How to Use Personal Outsourcing to Increase Your Freelance Income and Double Your Time Off

I remember it like it was yesterday.

We were new parents and our newborn baby boy had a severe case of reflux. He was in pain, constantly crying and waking up six to eight times every night.

My wife had very little time for herself. She was exhausted. I did everything I could to help out in the evenings and on weekends, but my demanding job at the time prevented me from helping more during the day.

One day, as my wife vented her frustrations to a friend, the perfect solution to our dilemma emerged. My wife's friend simply asked her, "Why don't you just hire a housecleaner? You'll have one less thing to worry about."

It was such a simple idea. But (and I hate to admit this) we'd never thought of it!

That very day we found a housecleaning company. I still remember how great it felt to have someone take that burden away from us.

Shortly after that, I started taking a home-study copywriting course. But I had only weekends to work on the course assignments. With all my other personal responsibilities, something had to give. I'm not very fond of yard work, so I hired a lawn-care service. That alone saved me two to three hours every weekend - time I desperately needed!

Launching, growing and running a successful freelance business is no easy feat. There are only so many hours in a day! You can't expect to do it all. And if you try, you'll crash and burn out sooner or later.

That's why one of the biggest secrets to succeeding as a freelancer is to outsource both personal and business tasks you're not fond of, especially if someone else can do them for less.

In fact, if you learn how to strategically outsource some of these tasks, you'll not only free up a tremendous amount of time for billable work, but you'll also have more time for yourself, your family and other personal interests.

A Sign of Laziness?

Now, some may say that paying someone else to take care of some of your personal or business responsibilities is a sign of laziness. I completely disagree. The idea behind personal outsourcing is to farm out tasks that you do not enjoy AND that add little or no value to your life. Tasks that, if outsourced, could add productive time to your busy week.

If you would rather mow your own lawn because you enjoy being outside getting fresh air, then by all means do it. If you don't mind making runs to the post office because it gets you out of the house occasionally, then go for it!

But if you hate doing those things - and you'd rather be working on billable work, spending more time with your family or enjoying more leisure time - then why not at least consider having someone else help you?

Sure, outsourcing some of these tasks costs money. But don't just focus on the costs. Think about the benefits. If you're pressed for time and you're earning (or soon will be earning) $50 or more an hour, isn't it worth outsourcing tasks that someone else can do for much less (say, for $15 an hour)?

Better yet, if your kids are old enough to help around the house, outsource some of these duties to them!

Here are 15 outsourcing ideas that could help you boost your freelance income and increase your free time:

Personal Tasks

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We're still outsourcing our housecleaning and lawn care. My wife works part time and we now have two kids to take care of (including a baby). Plus, we don't enjoy those chores anyway. We'd rather spend our free time on other, more rewarding activities. No, it's not cheap, but it's reasonable and well worth it.

Home Repair/Handyman

My "honey do" list grew out of proportion a couple of years ago. So I hired a handyman to work on some of the higher-priority projects on that list. And recently, my retired father-in-law, who loves to work on projects around the house, has tackled some of the more labor-intensive jobs. He does great work and loves doing it, and my wife is happy that we're (finally!) getting these projects done.

Local Errands

Standing in line at the post office is about the most counterproductive activity I can think of. So I order postage stamps over the Internet. And I pay my sister $12 an hour to take my packages and important letters to the post office. (If you live in the U.S., check out Craigslist.com for people who are willing to run your errands for $10 or less per hour.)

Shopping

Office Depot will deliver orders over $50. But even if I have to pay, say, $7 for shipping, it's a bargain when compared with driving to the store, standing in line and driving back home. But why stop there? A local car wash will pick up my car, wash and detail it, and bring it back. A dry cleaner will pick up our clothes, launder them and deliver them the next day. In some cities, local supermarkets will even deliver your groceries to you!

Business Tasks

Tax Preparation

The U.S. tax code is 67,000 pages long, and other industrialized nations' tax codes aren't much better (in terms of complexity). I wouldn't even think of filling out my own tax returns. If you don't have one already, hire a good accountant today. It'll be money well spent. Just recently, I also started outsourcing my bookkeeping (yet another activity I can't stand!). I can't tell you how relieved I feel now that someone else is handling that task - and how much time that has freed up for me!

Sales Leads

Do you find yourself putting off your marketing efforts because you hate prospecting? If so, you may want to consider hiring an experienced virtual assistant or prospecting expert to help you out. When it comes to lead generation for professional services, the best approach I've found is to use a combination of direct mail and phone.

First, send out your letters. Then have your assistant call all recipients to try to schedule an appointment (or phone call) for you. Not only will you save time, you'll also be giving the task to someone who might be more experienced and effective. Plus, to some prospects, it can make your business appear bigger and more impressive.

Prospect Research

Similarly, when you have to assemble your mailing list for your marketing campaign, you can hire an assistant to help you collect the necessary information and even verify all the names and addresses for accuracy. This might seem like a waste of time, but if you're trying to put together a very targeted campaign - or if you're sending out an expensive dimensional mailer - list accuracy can pay off.

Mailing Campaign Help

Folding and stuffing letters is very labor intensive. So why not recruit family members to help you out? You'll get it done in a fraction of the time and they'll be glad to contribute. Last year, we drove to Florida to visit some family. I took 300 letters, envelopes and postage stamps with me and had a group of eight relatives help me fold, stuff, seal and stamp all 300 letters. We were done in only 45 minutes!

Vacation Coverage

Go on vacation and forget about the long list of emails and voice mails that will be there waiting for you when you get back! A virtual assistant can check both your email and voice mail while you're away. He or she can summarize and prioritize voice mail messages into one document and even respond to urgent requests, if needed. When you get back to the office, you return to a manageable environment, not chaos!

Gifts and Cards

We all want to show our appreciation to our good clients during the holidays. But taking time to find and ship (or personally deliver) appropriate gifts can be extremely time-consuming. If you find yourself in this situation, why not get some help?

Don't worry, it doesn't need to be a stranger. Ask your spouse or another family member to help you shop for and deliver your gifts. Provide spending guidelines, office addresses and driving directions. You can even ask him or her to address and mail your pre-signed greeting cards and run them to the post office.

Personal Tech Support and Help Desk

As a writer and consultant, my laptop is arguably my most important work-related tool. But that doesn't mean I know everything about how it works and how to fix it. So I outsource my tech support to a remote help desk. And I'm about to outsource physical repair services to a local IT pro who does house calls. I don't mind paying these specialists for their services because, again, we're talking about a piece of equipment critical to my business.

Transcriptions

If you have to interview people for a living, it pays to record the conversation (with the other party's permission, of course). Trouble is, going back to the recording to find specific information can be a hassle.

That's where a transcription service comes in handy. A skilled transcriber can convert a one-hour interview into text in a day or two. And once you have the transcript, you can easily use the "Find" feature in your word processing program to locate key words and get to the information you need quickly.

Data Entry

If you need a lot of data entered, a typist with excellent data entry skills can take on the task for you, saving you countless hours and a ton of frustration. Maybe the information you need is available only in a printout but you need it in a Word document. Or maybe you have a big stack of business cards that need to be entered into your prospect database. In either case, a skilled typist can save you a great deal of time.

Scheduling Appointments and Reservations

Setting appointments and keeping up with a busy schedule can be overwhelming. And that's one area where a good virtual assistant can help. He or she can schedule appointments for you (both personal and for business), handle schedule changes, make travel arrangements (or at least do most of the research for you) or even find a great restaurant and make reservations.

Hey ... don't knock it until you try it!

Personal Driver

My colleague Pete Savage recently told me a great story about how he managed to turn a bad situation into an opportunity. Turns out that his car broke down on the morning of a very busy day. He had a very important client meeting scheduled, followed by a doctor's appointment he couldn't cancel. So instead of bailing out, Pete paid his college-age nephew to be his personal driver for the day. Not only was he able to keep both appointments, but as his nephew drove him around town, Pete used the idle time to get caught up with his email and calls through his smartphone.

 
As you can see, the possibilities of personal outsourcing are limited only by your imagination. Again, do what feels right to you. Do only what will add value to your business and make your life less stressful. Keep the tasks that are core to your business or that you enjoy doing.

At the end of the day, the goal is NOT to squeeze every possible billable hour out of your week. It's about keeping your sanity by letting others help you. That way, you can get more billable work done AND have more free time. There's no right or wrong. YOU make the rules!

I mean , isn't that why you became a freelancer in the first place?


  • Arava Glam

    recently i started to look for second income online and i found few sites like koocam.
    its works great for me, and i will definitely will apply some of those tips.
    thank u

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  • Very interesting and helpful article as always, Ed! Would you consider writing a follow-up to this piece, an "Outsourcing 102" bit? I've finally learned the value of outsourcing and am using a VA, and am now in the phase where I'm trying to train myself to recognize more tasks I can turn over to her instead of just doing them myself. It's not easy. Figuring out that next level of tasks beyond the obvious (like checking email, setting up phone calls, posting to WordPress, etc.) is challenging, as is creating those systems one sometimes needs when training another individual to perform tasks you've always "just done."

    • Thanks, Allyson! You bet, I'd love to do a follow-up piece on this. In fact, if you don't mind, I'd love to use you as one of the examples. My business manager, Crystal, also has some great content on the "business systems" and "operational procedures" side of things. So I think all this would make for a very insightful episode. Thanks for suggesting it!

  • Lynda

    Great ideas, Ed! Do you have any resources for finding good tech support for tasks like uploading blog posts to WordPress, helping with the technicalities of Facebook etc..., at a reasonable cost? The people I know who do this well are really busy and/or very expensive. Would a good VA do these tasks? Where do you find them? Thanks!

    • Hey Lynda. My VA handles exactly these tasks for me, among others. She charges $35/hr.

  • Helenscribe

    Full of great ideas--especially the use of a virtual assistant. I've used outsourcing when I first started out when a client needed something that wasn't top of my own skills list. Not only does it work, you make more money with less stress. Super article.

  • Marc Berenson

    Thanks.  A stroke of genius and so simple.  I've been meaning to go in this direction for months.
    Gives me more confidence to move forward in this area, as I respect the well thought out concepts and examples.

    Marc B

    • Thanks, Marc! Glad it was helpful.

  • Geovanny

    No lo habría pensado de esa manera. Muy bueno para tomarlo en cuenta.

  • Ed, I'm so with you on the need to outsource. I'm in the throes of thinking about how to use a VA and hiring one right now. Sometimes the biggest hump is the planning and systematizing so you can hand it over to someone else. But I'm glad for your words of encouragement.

    However, I differ with you on the household tasks idea. My preference is to do this kind of work since I do get satisfaction from it and it's a great part of my exercise routine. It's also my way to get away from the computer and look up. Fortunately, unlike you, I've got older children who can pitch in more and help out.  And I do outsource more to them. But I have to say, as a fellow copywriter, I've found some terrific headlines in the woodpile, hanging up clothes on the line, and while cleaning the bathroom. Sometimes your brain needs some space from the computer and biz tasks to really percolate.

    • Hi Sarah -- Thanks for your comment! Let me be clear on that. I'm not suggesting you shouldn't do household tasks. I'm saying that if they take up a lot of time AND you hate to do them, then consider outsourcing some of them. Otherwise, keep 'em -- especially if you also get those kinds of benefits from them (very cool, btw!). 😉

      For instance, I have friends up north who LOVE doing yard work because they have about 3 or 4 months of warm weather every year -- that's it. So they want to be outside all the time when it's warm. But where I live it gets so oppressively HOT in July and August that I would rather someone else take that away from me. (Plus after mowing lawns since I was 10, I'm pretty sick of it :-/ )

      You're on target. It's all about knowing why you're keeping (or outsourcing) those key tasks. No right or wrong answer.

  • Rachel

    This is a good article. Sometimes, you don't realize how much outsourcing can benefit you until you start doing it. I hired a business manager a few months ago. The day I hired her, I got a call from a potential client whose regular copywriter flaked out on him. He was concerned about my reliability and turnaround times, so I told him that I just hired a business manager so I can focus more on my clients. He was very impressed. Within 30 minutes, I received a signed contract back from him. Having a team makes you look more professional.  

    • Wow, love that, Rachel! Thanks for sharing that.

    • Rachel, could you be more specific in terms of what your new business manager does for you, and how much this person charges (a range of what to expect would be fine if you're squeamish about giving real figures)?

      • Jumping in here, as I'm an online business manager and love educating anyone who will listen about our industry!  I work with my clients in support of their business operations - managing their team of VAs and freelancers, systems planning and implementation, project planning & management (including product launches, events).  Basically, I take care of the business operations so that my clients are free to concentrate on the things that only they can do - like coaching, speaking, product development.  More information on online business managers can be found here: http://www.obmconnect.com/hire/

  • Stan, Margaret, Amy -- Glad to hear you enjoyed the info. Thanks for your comments!

  • Thank you for highlighting how valuable time is for the busy freelancer and how they can reclaim valuable time by outsourcing many of their tasks.  When you partner with a Virtual Assistant, they can help you build your business by taking those tasks off your plate. They can also save you money because you are only paying for time spent on tasks and not for benefits, vacation/sick/holiday time, employment taxes, etc.

  • Amy

    I finally called someone here in my area who does housecleaning. Much as I prefer to do it myself, I need some help tidying up. Let's see how this goes.

  • Stan Robinson

    I enjoyed this article and need to do more of the above myself. While watching costs it is easy to forget the value of our own time as well as the value of reduced stress in our lives. Thanks.