Being a solo consultant doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. In fact, you shouldn’t. Of course, you need to take responsibility for all the core consulting tasks – those tasks that require your high-level expertise, your thinking, your credibility. But for a host of other things, get help.
When I first started out as a consultant eighteen years ago, the options for outsourcing were so limited that I had no choice but to do almost everything myself. These days there is a whole world of support at your fingertips. Websites like Freelancer and Upwork now make it easy to find people that love (and are good at) doing the tasks you don’t like or don’t want to do.
So in this article, I’m going to provide advice about when to outsource, what to outsource, and where you can find support.
When to outsource?
Firstly, you should outsource when you have tasks that you’re just not good at. Maybe you could do them, but you’re not going to do the best job. For me that’s preparing PowerPoint presentations – I can do it, but I really shouldn’t because I do a mediocre job and it takes me forever.
And then there are tasks for which you can’t charge your daily rate. Even if you are good at these tasks, your client shouldn’t be paying over the odds when they could be done much cheaper by someone else.
So the question to ask yourself when deciding when to outsource is “Can someone else do it better, or cheaper?’
What tasks to outsource?
These are the tasks that I regularly outsource.
- Graphic design
- Website management
- PowerPoint presentations
- Internet-based research
- Admin support
Many of these tasks I just don’t have any skills in, like book-keeping and graphic design. So it’s a no-brainer that I need to get someone else to do those for me.
Some are tasks that I can do, but frankly, I’m not very good at. Plus I’m slow. All kinds of admin support tasks fall into this category.
And then there are tasks that I am pretty good at, like internet-based research, but I know there are others who can do it at a much lower daily rate than mine. So even though I like it and I’m good at it, I still outsource it.
Where to find support?
In my experience people who have come from the public sector tend to be unfamiliar with the world of freelancers. And they can also be overly risk-averse about using them. This is not a criticism. It’s just a reflection of the work environment they have inhabited for many years. But now that you’re running a small business you need to think differently – you need to focus on being as effective and efficient as possible, which means outsourcing some tasks. And finding that support is only a key-stroke away.
The site I use most often is Upwork. It’s a site where buyers [me and you] post a job and freelancers bid to take on the job. You then review the profile, previous job history and client feedback of all those who’ve bid for your project and hire the freelancer you want. You manage everything through the Upwork site – setting project milestones, communication with your freelancer, monitoring their work, uploading files, etc.
Don’t be daunted by the prospect of working this way – once you get the hang of it, it will transform your working life as a business owner. Here are five reasons to give it a go:
- It’s easy – just set up an account and have a look around. See what’s possible. And find a simple, low-risk job to post first. Something like your logo design – it will be cheap, and there will be plenty of bidders.
- It’s safe – the site uses an ESCROW payment system. So you pay Upwork based on the project milestones you’ve agreed with the freelancer. When you indicate that milestone has been achieved, Upwork will pay the freelancer. Over the years I’ve used the site for hundreds of jobs worth thousands of dollars, and I’ve never experienced any problems.
- It’s quick – the turnaround time on jobs is impressive. You could post your logo design project today and have it delivered by tomorrow.
- There’s a wealth of choice – Upwork has everything from web designers, admin assistants, writers of every kind, marketing experts, social media experts, through to accountants and legal advisors. If it can be outsourced, trust me there will be someone who can do it.
- It’s high quality. I’ve had some outstanding work done by freelancers. If you take the time to review profiles and previous job histories and scroll through client feedback, you will find a freelancer who can deliver what you need.
Don’t be a slave to your consultancy business by thinking you have to do everything yourself. Do the smart thing and outsource those tasks that someone else can do better than you and at a cheaper rate. And don’t be afraid of the freelancer world. It may be new to you, and it may seem daunting. But trust me, it will be liberating.
Jacq Hackett provides expert consulting services to public health agencies. And as a veteran of over two decades of consulting, she now provides coaching and development for other consultants. She is passionate about supporting the next generation of public sector consultants to become very good at what they do.
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