Overworked, micromanaging, stressed, unproductive. Four words all too familiar to many small businesses trapped in the vicious cycle of daily drudgery. Have you considered outsourcing roles or projects?
In his book Virtual Freedom, virtual CEO and self confessed former control freak Chris Ducker shows how to escape the daily grind by working on instead of in your business.
It is about leveraging time outsourcing work you do not like or should not be doing at all.
Working with Virtual Assistants
You may be operating as a “department of one” but wish to hire virtual staff to help run, support and grow your small business.
You might be working as part of a team or in an office, shop or factory.
Whatever the case, time is finite and not everyone has the skills/knowledge to complete all tasks.
Whether you’re ready for outsourcing or not, consider reading this book because it can sow the seeds for ideas that might prove useful when/if you hire a virtual assistant.
The Virtual CEO
Chris started an outsourcing call center – Live2Sell Inc – in 2008 and suffered from burnout when he went from working 11 to 16 hours a day.
He described himself as a sort of fanatical vulture, swooping down on every little job. Refusing to delegate tasks is something many of us can relate to for one reason or another.
There are Seven sections over 250 pages:
- Finding and Hiring Your Virtual Staff
- Training Your Virtual Staff
- Managing Your Virtual Staff
- The Big Question: Stay Local or Go Overseas
- The Next Level: Building Your Virtual Team
- The Case for Content
- Time to Get Started
Each section contains numerous sub chapters packed with anecdotes, case studies, tools analysis and even cool infographics.
Giving Up Your “Superhero Syndrome”
Many of us never learn to give up control, either because we do not trust the tasks to others, have not found the right people or because we cannot afford to pay someone.
I include myself as someone who needs to start deputising others. I must stop with my rushing around and fire fighting because it is sometimes counter productive.
The phrase Chris Ducker uses to describe the single handed management mentality is “superhero syndrome”.
Superhero syndrome usually leads to total burnout and poorer quality of work. In the worst cases it could be responsible for a nervous breakdown.
Here’s an extract from Virtual Freedom on superhero syndrome:
“Welcome, my friend, to superhero syndrome. Your symptoms will no doubt include the following:
- If there’s any money to be saved in doing something yourself, you’ll do it
- If you don’t know how to do something, you’ll teach yourself
- You may have the inability to take criticism of any kind
- You’ll believe that your ideas and concepts are far greater than anyone else’s
- The word “recharge” will only apply to your cell phone”
Those of us bitten by the entrepreneurial bug (like Spider-Man) develop great abilities that can turn out to be a curse.
The exhausted hero becomes overwhelmed by the burden of responsibility, suffering personally and professionally.
Are You a One Man Band?
I cannot help but think about that scene from Mary Poppins where Dick Van Dyke’s character, Bert, is performing as a one man band in the streets of London.
His musical act is manic and, well… bewildering! He’s having to play numerous instruments while maintaining an upbeat tempo to keep the crowd entertained and the money rolling in.
Besides being a musician, he’s a chimney sweep, artist and kite maker.
Bert is an example of an overloaded small business that could perform better if he’d employ someone to help. Mind you, he seems to be enjoying himself!
(That’s probably because stressful situations release addictive chemicals in the brain, giving workaholics their buzz. Bert, you’re higher than your kites!)
Watch the clip below and you’ll see just how busy he is. Does this remind you of yourself?
3 Lists to Freedom
The author suggests coming up with three lists in which you note tasks you don’t like doing, tasks you can’t do and tasks you shouldn’t be doing.
The screenshot below is an example list. Your list might look a lot different or quite similar.
Now, I need to be honest and say at this point in time, I’m doing EVERYTHING shown in the example screenshot above!
Yes! My list is more or less identical and proof that I probably need to take a chill pill. I’m intending to ween myself off at least some of those tasks though.
You can watch a video about these lists by clicking the link below:
Tight Budgets, Project Based Hiring & Training
The problem many of us face is not having a budget for hiring.
In the early days, this is understandable since many of us might start as self funding bootstrappers with little or no money to invest.
For those on a budget, it might be a long hard slog as they go ahead and learn how do things alone.
If you’re wanting to master the fundamentals of various roles, fine, but there’s going to come a point where you’ll probably need to bring on another pair of hands.
I’ve been hiring someone to help me with some of the finer aspects of the PHP programming language. I can do some of it on my own but occasionally I’ll hire for a few individual projects.
If you’re on a tight budget, starting off with outsourcing project based tasks is a good a way to learn what it is like working with a VA.
Here are three things a virtual assistant could do for you:
- A VA can collate quotes that support your post
- A YouTube helper could edit video and audio provided by you
- A graphic designer will create original images for blog posts/social media updates
Is Your Name On It?
The one thing I wouldn’t ever be comfortable with is other people writing content and publishing it under my name.
The book raises an excellent point in urging you to put your own name on anything you write yourself.
For example, my writing style is very much in my own voice, using expressions that are unique to my own parlance. I wouldn’t want to hire a writer and have them pretend to be me.
Obviously, a virtual assistant could act as a researcher and provide resources that you link to. They can help you with design/style and editing, but really, the content/story/message is down to you and only you.
Super VA Myth
Like super hero syndrome, another delusion surrounding the subject of hiring, delegation and management is the false expectation of finding the perfect VA – a person who can do pretty much everything.
Employers expect these people to fulfil many roles instead of looking for candidates that suit specific tasks on a project based or ongoing basis.
Someone who can do anything is known as a “unicorn” but as you know these creatures are quite rare and might only exist in our fantasies.
Analysis: Tactical, Detailed & Actionable
This book is actionable, practical and eye opening, with numerous strategies, citations, links, resources and case studies.
Years of experience have been poured into a thoroughly nuanced manual about finding, hiring, training, motivating and managing virtual assistants. It’s revealing.
For example, I learned the Philippines is the number 1 choice for outsourcing abroad and that social team building is as important as task training when working with virtual staff.
There’s also advice about the pros and cons of domestic and foreign VAs. This part taught me that I would be wary about outsourcing too much abroad. I certainly would never outsource SEO or link building to South Asia if that was a service I was charging a client for.
When I begin using VA’s more consistently (I’ve used a few for occasional PHP development tasks) I will have a strategy and make better decisions and take staff training more seriously.
Are you a virtual assistant?
You should read this book because it puts you on the same page – literally – as the sorts of employers you will want to work for. It gives you a glimpse into how you can better market yourself as a virtual employee and get more work.
It is without a doubt one of the most detailed books I own. For those hiring, it is the beginning of the journey to working less, managing sensibly, being happier and enjoying productivity.
— Chris Ducker (@ChrisDucker) July 15, 2015
Virtual Freedom Podcast
Listen to the companion podcast by Chris Ducker on iTunes.
Buy the Book Now
You can get the book online or at most good book shops. If you don’t want to purchase it, see if your local library has it in stock.