I only know how to do dumb forms of work with massive intensity. It worked for 9 years until I got married, had a kid, and got into debt to buy a home. Now, if I don’t outsource parts of my life everything will collapse.
We’re all drowning in busyness.
Busyness leads to overwhelm. And overwhelm is what makes you frustrated and forces you to give up on your dreams.
I’ve overhauled everything I do. What you’re about to read is a proven system you can implement in your life (or just steal parts of it).
Outsourcing starts with deep introspection
You can’t outsource until you understand the problem: you.
Let’s use me as an example.
I struggle to relinquish control. I’m stubborn. I’m lazy at times. And I’m a perfectionist who thinks no one can do the job as well as me.
It’s taken decades for me to finally admit those truths. Last week I had some cleaners clean up my old rental property so I could vacate and get my bond money back.
The agent called me right after and said “this property isn’t clean enough. Fix it, now!”
I attempted to get the cleaning company to return and tidy up the mess. They stuffed me around, saying they needed three business days to think about it, when I didn’t have time as new tenants were moving in.
So I did what I normally do…
I drove 90 minutes to the old rental property and cleaned every inch of the house with a toothbrush myself. I’m not afraid to clean because I did professional cleaning as a teenager.
Cleaning sh*t off toilets used to be my calling.
So I scrubbed as hard as I could. I got the mold off the shower and dusted every millimeter of the tiny home. And therein lies my problem.
If I had been patient I could have had the cleaning company go back. But instead, I insisted on doing work that I didn’t need to do.
Once that epiphany hit me, all my overwhelm issues started to make sense.
One kickass solution to outsourcing your busyness
The solution to fix busyness has a big step that comes first.
To outsource parts of your life you need money. That’s why I’m the Jesus of preaching about online income streams. It’s how you fund outsourcing.
But you don’t need to be a millionaire to outsource.
You can start small and just outsource insignificant tasks to begin with. I’ve found that when I start to outsource it changes my mindset.
I think to myself “this is possible.” Since my recent run-in with overwhelm I’ve finally hired a virtual assistant.
This isn’t the only solution but it’s certainly the best one I’ve found. And the costs are affordable for most if you do research and shop around. Now, some of you will say this is labor arbitrage and this strategy takes advantage of 3rd world countries.
Those people are narrow-minded.
Many of the people I’m outsourcing to are in rich western countries. It’s up to you from a moral standpoint whether you will use 3rd world countries.
To be clear, I will use any country. For me, it’s about the skill, not the race.
You do you.
Here’s how to outsource parts of your life & divorce yourself from busyness.
1. Ask for referrals from everyone
If you’re in my inner circle, you’ve probably been bombarded by me with requests for virtual assistant recommendations.
Finding someone from scratch is hard. It’s like the lottery. You might get lucky but probably not.
I asked a lot of people. The key question I wanted to know was what tasks they outsourced. Not all tasks can be outsourced. And some tasks are harder to outsource than others.
After a while I got a feel for what tasks people offloaded. Here are a few:
- Video editing
- Calendar management
- Customer support emails
- Managing an online community
- Replying to social media comments
- Managing an email inbox (deletion, spam, sorting emails into folders, replying with templates, etc)
Over the course of 6 months I interviewed 50+ virtual assistant companies or individual assistants.
Patterns began to emerge.
2. Gut feeling has a lot to do with it
At the start of the process I got a recommendation for a US firm.
They became the bible for how to outsource. They gave me this framework which indicates what sort of virtual assistant someone is:
Level 1: Do As I Say
Level 2: Look Into This for Me
Level 3: Give Me Your Advice, and I’ll Decide
Level 4: Explore, Decide, and Check Back With Me
Level 5: Explore and Decide, Within These Limits
Level 6: Just Get It Done
I realized I wanted a level 5 or 6. That meant I’d have to pay more, and it knocked out most virtual assistant providers.
I had one conversation with a friend who bragged about how his VA helped him make 6-figures. This stuck with me. I knew his VA and liked him, but didn’t know his capability.
I kept interviewing other firms and VAs for many more months. Then when I reached peak overwhelm and frustration I went back to my friend and got an intro. I figured out the solution to a big problem…
3. The only way to get comfortable with outsourcing
I procrastinated on outsourcing for so long because it became clear the jump from never doing it, to doing it, was huge.
So I asked myself a famous Tim Ferriss question:
What would this look like if it were easy?
The answer was obvious: I’d choose one person and trial them. No commitment. No fixed cost.
That’s when I hit another snag. Most VAs or service providers want you to hire someone full-time and add an enormous fixed cost to your life.
That’s hard to stomach when you’re a newbie like me. So I asked the frontrunner in my process if they’d do a trial. Baby steps.
They said yes. The trial lasted 2 weeks and they smashed it. So then I gave them a paid 3 month trial to further test their capability.
My only criteria are:
- Do they save me more time?
- Do I feel less overwhelmed?
So far, yes, yes I do.
4. Get this app to help you sleep at night
Everything happens on the internet.
To relinquish control of your life there will come a point where you need to share a password with your VA. This kept me awake too.
Then I discovered LastPass. They have a feature where you can share a password without the underlying password being revealed.
Now, obviously Lastpass got hacked recently so there’s a lot of media about them. The reality is, despite the hack your master password is never stored on the internet. So my accounts have been fine and so have all my friends.
Always use a password manager with VAs. Otherwise you may meet uncle extortion and have the shirt stolen off your back.
5. By the hour versus a salary
This is a hard puzzle to solve.
Having your VA charge by the hour helps make sure you aren’t overpaying, and your VA isn’t being underpaid and overworked.
But measuring the time taken on tasks is hard unless you want to monitor them with software. The downside of time trackers is it makes your VA feel like a dog rather than a human.
This leads me to the next point…
6. You’ll need some basic people leadership skills
I’m lucky that I was a people leader back in my corporate life.
I’ve done more leadership training courses than you’ve had warm meals. The most basic leadership skill you need is to understand human motivation.
Your VA doesn’t give a f*ck about the tasks you want to outsource.
They have their own life and want to know how working with you will help them progress.
So you have to design an incentive plan. More importantly, if you have an online business (or are building one) like I am, you might want to think about creating a career path for them.
The career path I came up with looks like this:
- Paid virtual assistant
- Team leader of my virtual assistants
- Head of Operations for everything I do
I also suggest regular check-ins with your VA. But they’re not regular meetings. No. They’re coaching sessions in disguise. They’re where you help your VA live a better life so they’re empowered to work with you.
7. Systemize everything
Outsourcing only works if you make it easy.
- Document every process with screenshare Loom videos. Save them in a shared cloud folder (I use google drive)
- Assume your assistant will get hit by a train. Get them to document everything they do in your shared drive. If they get abducted by an ax murderer you can just onboard a new assistant and get on with life, (while obviously mourning their death).
8. Test them on hard tasks
You want to know as fast as possible what they can and can’t do.
I figured out in the first 24 hours that my assistant is a badass at Slack. He knows everything about it which is handy. So I instantly gave him a lot of Slack tasks to handle.
Once you know their skill gaps it then becomes a decision of whether you use another freelancer for those tasks, keep doing them, or train up your assistant so they can learn.
Training helps your assistant experience career growth. This should be your default option.
9. Be patient as hell
No virtual assistant is magically going to enter your life and make it all better. Outsourcing takes time. Invest the time in helping your assistant.
If after three months they don’t learn and you’re still having to hold their hand, let them go and hire a new one.
This whole process is about reducing your overwhelm and buying your time back — not charity work.
My overwhelm is already subsiding.
The biggest wins so far are fewer customer support emails and better community management for my readers. The next challenge to tackle is to get my VA to reduce the number of emails I get each day, as they CC me on a lot of stuff. I’ll keep you updated on my progress.
Bottom line: learn how to outsource or you’ll be doing donkey work for the rest of your life.