A design business is a lot to manage by yourself. It probably started out feeling pretty doable, and maybe you even felt like you had extra time! But as you add new marketing methods, start landing clients, and still need to handle the admin work that goes along with it, it gets to be a lot!
To help with that, today we’ll cover how to get started with outsourcing in your design business.
This will be an actionable post where you’ll be encouraged to:
- Identify a few tasks you can outsource to begin with
- Choose a project management tool and communication method
- Record your processes
- Find your dream team member
- Start off right and grow from there
I’ll add a disclaimer that I’m certainly not an outsourcing and expert, but I do have a lot of experience. I hired my first virtual assistant in early 2016 and now have a full-time team member and 4 primary contractors (VA, design assistant, Pinterest manager, podcast editor).
If you want to learn more about hiring and outsourcing from the experts, check out Tianna Tye and Meg Baker.
Let’s dive in and talk about the first step to take to get started with outsourcing.
Identify your first tasks to outsource
When you first start outsourcing, start with just a few tasks. That way, it’s not as stressful for you to get processes created and for your new team member to learn it all at once. You can always grow from there.
So how do we decide what to outsource first? Here are the two steps that worked for me.
Step 1: Brainstorm repeated tasks
For some of you, this will be super easy and some of you will find it challenging. You might end up with a list a mile long or you might be stuck wondering what you could possibly trust someone to take off your plate. Just know that either option is totally okay – you’ll get there!
To start, take about 5 minutes to brainstorm repeatable tasks you do on a daily or weekly basis.
For example, when I started outsourcing, my list included things like:
- Client work
- Check email
- Schedule social media posts
- Interact on social media
- Write, edit, and prep blog posts
- Write, edit, and schedule newsletters
- Create graphics
- Onboard new clients
- Check-in with clients
Okay, go make that list. I’ll wait!
Step 2: Narrow it down
Once you have your list, it’s time to narrow it down.
Just because you do a task often doesn’t mean you have to (or even should) outsource it right away.
Instead, look for 3-5 tasks that don’t require a whole lot of your personal touch as well as things that you don’t enjoy doing. These are perfect for your first experience with outsourcing.
While you can branch out as much as you’d like, starting with a small list of tasks to hand-off will make your experience with getting started outsourcing less stressful.
For example, when I hired my first VA, I had her for 2 hours per week to do the following tasks:
- Schedule social media posts
- Edit, format, and schedule blog posts
- Edit, format, and schedule newsletters
That’s it! And it was the perfect way to get started.
Once you have your list, you’re ready for the next step.
Choose how to communicate with your team members
One of the biggest mistakes I made when I started outsourcing was not having a set place to communicate with team members. There was a lot of back-and-forth via email and tasks that got missed. It was stressful for both of us.
To help, use a project management tool and have a set way to communicate.
Step 1: Choose a project management tool
My hope is that this step is super easy and maybe even unnecessary for you, but essentially, it’s time to choose where you’ll assign and manage tasks for your new team member.
If you’ve been working with clients in a tool like Asana, ClickUp, or Trello, I’d recommend that you continue using that for your team. No learning curve!
If you’re not currently using a project management tool, my vote would be for Asana for the sake of simplicity, but ClickUp would be a close second.
Step 2: Choose a communication method
Once you know where you’ll assign tasks, you can decide how you’ll communicate with your new team member.
With my first few hires, all of my communication happened in Asana along with an occasional email.
I now use a combination of Asana and Slack. Any non-time-sensitive conversations happen in the Asana task that they’re related to. If a team member needs an answer fast or has something to say not directly related to a task, they can pop it into our Slack channel.
If you’re not sure, start with your project management tool. You can always add an alternate method of communication if you need it.
Record your processes
Before we actually get around to recording your processes, I want to share why we’re doing it this way.
When I hired my first VA, I was so excited to bring her on. We hopped on a call, I took care of the contract and invoice, and then…neither of us had a clue what to do.
She didn’t know what I wanted her to do and I didn’t know the best way to tell her.
And that’s exactly why we’re going to record your processes before you get around to actually hiring.
When you have a recording of yourself completing the tasks you want your new team member to do, their first task can be to write out a step-by-step process based on the video (we keep ours in Notion!).
The act of having them write out the process is helpful because:
- YOU don’t have to do it.
- It will teach them how to complete the task.
- They’ll have the written process (and video) to refer back to in the future.
- Any future hires can dive right in and take over without you having to teach them what to do.
Alright, now jump back to your short list of tasks to outsource that you made in earlier in this post.
Either now or the next time you complete each task, record a Loom video, and talk through it as you go.
Save the videos in a “Team Processes” folder and they’ll be all ready for your new team member to use on Day 1 of their time with you!
Find your dream team member
You know what to outsource, you know where you’ll communicate, and your processes are ready to go. It’s finally time to find your new team member!
Step 1: Before you look…
While it’s tempting to jump right into searching for someone to bring onto your team, it’s important to take a little time to outline exactly what you’re looking for first.
Take a few minutes to write down things like:
- What exactly will this team member be doing?
- What do I want them to know how to do without needing training?
- What tech platforms do they need to be comfortable with?
- What personality traits am I looking for?
- What is my budget?
From there, you can either write up a detailed job posting or go on the search for someone yourself and provide details when you reach out.
Step 2: Where to look
When it comes time to find your new team member, there are endless options for how to do it.
If you’re hiring a contractor, you can:
- Ask friends for recommendations
- See who is following you on social media
- See who you’re following on social media
- Put out an ask in a Facebook group (not my favorite)
- Use a search engine (also not my favorite)
Out of that list, my favorite thing to do is to look at who is following me on Instagram. I do this because there’s a good chance that if they’re following me that they resonate with the way I work and have a clue about the things I do, which is always nice.
I don’t tend to ask in Facebook groups or use a search engine because you never know what you’re going to get. Not saying they’re terrible options, they’re just not my favorite.
For example, my most recent hire was a new Pinterest manager. Here are the steps I took to find her:
- Searched my followers for the keyword “Pinterest” and looked through the websites of those who came up to see how well they matched the brainstorm I’d done beforehand.
- Searched people I was following for “Pinterest” and looked through their websites.
- At that point, I still wanted more options so I jumped over to the profile of a Pinterest wizard (Meagan Williamsen) and searched people she was following for “Pinterest”.
- From there, I had about 20 websites pulled up and I eliminated people one-by-one based on how well their packages would work with what I needed, budget, the care they put into their business, and how their values seemed to align with my own.
After those steps, I was left with 2 top choices and went with my gut to reach out to the one I thought would be the best fit.
This process certainly isn’t a science, but it’s worked well for me up to this point!
This is definitely the most time-consuming and potentially overwhelming step in this process, so take your time and find the right person for the job.
Start off right with your new hire
Like I mentioned earlier in this post, the day my first team member started I had NO idea what to do with her. I magically wanted her to know exactly what to do and how to do it correctly…and that’s not how it works.
Depending on the position you’re hiring for, you might even choose to make the first day that they’re with you an onboarding day.
Do things like:
- Have a call to get to know each other and tell them more about your business
- Show them where and how you’ll manage tasks and communicate
- Give them an overview of the tech you use
- Tell them about what tasks they’ll be completing and how they’re important to your business
- Make sure they know how to best contact you if they need guidance
Setting this foundation will make sure you’re both on the same page and set your team member up for success!
And those processes you already recorded? Those are about to come in handy as you assign your first tasks in the following days!
Grow from there
I think you’ll find that once you start outsourcing, it doesn’t stop. Instead, it continues to evolve and grow.
You’ll start to be quick to identify new tasks to outsource. You might notice that someone you hired isn’t the perfect fit and find a replacement. You may even get to the point where contractors aren’t enough anymore and decide to bring in a part-time or full-time employee.
While outsourcing does take time up front, each item you move from your plate to someone else’s creates more time for you to focus on growing your business with the deep thinking and money-making tasks.
Good luck and I hope this post helps you get off to a strong start with outsourcing!