For some stupid reason, I figured because it was my web site, I had to do all the work. It wasn’t right to let anyone else touch it. I think part of this is because something tells us no one can do the job the as well. Of course, that theory is always true if you never give someone else the opportunity.
Identifying Tasks to Offload
After listing the tasks, I could decide which ones required my time. While I was concerned about cost, I knew my time was more valuable. Once time is spent, it’s gone. There is no magic time deposit account with all your “saved time” from which you can make withdrawals like vacation or sick days.
The obvious items for me to offload were:
- Repetitive tasks
- Tasks that someone else could do faster, cheaper or better
- Tasks that I found draining
Some people may be thinking that they can always do the job cheaper because they don’t have to pay someone else. The problem with that logic is money shouldn’t be the only factor. Think of it this way. If your time is worth $100 an hour and you spend an hour grocery shopping, you just overpaid for shopping unless there was some other benefit of equal or greater value. You’d be better off paying someone else to do your shopping or using a home delivery service. You could then use that hour on more productive activities, which offer a better return.
Another factor I considered was how easy it would be to find qualified people to do the task. For this, I did some quick searching on outsourcing and freelancing sites.
The next step was to find out how difficult would it be to teach someone to do these tasks.
Creating Task Instructions
There many ways to document processes. Some people prefer making a movie and narrating the steps. The benefit to this method is people can see the task steps. I opted to use TechSmith’s great screen capture program - SnagIt and created illustrated tutorials. I figured the person doing the task would want to print the instructions.
The other benefit I find to writing is that I can hand my printed instructions to a friend and see if they can finish the task. If they have difficulty, I know I need to refine the instructions. It also gives me an idea of how long it would take someone unfamiliar with the task to complete it. This is important if you’re hiring someone on an hourly basis.
Finding Freelancers or Providers
Depending on your family and your tasks, you might have a supply of freelancers – kids. Like any other service, you’ll have to negotiate with them for the right rate. Good luck! That option wasn’t available to me so I relied on the advice from my friend Chris. He’d been talking about how he uses oDesk for many projects and he was certain I could find people to bail me out.
oDesk isn’t the only online marketplace to find help, but it does offer you a nice array of features and controls. There are a number of other services like Amazon’s Mechanical turk. You could also post these jobs on places like CraigsList.org
Directions & Course Corrections
Like most projects, you may need to do course corrections. Granted you can tell someone what to do, but you may not get what you expected. This happened one time when my mother asked my father to do the grocery shopping. He came home with items we had never seen like jars of tiny cocktail onions. My dad’s reasoning was they were on sale. I think it was an intentional mistake so he wouldn’t be assigned that task again. Shortly thereafter, my mother decided to give me a detailed shopping list.
I made adjustments in how I wrote the requirements for each new job posting based on what I learned from the previous one. In total, I hired five people from the US, England, India and Bangladesh. As you might guess, I wasn’t too worried by time zones.
The interesting thing that happened along the way was I started to look for more ways in which I could leverage freelancers and my time. At first, I just used people to work on the repetitive website tasks. These were the type of tasks that would also drive me nuts if I had to do them several hundred times.
As I got more comfortable with the process, I saw the opportunity to outsource other tasks. For example, while I can write Excel macros, I figured it was a better use of my time to have others write them. In each case, I made it a requirement that the macros had to be commented so I could follow the code.
While I chose to use oDesk, there are plenty of other solutions. The classifieds section of your local newspaper may have ads for people who can do these tasks. Or, you can post your own ads or use a community board at neighborhood stores. The main areas involve:
- Identifying what other people can do
- Finding candidates
- Agreeing upon a rate
- Tracking progress
- Making payments
If you decide to create your own system, try to find good collaboration software. In other words, you need to have a system where you can communicate what needs to be done and track progress. Two systems I’ve used and like are SmartSheet and Basecamp.
The bottom line is you should try figure out ways to remove yourself from tasks that aren’t the best use of your time. Outsourcing is one way to do this. And remember not all tasks are worth doing and some you should just decline.
Last Updated (Saturday, 19 June 2010 11:13)