Do You Need an Assistant, or Do You Just Have to Work Harder?
Examine your business strategy before you make a decision.
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An issue I continuously encounter with my entrepreneurial clients is whether they should hire an assistant. As a solopreneur, you get conditioned to do everything yourself, cut costs and work really hard. However, there's a point where too much hard work could work you out of more business.
A few of the core factors in deciding whether it's time to get an assistant are timing, expense and purpose. I'd like to pose three strategy questions to help you figure out whether now is the time for you to hire someone and where they will add the most value to your business.
1. Is it time for an assistant or a strategy overhaul?
A good indicator you need help is realizing you're extremely busy and can't get everything done. You may feel stressed, overwhelmed and rarely end a day with a sense of accomplishment. Before you hire someone, assess whether the issue is needing help or needing focus. You may be so busy trying to hit every sales and marketing channel that this lack of focus is the problem itself. If this sounds like you, make a list of all the methods you're using. Next to each, write down how many clients you've generated. Temporarily eliminate any channels you've used for six months or more that haven't resulted in clients. See if removing extraneous work leads to you getting more done and better serving your clients.
On the other hand, if your challenge is a steady stream of clients generating administrative work, which takes you away from serving your clients and getting new ones, you need to hire someone.
The most important consideration is whether your current activities increase your revenue or waste your time. Why pay someone else to do activities that don't help your business grow? If you do, you risk wasting money on a person, in addition to a monthly subscription fee, potentially tripling your costs, just to outsource work that offers you no return on your investment.
Here's a perfect example. I find my clients often default to hiring someone to do their social media. When I ask what they want a social media assistant to do, they typically want someone else to take the annoying task of posting every day or week off their plate. When I probe further, I learn they've done their own posting for months or years and have not gotten clients or inquiries as a result. Instead of hiring someone to implement the same strategy you've proven ineffective, either drop the time and money investment, or hire a strategist to help you change what you're doing to get better results.
2. Can you afford an assistant?
If you're just starting and have limited funds, it can seem impossible to think about hiring an assistant. You may be overlooking a valuable resource -- interns. Inquire at a local high school or university, and you're likely to find eager students willing to work for experience instead of a (high) salary. You may be fortunate to work with someone you want to hire in the future.
If you're further along in your business, and spend lots of time on non-revenue generating activities, you can't afford not to hire an assistant. You won't be able to grow your business unless you delegate, at least, the administrative functions you perform. For you, the strategy of avoiding the expense of an assistant will cost you more in lost growth opportunities.
3. What kind of assistant should you hire?
When you make the decision to get help, the next hurdle is figuring out what an assistant will do for you. An assistant should do at least one of the following -- save you time, earn you money, expand your customer service. If you can't explain how an assistant will contribute to at least one of these outcomes, then it's either the wrong time to hire or you haven't figured out what you need an assistant to do.
Here's the advice I give to my clients. Create a "bucket list." No, not the list of things you want to do before you die, rather, the activities you feel will kill you if you do them any longer! I recommend using Excel and creating a spreadsheet with nine columns:
- Daily/weekly activities
- Revenue generating or admin
- Essential or optional
- Activities I love and do well
- Activities I can do but don't enjoy
- Activities I'm not skilled at
- Activities I hate doing
- Time spent
Start by listing your ongoing activities in the first column. Then categorize the activities into the buckets outlined above. The final two columns help you figure out your outsourcing priority. Write down how much time per day/week you spend on each task. If you don't know, a stopwatch or a program like Toggl can help you figure that out. In the final column, list how much money each activity has cost or generated.
The last step is to filter your spreadsheet, and create your outsource list. For example, essential admin tasks you hate doing -- and eat up a lot of your time -- are great ones to give to an assistant. Once you understand what you need to delegate, you can create a job description that will help you find the right person.
An assistant can be a needless business cost or one of the most valuable resources you have. Creating a logical way to analyze your business needs will help you determine the right time and the right person to hire.