I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very good at delegating. I’m a Type A planner and perfectionist, and I’ve worked by myself for so long I can’t even remember what it was like to hand over a project to someone else.
And yet? Learning to delegate when you’re a solo or small business owner is even more important than if you’ve got a big team.
There are only so many hours in a day and your work suffers when you’re overextended, so you need to commit to delegating if you want to grow your business without losing your mind. It can be hard to let go (believe me, I know), so I’d like to offer some reasons why it’s a necessary step – plus a few easy ways to delegate that even a perfectionist can get behind.
Sidebar: I’mma avoid saying “solopreneur” throughout this article because it gets a big, fat portmantNO from me. Hat tip to Helen Zaltzman.
Let’s start here – why, if you’re accustomed to doing everything the way you want it done, would you voluntarily hand over a task to someone else?
Because your business – not the banal tasks associated with running it – deserves your dedicated focus. Because no one person is an expert in every aspect of running a business. Because your health, family, and relationships need your time, too.
And because you don’t have Hermione Granger’s Time Turner.
Okay, but how do I delegate when I’m the only person here?
It’s time to expand your definition of “delegate.”
You’re no longer limited to the people in your office when it comes to getting all hands on deck. Not only that, technology can be your friend – sometimes you can even delegate to something that isn’t a human being.
Easy Ways to Delegate as a Small Business Owner
This word has a bit of a negative connotation these days, but we’re not talking about shipping jobs overseas. In this case, we’re talking about hiring experts to do things for your company when they’re outside your wheelhouse. As I mentioned earlier, no one human is an expert in every aspect of running a business. When said human tries to do it all, everything suffers a bit.
Consider those all-in-one printers we probably all have in our home offices. Sure, they do it all – they copy, scan, print, fax – but they don’t do any one thing particularly well. That’s you when you try to run your business without outsourcing anything.
Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it.David Ogilvy
Hire experts to do things like web development and design, advertising, copywriting, or marketing. Hire people to do mundane tasks, like running inventory or bookkeeping, that take time away from the things only you can do. You may even benefit from hiring a virtual assistant to handle emails, customer service, or travel arrangements.
When you outsource stuff like this, you’ve got the time – and energy – to focus on growing your business.
We’re evolved enough to use tools, although we don’t always use them as wisely as we should. I’m a big fan of letting technology do some of the heavy lifting. Here are five areas where delegating to an app, program, or web service can save you time.
- Eliminate Repetitive Tasks
I find repeating myself really annoying (said this stepparent of a pre-teen, ahem), so this is a big one for me. I love Gmail’s “Canned Responses,” for instance – I have several boilerplates I can customize when the bulk of the copy is the same for every reply.
Use IFTTT to trigger an action every time you do certain things (like automatically saving new iOS Contacts to your Google Contacts). Make browsing email subscriptions – and unsubscribing from them – easier with Unroll.me. Create or use existing templates for documents you use often (like invoices and contracts) and use conditional formatting in spreadsheets (to easily highlight income vs. expenses, for instance). Even using a digital postage service means you can skip multiple weekly runs to the post office.
Identify tasks you do repeatedly and I’ll bet there’s a tech tool designed to help.
- Task Managers & Reminders
Some of my favorite tech tools are task managers and reminders. I have a pretty good memory, but I’d rather use my brain’s precious real estate for more important things than remembering when it’s time to send in an invoice, get on a conference call, or send in my quarterly taxes. It’s the “set it and forget it” thing I really appreciate.
I like Wunderlist – I can create different folders for different clients, set certain tasks to repeat, and it works on both my desktop and my phone – but there are zillions of task manager apps and programs out there. Try a few to find the one that works best for you. And really, even if you just utilize the reminder function in the calendar you’re already using that’s a great start.
- Team Management
Services like Slack, Trello, and Basecamp are often used by companies with teams who need to communicate more effectively, but they’re pretty versatile tools – even if you don’t have a big staff.
For example, you can use a teamwork sharing tool to communicate with clients as you’re working on their project. You’d be able to share quick updates and get feedback without constantly needing to meet in person. You can use these tools to stay in touch with those folks to whom you outsourced some tasks, too, wink wink.
Unlike email, these tools make finding communications and associated documents much easier, which saves everyone time and helps with accountability.
- Virtual Paperwork
There are so many aspects of work that can be done virtually now, including some paperwork.
Rather than dropping everything and physically visiting clients or customers every time you need a contract signed, try one of the document signing sites – we like Eversign – for legally-binding e-signatures.
Skip the drudgery of manually adding all your collected business cards into your database with a business card scanner app that does it for you in a flash. The same goes for business receipts – there are apps that will scan your receipts and help you manage them more quickly and efficiently on the go. The beloved Evernote (which you may already be using) even has some third-party apps that will do this.
- Social Media Management
As much as I might like Twitter and Instagram, paying constant attention to social media is one of the biggest potential time sucks in my day. If your business plan includes managing social media accounts, I highly recommend using a tech tool (or two) to do so.
Personally, I like TweetDeck for managing the consuming side of Twitter. It’s particularly helpful when you’re dealing with multiple Twitter accounts. HootSuite, another popular social media management tool, has the added benefit of allowing Facebook page management along with Twitter.
For posting to social media, though, Buffer is my go-to tool. As the name suggests, it allows you to add updates to a queue so they go live on a schedule you set. That way, you can keep social media accounts active without needing to log into each profile and post updates in real time. Buffer supports Facebook and Twitter as well as Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.