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Hello friends and welcome back to another episode! I hope that your January and your 2022 are off to a fantastic start!
Today I wanted to talk about something that we hear a lot about in the entrepreneurial space and that is outsourcing. Now, I feel like we talk about outsourcing a lot when it comes to burnout or overwhelm in your business, but even if your business is going super smooth and you’re really happy with how it’s going I still think that outsourcing is such a great way to amplify what you can take on within your business.
I don’t say amplify as a way to say that you need to take on more in your business – in fact, I feel like outsourcing is a way to take on less within your business!
If you’re not familiar with what outsourcing is or what I’m even talking about right now, basically it’s the idea that you don’t have to do every single thing within your business. Sure you probably could do everything, and you probably have been doing everything within your business, but every entrepreneur knows that you reach a point in your business journey where you just cannot do it all yourself.
Outsourcing does not necessarily mean that you’re hiring full-time employees. In fact, I think that a lot of outsourcing resources that are out there are more like part-time work.
What I’m going to be talking about with outsourcing is just from my own personal experience with it.
I really only started to dip my toes into it this last year and it was a game-changer for me, seriously! Last year was a really busy year for us but I would not have been able to do everything that I did without outsourcing.
So going into 2022, it was a given that I was going to bring people on to help me with certain aspects and to keep some of my employees around!
With a lot of this I’m going to be talking about my assistant, Shayne. With a service based business like I run, there are a lot of moving parts! And even though this is a creative business, there are a lot of things that aren’t necessarily in the creative realm that still fall under business tasks that I need to complete. Having an assistant like Shayne has literally just again been a game-changer for me! So a lot of this is going to have to do with her and a little bit about some of the other outsourcing that I plan to do this year.
But I hope that this can give you a bit of insight into what types of things you could possibly outsource, or what sort of things you can kind of give up doing or having complete control over in your business because that can be a scary thing. I know for a perfectionist like myself, it can be really hard to give up some things in my business but it’s so worth it if then you can focus on the areas that really feel fulfilling to you and the things that you really enjoy doing within your business.
The main thing that I outsource with the help of my assistant, Shayne, is client onboarding and offboarding. Onboarding is always kind of a bit tedious in my opinion! There’s a lot of information that I’m giving clients upfront: there’s contracts to be signed, invoices to set up, workflows to start the gears moving for a project.
On top of a lot of info that I need to give to clients, there’s a lot of info that I need back from them, so that just was not really a fun part of the project. I also have client homework that gets sent out so there’s a lot of things that it’s the same from client to client but it’s still something that I have to set up for each client. For many years, I was just doing that myself and that was one of the first things that I knew I wanted to hand off to someone else!
We use Dubsado for almost all of our client communication and so Dubsado has some really handy workflow features in it, so she and I are working to get set up this year so that even more of it is automated and then she can take on other tasks within my business! But for right now, she is handling a lot of that initial back-and-forth with a client so she’s helping with all of the contract and invoice set up and delivery, and payment automations that we have set up so reminders for people to pay each month and things like that. So a client onboarding, especially if you’re a service based business, that’s not something that you necessarily have to do yourself and there are a lot of people that can set that up for you and actually set it up better! I feel like a lot of the things that Shayne has implemented have made it easier on the clients and on me and I just know as we start implementing workflows this year that’s gonna make it even easier!
Client offboarding is also something that she handles a lot of but it’s not as many things that have to go back-and-forth. Mainly, it’s delivering all the content that I have designed for a client and getting any final payments but then also sending out a feedback form so we can get testimonials. But there’s not as much back-and-forth between myself and the client with offboarding as there is with onboarding so it’s really the onboarding that is a priority to me to hand over to her and get her help with.
Along with that she helps with all of my client communication so I like to have a really personal one on one communication style with my clients but for a lot of the feedback that I get throughout the project I have forms that get sent out. So basically, I will send all the information either in a video presentation or in a PDF (whatever that information is that I’m delivering to the client). If it’s strategy or things like that, obviously it’s in a PDF. If it’s concepts, sometimes I’ll do a video walk-through or sometimes it’s just a quick explanation of what they’re looking at and then a feedback form for the clients to give me all of their feedback. So a lot of that is being handled by my assistant, Shayne. I will send her the video or the PDF that I need sent off to the client and then she puts it together with the form that is needed and any additional questions that we need to ask. A lot of times, I have my basic questions of you know what do you like about this concept, what do you not like, are there any changes you wanna see, that sort of thing. Sometimes when we’re talking about art direction or maybe if they’re picking a theme to customize there are other questions that I need added to that feedback form and she handles all of that which is so nice that I can just be in a creative mindset and I can be working on several different client projects at once. I can send her all the content that needs to be sent to clients that week and she can handle all the email preparation with all the forms and get that sent to clients for me and it’s just one less thing that I have to think about.
I’m still getting the emails with the feedback itself so I’m still reading all of my client feedback first hand and that way I know how to proceed with the project but it’s all of that kind of “in-between” work conveying that information to clients, setting it up in an email, and getting it sent that doesn’t necessarily have to be handled by me. Now of course client communication in terms of if there’s an issue with their website or if there’s something else that they wanna discuss with me, maybe they have some add-ons that they wanna have in addition to their project, and of course those emails are going to me and I am responding to those. I don’t really like there to be an in-between with that sort of client communication because there is a lot of one on one work that I do with my clients. We also have the opportunity for clients to set up meetings with me so if they would rather give their feedback in a meeting they can do that. So of course, that kind of communication is just between myself and the client. But again, all of that kind of backend workflow type situation that I don’t necessarily need to have a hand in can be outsourced.
So I encourage you if you have anything in your own business that you’re trying to make a bit more streamlined in your process and make it easier for your clients I highly recommend looking into getting an assistant that can alleviate some of that pressure from you to switch gears away from your creative process. Because it can be extremely hard to get back into a creative mindset after you’ve had to set up a bunch of forms and emailed a bunch of people. To me it’s kind of two different parts of my brain so it’s nice to have Shayne handle that part of my brain!
Another thing that I outsource for a lot of my projects is junior graphic design work. There are a couple of things that the junior designer helps me with. One is the client mock ups, so for a lot of my projects (branding or web design) there are mock ups involved just to show off to the client exactly how their brand can come to life. A lot of people need to see a visible representation of what I’m trying to explain to them. So if I’m showing them a bunch of their brand elements but we know that they’re going to be using these brand elements in a store type situation, I obviously want to have some mock ups for bags and hang tags and tissue paper and gift cards and all of that sort of thing. Now I do like to put together a lot of the mock ups myself, but what I outsource to my junior designer is I have them hunt for the perfect mock ups to use. So if we have kind of a moodier brand maybe I want them to look for a certain type of bag that’s a little more modern or you know a little bit more high-end or some thing like that. If we’re dealing with a very natural BoHo brand, maybe I want them to find hangtags that have ribbon or twine or some thing you know a bit more BoHo involved! Hunting on creative market or on the Internet for great mock ups is just time out of my day that I could still be creating more brand content for the client so to be able to have a junior designer that can spend that time and find the perfect mock ups for our project saves me time! And again, it’s not some thing that I necessarily have to do myself. I totally trust my junior designer to find mock ups that work for the project especially after I’ve already gone over the project brief and they understand what the brand assets are.
My junior designer also helps me a lot with additional branding assets, so typically I will do the brand strategy, the art direction, and design the initial concepts for the main logo. We will have a set direction for the logo itself and I will start designing any additional things like patterns or tags or gift cards, things like that but I outsource any additional branding things to my junior designer, usually in the form of sub logos. Since there are a lot of logos that go into a brand, especially if the brand has a storefront, needs a lot of different variations, or needs tag lines. So after I have establish the strategy and creative direction with the client, I then go over that with my junior designer and then they can start designing up brand assets based on the main logo direction that we’re heading in so that I can present the sub marks along with the main logo. Or if the main logo has already been approved, I can present the sub marks at a later date. Now every project is different, some projects need even additional brand assets outside of that like watercolor washes are really common with a lot of my clients or little sketches or something like that. Some of those things I will outsource, but some of them I won’t and it just depends on the amount of work that my junior designer is taking on for that specific project and that’s usually decided upon earlier before we even start the project. So just depending on what that workload looks like I will outsource even more of those branding additions and I always try to give credit when I’m posting something from a project that my junior designer has helped me on.
I had the wonderful help of my dear friend, Sydney, working as a junior designer for me last year but I’m always on the lookout for junior designers that have availability in their schedule or would just like some experience so if you’re ever interested in that if you’re evr interested in that and also a designer you can feel free to reach out to me and we can chat about that as well!
Finally, the main thing that I’m going to be outsourcing in 2022 that I didn’t do in 2021 is actually podcast dictation! Right now as I’m speaking, I also have my iPad listening and it is typing everything out for me. But of course, it doesn’t get everything correct and it does not put in punctuation so that is something that I would usually go through and edit myself in order to put it into a blog post. But after talking to my lovely assistant Shayne, she decided that that was not something that I needed to be spending my time on and she would be more than happy to do! So every time you see a blog post with a podcast now, most likely Shayne will have edited that for me and will have made some sense out of my rambling in order for you to read it if you would just prefer to read it! Now, to be totally honest this was not even something that I even considered outsourcing just because I thought “well the podcast is something that I want to do, the blog posts are something that I’ve always done in this business” and it just didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me. But when I was telling her in one of our meetings this year that it just takes me so long – like a ridiculous amount of time! It’s like an hour and a half to go through and edit even like a 30 minute podcast episode – and she was like “you don’t need to be doing that! No, I can handle that for you!” and she is definitely listening to this right now and probably nodding and laughing as I’m even talking about this (it went down exactly like this!!).
But it just goes to show that there are things in your business that maybe you don’t even realize you’re spending a lot of time on until maybe you’re saying out loud to someone else “that took me way longer than it should have” and maybe that’s a sign of something that you should think about outsourcing. Because honestly, especially running a business by yourself there’s just so many things that can be a time sink that you end up spending a lot of your time fiddling with or trying to plan out and you just don’t have to! I mean of course, it does cost money to outsource things, but I think that it’s totally worth it. Anything that is saving you time is also actually saving you money in your business because if you can save time with all the things that you don’t enjoy (or maybe you’re not even very good at) in your business. Then you can spend more time honing your skills getting better at the thing that your clients are actually paying you for and in the long run that’s going to make your business better overall and lead to more income! So this is one of those things that it is an investment, but that’s just it – an investment in your business is going to pay off in the long run and that’s certainly what I have found.
I was really scared to outsource some of these things last year, but I found that by outsourcing them I was able to take on more client work. I was also able to take more time off and I was able to take some of the pressure off of myself to feel like I had to do all the things and that I had to do them perfectly. That’s huge for me because as I’ve said, I’m a perfectionist and I tend to overthink things. I definitely tend to over analyze the steps that I’m making in my business or if I’m doing the right thing. All of those kinds of things I’m sure that some of you can relate! So having someone else to take some of that pressure off and say “yes this is the direction you need to go” and “yes this is what we need to be doing for your clients” will just give you so much more freedom within your business and within your skill set to explore and create more for your clients, and for your business, and do the things that you love to do!
So don’t be afraid to invest in your business. I know everyone says that, and it’s easier said than done because it is scary to hire on someone or to bring someone on maybe before you feel like you’re ready. But I have just found that every investment in my business – whether that is courses, outsourcing, you name it – has benefited me in some way. Or if it hasn’t benefited me in the way that I expected, it usually has taught me something about my business or things that could be better. So again I think it’s a win-win.
There are still things that I probably could outsource in my business. Actually, last year I also outsourced my social media engagement and I haven’t decided if I’m gonna do that again this year just because there’s a part of me that wants to keep social media and this podcast very personal. I want to have that genuine connection with people and I wasn’t sure if having someone else comment for me and try to essentially “be me” on social media made sense in how I run my business overall. But I’m still trying to be very intentional with my social media this year. I have more of a plan this year than I really have ever had and I know a lot of people like to outsource their social media because they just don’t enjoy it and that is totally valid. I don’t necessarily really enjoy it either, but I also know that I like to leave really long winded comments on peoples social media posts. So you know if you’ve ever received a comment from me and it’s like several sentences long, that’s just how I like to handle social media! I don’t like superfluous relationships, I like to build really deep and connecting relationships! So that part of my outsourcing I’ve actually kind of reigned back in this year. I don’t know, that could change once I get going in the year and I start to get tired with client work. Maybe social media might not be a priority then and I want to outsource that again.
A great thing about outsourcing (or really any business decision) is you can change your mind! You’re the one that is running your business, you’re the one that is deciding what’s best for your business, so even if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking “well, I don’t wanna outsource any of those things that Catryn just talked about” that is totally fine! It is your business to run the way that you want to run it. And maybe there are things that you can think of while you’re listening to this that you do want to outsource that I haven’t even touched on. there are so many creative entrepreneurs and people out there that are just a wealth of knowledge and resources to use to help your business so you know don’t be afraid to even just reach out to someone if you’re interested in their services and seeing what they could do to help your business because even just talking to them could give you an idea of things in your business that maybe you could outsource that you may not of even thought about yet. Like the podcast dictation that I hadn’t even thought about outsourcing until Shayne and I were talking about it together! So be open to communicating with people that could help your business I guess is what I’m trying to say! But all in all, I’m really excited for what 2022 is going to bring my way and I hope that you guys have a lot of fun stuff lined up as well!
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to my breakdown of how I am going into this year and how I’m planning for 2020, go and listen to the previous podcast episode because things are different this year for my business for sure! I’m just trying to approach everything in business a bit differently I want to open myself back up to just the creative process and exploring what my business could be and not what I feel like it has to be. All in all, enjoy the process of figuring out what works best for your business – that’s kind of what 2022 is all about over here at Sweet Horizon Studio!
I’d also love to hear from you if there’s anything that you specifically outsource in your business that you think I would like to hear about or if you have any questions about outsourcing and my experience with working with a junior designer or an assistant send me a DM or a comment on Instagram and let’s chat about it
Overall I hope that 2022 brings a lot of peace and positivity to your business and that this is a year that you can expand and explore all of your options within the entrepreneurial journey!