When it’s just you, there’s so much work that has to be done every day. How do you grow a business? Slowly. Carefully. Bravely. With calculated risks. With plenty of prayer. Surrounded by supportive people.
Nearly everyone starts off being the only one in their business, wearing all the hats, doing all the work. There comes a time when a choice must be made. When it’s just you and you want to grow, you’ll have to get help with the workload. Some choose to remain the only one in the business. It means preventing growth. Some are okay with that, and it is a legitimate option. Others want to increase the revenue, and because they’re already maxed out when it comes to the number of hours they can work, the options are to work faster, charge more, or hire someone.
When hiring someone, it doesn’t have to be an employee—in fact, hiring an employee has definite disadvantages. It can be an independent contractor. That’s the route many go, and the route I went.
Since 2009, I’ve been editing books for indie authors and solopreneurs. Just me, working on projects and writing blog posts. A few years passed quietly. At the end of 2014, I set my goals for 2015, and one of them was to edit 12 books in 2015—a book a month. Within weeks of sharing that goal, I was booked for the year, because satisfied clients started sending me referrals. A waiting list was born!
When it’s just you and it’s time to get help
Even when you are being as productive as you can and not wasting time, there are still limits on the amount of work you can do. I have some people I farm out some transcription work to, but it hadn’t occurred to me to bring in outside help for the editing and proofreading I do, simply because I didn’t know anyone who would do the kind of job on it that I wanted. So I just continued editing and proofreading one book after another. Then, one day, I found myself eyeball-deep in a book that was full of errors, with a deadline upon me. I talked heavenward, saying I wish I had someone I could trust to help me with it. Two sentences farther into that book, and a dear woman popped up in a chat box on my screen, asking me to be praying for her because she needed to find work she could do at home. Answered prayer for both of us, perhaps, I thought. Fortunately, I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel where money was concerned, and I was able to get some people lined up to outsource work to.
So I took a safe step and gave her a bite of the book to chew on. While I could tell that she wasn’t familiar with the editing bible, the Chicago Manual of Style, she did well enough that I knew I could bring her into the castle stable, so to speak. She’s now on the dragon-taming team at HarshmanServices. She and another disabled stay-at-home mom will comprise the pre-proofing team, which will allow me to spend less time on each book while still doing the same excellent job on it.
How to outsource without pain
Outsourcing can be a nightmare, especially if it involves people overseas. The communication problems alone are enough to make it more trouble than it’s worth. You can go in the hole very quickly, spending far more than you would save, in time, money, and stress.
My first experiences outsourcing had me swearing not to do it again, or, at the very least, not to hire anyone outside of the States. I didn’t try again for a long time—books about flat worlds and short work weeks be blasted.
Hiring a native English speaker, however, makes a big difference. I hired some people I knew well, people I was confident would do a good job. I gave them small projects (just a bite of a project, actually), to see how they’d do. I explained what I wanted, and let them go about it their own ways. Letting them determine how they get their results is one of the items on the 20-item test the IRS uses to determine whether a person is a contractor or an employee, by the way.
When you’ve reached the limit of what you can do and you need to hire someone to help, start small. You don’t want to outpace the incoming money, which can be easy to do. You might want to devote the time you’re saving to bringing in more business. Now that HarshmanServices has increased capacity by 25% to 75% (how much of a difference it will actually make still remains to be seen), that’s what I plan to do.
It’s time to bring on more authors.