Our work as independent consultants consists of providing external support to people, companies, and organizations. Still, many of us struggle to hire others to help us out in our own business. You can, and should, outsource and delegate more.
To help you out, I've prepared a small script for you to bookmark and follow. Let's get into it.
Look Out For Warning Signs
You might not realize you're putting too much on your plate, but there are some danger signals you need to constantly be looking for:
- You are working long hours for an extended period;
- You feel that, without you, nothing would get done;
- You perform tasks that a trained freelancer could tackle faster and cheaper.
If any of these check, you won't be able to deliver quality work in a sustainable way and make the best of your skills and expertise. You are failing to outsource or delegate tasks and responsibilities, prioritize correctly, or build systems to support your consulting business.
Ask Yourself Why You Insist On Doing Everything
It doesn't matter if the tasks are administrative, related to business development, or even parts of your clients' projects and engagements. You gain efficiency and effectiveness if you offload more of those to freelancers, subcontractors, and even your clients.
These are most common excuses I regularly hear from consultants:
- I'm too busy to delegate - it’s more efficient for me to just do it myself.
- I'm a perfectionist - I'll do it myself instead of wasting time reviewing it later.
- This is a critical task, and I'm afraid other people will mess it up.
I think all of these are examples of self-enhancement bias. We think no one can do it better than us. That passing work to others will make us less of an expert. And that delegating or outsourcing tasks is a sign of failure.
The first step to fix this is to be aware of your bias, and truly accept that if you want to grow you can't (or need to) do everything yourself.
Collect Data To Measure Your Situation
It's also common for me to speak with consultants that understand they have too much on their plate for years, but can't fix it. They recognize the need to change their practices and behavior. But how?
Well, before thinking about how to change it, you need to learn what exactly needs to be changed. And the best way to do it is by keeping a daily diary of how you spend your time. Do this for two weeks, and with this data you will start to see the patterns.
- Which tasks did you perform efficiently? Which ones are not?
- Which tasks did you repeat (and could systemize)?
- Which tasks must be done by you? Which ones could be done by others?
In the ideal world, you would only devote time to tasks that are a good fit for your interest and personality, or that can only be performed by you. It's likely that 80% of what you do could get done without your presence or direct input.
Choose The Right People
Some consultants fear delegation and outsourcing because they’ve had bad experiences in the past. But the fear of seeing it happening again will hold you and your business back. While hiring is a topic on its own, I believe much can be improved by:
- Avoid outsourcing what you can automate (for monotonous and recurring tasks);
- Hire for skills, not just experience (for maintenance and implementation).
- Build a "rolodex" of trusted consultants, freelancers, and agencies you can partner with (for strategy or client work).
Building a strong vetting process is also key. You want to pass on work to people who both know how to do it, and are motivated to get the job done right.
Adopt A Healthy Behavior And Use Support Systems
When you micromanage, all the time and energy you put into offloading work goes to waste. You need to give people space. Your job is to observe, review, and support them - not dictate what they should do.
People will make mistakes, sometimes costly ones. That's how all of us learn. But if you brought in qualified and honest professionals, they will find a way to correct them, and avoid them from happening again.
While it's not that common among consultants, you can also move to the other extreme and be too hands-off. You can't simply walk away from a task or responsibility after passing it to someone else. You need to stay involved enough to evaluate their performance.
95% of your outsourcing or delegation problems can be solved with:
- Clear instructions and standard operating procedures;
- Open lines of communication for questions and comments;
- Regular checkpoints or review of KPIs to measure progress.
You don't need to update that spreadsheet yourself. You don't need to design every client presentation. You don't need to be a specialist at every tool or process in your business.
The sooner you accept it, the better.