A few months ago I was visiting my family in the States. My dad has property in Sedona, Arizona, which we call a ranch because it is so wide and sprawly, right next to a creek and with a variety of very interesting structures like a treehouse, a gazebo, workshop, garage, even an old-fashioned caboose. It was actually once used as a corporate retreat area, with some of these structures created as part of team building events.
Normally when I go up to the ranch, I spend time lounging around, swimming in the swimming hole, going for walks, enjoying the incredible scenery, reading books, or doing (blissfully) nothing at all.
This time, I was full of the kind of energy that means that on your week off you would like to actually achieve something different than your usual. My usual is sitting in front of a computer screen, so the polar opposite of that was sanding and painting the treehouse, which was becoming quite worn and peeling from the sun.
As with all good projects, sometimes the best way is simply to leap in. My dad is a planner, someone who likes to gauge the length and depth and width of a project (literally) before he steps in. I tend to start with great enthusiasm and see how much I can get done.
Perhaps because my dad saw in me a willing worker, he decided to forego the weeks of careful planning and kindly went out with me to the treehouse one morning, both of us armed with sanders, ready to take on the peeling paint.
After a full day and a half of sanding (the treehouse had many, many, many little railings and edges and cross-sections), we were finally ready to paint.
After a morning of painting, we were ready to collapse.
It turns out that sanding and painting an entire treehouse by hand is quite an endeavour.
And my dad and I are both perfectionists. We both sanded to the very edges, covered over the niggly bits quite carefully, and didn’t start painting until every surface was smooth enough to run a hand over.
This is normally the place at which I either 1) press on until I do actually collapse, or 2) give up and decide I will finish it later. Neither one is a good decision, and this time I am proud to say we chose 3) get someone else to finish it.
Next door to my dad’s ranch is a property of log cabins where people can stay. It is a lovely place, like a combination B&B, ranch, and hotel, all in the green and glorious woods. And there works a man named Javier, who from time to time does small projects for my dad on his property.
Well, when Dad and I sat in what my nephew has dubbed “The Lizard Lounge” (because we lounge like them), we thought over what we had accomplished in two days and what was yet before us.
At first we were planning on tackling the whole project again the next day, painting by hand until we were done.
And then Dad said, “What if we just got Javier to do it?”
Javier has a paint sprayer.
Javier works for US$15 per hour.
Javier has loads of energy and enthusiasm.
Javier has successfully done a number of small projects for my dad in the past.
Obviously, it was a no brainer. We phoned Javier, he came over with his dad and his young son and they all had a look, we shook hands on the bargain….and a few days later the treehouse was painted gloriously white, and my dad and I had not exhausted ourselves to the point of no return….and it cost about $60.
Naturally, all this got me thinking about outsourcing in general, and how it is something that every business owner – including accountants – need to consider. Because yes, you can paint the treehouse yourself. You have the skills or can learn them. You have the materials. You have the energy.
But the question is, what is the best use of that energy?
I had two more days of my holiday left at the ranch. I could have used them painting my life away on the treehouse.
Instead, while Javier cheerfully set up his paint sprayer, I read books, went shopping with my sister, did some writing, went out to eat, and generally enjoyed myself.
And as a result, by the end of my holiday I was refreshed and ready to return to work, instead of exhausted and worn out and a little miserable.
Of course, if dad and I had stopped to carefully consider the cost, perhaps we never would have begun the project. But this time we started anyway, we enjoyed the work we did, and we outsourced it when it got to where we weren’t enjoying it anymore.
So, here are a few quick tips as you consider outsourcing:
Feel free to start projects yourself.
Sometimes that is a good way to determine whether you can just do it yourself, or whether you need help. Take an SEO course by all means. But if you realise it’s going to take 2-3 hours of your week (or day) to do it properly, consider outsourcing.
Do work that you enjoy.
If you hate blogging, stop trying to kid yourself and get someone else to do it.
Test outsourcers with small projects first.
Javier was a perfect person for the job because we knew him, we trusted him, and he had done well in the small things. This project was a little bigger, but we were sure he could handle it.
Consider the energy cost.
Whether it is at the start, or in the middle, or even towards the end of a project, think about how much of your energy is being used for it, and whether for a small fee that could be taken care of while you put your energy (or expertise) elsewhere.
Evaluate what aspects of the job could be done by “anybody”.
Javier was hardly a paint specialist – but he had experience in it from the maintenance work he already did. Remember the rule with outsourcing or delegating that if it is done 80% as well as you would do it, that is perfectly acceptable – because it means that you are then able to do more, and be more profitable.
When it comes to online marketing for accountants, I would normally tell you to either get a new website or get a content marketing strategy. (Our websites always include the latter, because why build a site if you don’t know who you’re talking to and what you’re saying?)
But if you are not quite ready for that for some reason, you can outsource a few bits and pieces, such as:
- Blog posts written
- Blogs posted and shared to social media on your behalf
- Social media accounts set up
- Logo refreshed or redesigned
- One page leaflet designed
- Website landing page created
- Call to action identified and created on your website
- Email system set up (ie Mailchimp)
- Email template(s) created
- Series of autoresponder emails written
- Website contact or sign up form created and added to website
- Ebook written and designed
You can get someone like us to do any of these – or you can even try out People per Hour, or 99designs.com, or Swiftly, or Odesk.
Or if you’re really desperate, we might be able to fly Javier out from Arizona to you.
(me and Dad, happy with our outsourcing choice!)