Working For Yourself Doesn't Mean Working Alone
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Five years ago, I became self-employed for the second time in my professional career. The first time I chose to leave my job and go out on my own, while this second time - not so much. Regardless, it has turned out to be the best thing for me since I have realized I'm much better at consulting than I am at being an employee.
You too may find yourself self-employed because you either chose to be (i.e., you jumped ship so that you can do your own thing) or someone decided for you (i.e., laid off), and you don't have another choice at the moment.
Either way, if you're like me, you didn't start your own business to give yourself another job. But whether you call yourself a freelancer, consultant, coach, or even a solopreneur, being a one-person business certainly sometimes feels that way.
Two common challenges of working for yourself are the growing to-do list of things that never seem to get done and the solitude of working by yourself. Both can be overwhelming when you work for yourself, but I've got a few tips and examples of things I have tried to help you keep from feeling like you're in another workweek grind.
Get help with your to-do's
When your work week starts to creep into the weekend, and you find yourself edging closer to 60 hours per week, it's time to get some help. It might seem as though the only solution is to hire an employee. But what if, like me, you're happy being a non-employer business and don't relish the idea of being a boss? The answer is to outsource some of your work.
Being a creative professional, I worried about giving up control. Trust me when I say I know how hard letting go of the work will be. But you need to do it for your sanity if not for your over-full plate.
Let it go with a virtual assistant
Recently I hired my first VA (virtual assistant) to help me with some administrative and production tasks. It was a big step for me. Even though I'm used to delegating work to sub-contractors who can do the specialized work that I'm not capable of, this was the first time I allowed/let/permitted someone else to do work I know I'm capable of doing.
It took everything I had to resist saying, "you know what, never mind. I'll just do it myself" when we first started. It was a significant personal hurdle, but once I got over it and trusted that she could do it (faster than I was doing it, by the way), I also become more comfortable with the idea of letting go.
VA's can help you with all sorts of tasks like scheduling meetings, updating contact lists, or even preparing your email newsletter. Administrative functions that otherwise keep you from doing more critical client work, working marketing, or business development.
Giving up control to a colleague
I've had a marketing project on my to-do list for the better part of a year. It's a kind of infographic that will visually describe how a process works. I know what I want it to look like and sketched a tight comp for layout, with notes for style, color, and typesetting. As a graphic designer, I know that I can create and write this piece by myself. As a business owner, I understand that this will be a marketing tool for business development and coaching.
Yet there it sat in my to-do list, along with other important personal projects that I keep deferring for different tasks. So I finally hired another graphic designer, a colleague I have worked with before, to bring this marketing tool to life. Long story short, she will have this piece done next week.
Hiring a freelancer to handle specialized tasks regularly or for one-off projects is a great way to get work off your plate so that you don't feel overwhelmed by your growing list of to-dos. Especially if you hire someone as good (or better) than you are at that kind of work, who will also offer you the same talent, objectivity, and expertise you provide to your clients.
Depending on the type of business you have, you can even sub-contract portions of your client work out to another consultant. Don't worry; since they are an independent contractor, you're still not their boss. But do keep in mind; you still need to provide oversight and quality control over their work.