Outsourcing is a pain in the butt!
That is, if you do it wrong, it can be a real big pain.
If you do it right, it can actually be a really fast and effective way to get things done.
Let’s face it — we all only have 24 hours in our day. And preferably we’re NOT working for all that time. I’m not a fan of the 4-hour work week as an actual goal. (And hint: Tim Ferriss really isn’t either — the title of his book notwithstanding.)
But I do believe that one of the biggest barriers to the success of an entrepreneurial company is the founder being able to appropriately delegate work off their plate so they can focus on growing the company within the sphere of their Unique Ability.
The more time you can spend operating within your Unique Ability and avoiding tasks that aren’t well-suited to you, the bigger your results-per-hour will be (this is called leveraging your time).
And besides, even something like a freelance copywriting business is full of tasks that the average freelance copywriter SHOULD NOT be doing (taxes anyone?).
The more you want to scale your business? The better you have to be at moving things off your plate to someone who can handle it.
So, I want to tell a story. And in it, there will be a pile of lessons about effective delegation and outsourcing.
How to successfully outsource one task…
I wrote that I’ve recently started with Ari Meisel’s Leverage. (Learn more here, and if you sign up for a initial consultation through my referral link — or use referral code 79nskj — you’ll get a $50 credit applied to your first month.)
Get Leverage is an outsourcing company. Not quite a virtual assistant service. Because they maintain a whole network of specialists to accomplish any task. So you’re not dealing with one person to do all your tasks for you. You’re dealing with a system that is designed to take whatever you need done, and find the person who is available now and who has the capability to execute.
And since they have a broad (and expanding) network of specialists, they help you overcome what I found to be one of the biggest challenges with a traditional one-person virtual assistant.
Which also just so happens to be the first step to successfully outsourcing one task…
Get the right person for the right job…
So, let me tell you first-off that the particular task I wanted to have done was the creation of two complimentary logos for Breakthrough Marketing Secrets. One for the main daily emails, and one for something big that’s in the works.
My original logo was something I threw together. Which is not my Unique Ability. So I did it much more poorly, in much more time, than someone with strong capability would have.
I knew I wanted something better. And I knew it would be a test of my ability to work with the Leverage service, and their ability to work with me.
So, “right person, right job.” What does that mean?
In the book Traction by Gino Wickman, he shares a tool called GWC. Get it. Want it. Capacity to do it.
These three things define someone’s ability to do the job they’ve been tasked with.
— Do they understand the job that’s expected of them?
— Do they want to succeed?
— Do they have the capacity to do it?
A huge failure point for me in the past in terms of outsourcing came when I tried to get assistants who would cost less per hour, but who didn’t have the necessary capabilities (capacity of skill) to do it.
It’s critical that no matter what your expectations are for a particular task you’re going to delegate or outsource, you’re giving it to someone who can execute at your standards. If not, you’ve set yourself up for failure before you even began.
Simply by tasking Leverage with my outsourcing task, I was connected with a specialist who has graphic design skills and ability, and has the current capacity of time to take it on.
Also, the Leverage company is well-run, so everyone I’ve ever interacted with there wants to succeed. But if you’re trying to outsource and you end up with someone who isn’t internally motivated for success, you’re never going to get it out of them.
So, I have the want it and capacity down, and I left the “get it” part out on purpose because that’s not their challenge, it’s yours…
Once you’ve found the right person, your outsourcing success or failure will be determined by your ability to define your expectations and ideal outcome…
This is really tricky. Especially if you’re dealing with a very visual or creative task.
Because even if someone has the skill capacity to exceed your expectations, they will fail to come close if you haven’t made those expectations clear.
When I assigned Leverage the task of creating the two logos I wanted, I was sure they were going to turn around and deliver a handful of great ideas right away. But they realized quickly that I didn’t even tell them what success would look like. In this case, I didn’t do a great job of describing visually what I wanted.
So they turned around an asked me a LOT of questions. Seven questions that were totally clarifying to help them understand the kind of logo design I had in mind.
And I realized afterward that prior to that, all my ideas about my logo were in my head. Even though I thought I had good ideas, I hadn’t communicated them. I hadn’t told them about what my ideal outcome would be — in this case, roughly what I hoped the new logo would look like.
But even once that was communicated, I didn’t realize that I should…
Expect to run into huge road bumps!
Then, just about the worst thing that could have happened, happened. I’d conveyed to the designer that I wanted them to be as quick as possible with first drafts. I was pushing him for two reasons. First, I pay for time used, so less time to complete the same work is better. But even more important, I think good design is iterative, and feedback early and often can lead to a better result faster and with less headache.
So the designer turned around a first draft that made it clear: he hadn’t read my answers to the seven questions! Ouch!
They weren’t at all close to what I said I wanted — and had many elements to them that I’d specifically said I didn’t want or need in the new logo!
Frankly, I was angry. But I know just being angry isn’t productive. So I immediately turned it around and asked myself how I could do it better. I also happened to be attending a call/webinar with Ari from Leverage, so I asked for his advice on how best to outsource a task like this.
He said I should pick a bunch of logos I like, take notes about what I like about them, and record a screen capture video — using a really cool piece of image/video screen capture software called CloudApp — running through those logos for the designer to get a good idea of my preferences and vision.
I did — and I was able to keep it to under three and a half minutes. (If you want to watch you can here.)
I sent that to the designer, trying to be as productive in my feedback as possible, but also with very direct feedback chiding him on not fully reading my responses to the questions his team posed. (Nobody benefits from beating around the bush — deliver the negative feedback and focus on how to do better next time.)
With that, we got back on track, and he gave me another round of designs. This time, four concepts that were all much closer to my vision of what success would look like.
From these , I chose the one I thought worked best, and after a couple rounds of revisions we got to a final design.
Then, I gave him a specific list of all the formats and files I needed from him, and he was able to deliver.
I gave him a big “thank you” and called the project a success.
Here are the most important things I learned…
I’m still not an outsourcing pro. But I do feel much more confident in the process, after this particular task. And I have a pile of additional tasks that I’m defining now, to send over to the Leverage team.
I know that their success or failure are based on a couple important concepts:
— Have I clearly and explicitly defined what the success criteria of the outsourced task looks like? Is it outside of my head in a format that communicates my vision and objective well?
— Am I outsourcing to someone who gets it, wants it, and has the capacity to do it? If I can convey what I expect of them, do they want to and have the ability to deliver to my expectations?
Get those two things right, and you’ll successfully outsource as many tasks and even projects as you want. Get them wrong, and you’re unlikely to feel like even your first outsourced task was a total success.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,