As a creative business owner, I’m often full of ideas. I’ll excitedly jump from one to another, my head and my heart bursting with possibilities. So when I don’t have time to develop these ideas or do all the things I want to do, I can get frustrated and disappointed.
This was the path I was on in my business until recently. And after a few years of trying – and feeling like I was failing – to do pretty much everything myself, last year, I began to feel stuck, burned out and lacking direction.
I was working ‘in’ my business too much, with very little time to think of the bigger picture and work ‘on’ it.
Feeling Overwhelmed in Business
It’s so difficult not to fall into the frantic trap of overwhelm that modern business life so easily induces. There’s an insidious hustle culture online that’s difficult to avoid. We’re told that to make our business grow; we need to be doing podcasts, Instagram ads, social media, marketing… There’s the pressure we put on ourselves too. Courses you ‘need’ to go on, books you ‘need’ to read, places you ‘need’ to go. Not to mention seeing all those other business owners who are doing way more things than you and somehow managing it all.
If you don’t take a step back from time to time, even the things that used to bring you joy can feel like another burden. You can start to feel trapped in a business that you started because you wanted more freedom and flexibility to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life.
I’d stopped loving what I did and started contemplating going back to a simple job where I could clock in, clock out, and leave it all behind at the end of the day. But really, all I needed was a couple of tweaks to my processes and to outsource some tasks to take the pressure off me as a company of one.
Outsourcing Tasks that were Getting Put Off
One of the major draws on our time as small business owners is marketing and promotion. We want to spend our time doing the thing we love, but in order to make money doing the thing we love, we have to spend our time telling people that we’re doing it. Which, of course, leaves less time for doing the thing. It’s a vicious circle and one that can be difficult to break.
I love the community I have built on Instagram, and no matter how busy I was with work, I didn’t want to stop connecting with people. One of the best things I did for myself and my business was to outsource some of my social media marketing and promotion to a virtual assistant (the wonderful Erin from Bizzy Bee). I still feel I can create and communicate across Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest – and I still use my own words – but my VA helps put the posts together, and this saves me an awful lot of time. It feels like such a weight off my mind, and also helps keep me accountable and in a rhythm with my marketing.
Small things like hashtags, repurposing for different platforms and creating pins was taking up a lot of my time, and I was struggling to be consistent with any of it. I had also been wanting to use LinkedIn more and had never found enough time. Using a VA means I feel like I’m on top of everything, and I am getting much more engagement with LinkedIn – a platform I had never really bonded with.
There are also a few semi-regular tasks I need to complete, like creating design-project pages on my website and blog, and these were often taking me a full day to finish. Knowing I can reach out to my VA for some help with these means I have more time to focus on my creative work.
Space to Grow
Since outsourcing tasks from within my business, I have already seen growth! I have more time to work on projects and have been able to think about how I can make my branding process even better. I’ve also got the necessary space to replenish my creativity by creating and experimenting with artwork.
I started my business because I wanted more freedom, and after buying my dream campervan a couple of years ago, I struggled to find the time to get away for longer than a weekend. Having a VA means I can brief in tasks before I go and be reassured, knowing that things will be ticking along while I am out enjoying my freedom and having adventures.
Outsourcing as a Company of One
I strive to have a minimalist business that is always intentional and gives me a balance in life. I’m certainly not a 100-hours-a-week entrepreneur – I really value time and space to enjoy life away from the screen. I also passionately love creating brands and running my business.
We’re often told that, in order to grow, we need to take on staff. But that has never felt right for me. Because I work on projects rather than doing regular work and regular workloads, it can be hard to know how much work I need to support me. Outsourcing tasks means I can get my creative work done without having to worry about the commitment of a full-time member of staff.
Outsourcing tasks you know you can’t do
As a one-person business, it’s good if you can recognise your own limitations. I’ve never felt like I’m the best at photography, and at the start of my business journey, I didn’t want to show my face. Investing in the support of an expert has really helped me here, and I now have a bank of photographs – with me in them! – that I can be proud to share.
There are so many elements that go along with having a business these days, and very few people are good at doing all these things. So if you know you’re not great at branding and don’t want that to hold your business back, investing in a branding expert is a good idea. Likewise, if your website looks a bit dated and you don’t have the time, energy or desire to learn Shopify, WordPress or Squarespace, bring in an expert – they will likely be able to do a better job and much more quickly.
Think of Outsourcing as an Investment
The key is to think of outsourcing as an investment in your business rather than an expense. As such, it’s important to think of the whys and the whens of when to do it. It won’t always be right for you or your business to pay for a photographer, for example.
Taking pictures for your own social media posts will mostly be fine, even if you know you’re not the best at composition or lighting. But if you have a new product launch coming up and know you need a perfectly crafted web page with photography that really shows off your products, paying an expert for a product shoot may well get you bigger returns than it costs.
Nobody knows you or your business better, so tune in to that inner voice and go with your gut feeling about what it makes sense to outsource and when.
Find out more about Charlotte’s design studio, Creative Wilderness here
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And if you’re looking for an organised, experienced VA to help with day-to-day management, scaling up your social media presence, and more, feel free to get in touch with Erin at Bizzybee.