Sure, you're the most qualified person to handle most tasks in your business, but chances are, you don't have time to do everything. Answer the following questions to see if you need to get extra help for your business.
1. Are you constantly extending deadlines at the risk of losing clients?
2. Are you frequently bogged down by simple tasks that could be handled by someone else?
3. Are there specialty tasks that could be handled more efficiently by someone else, such as graphic design, Web design or marketing?
4. Are you working longer hours than ever to catch up on routine tasks that could be delegated?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, consider one or more of the options described below to finally get some help.
Ask for a little assistance from your friends or family. The key word is "little." Hiring friends or relatives on a part-time or full-time basis as opposed to a per-project basis may lead to stress within your relationship. Be sure to compensate fairly so that the person doesn't feel "used." If, for example, you need to send a promotional piece and dread the thought of stuffing thousands of envelopes, hold a pizza/mailing party. In addition to offering pizza, offer to compensate your helpers for their time. If your kids are skilled on the PC and looking for part-time jobs, hire them for periodic bouts of data entry and pay them the going rate.
Hire an employee. You can pay the person a salary or by the hour, depending on how many hours a week you need him or her. Keep in mind that you'll also be responsible for health benefits and paid vacation time. This option is limited by the amount of space you have and whether you need to be zoned to have an employee work in your home office. Of course, your ability to afford an employee will have the biggest effect on your decision.
Use a temporary service. Temporary employment agencies provide basic services by sending a skilled person to your office for temporary, temp-to-hire or long-term assignments. Unless the agency is specialized (legal, tech or creative, for example), in most cases a temp is ideal for such basic tasks as data entry, answering the phone, running errands and other non-specialized tasks. Again, make sure your neighborhood is zoned for employees and that you have room in your home office for a worker.
Outsource work to a freelancer. Share your work with another homebased business owner. By obtaining the services of a freelance professional on a per-project basis, you can use their talents without having to pay employee benefits. While this is more costly than hiring a temporary employee, you'll get specialized services from an experienced professional.
Hire a business support service. The rules here are similar to those of hiring a freelancer. Business support services offer word processing, database management, bookkeeping, editing and proofreading, graphic services and Internet research. For a directory of business support services, check out the Web site of the Association for Business Support Services International Inc.
Brother home office expert Lisa Kanarek advises corporations and individuals on all aspects of working from home and writes the blog Working Naked. She is the author of several books, including Working Naked: A guide to the bare essentials of home office life.