I’m sure you’ve all seen posts or reels or heard from a coach about what you should outsource first. And chances are some of that advice was from people who offer services that you would outsource to – sketchy – or you’ve heard the old “hire a VA first” mantra – just don’t.
Calling out the elephant in the room: Yes, I realize that I am a service provider telling you what to outsource first as well. However, I don’t think that everyone should hire me. This is why I plaster right on the front of my home page that if you aren’t yet pulling $5k months you do not need to hire me – and then give you free advice on how to manage your money (check out the Profitable Business Planner).
So please know that this advice about what you should outsource first is more centered around what will help you be more profitable and grow your business than a specific role recommendation – because that’s the key to knowing what you should outsource first!
What are the 5 steps for success in business process outsourcing? Let’s get into it!
(P.S. Yes, there are some affiliate links in this post but only to things I use and love. Because otherwise – ew).
What you should outsource first – Step 1: Track tasks and time
Start making a list of all the things you do in every aspect of your business no matter how mundane. This should honestly take a week or more to really be comprehensive. It’s a good idea to time track those things too and to help take care of both I recommend using Timebro. It tracks for you what you’re doing on your computer and then you assign tasks to the time/app. It’s not perfect but it helps a lot, so you don’t have to remember to click the timer button like on some other apps.
The key thing you want is a list of tasks you do in your business + the time it takes you to complete the task. I know you probably thought that the first step was to start looking for someone to hire but I promise that if you start with what you should outsource first your hiring experience will be much better.
What you should outsource first – Step 2: Eliminate first
One of the most common mistakes I see people make in entrepreneurship is thinking they have to do “all the things” if they want to be successful. The same thing comes into play when thinking about what you should outsource first.
Before you start working on figuring out who to hire based on that list you made – your first step should always be to eliminate.
Now, if you are a natural purger (like I am) this will be fun. If you are a natural hoarder, this will be harder. But it’s critical nonetheless. Because when you’re trying to figure out what you should outsource first it’s not about adding tasks – it’s about removing tasks from you so you are free to do the tasks that are the $$ earners.
I think that every business owner should have a set of criteria for their tasks and periodically review those tasks to see if they should remain a part of their business. Your criteria will probably look different than mine, but I will share mine with you.
In order for a task to remain on the to-do list in my business it must:
- Add value to me, my client(s), or my community (preferably all three)
- Be either actively earning me my desired compensation (client work that is paying me what I’m worth)
- Generating ideal client leads for client work (and yes, I track this)
Now you need to write your own – and I encourage you to really take your time with this. Take some time, completely separate from your list of tasks to really think about what you want to be spending your time on.
Once you have your criteria listed (or you’ve stolen mine – you rebel), go through every single task – yes, everyone – on your list and see if it meets your criteria or not.
If it doesn’t meet your criteria, cut it. Be ruthless. I don’t care if the top guru of whatever told you that you “have” to do it in order to be successful. IS IT WORKING FOR YOU??? No? Chop Chop.
You do not have time to do things that are not meeting your criteria. And you CERTAINLY should not be paying people to do things that you shouldn’t be doing in the first place. Seriously.
A few questions if you are getting stuck eliminating things, ask yourself:
- When was the last time this task brought you a paying, ideal/dream client?
- Do your clients really like this being done for them or do you just think they like it? (Not sure, do a client survey)
- Would anything change if you stopped doing this task?
- Is this task helping you actively move towards your goal? Or is it just filling time?
What you should outsource first – Step 3: Assess what’s left & Automate
If you have not eliminated anything, or at least 10-20% of your tasks you probably have not been ruthless enough. I love you – so please take this part seriously.
Once you have whittled your task list down to ONLY those things that are meeting your criteria (aka adding value for you, your clients, and/or your community and actively earning you $$) then you are ready for the next step.
And it’s STILL not outsourcing.
The next step is Automating.
Because if you have some broken, manual processes in your business NOW is the time to fix them before you hire someone to do your manual, broken processes. When you’re trying to think about what you should outsource first going through your processes and realizing how crazy they are helps a LOT.
I speak from experience here because I almost did this. I was certain I needed an OBM and my sweet friend, Rachel Haley from Rachel Stays at Home said, “No Sarah, you need an inquiry, onboarding, and offboarding process and some SOPs. And then you could hire a virtual assistant or do it yourself and it would be easy”. She was right.
I hired her for her OBM Month, and she whipped out my inquiry, onboarding, offboarding, and SOPs for those (and a template for ongoing stuff) and those processes practically run themselves now! She thought of so many automations that didn’t even cross my mind. (You can find her awesomeness here if you’re interested in booking with her – rachelstaysathome.com)
Some things you may want to consider automating or using for automation:
- Inquiry process – most commonly folks use Dubsado or Honeybook
- Onboarding process – I recently switched to Clickup (after avoiding it for years and I adore it now)
- Offboarding process – This is Clickup for me too now
- Invoicing and billing – I use Xero (of course) and GoCardless (for minimal transaction fees)
What you should have now to do as manual tasks should be even less than what you had after you did when you started this process. You should now have reduced your grand total of all tasks from the very beginning step by around 25-30% (at least, if you are a rock star shoot for 40%). Now we are finally getting down to what you should outsource first, let’s get to this last prep step.
What you should outsource first – Step 4: Gather and group
Ok, now that you’ve whittled away things you:
- Shouldn’t be doing in your business at all
- Things you can automate
It’s time to take what’s left, gather it up, and group it into roles that actually make sense. Channel your inner Clea and Joanna and put things into beautiful little categories so that when you think about what you should outsource first, it’s easy to understand.
You see, this is the primary way that people screw up outsourcing. They see a role that sounds about right, meet with people, hire someone for a specific package then figure out how to use what the hell they hired.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
The whole exercise of what we’ve been doing here is to figure out what you need in your business and then create a grouping of tasks that you would hire someone for. That way you are getting the right work done by the right person.
So, how do you know what things go together?
Follow these steps:
- Put together all things that don’t involve client work
- Put together all things that involve touching client work but are not actually interacting with the client
- Put together client work that involves direct interaction with the client
These are your three big groups. Now within those groups highlight everything that is repeatable (same process every time)
This is your starting point. In the end, you should have a list of administrative tasks that could be outsourced to a Virtual Assistant, a list of client work that could be outsourced to a junior designer/Pinterest manager/bookkeeper (pick your niche), and a list of tasks that you should be automating for yourself.
What you should outsource first – Step 5: Set a budget and hire
Now this last step could really be a whole other blog post – and I will be writing one in the future on exactly this topic – but the final step to knowing what you should outsource first is to set a budget and hire.
Why set a budget? Because whoever you’re hiring should be helping you make MORE money in your business (for more details on that read why you should hire a team).
You should be specifically freeing up your time so that you can do the things needed to make more money. Don’t ADD tasks that you don’t have time for now. Take tasks off your plate.
What you should outsource first – Conclusion:
My simple system is this – list, eliminate, automate, group/gather, budget & hire. You will save yourself so much time, money, and a lot of headaches if you use this approach when considering what you should outsource first.