Personal Branding and Outsourcing
So much of building a personal brand involves showing up and being yourself. And you can’t do that if you’re drowning in back-end work! This is a huge struggle for people who want to bring more of themselves into their business, but are being stretched way too thin by the day to day. But there is an answer, and the answer is outsourcing!
I started outsourcing in my photography business when I was pregnant with my daughter, over two years ago, and I’ll never go back. It’s been an absolute game changer in shifting my focus to what I actually NEED to be doing, and getting other things, like busy-work, off my plate.
Listen, as solopreneurs, we are building our business babies all by our lonesome, and the thought of handing any piece of that over to someone else can send you into a full-blown panic attack. I get it. But the key to scaling is in making sure that you’re not just working IN your business, but you’re working ON your business. Stop thinking of yourself as a taskmaster in your business and start thinking of yourself as the CEO you are! If you’re ready to grow, listen up. Let’s talk outsourcing.
My First Outsource
The first thing that I outsourced in my photography business was editing. Now, I know this is specific to photography, but I want to talk about it because when I mention to other photographers that I outsource my editing, the responses I get are easily applicable in other industries. At the end of the day, people are shocked that I’m giving up such creative control over what would be considered my ‘art.’ They can’t believe that I would let someone else do something that is such a big part of the look and feel of my business. They can’t imagine giving up that kind of control.
I want to break this down for you: I absolutely, 150%, do not feel like I am giving up any control over my editing style. My editor, Sarah, literally takes edits that I’ve already done, and applies them to other images. She also uses presets that I’ve created and sent to her to match my overall editing style. AND she does amazing things like flag photos that are out of focus, or where people are blinking that I may have missed. She is a lifesaver and SO MUCH FASTER than I am when it comes to editing.
(Photographers, if you’re interested in hiring an editor, I can’t recommend Sarah enough. However, if you’re looking for a different style, I found her through www.edit-source.com and had a great experience!)
I want to point something out: often times, we as creatives have the limiting belief that only we can do something to the caliber that we expect it to be. We are perfectionists. But this is a belief that is only going to slow you down. You have got to loosen the reins if you expect to grow.
The reality is, there are people who can do things in our business better and faster than we can. And let me ask you: what is the worst that can happen if it’s not EXACTLY the way you would have done it? I have NEVER had a client who has looked at a photo that I’ve delivered and said, “Hm, I think this is a little too magenta. Could you please adjust the tint on these five photos?” Our clients don’t see those things!
We can get completely obsessed with the tiny details that truly don’t make that much of a difference, when we could be focusing on things that actually DO make a difference; like client experience. I will tell you right now, my clients are far more likely to be thrilled with their images if I make their session as fun as a birthday party and get their images back sooner than I said I would, than if I spend an extra day making sure their edits are 100% “perfect” – and what the heck is perfect anyway!?
What Are You Avoiding?
Are there things in your business that you’re holding so tightly to with the belief that only you can do them? Maybe it’s editing; maybe it’s album design. What about your email communication, social media posts, bookkeeping, or website maintenance? If you’re not sure, think about this: what are you avoiding? Do you find yourself constantly saying, “I’m months behind on blogging,” or “I’m so sorry this email is late!”
I will be totally honest, email communication is something that has really fallen off the rails for me lately, so I know it’s the next thing that I need to outsource to my girl, Kensi. It feels scary to hand off something that has always been MY VOICE, but there is so much that can be done to make sure that it still sounds like me. We’ve already created email templates (we love Gmail canned responses), so I know it’s possible and I just need to take my own advice and loosen the reins. I would so much rather have clients that are cared for and communicated with in a timeline fashion by someone else, than have them waiting on me for days on end.
Outsource What Works for YOU
I think where people often go wrong when it comes to outsourcing, is thinking they need to outsource the same thing as their business bestie, or someone they look up to. But that’s not the case at all!
For example, maybe your social media is giving you hives because you haven’t updated it in six months. Would handing that over to a virtual assistant make you feel better? Than do it! Just because I am not outsourcing my social media (besides a few scheduled blog posts + Pinterest posts that Kensi totally rocks), doesn’t mean you can’t! I personally love spending time posting and connecting on Instagram. It’s a bright spot in my day, so I don’t want it off my plate. But my email inbox? That’s a dumpster fire. I’ll outsource that all day long! Think of the things YOU don’t like doing, and don’t worry about anyone else.
Start with $10/Tasks
If you’re hung up on the fact that you’ll be paying someone else to do something that you’re perfectly capable of doing, let me remind you of this: your business is going nowhere if you’re stuck doing $10 an hour tasks. What’s a $10 an hour task? Just like it sounds, this is a task that you can pay someone $10/hour for.
Email communication, client coordination, file organization, website SEO, show notes, scheduling … Getting these smaller tasks off your plate so you can focus on the bigger picture things that only YOU can do, is the best way to start moving your business forward.
Think about what your business would look like if you weren’t stuck managing a to-do list of a million items every day. Or if you didn’t have to start every Monday with an email inbox of hundreds of messages. I’m willing to bet that’s a few hours of extra time that you could then use to work on those $100/hour task, like long-term goal setting, strategy, and **maybe** even getting ahead so you don’t constantly feel like you’re running to catch up. Sounds dreamy right!?
Where to Find a VA
OK, so if you’re listening to this thinking, well this sounds great, Maddie, but where the heck do I start? Or maybe you’ve identified the areas where you need help, but you feel like you need to get things in better order before bringing someone else into your biz. Stop right there! You can literally start asking for help RIGHT NOW. There is no need to get things in better order; that’s just coming up with another excuse.
Instead, head to Google, and start searching for virtual assistants. Ask your business buddies if they have anyone they’d recommend as a VA.
Need a VA? Get in touch with my friend Lindsey (she helped me out this summer when Kensi had her baby!), or check out Rock Solid Virtual Assistants. Kensi is also looking to add another client for a few more hours and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also head to a Facebook group that you’re apart of (may I recommend the Take It Personally Podcast group? But seriously there are a million!), and start searching for the term “virtual assistant.” They are much easier to find than you think, and they are PROS at coming into a business that’s a little disjointed and bringing calm to the chaos.
Start Where You Are
Let me give you an example. For months now, I’ve been in the process of switching email marketing platforms. In theory, this is as easy as exporting a subscriber list from one platform, and importing it to another. But after I really got into it, I realize it wasn’t that easy at all. I have free downloads on my website that place the subscriber into what’s called a drip campaign, that either serves free content or sells products or services, every single week. All of those automations, that were painstakingly built in my current email platform, had to be transferred over, too.
And then I started thinking about the people in the automation that weren’t done with the automation yet, but still needed to be transferred over, and would that mean I’m stopping one automation just to start another, and will they get mad at me and unsubscribe aaaaaaaand yeah. It was enough to make my head spin.
I spent weeks trying to figure out how to do this on my own, but honestly, even though it was something that needed to be done, it wasn’t a priority. Whenever I was trying to figure it out, I was always trying to do 19 other things. As you can imagine, nothing was getting done.
So what did I do? I headed to the Facebook group of this email platform and asked, Is there anyone in this group who has done an email migration from email marketing platform #1, to email marketing platform #2? Super specific, but I knew that if I was going to find someone, I was in the right place. Within minutes I had multiple comments from people who not only had done exactly what I was asking before, but also had time in their schedules to do mine for me.
I started messaging with one of the people and after a few quick questions, she estimated that the project would be under $300 and she’d have it done by Monday. DONE. Yes, that’s $300 out of my pocket. But it’s WEEKS back on my calendar that I don’t have to think about this migration, and instead I can use that time to move my business forward … now with a totally done-for-me email platform. And that, my friend, is a major win.
If bringing someone into your business still freaks you out, start with something small, like my email project. It’s a great way to get to know someone a little better, and figure out if you jive. Plus, then you’re only committing to the cost of the project, not a weekly or monthly line item in your budget. BUT, if you get along great and they totally impress you, I’m willing to bet there are a few other things you could send their way if you wanted to continue the relationship.
Personal Life Outsourcing
After all this, maybe you’re still just not quite there. The thought of outsourcing is starting to get you excited, but you don’t feel like you’re quite ready, or you don’t have enough work to be outsourced. BUT you still find yourself wishing for more time in the day. Let’s talk about what else is possible when it comes to outsourcing.
If you’re like me, a messy house makes you insane. If I’ve had a stressful week and I come home to a sink full of dishes and toys all over the living room and four weeks worth of laundy, I’m going to end up showing a side of myself that I’m not proud of. It’s just who I am.
Because of this, outsourcing house keeping has been a game changer at my house. We have someone come every other week to clean bathrooms and floors, and then do whatever else needs to be done in the span of two or three hours. Sometimes it’s laundry, sometimes it’s organizing, sometimes it’s doing some deep cleaning. She honestly keeps my house together, and the fact that Jeff and I no longer feel like we need to spend every Saturday morning on our hands and knees scrubbing floor boards (ok, we never did that, but you get the idea…) well, it’s been seriously helpful in our marriage, too.
So yes, you can start by outsourcing some of your household chores and still use that time to work on your business. Or heck, even just to take a break! Hire a housekeeper, have your groceries delivered (this is seriously so inexpensive and will probably save you money because you aren’t aimlessly wandering the aisles), get a middle school kid to mow your lawn or pick up dog poop, use a service like HelloFresh or a local meal delivery company to make your meals once or twice a week to free up that time. Don’t be afraid to trade a little bit of money for time or SANITY back in your day. If you use it wisely, it will pay off ten fold.
Tools and Subscriptions for Outsourcing
One more thing I want to mention if you’re ready to get your feet wet when it comes to outsourcing – look at the tools and subscriptions you are using. I mentioned at the beginning of this episode that I started outsourcing two years ago, but really, if we count when I started using a CRM, it was way before that. My CRM, or customer relationship manager, is seriously the tool that keeps my business running. It manages all of my clients, their projects, contracts, invoices, communication, and even some bookkeeping.
Here’s an example of when a CRM can seriously change your life. Take for example, a wedding photography client. The lifespan of wedding photography client can be pretty long. Typically I’m booking those people 6-18 months before their wedding even happens. Imagine how it would feel on the client’s end to hand over a bunch of money to someone you’ve maybe never met, and then basically never hear from them until the week before your wedding. Not great, right? But when you’re managing a lot of clients, it’s not super realistic to think that you can reach out to every single person on a weekly basis.
Enter, a CRM. I use a program called Dubsado, and I can set up what are called workflows for different types of clients. It can complete automate the client onboarding process for me. What this means is after the contract is signed and retainer is paid, I can set it up so the client gets weekly or monthly check ins from me; and I don’t have to remember to send them!
These can be simple touch points to say hello, blog articles I recommend they read in prep for their wedding day, or even emails asking when they’d like to set up their timeline appointment. If it’s a family session client, I can set up an automation that first sends over a blog post about what to wear for family photos, and then a week before their session sends a reminder email. The day before their session, I can set up another email to remind them when and where to meet me. Again, I set all of this up ONE time, and it can be applied to any client I want. Talk about a time saver!
I’ve been using a CRM for over five years and I honestly have no idea what I did before. If you’re still using paper contracts or excel spreadsheets and it doesn’t feel like it’s working anymore, I highly recommend giving a CRM a try.
I’ve trialed quite a few, and in my opinion, Dubsado really can’t be beat. It is a powerful tool when it comes to automation, and it saves me so much time! Plus, it’s so nice to have everything in one place, easily searchable. If you want to give it a try, use the code maddiepeschongphoto to get 20% off your first month or year subscription. AND, you can actually use Dubsado for free for your first three clients. You seriously have nothing to lose, and a ton of time to gain.
I know that asking for help can feel really vulnerable, but I promise you, it is incredible worth it. Your homework this week is to take a look at your business and figure out where you could get things off your plate. Think about the things you hate doing, or the things you’re avoiding. AND think about what you LOVE doing, and what it would feel like to do more of that.
Then, get to work. Head to Facebook groups, make friends with Google, ask your buddies and research a good VA or project manager to give you a hand, whether it’s just to help with a small project or to work with on an ongoing basis. You know that quote, we’ve all got the same hours in the day as Beyonce? Well Beyonce has HELP, you guys! She’s not doing it all herself, and you don’t have to either. Be like Beyonce. You’ll be better for it, I swear.