Are you the sole proprietor of a business? Are you a 1-person shop? Whether you’re trying to make a living online, supplement your income or build a nest egg, more and more people these days are looking to the Internet as a way to make money. Every day hundreds (maybe hundreds-of-thousands) of websites and blogs are being launched in this country alone. So how do you stand out? Even after identifying your niche, doing your keyword research, understanding your target customer and carefully mapping a business plan … what’s the secret to success? How is it that some people are sitting back and boasting that they’re making 6-figure incomes while some of us are struggling to pay the mortgage? How does the “little guy” (or “gal”) compete with companies (and individuals) when you’re faced with limited resources?
Like many people out there, I come from the corporate world – a result of down-sizing – a castoff of sorts. But (like thousands of others) I’ve decided to go out on my own … be my own boss … be responsible for my own destiny. Nobody ever told me it would be this lonely. In the corporate world, I was surrounded by “experts”. There was a person/department responsible for finance. Someone else headed up marketing. I was in charge of technology but I certainly didn’t need to concern myself with sales or manufacturing.
OK … so, this isn’t a new problem. For years, many small mom & pop stores and local pizza parlors have been run by sole proprietors (or families). They’ve had to wear many different hats and perform different business functions. What makes what we’re doing any different? Probably the biggest challenge that we’re faced with these days is the fact that we’re competing in a global economy. The bar has been raised.
So, how do you do it all? Should we do it all? How can we possibly do it all? One of the biggest mistakes that I see new business owners and people launching a business is to attempt to do it all themselves. There are things that are best left to the professionals.
It just makes sense to outsource certain tasks … like tasks that aren’t your forte, things you hate doing or things that you can pay someone else to do for less than the value of your time. We need to remember that time is money and our time has a value. Sometimes, we have to step out of the “I can do it myself” mode and get some much needed help. Personally, I pay a little more than I should on website hosting so that I don’t have to worry about tech support and my site is always being backed up and well tended. I also use an accountant and I hired a graphic designer once for a product launch that needed a unique design – clearly beyond my Photoshop expertise at the time. Besides, with everything else I was learning, managing and doing … keeping my sanity by having a professional handle that one piece was a life saver for me. I have never regretted that investment.
What is it that you outsource (or wish you had)? Have you ever traded services or product for something you needed to outsource? I (and hopefully my blog readers) would like to know!
44 thoughts on “How Do Entrepreneurs and Sole Proprietors Juggle All Those Balls?”
I think people see it as a ‘cop out’ – outsourcing tasks because we seemingly can’t be bothered to do it ourselves but it’s just completely necessary. Like you said, a lot of the time these tasks would be performed better by an expert as opposed to attempting it ourselves. And when it comes to the more menial tasks its all about time. When this time could be spent dealing with core business issues and leads it makes sense to outsource and increase productivity. Good post.
Thanks Colin. I’m guilty myself of not outsourcing when I should. Sometimes, I think we’re in the do-it-yourself mode and it’s a hard habit to break. I’m interviewing a potential virtual assistant in less than two hours. Hopefully, we’ll be a good fit for each other.
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So true! We just don’t get it all done at least not alone. I always tell my team that the worst number in business is the number 1. I have a toddler while I work at home so needless to say I am not as productive as a lot of other entrepreneures. I have learned to hire my older kids to help and they are amazing. My 13yo daughter does all of my artwork. She did both of my fanpage art and a lot on my blog. My 16yo son does a lot of my techie stuff but there are still so many more tasks to which I have to outsource outside of the family. There is no way I could do everything without my whole team.
That is wonderful that you’re involving your children in your business. I’m sure they’re a big help and they’re benefiting from the experience too. They’re learning business skills while developing a good work ethic. I need to outsource more too. Best wishes for a happy, healthy and rewarding 2012. Good luck with your business too!
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Great article Sherryl, I am one of the people who always saying that “I can do it myself” but I come to realize that I’m not a robot that can organize and do all things especially in business, so I need company that would help me to do such things. I call a friend who have the potential to do certain things and so far it really helps.
Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing your thoughts on how entrepreneurs and small business owners can “juggle all those balls”. I apologize for not replying to your comment sooner. (You left your comment in November.) I try to reply to all comments quickly but obviously, some balls get dropped sometimes. 🙂
Sherryl Perry recently posted..End of the Year Recap – a Time to Reflect
Like Daven Michaels 123Employee outsourcing company, our CEO.. They hire VAs like us to do the job of his clients telemarketing/internet marketing tasks. Everything we do here is outsourcing, I also have my assistant VA who do the job that are daily routine tasks. AND as for me yeah, I do the harder tasks.
Sherryl – I find the biggest challenge is smoothing out the sell then produce roller coaster. As a sole proprietor, after selling a big project, it seems easy to become totally engaged in completing the project. I sometimes have trouble keeping in mind that after a big project is finished, if I haven’t put any new projects into the sales pipeline, that things will be pretty barren while I go out and slay my next meal.
Randy, That topic deserves a post of it’s own. This is such an easy trap to fall into. I’m struggling with this right now. I’m busy working on projects and neglecting other areas. Business advisers used to say if you have no business now, look back to what you were doing 6-months ago. (I think it was 6 months that they said.) I wonder what the advice is now.
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I am a sole proprieter and I agree that it IS a lot of work, but I personally find that doing most things myself is really fulfilling. I also feel more secure knowing who is handling the finances, the marketing, etc., etc. – ME! I’ve really enjoyed learning how to be my own bookkeeper, banker, marketer, and all the other roles that a sole proprieter must assume.
So, I try and learn how to do everything myself – however, the one area that I do like to bring in another expert is for extensive graphic design, since that is not my area of expertise. I think it is really important to know your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to deciding whether or not you should outsource certain things. To use a personal example – by outsourcing certain graphic design pieces for a project, my clients end up with much better graphics on their sites than I could produce myself and therefore, a better website, which reflects well on me as the web designer.
So – I do think that outsourcing can be a very good thing, but I would also say that it is a good idea to know and understand how to do as many tasks as you can. Then you can outsource them if you want to, but you could also do them yourself should the need arise.
Libby, Do you find that working with a graphic designer has the additional benefit of being a source for referrals?
No, I actually haven’t, not yet anyways! But maybe down the road I will…
That’s another very good reason why it could be wise to outsource work, if you can gain referrals and future clients from it.
I do get a lot of referrals from my web host. I have a reseller account with them and work with them on a regular basis and they do send a lot of business my way, so I guess that is an example of outsourcing (web hosting) and receiving business through their referrals. It’s been a very successful business relationship for both me and the host!
Thanks Libby for a great example of a mutually beneficial relationship between two businesses with complimentary services. Those can be some of the best referrals you can get!
In the early going, many new entrepreneurs need to do everything themselves because they can’t afford to outsource — so their business becomes 24/7. This gets into the issue of having enough capital before starting a business, again, something a lot of entrepreneurs don’t have, especially if, like you, Sherryl, they become accidental entrepreneurs after a downsizing. So, you’d better be good at juggling balls in the beginning. Personally, I outsource the more technical stuff for my blog. I’m pretty good, but I don’t want to get bogged down in an area that is not my expertise.
“Accidental entrepreneurs”! What a great way to describe what’s happening in this economy. I think outsourcing IT is a wise decision for most people. That’s one area where a simple mistake can cost you hours/days to recover from.
The internet today is filled with such useless blogs, but I must say that I really really enjoy your writing. It is really refreshing. I started my own business this year and I’m finding that I am having trouble balancing out my time. I want to outsource, but I have to wait till my business takes off so I can afford it.
Thanks so much for the positive feedback! It’s nice to hear that you enjoy my writing. Congratulations on starting your own business. There is so much to do when you own your own business and it is hard to justify outsourcing when you can’t afford it. Sometimes, we all find things that we can’t afford not to outsource and it seems like the accounting function is one that a lot of us seem to find help with.
I do talk to a lot of start their own business because they love something, like writing. But they don’t take in to account that they won’t be able to just write, but they have to market, promote, etc. A whole list of other things which they don’t really love as much as writing, but have to do. I really believe that we are moving towards a more “outsourcing” type business model and that is great news.
Once again. Great post and I’ll be checking out some of your others. Best of luck!
It is great to hear another woman running her own business give such great practical advice! You do really need to outsource some of those tasks. After all, any business is a creative enterprise, and that is where the owner needs to be focusing.
Thanks for joining the conversation! You are so right about focusing the creative part of our business. That’s a great way to look at it.
Well said – trying to do everything yourself seems like a good idea to save money, but in then end you may just take energy away from what you do best, get worn out and under perform over the long haul. Better to identify your core strengths and find others to help with everything else
Thanks for commenting. I followed the link to your blog post. How appropriate for this thread!
Howdy Sherryl. Good post as per usual. I’m definitely a do it yourself type. I’ve sort of outsourced a little in editing, but by an large do it all myself. It certainly is time consuming, and if you can afford it outsourcing can be a big help and let you get more actual work done. That’s the rub though, affordability. At least for me it is. I’m lucky in that I dont REQUIRE a website or a blog, but it helps in building exposure and presence, so I really only need to rank well and be easily readable. No great graphics or apps necessary. I’ll soon be upgrading to a professional theme, and even there I’ll probably only go so far as to purchase it.
Thanks Paul. I think money is the reason a lot of us try to do everything ourselves. I do try to keep in mind that I’m not always saving money if I’m acquiring a new skill that I’ll never use again or I’m losing an opportunity to make money because it’s taking me 3 months or more to do something that I could pay a professional to do in a fraction of the time. It’s a slippery slope. 🙂
I agree with you Sherryl. I have tried doing everything myself. But after a while you realize that it’s not the way to go. For example I have done a lot of designing (like homepages etc.) and I’ve also created my blog theme myself but it just consumes way too much time for me and I am just not as good at doing these things. That why I will definitely soon get a web designer to re-do my site. Great article 😉
Thanks for dropping by Julius. I’m glad you like my article. Web design is one of those things where it’s very tempting to think you can do it yourself. It can consume a ton of time and if you don’t do it properly, you can really be hurting yourself when it comes to attracting both visitors and search engines.
Great conversation going Sherryl – the sign of a successful post :). I “barter” all the time in an informal way as part of my networking. We help each other out even if only with opinions and/or sharing of expertise. When I first started out – not that long ago, I had a logo professional make me a logo in exchange for my posting a link to his website. I am not a designer in any way, shape or form, but I know that web images needs to be at least 300dpi and the logo he did was 150dpi – not very clear. So I had to end up reaching out to a gal I worked with for years in my corporate life and have her fix it for me. That was not a barter – that was a free favor :).
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Free favors . . . I’m going to have to remind myself the next time that I’m doing something for free that there could be a possibility of a trade. I usually just justify the favors as building trust and good will but if I’m spending a significant amount of time, I should be asking for a link and/or testimonial.
When I started the publishing company I outsourced all of the specialized tasks such as editing, design and printing. At first I had trouble outsourcing some of the day to day tasks such as bookkeeping. I felt like I needed to keep my finger on the pulse of the business. Now that I have the systems in place I can delegate it to someone else.
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Sounds like you grew your business carefully and with a well thought out plan Susan. It makes sense to have outsourced the specialized tasks and concentrate on your core business. Starting a publishing business must have been a fairly large undertaking.
I outsource certain tasks or projects that need a level of expertise that I do not have or that will take up more time that could be used more effectively elsewhere. For example I used a graphic desinger for the brand identity and have a great IT guy. As the business grows I will outsource more tasks.
One thing I have noticed is that often when people start a business they have the functional expertise but have not had any experience in all aspects of business. This makes it tough when starting out. It is a lot easier when for example you have been responsible for profitablity versus someone who has never had exposure to the financials.
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Good point Susan. It’s definitely easier to start a business in a niche that you’re familiar with. It’s all those other function areas that we either have to learn or ourtsource. IT and finance are areas that you can get into trouble with real fast if you’re not careful. It’s much easier for someone to think they can design their own logo or build their own website.
Have always had an accontant when I have had my own business. Not only do I hate accounting I’m not an expert either.
It’s important to get people to do the things you aren’t good at like you mentioned about expensive web site hosting. However, until you are up and running and making a profit, I really think you have to be careful with expenses.
It is so important to be careful with expenses. As for my splurging on website hosting, I have a reseller plan which enables me to host multiple websites. I’m working on a website for a client now and after it’s launched, she’ll pay me for hosting. That will reduce my cost. Reseller programs are something to keep in mind if anyone is hosting a number of different sites.
Bartering is a great way to get services you need while helping a fellow entreprenur. There are even batter clubs you can join where you gain points from the services your offer. You trade those points for services from others.
Often, it is worth a time investment in web design, logo etc as mentioned above. Spend time on what you know how to do or want to learn how to do.
Barter clubs? Have you ever tried bartering services Rob?
I have bartered successfully for myself. I have also done so for a client.
Wow Sherryl! You hit the nail on the head! As a budget conscious solopreneur, I feel like I’ve become “jack of all trades and master of none” (except Parent Coaching which I was born to do). I had no idea of the learning curve that technology would throw at small business owners in a gloabal environment.
I hired a company to create my logo which was a great help. I wrote all the content for my website and selected the photos, but hired someone to build it and my blog. Today I manage both my website and my blog and have had to self learn so many things from what a plugin is to SEO, to marketing. The internet has a been a phenomonal resource, but I’d rather be writing my blogs and the two books floating in around in my mind! If I could afford to outsource (or barter?) I’d love expertise on SEO and marketing. Until then, and unshakable will to succeed beyond what I’ve already experienced will work!
“Solopreneur”! – I love it! I agree that the Internet is a phenomenal resource. Writing is such a valuable skill as is SEO and marketing. It would be wonderful if you could find someone who wanted to barter. I honestly don’t have any idea where you would start that conversation. LinkedIn maybe?
You have absolutely helped me with your suggestions and your support. It can get overwhelming when you’re working all alone. It’s always both comforting and wise to have someone you can bounce ideas off of for the tasks that we have charged ourselves with.
Sherryl, love this post. And what a great plug for outsourcing :). I can especially relate to being surrounded by “experts” to bounce ideas off of and brainstorm with. I have the talking to myself part down pat; it is the responding to myself I still need work with LOL
You are so right that we can’t all do everything that needs to be done in our businesses and give the many aspects of running our businesses the attention they deserve. Sometimes we do just have to bite the bullet and cry “uncle”.
I have outsourced graphic design projects to a gal I have worked with for years – my graphic design skills are non-existent. Another way of getting help is through networking. As you and I know from our online relationship, we can offer each other suggestions, tips and opinions in a reciprocal fashion that is mutually beneficial. Your suggestions to me were invaluable and I certainly hope I have added a little value to you too.
I anxiously await to see what others offer in their comments.
Thanks for writing down what many of us are feeling.
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Great post and so true. Its sometimes extremely hard to segment yourself into all the little squares needed to run an online and an offline product service business as I do. I did outsource the development of my new website, which is an e-commerce store, but I handle the day to day changes, in other words I have the ability to edit, add pages, etc to my website. Best thing that I ever did. I do enjoy doing the SEO, and the development of this. However my main area for making money is through the sales of my products, so that has to be my main priority, ie customer service. I have my accountant do the tax returns, but I do my accounts and invoicing. I also pack my products, and I personally deliver a number of gifts in my local Christchurch area. I have a consultant fix my IT issues, and another person to give me advise when I get stuck with my accounting issues. I have an insurance broker take care of all my insurance issues and of course my lawyer as required.
I agree with your thinking that “we’re competing in a global economy. The bar has been raised.”, however I would say that the playing field has now become a lot fairer, in that some of the big companies are so big, that people actually want to know now, that there is a “real” person serving them, especially in the gift industry, where feelings and emotions often go with the gift.
One thing that I personally find helpful is to go to small business training sessions, on a variety of subjects, which allows me networking opportunities, and its a great way to keep up to date with the trends, also to learn new skills to use in my business.
I have outsourced for some graphics for a new website, which I found interesting and successful. Also I outsourced to have a squeeze page and sales page done, but I didn’t find this as satisfactory, due to the language issues. However having said that I would probably try again.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. You’ve given us some great examples of tapping into your skills and strengths while leaving yourself the time to concentrate on customer service. You mentioned having your website built by a professional while being able to update it yourself. That’s a huge advantage to having your site built with a CMS (Content Management System) software like Joomla or Drupal. You were smart to have made that choice. It sounds like you have things under control.
I love your suggestion to attend small business training sessions. In the US, there are so many resources available to help small businesses. Many of them are free or for a nominal charge. Networking is another great idea. That’s actually how I found my graphic designer and my accountant.
Glad you dropped by! You have a lot to add.
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