Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day?
You’re not alone:
9 out of every 10 freelancers I talk to say that they have too much on their plate.
Generally it boils down to one problem.
They constantly bounce between sales, marketing, accounting, project management, client communications…
and everything else that is required to run a business.
The only reason this figure isn’t “10 out of every 10” is because there is usually one poor guy or gal who is currently going through a dry spell and doesn’t have much client work on their calendar.
Most freelancers have a million things they need to do and never enough time to get everything done, but it’s not that way for everyone.
There are freelancers out there who are able to successfully manage and grow their business by consistently crossing off everything on their to-do list.
So, how do they manage to do that while everyone else struggles just to tread water?
When it comes to managing the demands of running a freelance business, there are four popular strategies: Do-it-yourself (DIY), Hiring, Outsourcing, and Automation.
Let’s take a closer look at each approach and weigh the pros and cons…
The “DIY” Approach
This is probably the most popular approach. It involves the freelancer taking on all of the work themselves, because they think that other approaches are too expensive or too much hassle.
Unfortunately, if you’re going to take care of 100% of the client work AND 100% of the business management work, something is going to have to give. What that usually means is you sacrifice quality or overlook a certain area while focusing on what you THINK is most important.
At first glance this can seem like the responsible decision, but it often results in working longer hours or more days in the week, and it almost always causes more headaches and stress than other approaches.
Unless you’re willing to adjust your goals or you’re REALLY good at managing your time and attention, this typically results in sub-par business performance or, even worse, burnout.
The Employment Approach
As their business grows, some freelancers chose to become employers. They hire or contract another person to take over some specific task(s) so that they are free to focus more energy on client work or other business activities.
When done correctly, this can result in faster revenue growth, less stress, or a better quality of life. However, it doesn’t come without a price…
For starters, there is the expense of paying the individual’s rate or salary. Tack on some benefits or performance incentives and you could be looking at a sizable chunk of change.
Then there are the intangible costs, like the time required to find, vet, hire and onboard a new team member, as well as the time required to provide management and oversight of their work going forward.
While it CAN help you better manage your workload and free you up to take on more clients, in most cases, a freelancer would have lower expenses and less stress as a manager or director at a traditional employer.
Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of going freelance in the first place?
The Outsourcing Approach
Most freelancers are wary of hiring a contractor or employee – and rightfully so. The expense and stress of providing financial and professional support to another individual can be daunting.
So, it’s not surprising that many freelancers choose to outsource certain functions rather than hire for them. In this scenario, a freelancer might sign on with a virtual assistant service or sub-contract client work to another freelancer to free up some of their time.
When working with a managed assistant service, you get to skip over the hassle of managing salary and benefits, but you still have to pay a substantial monthly fee to retain the team member. On top of that, finding the right team member can be a challenge and you will still have to devote time to onboarding, training and management month in, and month out.
If you decide to instead sub-contract some of your client work, you will certainly save time, but you will also sacrifice earning potential. In most sub-contracting arrangements a freelancer will be transferring at least 80% of the total value of the project. That’s a lot of money to leave on the table.
Much like the employment approach, outsourcing can help you address the problem of managing your workload, but it probably won’t help you reclaim too much time and it’s almost certainly more expensive than alternative approaches.
The Automation Approach
For freelancers who are sick of the DIY approach and don’t want the responsibility of managing an employee, team member, or sub-contractor, there is one more alternative – automation.
In this scenario, the freelancer will invest time and money up front, but it will almost certainly be less than they would pay for an employee or contractor over the long term. Furthermore, you only have to train an automation how to do its job once and it will never forget.
Automation isn’t a perfect solution for everyone. If you’re not technically savvy and you don’t have someone to walk you through the process, setting up water tight automations can be a challenging endeavor. Automations also require occasional testing and maintenance to make sure everything is still working properly.
Putting It All Together
So, let’s say you’re a freelancer who is overwhelmed by the number of items on your to-do list. What’s your next step?
Well, let’s do a quick recap of your options…
- Do It Yourself – Low cost, high time and energy requirements. Also limits your earning potential and could force you to work nights and weekends to keep up. Your chances of burning out increase, and your personal/professional relationships could suffer as a result of the demands you place on yourself.
- Hire – High cost, high time and energy requirements. You’ll save time on the tasks, but it will be at least partially offset by the time required to vet, hire, onboard and manage the new employee. There is also a significant amount of stress that comes with being responsible for someone’s professional well-being.
- Outsource – Medium cost, Medium-to-high time and energy requirements. Shares much of the same pros and cons with hiring, but has a slightly lower cost and stress level. If outsourcing client work, you’re also passing over potential revenue in exchange for your time.
- Automate – Low-to-medium cost, Low-to-medium time and energy requirements. All of the time and energy investments are front-loaded and ongoing expenses are substantially lower. Can be up to speed much faster and can (legally) work 24 hours a day for no additional cost.
So, given what you know, which option would you be inclined to go with?