As a business owner, my “to-do” list is more like a book than a list. I start my day looking over this list for both inspiration and to get a handle on what I need to be working on that day. This exercise is typically followed by a long sigh and then a moment of panic when I realize there is just too much to do. Networking, writing articles, making phone calls, meetings, budgeting, podcast, videos, research,… there is no way I’m ever getting this done. Then I spiral down the path of wondering what I was thinking with this whole “business” idea and how maybe I should reconsider getting, you know, a job.
Thankfully, this is followed up with another version of myself, who laughs at that idea, then reminds me that there is no “can’t”, there is only a “how”. So I remember my yoga breathing and tell myself to focus on one task at a time. I browse the list again, pick out a few tasks that really should get done sooner rather than later, and ask myself “how, will I get this done?”.
While it is great advice to organize your list and have a plan of action, the reality is there may really be too much for you to do on your own. Especially when you realize that a lot of what might be on that list is task-oriented work that an entry-level assistant can do for a fraction of the cost. In both business and life, I have found there are two kinds of people; those who try to do everything themselves, convinced they are saving money by doing so, and those who realize they are better off spending their time focusing on what they do best, then make enough money to pay other people to do what they do best. I advocate for the latter.
Why You Should Spend Rather Than Save
Here’s an example of why the second option is better. Suppose you are a consultant and you charge $125 per hour for your services. In order to earn this hourly rate, you need to be spending that time meeting with clients, or working on their projects and billing them for your time. Perhaps you meet with a client for an hour, then spend the next three hours working on their website. You just earned $500.
However, if you go with the first option, instead of working on billable time, you spend those four hours writing a blog post, looking at potential seminars to attend, and finding someone to do the artwork for your new book. None of that was billable time, so you worked for four hours and earned nothing.
You could have hired a copywriter to write the blog post for around $50, or better yet, if you hired a marketing assistant, they could have written the post, spent time researching seminars, and found a graphic designer for you. All of this at their rate of $20 an hour ($35 cost to you as an employer considering payroll and overhead costs.).
And because your marketing assistant is a specialist in marketing, they were able to do this more efficiently than you, and instead of the four hours it took you, they were able to do it in three. So you spend $105, but you gained the freedom to spend your time doing what you do best, while earning $500, giving you a net profit of $395. I think we would agree that netting $395 is better than netting $0.
Yes, You Can Afford It
I know at this point you are thinking, “yes, I get this money concept, but I can’t afford it.” Maybe you are just starting out and barely making ends meet. But can you afford to continue giving up at least half of your day to work on tasks that generate NO revenue?
So I go back to my initial statement, “there is no can’t, there is only a how.” So how can you afford an employee when you don’t have enough money? Here are a few suggestions:
Who To Hire
Hire a Graduate Student
There are plenty of graduate students who are looking for part-time work in the field that they have chosen, rather than a minimum wage job working outside of their field. They want experience, something worthwhile on their resume, and better money than what they can get elsewhere.
They would be eager to have the opportunity to work for you, and learn from you. And they are willing to do the task-oriented work with enthusiasm.
Hire a Freelancer
If you fear the commitment of an employee, start with a freelancer. With websites such as Upwork (which I have used, myself), you can browse hundreds of qualified people who can work for you at reasonable rates. Another benefit to this, you can hire multiple people to perform greatly different tasks.
If you want to publish a podcast, there are audio engineers who will do the technical work for you. If you need someone to do administrative tasks, like scheduling and phone calls, there are assistants who will do that. You can piece-meal your projects until you have enough work, and revenue, to hire an employee.
Hire Part-Time, with Potential For Full-Time
There are plenty of people looking for part-time work, due to family and other commitments. You could list a position that starts part-time, explain to the potential employee that you are building your business and you are starting small, but plan to have more work in the future. You may find the perfect match of someone looking for exactly what you are offering.
While these are some suggestions with a tight budget, there is also the opportunity of getting funding. According to Inc. Magazine’s article “Finally A Financing Strategy That Favors Women” in July 2014, research shows that women get only 19 percent of angel investing and six percent of venture funding, which greatly inhibits a woman’s ability to grow a business. There are many possible reasons as to why this is the case, but perhaps one of them is that women aren’t asking for money.
You don’t need a huge business to get business funding. Consider getting a small loan from a local bank that you could use towards hiring an employee (or two) so that you can grow your business. Not only would this help you, but you are also adding jobs to your community. Simply prepare a solid business plan detailing how you are going to make money after hiring these employees, and present it to the bank. You may need to approach several banks before getting a “yes”, but that’s business.
You could consider a variety of other options for funding, as well. There are grants for women business owners through non-profit and government organizations. You can find out more regarding government funding through the SBA (Small Business Administration) Office of Women’s Business Ownership. There are also awards that you can apply for through various business and women’s organizations. Check out these grants mentioned in Entrepreneur Magazine.
There is money out there to support women in business; you just need to find it. And while it may take some time to get it, in the end, it will be well worth it because it will give you the opportunity to grow your business and do what you love, rather than spin in circles while you spend too much time working on tasks that don’t pay you a dime.