Time Management – Identifying Daily Priorities for Maximum Efficiency

Check_List_Check_OffAs Small Office Communicators, for time management, we’ve often got a to-do list for today that’s just a disorganized jumble. Everything on it seems critical, and we never know what’s going to happen today (see my last post about interruptions) and what if we don’t get through them all?

The right time management solution is to prioritize. Move the most important things to the top and start there, working your way down. If you don’t get to the least important tasks at the bottom, it’s alright; you can do them tomorrow.

Evaluate Your Tasks

How do you decide what’s most important? Sometimes, it’s not easy. For each item, ask yourself:

  • How does it benefit the company and how does it benefit me?
  • How does it move me closer to my goals?
  • How does it help build relationships?
  • Who is relying on us to get it done?
  • And the all-important, how will it affect the company’s income?

These questions help to show which to-dos should be near the top and which may well be saved for later. The more clear benefits a task has to your company and to you, the higher it should be on your priority list.

The Basics of Prioritizing

Here’s the companion to the previous step. Ask, “If I only get one thing done today and the rest of the day is a total wash, which one thing should it be?” Once you choose the one task, move on to the next. If you only get two things done today, what should they be? Keep this up, and you’ll have a nicely prioritized to-do list.

There is also an easier, but a bit less precise way to prioritize. Create categories. Your categories might be something like:

  • Must get done today or it’s I lose customers!
  • Really should get done today, but I won’t lose business if I don’t
  • Ought to be done today
  • Would help if done today
  • Doesn’t need to be done today

Use wording that works for you and your business. You could also choose to create 3 levels with Level One being most urgent. This way of ranking is easier and more flexible; after all, you’ll get more than one thing done today.

When you get to the end of the day and there are still a few low-priority tasks to complete, let them go but decide exactly when you’ll do them. Choose a day by which they should be done.

To Do List or Done List?

Most of us create ‘to-do’ lists. A to-do list is simply your prioritized list of today’s tasks. As you complete each one, you cross them off. Another method is to create a ‘done’ list. Instead of focusing on the things you still have to do today, focus on what you’ve finished. Write down each task as you finish it. This has the powerful psychological effect of showing you everything you’ve gotten done.

Be Flexible

You can use a standard daily to-do list with time management tasks that need to be done each day, but keep it flexible. Your priorities may change from day to day… even hour by hour within a day. Your daily priority list gives you a great road-map to follow so that you don’t feel overwhelmed and don’t have to think (as the great Jedi Knight and philosopher, Yoda, reminds us, “Do not think – do!”). But don’t be afraid to change course if needed. You can apply the same methods outlined here for prioritizing weekly, monthly, yearly and long-term tasks and goals as well.


Time Management – Identifying and Dealing with Your Time Wasters

Manage_TimeEver wonder how you can possibly work so much and never seem to get anything done? As small office communicators, one of the most important time management skills we can develop is actually identifying the things that waste our time and, most important, take control of them. Here are a few of the time wasters I’ve found and how best to deal with them.

Online Distractions
Here is where FOCUS comes in very handy. Today, we do a lot of research on the internet – but my goodness, look at all the bright shiny objects (SQUIRREL!) that can draw our attention away from what we are looking for: social media sites, videos, and online forums are the worst. How do we cut out these distractions? As I said, FOCUS! First of all, take an honest look at what you’re doing – seriously log your time as though you are getting paid by the hour (you are, you know). After a few days, examine your log. Bet you’ll find LOTS of time where you’ve allowed yourself to be distracted by squirrels running through your attention span.

So, once you’ve identified your distracters, a great way to get control is to actually specify time for them in your schedule. For example, try this; budget just 15 minutes a day for social media (unless it is an active part of your promotional activities for your business). When your 15 minutes are up, close that tab for the day to get rid of that distracting temptation – the old cliché works, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind.”

If you work in a home office as I do, there are always going to be interruptions, especially if you have a family (I’m lucky here, both our children are now grown and have moved out). But you can’t shut yourself off from the world entirely (like the chain saw buzzing across the street as I write this). The best way to deal with interruptions is to let everyone know that you’re ‘at work’ for the next couple of hours. For instance, since I work in a home office, I use a two line phone, but have different rings set for the home line and the business line. I don’t answer the home line during work time. When the work line rings, Caller ID helps me quickly decide if this is a call I need to answer now, or can let it go to the answering machine and deal with it later. But sometimes, interruptions will occur that will distract you (the postman just rang the doorbell). Deal with those or they will actually destroy your focus and your work product will suffer.

Meaningless Meetings
Many jobs are rife with meaningless meetings that can really drain your time. That’s especially true for us home office types who have to add travel time to meeting time. Good time management practice says, “Skip meetings that actually move business along.” If you do have to attend, give yourself a, “Hard Out” (what we called it in video production when we had to be clear of a studio by a certain time for their next client) and when that times comes – leave. Actually, the other attendees will appreciate the time you’re saving them too.

No such thing!
Many folks believe that multitasking saves you time. After all, you’re doing several things at once so you must be getting them all done faster. Not Really! Each time you shift to another project, you have to shift your thinking also. Think about it. What if you eliminated all that refocusing time? Keep focused on one project to completion… only then stop, refocus, and move to the next. Try to avoid multitasking as much as possible, and put all of your focus into the task at hand.

Loss of Focus and Burnout
You can waste time by working too much or too many hours. When I was responsible for major meeting production at Minolta, I outlawed working all night – which used to be a “badge of honor” among production teams. What we found is that when people knew they were not allowed to work all night, they got finished faster – and here’s the important part – they went home, got some sleep, showered and changed clothes – and actually came back more productive the next day. Long hours really don’t mean greater productivity for most people. When minds and bodies get tired, focus is lost. And when focus is lost, everything takes longer. And tired workers aren’t motivated. Often it’s better to do something else for a bit to avoid getting fried. So make sure that if you and your team do need put in some long hours, you’re at least taking enough breaks to keep your focus together… but no all-nighters!

Tracking Your Time
As I said up top, one of the best ways to deal with time management is to actually track the time that we and our teams use. Keep that record of what everyone is doing for several days. This will show the “time leaks” and it’s almost always a big surprise. Use this information to actually create a time budget (hey… isn’t that a production schedule?!). That’s time management and that will help you get rid of those time wasters.


Tips for Interviewing a Potential Outsourcing Candidate

OutsourcingFinding just the right employees for your outsourcing jobs isn’t as simple as posting your project on Upwork and picking the first person that sounds decent. Especially for larger jobs, you’ll really want to interview your potential resource. In order to get the best quality information from your interviews, develop a list of questions in advance and be prepared to answer questions yourself. Base your questions on both the job you need done and the prospect’s resume.

Here are a few tips for both preparing questions and conducting an interview:

Ask open-ended questions
Many interviewers come with a simple checklist of skills they want to have in an applicant. But, just ticking off items on your list tells you almost nothing about them.

So stay away from questions that have a yes or no answer. For example, rather than asking “Do you have experience in…?” ask “What kind of experience do you have in…?” Then let your prospect expand on what they have done – listen carefully to make sure their experience fits your project and your culture.

Give them time to answer
Be patient. Let your prospect have plenty of time to think about their answer, especially when you are asking a more complex question. Don’t jump in and ask another question just because they haven’t answered right away. Remember, your job at this point is to listen. If you’re not sure the person understood the question, you can ask if they need it clarified. A good technique is to let your interviewee repeat the question back to you… this way you know they understood the question, and can save time getting answers to questions you didn’t ask.

Ask about strengths AND weaknesses
Most interviewers tend to just ask about the skills that they need for a particular project. But, if you ask about other strengths, you may see opportunities for future collaboration on a broader range of projects.

In addition, ask the interviewee about skills that they don’t feel they are good at. Everyone has weaknesses. Knowing what they are in advance means you can avoid unrealistic expectations. And many times these questions will let you see how they handled problems and what they learned – which may make them better for you and your project. And, of course, knowing their weak points lets you avoid those areas as your project proceeds.

Ask about challenges they’ve faced
Find out what types of challenges they have had to deal with in previous jobs. For example, what was the most difficult project they worked on? Why was it a challenge? How did they handle it?

You’ll get a good sense of the other person through finding out what they consider a challenge and by how they describe it. For example, if they saw everything as a problem, it could indicate that they don’t enjoy complicated tasks. On the other hand, if they view challenges as opportunities to learn something new, you know that they have a greater capacity to tackle jobs that are not as clearly defined. This can well point to a valuable resource for your company.

Ask about what they’re most proud of
This is always a good conversation to have. What a person is proud of can tell you a lot about their character and what they value. Find out what they consider their biggest achievements. Why do they think they were successful? What is it about the achievement that made them feel proud? Here again, you may find out that the person has talents that don’t bear on this project, but may well help on future projects – and if you already know where these skills are, think of the time you will save!

Finally, remember that this isn’t just your potential resource. Good outsourcers can be picky about the jobs they take and they may be in demand. As you conduct your interviews, make sure you give your interviewees time to ask questions as well. You are being interviewed at the same time, even if you don’t realize it.


4 Secrets to Putting Together an Outsourcing Dream Team

Office TeamOutsourcing has its challenges, and putting together an outsource virtual team can sometimes be a challenge too. A bit of patience up front on your part helps you get the right professionals and create a framework where you can all work well together. And even when you get your dream team up and running, occasional substitutions may be necessary as availability dynamics ebb and flow. However, all challenges aside, a team of skilled workers who work smoothly together can help boost your business. I found this to be very true as I built different hybrid (staff and freelance resources) teams for different types of projects while I was at Minolta. Let’s look at some basic steps to get you started:

Drafting Your Dream Team

The first step is define your project carefully so you can accurately decide exactly what skills you need in order to move your business forward. You should look for skilled professionals with both expertise and experience. When you first discuss the projects with them, make sure not only that they’re skilled (and have the references and samples to back that up), but that they also can – and will –maintain the level of commitment you need to see your project through to the end – again, the references and recommendations will be important here. (One of the greatest recommendations I could give for someone is that I would hire them again.)

Of course, the best virtual workers – the ones you want on YOUR projects – have other jobs in addition to yours (sometimes adjusting production schedules can alleviate this occasional tug-of-war), but it’s still important to foster team spirit. Make sure they can meet deadlines, make meetings, and communicate effectively with you and the rest of your team.

Get Everybody Together

Although you all may never see each other face to face (I was lucky here, most of my teams came into our facility to work together, though I later pioneered having some of my people work at home during hours convenient to them). But it’s good for team building to get everyone together at least once. If you have a programmer in India and a writer in Tasmania though, this may be almost impossible. But today, with Web-based teleconferencing you can achieve something almost as good. Try to have a meeting where everyone can chat and get to know each other, even if it’s just through Skype®.

Open Lines of Communication

Make sure that everyone can easily communicate with each other through a variety of media. In addition to scheduling meetings with selected members of your team, you should also schedule one-to-one calls with everyone for milestone checking and addressing any issues that pop up – and they will.

Because arranging meetings with workers in different time zones can be difficult, try to build set times for your virtual meetings so your team members can depend on when they can get answers.

(Interesting sidebar story here: When I started with Minolta, we in the US communicated with the home office in Japan via teletype. Messages went out end of day here in the US – which was start of day in Japan. This gave the folks over there all day there, while we were asleep here, to research answers and send out replies end of day there… which was start of next day here – worked beautifully. Later, this moved to fax, and, of course, now, email.)

Feedback Is Key

Since you’re aiming to establish long-term relationships, it’s important that everyone’s on the same page and they all feel good about what they’re doing. As the manager of this team, you’ve got to give them feedback. This should be both constructive feedback to help them understand better what you want out of them, and positive feedback to praise them for a job well done. Positive feedback is particularly important because you don’t have face-to-face contact and they need this reinforcement.

Another guiding principle I used with my teams and in interactions with others around Minolta: “Find out what people need from you so you can get what you need from them.” Turning what you need from others into transactions very often made the process move much more smoothly!

And before you put together your team, make sure that you’ve got the platforms you’ll use for communications and file sharing ready. These tools make everything much easier for you and your team. There are many tools available for doing this, so, before you need it, shop around and find a system that fits YOUR business and your team’s style of work.


How to Avoid Expensive Outsourcing Blunders

Helping_HandsOutsourcing is basically buying the time of others because you don’t have enough of it yourself. When you consider time as money (which, in business, is all it is), outsourcing to some, “helping hands” can be a very good deal. In fact, many marketers say that outsourcing is the secret to their success. It takes so many of those little pain-in-the-neck tasks off your hands so that you can do the work that adds the most value to your business. Done well, outsourcing can save you loads of time (and money). Done the wrong way, however, it can cost you lots of time, aggravation, and yes, money… and you still end up having to do the work yourself.

Know Who You’re Working With

The biggest mistake is not knowing exactly who’s doing the work for you. Time spent doing your homework and searching for good freelancers and virtual assistants will definitely pay off. Worst case, if you don’t research your resources thoroughly, you just might pay someone your valuable budget money not get any work output from them.

Make sure that you know exactly who you’re dealing with. Check out each prospective worker’s testimonials, samples and references. Before you get hand off a project, talk with them at least once on the phone or on Skype. A good practice is to start with a small job first before you trust them with bigger projects. Make sure you discuss the project results with the person doing the work after it is done to make sure they know what went correctly, and what needs to be done differently on future projects. And, of course, if you are totally unsatisfied with the work, you don’t need to work with that person for future projects.

Don’t Trust Too Much

To some extent when outsourcing, you’re letting your hired hand into your business. They may be privy to all kinds of information about what you do. You may even have to trust them with your website and your passwords. If you hire the wrong person, you may not only lose your money but also your sense of security.

Again, check references and make sure you know who you’re dealing with. If it makes you feel uneasy to give away certain information, don’t give it away. Let them know exactly what they need to know in order to do the job and nothing more. Sometimes, you should pay attention to those “gut feelings.”

Set Milestones

If you set up a job with a hired worker and don’t hear back from them for days or weeks, it can make you feel uneasy. That’s why it’s important to set up checkpoints or milestones. That was a definite advantage when I had my department in Minolta – the “clients” were just down the hall and I could always check with them to make sure we were on track. This resulted in no major end of process course corrections and no surprises at delivery… quick, efficient, and budget friendly. So create a touch point schedule and see how the project is progressing. You can also use these meetings to see if they have any questions they may not be asking.

Whenever you outsource, make sure that you have a backup plan. Even when you’ve chosen someone you think is perfect for the job and things are going well, things can happen. Make sure that your time frame has some leeway and that you’ve got extra money budgeted just in case there’s a snag. This is just another way of stating the good management concept, “Budget for failure.” That way, if something goes wrong, you don’t wind up falling down a big hole. It’s also good to have a “pool” of possible freelancers available in case the one you’ve chosen suddenly doesn’t work out.

Working with freelancers and virtual assistants can really save a business… the teams I built while I was at Minolta were a true Godsend. They allowed me to create top quality, award winning programing that delivered great sales for the company. But until you have a good team in place that you can trust (as I did), move slowly and cautiously. It could save you lots of aggravation and money.


How to Decide What to Outsource First – Consider These 7 Tasks

Insource-OutsourceMost successful entrepreneurs will tell you that one of the things they wish they’d done sooner is to outsource more. However, many of us today are working on shoestring budgets when we first get started. Depending on your funds, you may need to consider outsourcing a bit more slowly. As you begin to select the tasks you want to outsource, here are some points to keep in mind.

  1. Tasks that you’re not good at

Whether it’s programming or writing, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. You might be able to learn how to do graphic design, but it wouldn’t be a great use of your time if you’ve never done it before. Especially if it’s a one-off task, think about outsourcing your weak points first.

  1. Tasks that take you too long, even if you’re good at them

Even if you are great at doing a certain task, there may be someone out there who can do it faster and cheaper. For example, if it takes you 6 hours to write three great articles for marketing, it may make more sense for you to hire a good ghostwriter who can do it in a fraction of the time.

  1. Easy tasks that require little skill

Are you spending time on menial tasks? These can be easily outsourced, usually very inexpensively. For example, submitting articles to directories, formatting documents to look pretty, or making sure your status updates show your most recent published content are all less-skilled work.

  1. Tasks that are taking up too much of your time

Anything that is taking up a large chunk of your time during the day is worth considering as an outsourcing opportunity. If it’s keeping you away from more important tasks, then it is costing you money in the form of your time.

  1. Recurring tasks that have a clear, easy to follow process

While many tasks can follow a step-by-step process, some are easier than others. If you have regular tasks that you need to do every week, but which can’t be automated, consider outsourcing them.

  1. Things you hate to do

One of the biggest motivations for outsourcing is the ability to delegate the tasks you really don’t like. Keep a list of things that really aggravate you and gradually outsource them.

  1. Anything that isn’t directly related to making money

As your business grows, you can gradually outsource all the tasks that aren’t critical to the success of your business. Figure out which tasks make the biggest impact on your profits, then outsource the rest.

You won’t be able to outsource everything at first, and certainly not to one person. However, outsourcing will free you up to focus on the strategic parts of your business, which will ultimately earn you more profits.


Are You an Outsourcing Control Freak?

OutsourcingLet’s say that you’ve got a task you need done. You know exactly how it needs to be done because you’ve done it many times before. But now you’re outsourcing it to a professional you know can do it. You set up the job and they start working… but there’s a nagging nervous feeling in the back of your mind. What are they doing right now? The next thing you know, you’re calling or emailing them to, “touch base.”

There’s a fine line between giving enough direction and becoming a complete control freak (occasionally known as a jerk). But when you first start outsourcing, it’s very hard to trust the hired help. After all, your business really is your baby!

This was a hard lesson I learned, but it was probably the most important one I learned – Ya Gotta Trust ‘Em!

Be Clear Up Front

This lesson was brought home to me by an audio engineer I had the pleasure of working with for quite a few years. It’s important to make everything that you want clear up front. (In the corporate world, they often call this a, “Project Brief.”) This is where you write down all the little details that may get overlooked – because to those of us who do these things all the time, they’re automatic… but when you’re handing that work off, you must be ABSOLUTELY clear about everything that is expected. For example, if you hire a writer to write articles for you and forget to tell them that the articles need sub-heads. If this is a spec you require, you’ve got to say so up front.

A good way to make things clear each time is to make ‘instructions’ – that Project Brief – that goes out to all of your outside talent. This includes all of your specs, special directions, passwords and everything else they need to know in order to do the job the way YOU need it done. You can even use screen capture software to make tutorial videos on how you want things done if you plan on hiring lots of people.

Don’t Micromanage

You have a hands-on attitude and you pay close attention to detail. Those are wonderful qualities! But if you find yourself checking in with your outsourcers 16 times a day, you’re really overdoing it. This is called ‘micromanaging’ and it will drive your freelancers completely insane – worse yet, you’ll be missing the whole point of passing work off… you won’t gain that time for you to do the more important tasks – and spend more time with your family. You need to reign in these overzealous tendencies and just let them do their work.

One way to avoid this is to plan when you’re going to touch base. Schedule a Skype call with them or decide when you’re going to follow up. Then, resist the urge to bother them at other times to see how they’re doing. Try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine if your client was calling you constantly asking what was up. Being a difficult client is the best way to lose good freelancers.

You’re In Good Hands

One thing that helps to tame the inner control freak is to make sure you hire good people. (I’ve said for years, “Hire the best people and encourage them to do their best.”) Get serious about finding skilled, professional workers who have plenty of testimonials and positive feedback. If you can find workers through a referral, this is always the best method.

Once you’ve given them your detailed instructions and the job is rolling, forget about it. Give them some trust and rest assured that it will work out just fine. If there’s a problem, deal with it later when you check back with them. Then get your other work done and spend more time with your family.


Want to Outsource – 3 Things to Consider

Hands_on_KeyboardYou’ve probably heard experienced business people and marketers talk about how deciding to outsource saved their business. They usually say you should start outsourcing from day one and it’ll make everything so much easier. Well, in some ways, outsourcing can be like marriage. It can be a great partnership where everyone prospers, or it can be a mistake from which it takes years to recover. Before you start outsourcing, there are a few things you should look at in terms of YOUR business. Remember, we always support “balanced” outsourcing as the most efficient and cost effective way to support the growth of your business. See our article on Hybrid Teams. And for a more in depth look at the hybrid team in-source/outsource model, sign up for the occasional newsletter at Small Office Communicator. When you sign up, you will receive, at no charge, my book, “Building Your Team: In-sourcing/Outsourcing.” The signup form is on the right hand side of the page.

1. When Possible, Do It Yourself First

It’s always best to be familiar with a task before you outsource it. This gives you an idea of how difficult the task is, how long is should take, and whether or not the people to whom you outsource are doing it correctly and efficiently. However, there are, as you would expect, exceptions.

I think a great example of this is media production; video, podcasts, etc. Not only do these tasks require specialized software and equipment, but also experience – which often has a steep learning curve. When my department at Minolta was producing the original Maxxum introduction programs, I tried to be not only the department manager, but also the programmer… the person that actually put the images on the screen and programmed them into the control computer… today, that would be an editor since programs like this would probably be done in video. I quickly learned that I really didn’t have enough time to manage the department and organize the road show and program the show. So I brought in a freelance programmer. Not only was he able to give his undivided attention to programming the show, but because he was also a far more experienced programmer than I, he was faster and made the show MUCH better than I EVER could have.

So for the easier tasks, do them yourself first, then, when you know what is actually involved, you can intelligently outsource them. But for tasks requiring more technical knowledge, experience, and specialized equipment, by all means, head directly to freelance and virtual assistant resources.

Also, as you do the tasks yourself and make sure you are completely familiar with them, record all the steps you take to finish the tasks. Use these steps to train your freelancer or virtual assistant (VA). This way, they will know exactly what you expect of them. This will cut down on misunderstandings. Also, when the person you hire looks over the steps of the project, they may quickly identify ways to get the job done more quickly and efficiently, saving you money – keep an open mind about that.

2. Do You Have The Budget?

Today, because of the internet, you can find freelancers to do your work at very reasonable rates, but, as with any other business expenditure, make sure your budget has room for the added expense. When I was buying services while I was at Minolta, we rarely bought the cheapest one… we looked hard at cost vs. value, and sometimes, this meant paying a bit more… but we would up saving money because the jobs were done better, and many times, for less money than if we had used the, “lowest bidder.”

A great example of this is web content. You may be able to find writers who will create articles for you very inexpensively. When your business isn’t making a great deal of money yet, this can sound like a great deal. However, if you end up with keyword-stuffed nonsense that no one will read, you’ll be offering no value to your readers, and have wasted your money. As I have said for years, content is King, and quality is Queen… and they must always be together – and if you can’t find quality content from outside sources, you are better off generating your own quality content… but always deliver quality. Your readers and the search engines will reward you for it.

3. Speaking of Learning Curves

Remember, as you start moving work outside, there will be a learning curve for both you and the resources you hire. No matter how well you document your project steps, there will probably still be mistakes before you and your resource get your communication running smoothly and start projects moving right. This is management, a skill every business owner needs to master.

It can be rough at first – I know it was for me when I started passing off tasks I had done to people who were able to do them more quickly and effectively, but once I learned to let go, outsourcing cleared hours of mundane tasks and left more time for me to do what I needed to do. So start slowly – as I did – and graduate to building teams of outside workers to help you grow your business. Train them well, learn to trust them, and enjoy more time with your family.

Another of the rules I used was, “Hire the best people and encourage them to do their best.” Works ever time.


You Know it’s Time to Outsource When…

Manage_TimeHow You Know It’s Time to Start Outsourcing

Outsourcing can be a dream come true… when you do it at the right time. Along with automation, it should drastically reduce your workload and allow you to spend more time with your family. There really is no “right time” to start outsourcing. It’s different for every business. When people start businesses, they often prefer to do everything themselves… at least for a while. But soon they learn, as I did when I was starting my department at Minolta, that outsourcing is the only way to get the work done and maintain quality – and it’s generally a tough lesson for many small business owners to learn (it was for me). Here are a few signs that it’s time to look seriously at help from outside.

You’re Spending Too Much Time on Mundane Chores

When a large portion of your day is spent doing the routine tasks that someone else could really do (often better than you), this is a great opportunity to start looking for a freelancer or virtual assistant to pick up some of that load. First, let’s assume you know how much your time is worth to your business – as, of course, you should. Then look at some of those time devouring “chores.” You’ll usually find that the reality is that you can hire someone to do those tasks for less than it costs you to do them… which means your day gets shorter and more productive – and more profitable.

Maintaining your databases, posting content, submitting content, managing listings, managing spreadsheets, transcribing documents, handling emails, etc. These, and many others, are the tasks that lend themselves well to outsourcing. You’ll find it’s well worth the small amount of time you will invest in finding and training outsource talent to gain more time for the tasks that really need YOUR attention.

I found it to be true with programming shows. I could do it, but others could do it better – and at lower cost. And by hiring programmers, I was freed up to… MANAGE! For instance, when I was programming, I had to take time away to arrange shipment of show equipment – and as a result, neither was done as well as it should have been. I started hiring programmers, and shows got better (and started winning awards), and I organized the shipping much better. Win/Win – period!

Remember, Your Time has a Cost!

On the surface, it seems like it saves you money when you do these tasks yourself. But look deeper. Remember that the time you devote to those simple tasks is still costing you your hourly worth to your company. Let’s make up some simple numbers.

If you are worth $30/hour to your company and it takes you three hours to finish a task, that task cost your company $90. But if you find a freelancer or virtual assistant to do the job at $15/hour, and it takes them the same 3 hours (and remember, it many take them less because they won’t have to answer your phone, plus they may be more efficient than you), that same task now costs you $45 – you’ve cut your cost in HALF!

But here’s the real hidden value… you are not spending that three hours on that simple task… best case scenario, you get to go home 3 hours earlier. Or, you spend those three hours doing something that ONLY YOU CAN DO (arranging shipping in my case), so your day has become more productive, you’ve saved money, and spent more time with your family. How’s that for value?!

There’s an old adage in Communications: You can have your show: good, fast, cheap… pick TWO! This simply says that if you want good and fast, it won’t be cheap… if you want fast and cheap, it won’t be good… and if you want good and cheap, it won’t be fast. I always found this rule to be unbreakable.

HOWEVER… as I mentioned earlier, by bringing in outside help, things CAN get better, faster, and cheaper.

Your Business is Improving

Though many recommend that you start outsourcing immediately, that could cost you quite a bit of money. For most businesses, it’s much better to wait until you start realizing income and have a budget. It can be tough when you’re spending out of pocket… that may not be the time to start outsourcing. However, as you start generating revenue, then it’s easier to carve out a small amount to get help and easier to actually make the decision to outsource.

The Learning Curve Is Just Too Steep

There are certain tasks you would consider outsourcing right away. They’re tasks that you don’t know how to do yourself and it would take too much time to learn. For instance, you may be considering YouTube videos or podcasts. Making these reflect well on your company can take not only specialized hardware and software, but also, getting production values that make your company look good takes experience, and generally, lots of it. Sure, you could invest in the right equipment and software, but experience is not something you can just buy over the counter at the store. The only place that comes from is, well, experience. And that takes time. But you really can’t stop your business while you learn to produce these well. As I said, you can’t buy the experience in the store, but you can HIRE the experience you need to create the materials you need and do it right and on budget (and today, these people generally have their own equipment).

Also today, of course, you can find these resources around the corner or around the world, they’re just a mouse click away. There are freelance sites where service providers are waiting for your job posting. On these sites, providers bid on jobs they like and you get to choose the right professional at a cost that fits YOUR business.

This is the first of a series of posts on the benefits of outsource.


Do they really read long copy?

Guest Post By Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero

One of the more popular questions I get about copy from subscribers is, “Do they really read long copy?” Of course they are talking about the online long copy sales letters you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom to find out how much it costs. These letters can be from 5-15 pages or more in length and they flat out bug some people.

The answer to the question is, “No. Yes. And maybe.” It all depends on where your prospect is mentally in the buying process. I’ll get to that in a minute.

First let’s take yourself as an example. Are you currently in the market to buy a car? If you’re not chances are you don’t pay a lot of attention to the car marketplace right now (unless of course you are a car aficionado). So it wouldn’t matter much to you if a certain car got better gas mileage over another or came with an Island Blue paint job. But when the time comes to get serious about buying YOUR car you will focus intently on every little detail. You will scour every word you can get your hands on about the specific make and model you want parked in your garage.

Detective_GirlSo back to them – will your target market really read all that copy?

  • Some people will not ever even find your copy in their universe. Billy Joe in Iowa is more concerned about his next day off from the construction site so he can party with his friends. Billy Joe is not your target market and there is no reason to waste time trying to reach him. I only bring up Billy Joe to illustrate everyone has some natural drop off of potential customers. Everyone can NOT be your customer.
  • Some people will simply not be interested in doing business with you for whatever reason. Jane is in the market for a water filtration system. You sell them. Unfortunately Jane will only purchase from Pygmy goat farmers in Norway and you don’t qualify. Go figure. You can’t do anything about it.
  • People read your copy when they begin to recognize a need for your product/service. This is called the peripheral interest stage. They may not be focused on buying what you sell today but on some level they are interested in how you can benefit them in the future. Say you sell a vitamin supplement for hair growth. Your prospect, Archie, has noticed some premature thinning but he’s not overly concerned about it yet. If he stumbles onto your sales page he will skim through your copy, looking for nuggets that will help him make a buying decision later. For now he may just buy a hat and continue to check out options as he comes across them. He’s just not urgently motivated right now.
  • People read your copy when they are ready to make a buying decision. This is called the deep investigative stage. These are the serious contenders. And they will read ‘all that copy’ because they are ready to trade dollars for your product/service. It doesn’t matter whether the purchase is for $37 or $397 or $3997. No one likes to make a bad investment. Veronica has been looking for a business coach. If you provide that service and she finds you online, remember you are not there personally to answer all her questions (but she will no doubt have them). That’s the job of your copy – to fully represent you when you’re not there. So you need to make sure you overcome all of her objections IN WRITING. She will have an internal dialogue in her head of frequently asked questions. Your copy had better anticipate and answer every one. Trust or mistrust is conveyed through your copy too. (As you know, no one will do business with someone they do not trust). She must visualize how her life will improve with your service. Your copy can convey that by focusing on the benefits. Do you have a guarantee? Are there sign up bonuses? Who else have you helped? When you are thorough it doesn’t take long for the copy to get lengthy. There is a distinctive pattern to keeping your prospect informed while maintaining interest. As advertising front man David Ogilvy said, “The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.”
  • If Betty stumbles onto your site out of the blue without a predisposed idea to buy what you sell. Your copy is informative, interesting, and entertaining. She finds herself mesmerized, pulling her credit card out of her wallet to rush and order your product. This is a rather rare, though not unheard of, action. Especially when the copy follows the proven formulas of the masters.

Long sales copy exists because it works. If it didn’t work it would go the way of the dodo bird. As it is, it shows no signs of losing its effectiveness. In test after test long copy outperforms its short copy brother. The Wall Street Journal has been sending out a four-page direct mail sales letter with great results for decades. Then just a few years ago they pit the four-pager against a longer letter to see which one pulled in more subscriptions. The longer letter won. In fact in every industry the long copy format has been introduced it has been a rousing success. Again to quote David Ogilvy, “If you tell, you will sell.”

Long copy can work in your industry too. But I have to let you in on a little secret. A long copy sales letter is the kingpin of your marketing campaign, but it does not perform on its own. By itself it is not strong enough to get the cash flowing for your business. There is also support copy that is often ignored in the copywriting process yet it is just as critical to the overall success of the sales letter.

Lorrie_Morgan-FerreroLorrie Morgan-Ferrero of Red Hot Copy is a pioneer in the world of copywriting when it comes to selling to women and conscious entrepreneurs. Her background as a journalist and an actress prepared her for the level of wordsmithing and psychology necessary to build her decade-plus long career. Her list of clients reads like a Hall of Fame list of marketers and corporations such as Office Depot, NAWBO, Ladies Who Launch, Ali Brown International, Braveheart Women, Glazer Kennedy, and more. Author, speaker, and creator of “The She Factor Copywriting Bootcamp,” “The Conscious Copywriting Formula,” and “30 Day Storytelling Challenge” (free on Facebook), Lorrie knows what it takes to build rapport for long-lasting relationships. And more importantly, she knows how to SELL with copy!



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers