Oops. In April, I wrote a blog post (“Create an automated business — or maybe not“) on automating a business and promised to write a couple of posts on outsourcing and automation. That never happened and I apologize. It’s an important topic.
Are you overloaded?
Are you working too hard? Are you doing too much? Could you being making more money if you did more work?
It’s good to have a lot of work! It means that your business is expanding, but you can’t do it all yourself!
Why getting help is important
The truth is that you can’t grow your business without getting help. You simply can’t do everything by yourself as you start to expand.
Moreover, you probably aren’t good at everything. And you probably don’t like everything.
- If you’re a coach or other service provider, you might not like marketing.
- If you’re selling natural-fiber products (or any products), you might not be good at the technical side of running an Internet-based business.
These are just made-up examples, not principles, but everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes.
As you grow your business, you’ll find yourself busier and busier. And that growth is a good thing. But, 2 things start to happen:
- You get burned out and don’t get enough rest. You feel stressed out.
- You don’t have time for the basics of your business–customer service suffers, you stop creating new products, and so on.
Do you really need an employee?
How much time per day are you spending on Facebook and other social media? How much of that is personal or purely social? How much time are you spending helping people for free?
Write down how you spend you day. Cut out what isn’t making you money. Cut out whatever is simply wasting time.
Try using a time management system that lets you list what you do during the day, I use Toggl and it not only helps me see what I’m doing, but helps me focus. If I’m going through my email, I know I have to finish that quickly and go on to my important projects for the day (such as writing this blog post).
You may find that you can manage your time better and don’t really need an employee.
But let’s say you decide that you really do need one.
But I don’t have enough money to hire someone!
Or you might be thinking:
I don’t have time to train anyone.
No one else can do it as well as I can.
Supervising someone will take up more time than I save.
It’s too risky; I don’t know what my salary will be next month.
Let me tell you right now that this type of thinking is a fear-based, untrue trap that will keep you from expanding your business. Yes, you need to take an honest look at your finances, but you also need to take a long-term view of your business’ potential.
Small businesses do find good employees that help them grow to medium-sized businesses and then to large businesses. It happens all the time.
An employee’s job is to help make you money, not to use up your money. Your job is to figure out how to make that happen.
How to start when you know you need an employee
Here’s what you need to do:
- Define a job: Write up a job description. Then think how that person would help you make more money. By selling or marketing? By leaving you free to sell? By leaving you free to serve more clients?
- Write up a training plan: What does the employee have to know? Do you have written procedures? (You should, but if you don’t, ask the employee to write up the procedures as you explain them.)
- Decide on hours and pay: Do you want a part-time person? Full-time? Hourly? Salaried? Commission-based?
- Learn the legal issues: Independent contractors are easier administratively (they bill you and you pay them), but you can’t call someone who is really a regular employee an independent contractor. And there are taxes. In the United States, for example, you need to provide Unemployment Insurance and Worker’s Compensation. You need to withhold (and pay) taxes, including income, Social Security, and Medicare.
Inc. has a great resource, “How to Hire Your First Employee.” This page has links to articles on how to find an employee, how to screen employees, how to deal with legal issues, and more.
For the U.S., the IRS has a publication (Publication 15), called “Employer’s Tax Guide” that will tell you everything you need to know.
Where can I find an employee?
Lots of places! Remember, there are people out there looking for jobs!
- Classified ads in the newspaper are dying, but still used, especially in certain areas. (Newspapers have online classified ads, too.)
- Craigslist.org is good if you live in an area that has one.
- Many towns have Facebook pages where you can post a job.
- If you think a part-time student would work, you can put up posters at universities (ask about the appropriate location).
- Ask your friends for recommendations.
Do you have any other ideas? Leave a comment!
If you really can’t afford an employee, here are some solutions.
Find a Virtual Assistant where wages are lower
From John Jonas’ blog, I learned about finding virtual assistants in the Philippines. I also discovered a test that someone (I don’t remember who) made publicly available and I modified it for my needs. I’ve used 3 virtual assistants and they have all been good. (Anyone who does well on my test is good!) Right now, I share a full-time VA with one other entrepreneur and this works well.
I have used 2 websites to find virtual assistants:
- va4u: This is a do-it-yourself website. People who want to be VAs post there. Employers search. You can filter by country and keyword. You need to go through a LOT of entries.
- odesk: This site is more organized. Odesk tests employees so you can see the results. They post references from past employers. And they arrange payment so employees know they’ll get paid.
Be sure to test potential employees! If you would like my test, click the Contact link above and let me know; I’ll send it to you.
Hire an intern
I live in a University town and students REALLY want internships. In general, if students get college credit, they aren’t paid; if they don’t get credit, you must pay them.
Luckily for me, the students get credit when they work for me, so I get them for free. Generally, mine work for 1 month full time, but you’re more likely to get one for a semester, either full-time or part-time.
Interview students as you would an employee and don’t take one just because you can. A student intern needs to be learning, so you’ll spend quite a bit of time explaining both general principles (in my case, of Internet marketing) as well as specific projects.
I remember having an intern from China and on his first day, he created a sales page with a Buy Now button that delivered a product. He was so excited that he had learned so much in 1 day!
Hire a student
You can often find students to work part time. Three years ago, I hired a student who had just graduated from high-school to work over the summer. She’s now in college and has come back for 2 summers. She works on a specific, seasonal project and knows it well. This past summer, she created amazing business diagrams for me — this was a bonus — it turned out that she’s quite artistic.
You can usually hire students at a very reasonable hourly rate. They want to learn, they want something to put on their resume and they don’t have high salary expectations yet.
Are you thinking about hiring an employee? Have you hired one? Is so, where did you look and how did you choose? What has been your experience with your employee(s)?