Outsourcing for success: how to do it properly

Getting too much work…a nightmare situation?

It’s all very well growing your business and getting more work from clients, but what happens when you’ve got too much work for you to handle? You can’t do everything yourself.

frustrated freelancing man at his laptopAs your creative business expands, you’re going to need to outsource parts of it. For a lot of small business owners, hiring a freelancer or a new employee is a terrifying thought.

There are plenty of excuses not to. Nobody else knows how to do it ‘properly’ but you. Maybe you think you can’t afford to hire a freelancer or employee.

The fact is, a lot of the time we just don’t want to spend the money to hire someone. The irony is, as I’ve often found, when you do hire someone else you end up making more money!

It’s important for you to change that mindset; stop thinking you can’t do this or you can’t afford to do that. There’s always a way to do something if you think creatively. And you will be happier and more creative because of it.

Ultimately, as your business grows it will benefit from having more brains on board. You should embrace it your business growth. So, here are my tips for outsourcing for success:

You may find it useful to download my ‘Outsourcing for Success’ worksheet at this point, which you can grab here.

First, what kind of business do you want to be?

Before your business grows, you need to think about what kind of business you want it to be. What does your creative business look like in the future? Does it involve lots of small clients and outsourced workers? A couple of ongoing big clients with a big focus on them from you? A bricks-and-mortar business with full-time employees?

The answer to these questions will help you to decide who it is and what kind of employees you’ll need to hire, now and in the future. You may find you only want a scattering of freelancers to lean on occasionally when the work from big clients gets too much. It may be a virtual assistant to help schedule meetings and the admin aspects of your business. You may dream of a whole team of in-house designers in a hip office space. Whatever it is, write it down.


Then, what parts of your business do you love (and hate)?

The next thing to do is to think about what parts of your business it is you really love – which bits really get you going? Maybe more importantly, which bits do you hate? Take a piece of paper and draw a line to make two columns, then start filling it up.


This is where you’ll find my free Outsourcing for Success worksheet useful, you can download it here.

Don’t think about money or your business capabilities now, or whether you can actually do it or not. Think of it as your plan, your vision for your business in the future. So, be really honest with yourself about which parts of your business you actually enjoy doing (and do well!).

You will probably find one side of your list much longer than the other. And that’s completely normal.

Most creative business owners get bogged down in the details of running their business rather than doing the stuff that they love, the things that make their business great.

Have you heard of the 80/20 rule?

If you’re not familiar with it, the 80/20 rule, or ‘Pareto’s Principle’, is simply that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts. This rule has been applied to everything from marriage to business, and now you’ll probably notice it in a lot of aspects of your life.

That list of things you enjoy is probably pretty indicative of what your 20% is. Outsourcing the rest allows you to focus on that 20%, and increase the results of that 80% – the really productive part of your business.

great creative team meeting fist bump

Outsourcing for success means finding the right people

Now you know what kind of people you need to grow your business and what you need them to do, you need to find them. So, how do you go about finding the right people?

Hiring is hard.

Whether it’s occasional freelancers or full-time employees, finding the right person for the job is never easy.

Naturally, steps 1 & 2 above are important because that’s the key to successful outsourcing: You need to be very specific about what you need and what you want this person to do for you.

A lot of the time outsourcing doesn’t work because the person doing the hiring isn’t clear about what they want.

Whether it’s through craigslist, a job site, a freelancer site, or even in person, you need to be very clear about what you’re looking for and what you want from them in your post. This will probably reduce the number of total applicants, but you’re much more likely to find who you’re looking for.

You can find some examples of the real job listings I’ve used in the past to find great freelancers in my free Outsourcing for Success worksheet here.

With people you’re going to need to rely on, there’s always references too – especially if you’re hiring them full-time. Make sure you have a proper conversation with them and their references.

Be really thorough with your interviewing and questions overall – if everything goes well you could be working with this person a while. And as projects get more and more complex, you need to make sure you’re working with people you have an understanding with.

creative business owner onboarding a freelancer over coffee

Onboarding new employees and creating a team

When working with someone new, I often try to eliminate the risk for both of us by suggesting that we try it out for 3 months and see how it goes. Then we regroup and see what’s working and what isn’t, and discuss how can we partner better.

To get going, you need to create an ‘instruction manual’ for your business, and all the systems that you need your new team member to handle. These could be super simple word documents or using a more complicated project management software.

Whatever it is, again be as specific as possible. Creating these transferable systems in your business is going to allow it to grow in the way you want.

When handing over control to someone, particularly with creative work, remember they’re not going to do it exactly the way you would do it, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Stay open to their ideas and learn how to give great feedback and help them understand what you’re looking for.

This is even more important as you grow, but even if it’s just you and one other person remotely, treat them as your team. Have a weekly meeting and communicate; try to build some rapport. Set some action steps, what went well, what’s didn’t. Set action steps for next week, what are we working on, what deadlines have we got.

There’s an example of my weekly meeting agenda you may find useful in my free Outsourcing for Success worksheet, which you can download here.

If you have a couple of freelancers working for your, they’ll appreciate you getting them together once a week. You’ll all start to learn from each other and your business will benefit from it.

creative accountant drafting books

How to finance your outsourcing.

Once you know what you need, financing becomes a lot easier. There are several ways to do it.

You could work it into the project budget right from the beginning, especially if you know the project is big. As you’re pitching it, build an additional freelancer’s rate into your proposal.

If it’s a different arrangement, you could work on an hourly rate or a flat fee. You could arrange a small fee + commission, depending on who it is you’re hiring and the project you’re hiring for.

Whatever it is, do it properly, define your deadlines and scope, send invoices etc. It’s important to have a written agreement or even a contract, especially as your business grows.

Sometimes outsourcing doesn’t work out quite as you’d like it to, and it definitely takes practice to get really good. But doing the above will increase the chances of finding the right people to help your creative business grow.

Remember – get creative with your pricing but be specific with your proposal, and you’ll probably be surprised at who you find. Believe me, there are people out there who are looking for an opportunity to grow their business. People who you can work with to grow so that you both grow. Post your advert on Craigslist, Facebook, etc. see what happens.

And don’t forget to pick up your free copy of my FREE ‘Outsourcing for Success’ worksheet here.







Photos by Tim Gouw,  Daniel McCullough & rawpixel.com  on Unsplash