting) activities.

I know, I know. It sounds scary.

Who would I hire? How will I find the right person? How much should I pay them? How will I train her (or him)? What are the legal implications of  becoming an employer? HELP! I’ve never done this before.

Take a deep breath and I’ll walk you through it. Like most turning points on any journey, it’s just a matter of stopping for a minute to take stalk, deciding which route to pursue and then forging on.

What tasks can I pass on to someone else?

First, make a list of the stuff that you do on a recurring basis; activities that don’t involve strategic business decisions (that will ALWAYS be your job).

This could be posting to your social media channels (after you’ve created a quarterly or annual plan), publishing your blog posts, sending your invoices/contracts, order fulfillment if you’re marketing actual products, and even managing your email inbox, if you’ve prepared instructions for identifying messages that only you can answer. So, go ahead and make your list.

Who can do this stuff for me?

Here’s where I introduce you to the wonderful world of virtual assistants–VAs for short. Just as the title implies, these professionals are available to assist you and, just like you, they market their skills online to clients across the globe. Physical presence is not required, hence “virtual assistant,” which is a good thing because you probably don’t have office space for them, anyway.

VAs work on a per project basis, per hour, or for a monthly retainer (once you’ve built a relationship with them). You can find a VA for almost any task you need. You’ll find that many of them have quite a lot of experience, are well informed about the latest technologies and can even recommend new, more efficient modes of operation for your business.

But can I afford a VA?

This is definitely the deal breaker question. So. . . take a serious look at your books (accounting books of course). How much can you put aside for each month? Look back six to nine months to see if your business can support this amount consistently.

It doesn’t have to be full-time, and you can start with however many hours works for you financially right now. It could be 5 or 30 hours a month. The key is to get started somewhere because if you really want to grow, you’re going to need help to do so.

If you’re not sure, consider hiring a VA for a specific, one time project such as setting up an automated email campaign for an upcoming event. By the way, this is a great way to get to know VAs before making any long term commitments and I recommend it, no matter what.

This is also a great way to expand your services or be able to offer things to your clients that you don’t feel you have the skills for. If you are a creative freelancer for example, maybe there is a certain photoshop skill you haven’t mastered. Instead of worrying about disappointing your client or spending time you don’t have right now learning a new skill, jump on elance and see if there is someone to do it for you (there will be).

Don’t be surprised if you have more tasks for VAs than you can afford, in which case just prioritize the ones you feel most compelled to take off your plate immediately. As your business continues to grow you can add additional VAs to your team or give your existing VA more tasks.

So, are you ready for a VA?

If you conclude that yes, you’re ready to jump in and begin outsourcing certain activities to VAs, that’s great! If you decide that you’re just not there yet, that’s OK, too. Revisit this post again in another 3-6 months or so and you may find that it is time to take the plunge.

The insight I want to leave you with is this:

Never lose sight of the reason you embarked on your freelance journey in the first place–for a more fulfilling career while being the master of your own destiny.

I don’t think this includes running at 20 miles an hour on that treadmill day in and day out. We all experience certain periods in which we feel like we’ve mistakenly registered for a never ending marathon, and that’s OK, but it’s not sustainable over time, nor should it be. We run the risk of both physical and emotional burnout, which is definitely not why we’ve become a freelancers.

So, as soon as it’s feasible, get yourself a good VA–or two.

Let me know in the comments: have you hired help or thought about doing so soon? I want to hear about it!

This article is the first of a 3-part series on getting help in your business. Next week we’ll be talking about what tasks you should be handing off to someone else and then how and where to find help. Sign up here to get the series straight to your inbox!

Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis is the founder of The Freelance To Freedom Project and a web designer/developer for brilliant entrepreneurs. When she’s not hanging out in the FTF Community, you can find her people watching on the streets of NYC. Come say hi on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • I love that you don’t shy away from the “can you afford it?” part. So many people give the “you can’t NOT afford it!” answer instead of being honest about the costs. Good stuff!

  • Love this! I feel like I’m just about at the point to hire a VA–which is scary, but exciting at the same time!

  • I love this — thanks Leah. I’m getting to the point where I WANT to hire a VA, but still considering the cost. Hiring someone for a specific project would be a great place to start. Thanks for that suggestion!

  • Really useful breakdown of choosing to work with a VA (weirdly I wrote a blog post about investing in my business this week too, although not on a VA at the moment). It’s definitely something I’d like to do as soon as possible, even if it is just for the odd hours at first.

  • This is so great, Leah! I look forward to the time I’m ready for a VA for myself. I’ll definitely have it bookmarked.

    In the meantime, I always like investigating potential VAs to recommend to my clients but it can be a challenge to determine how someone works when I haven’t worked with them directly.

  • Love this breakdown of what you can have your VA do, when it’s time to get one and I always love a good running metaphor 🙂

  • Great post Leah. Definitely a good idea to start with a one-time project to dip your toe in the water. I’m a VA myself, but still considering what I can hand over to a VA too as everyone has different strengths.

  • This was such a helpful breakdown on VAs! I don’t think I’ll be at a point of needing a VA for a few months, but this is good food for thought to tuck away in the back of my brain.

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