I’m honestly amazed when my brother’s students tell me that my choice to work as a freelance designer is more comfortable than getting a regular job.
As independent business owners, we love to talk about the advantages we have over those on a 9-to-5 job. And some of those are now running jokes like working on PJs all day or being able just to work a few hours each week.
Perhaps my brother’s students are blinded by those PJs talks. But behind the scenes, we know things are different, there are countless challenges associated with working by yourself.
Running any business requires you to tackle all the different tasks spread across different disciplines and job descriptions found in a company. The starting budget is quite low, and most of the time we can’t do anything else but wear all the hats ourselves.
There is no marketing department, neither accounting people, and not even project managers that can keep everything on track, it all rests on your shoulders. Once I start talking about this, people start freaking out, as if I was talking about something impossible.
It is a considerable challenge and more often than not you need a strong will to tackle everything. It’s easy to collapse under the pressure, but with enough dedication, anyone can learn how to do it.
Once you pass the initial hurdle of managing a business for the first time, wearing all those hats becomes easier. The trick is to understand how you are dividing your energy and what tasks are making your life more stressful.
Let’s take me as an example. I’m good at math, but I despise doing accounting work. It bores me, even when the result usually gives me good news about my business’ growth.
That’s why instead of devoting a full monthly session to do it, I incorporated it into my daily routine. Just 5 to 10 minutes every day was more than enough to keep my accounts in order.
It’s not glamorous work. I won’t be recognized as the best designer just because I can do my accounting, but it’s part of running a healthy business.
The beginning is mostly like that. You need to devote time to your administration, marketing, and core work-related tasks in a way that feels balanced to you.
The next challenge arrives when you are growing. Perhaps now you are getting more clients, and you need more time for tackling what they need. You start feeling that you don’t have enough hours in a day.
This event is what I call the second great hurdle, and it’s a growing pain every business owner will face. It’s not something negative; it means you have reached a new level in your journey.
That’s what happened to me in the past; I wanted to tackle everything by myself. I tried to use more time for designing and coding, and on top of those hours still, manage to do marketing and run the administrative side of things. It was complete chaos.
As much as I wanted to work 12 hours to get everything done, I couldn’t. And in retrospective, I shouldn’t have tried.
Remember that in a previous article I talked about managing your energy?
When I faced this second hurdle, I didn’t know about that concept yet, and I made a ton of mistakes.
It’s so easy to get sucked into doing a lot of marketing or tackling all the administration work you need to do because it has piled up, but you always have to keep in mind what’s the purpose of your business.
You don’t get paid to do marketing for your business. You get paid by satisfying the needs of your audience. If you are not spending time creating solutions that your audience will love, then you are impacting your revenue in a negative way.
Don’t get me wrong, all the work surrounding your business is essential, but you should invest the majority of it in creating those solutions. I would say a healthy amount would be at least half of the time you devote to work.
That way you will always get a steady amount of income, which you can use to invest in getting more time. Yes, I know that may sound weird, but it’s the key to getting over these growing pains.
In the beginning, you traded as much time as possible for as much money as possible. Now that you are growing and getting stability for your business, it’s time for your money to start working for you.
Remember, all those skills that are part of a healthy business but are not your core offering? I bet one or two of those things cause you a ton of stress.
Going back to my accounting example, doing my taxes was driving me crazy. Even when I divided all the work across the month, it started to take more time. Again this was a growing pain because I was getting more projects, but still, I didn’t like it.
Instead of doing everything myself, what if I hired an accountant to do it for me? His core offering is to do accounting, so I’m helping him run his business at the same time he helps me. Good trade if you ask me.
To decide if outsourcing is a good idea for you, you need to run some numbers. The first thing is that you need to know how much time you are devoting to the task you want to outsource.
Then you need to know what you will do with those hours, and it’s entirely valid to remove them from your work pool. Remember you are the one that calls the shots.
Then decide if the investment is sound for you. For example, I decided to get a bit of that time devoted to my core work, and the rest of it to my wellbeing. The time I get back from my accountant is higher in value than what I’m paying, so it becomes a relief instead of a burden.
As I have said before, your wellbeing is the most critical asset for your business. If you can’t be at the top of your game, you won’t be able to be as productive as you want.
That’s why I suggest you prioritize your wellbeing when outsourcing tasks. It’s kind of like getting an invisible bonus. You may not be working extra hours, but your efficiency while working will increase.
By removing stressful tasks from your plate and devoting at least part of the time to recovering your energy, you will be able to run your business smoothly.
Remember, it’s all about building a business that helps you create the life you want, so always take into account all the different disciplines that you need to learn, all the various tasks that you need to tackle, and the growth of your business. Because it may be time to outsource some of those things.