Recently I became overwhelmed. I was falling behind on returning telephone calls, emails, and a final payment for a group was barreling down on me. I also had a non-travel related pressing project that was looming. While I like to think of myself as super human (and I did for a brief moment), I realized that there was no way in the world I was going to get all of this done in time. Something was going to get left behind and ignored. I needed help. But I am not in a position with my agency to hire staff. I have looked into virtual assistants in the past and could not justify the move—I tend to be one of those guys who think that no one can do a task as well as I can. So what to do? I just needed to get over this hump.
Finally, I ended up organizing the tasks into two piles—stuff I had to do (final payments, replies to phone calls and emails, letters, billing, etc.) and stuff someone else could do (graphics, re-writing a page on a website, creating a new flyer, and scraping some data off the web for future marketing). When I did this, I breathed a sigh of relief. My “to do” list was not nearly as big and … dare I say manageable.
For the other tasks, I figured I could set someone loose and while they could never do it as good as me (remember, I am that guy), they could certainly get it to the point where the bulk of it was where I needed it to be and I could massage and put on the finishing touches.
So for my graphic work, I turned to my local community college. They are on spring break right now and I contacted the head of the arts department who gave me a list of several students she recommended. I contacted two of them and one was interested in making a few extra dollars. You see, they can whip this stuff out fast…I’d struggle for a week. So, it was $100 well spent and within 24 hours I had the three graphics I needed along with the brochure design. In the end, I needed to only drop in a single line of text and a price when it was available. And I know enough about Acrobat to do that. The student gets $100 for spring break beer and an entry on her resume that she did design work for me. Plus, she is likely to get future small projects from me, and people I recommend to her.
For the web scraping, I knew it was tedious. I was looking to get a prospect list for marketing a program. No matter how you looked at it, this was tedious work. It involved visiting nearly 800 websites, identifying the contact information and putting it all in a spreadsheet for manipulation. As the parent of young adults, I knew that most of them would not be interested in this type of project. Having gone through a period of agency ownership when I implemented a CRM system, I also feared that they might just start making stuff up—yes I had an employee that decided that asking for email addresses was too much work and too invasive so she simply made them up— email@example.com. As long as it had an “@dot.com” it was good to go. So I turned to a website called Freelancer.co which is a repository for freelancers of any stipe. It is relatively safe as you deposit your money in their escrow account and only release it to the freelancer when you are satisfied. I created an account, entered the parameters of my project and literally within seconds of hitting submit, I began to get quotes for the work. Some were ridiculously low, others were more than I wanted to spend. A few were highlighted and these were recommended by the website based on their own internal scoring system. I selected a freelancer, we chatted a bit about the project (and while I was half expecting the price to increase, it did not), I deposited the money into the account and released 25% of it to him to begin working. Another 25% was to be released when he provided the spreadsheet and the remaining 50% was payable after I looked it over.
The project came in on time (2 days), looked reasonably accurate based on my spot-checking of the 800+ websites and I released the balance. All in all, it took about 60 hours from start to finish. Had I done that on my own—weeks. Now I am sure this guy had written software to make his job easier, but that is a skill set he possesses and I don’t. So we both win there!
In the end, I am caught up. Well, at least up to a point where my professional life is manageable; all because I asked for help. I know as entrepreneurs, we all feel invincible; but we aren’t. When you need help—ask for it! Do you? Will you?