32 Comments

Summary:

It can make good financial sense to outsource nonpaying work like cleaning your house, maintaining your lawn, and driving your children to after-school activities. Typically, career advisors will tell you that you should hire out nonpaying work so long as you free up enough billable time […]

It can make good financial sense to outsource nonpaying work like cleaning your house, maintaining your lawn, and driving your children to after-school activities. Typically, career advisors will tell you that you should hire out nonpaying work so long as you free up enough billable time to cover both the taxes on the resulting income and the cost of the service.

However, focusing on extra income alone may understate the benefits of outsourcing, because presumably you enjoy the work you’ve chosen, so spending more time on it rather than on routine chores and paperwork should make you psychologically better off. Also, improving your skills by taking classes or doing nonpaying pro bono work with the time freed up by outsourcing can increase your so-called “human capital.” That means you could make more money later.

If outsourcing is such a good idea, perhaps you’re not doing enough of it. Maybe you could fill up your real and psychological bank accounts by outsourcing even more chores than you are already. Pamela Slim suggests you outsource everything possible, including bookkeeping, project management, home maintenance, childcare as necessary, and housecleaning. For administrative tasks, she suggests hiring a virtual assistant — someone who works remotely from his or her own office to get your paperwork done.

It’s not too difficult to find a decent maid service or someone to mow the lawn; just ask the neighbors or put a posting on Craigslist. How do you find a virtual assistant though? DoMyStuff.com offers an online marketplace for finding people to help you: you post your task descriptions and potential hires bid on the work. Payment is through an escrow system and employers can rate the workers. Great idea — but it hasn’t gained many users or much traction yet.

Alternatively, you could look for a virtual assistant on a VA directory such as this one, organized by geography. It might be more useful to organize it by language and by type of services, because the “virtual” part of it theoretically means geography doesn’t matter. However, it could be useful to meet with your virtual assistant in person to see if there’s a personal fit and to go over the work that needs doing.

The best way to find a virtual assistant may be through online networking. Post on your blog that you’re looking for someone, ask your virtual colleagues if they know of anyone, and check blog postings mentioning virtual assistantship, because VAs looking for work may have commented about their services and availability. Visit websites and blogs run by virtual asssistants to see if you like their style and to get a quick read on their skillset — someone whose posts have typos might not be as attentive to detail as you’d like.

Other than tax accounting, I haven’t taken the plunge to outsourcing any of my administrative work, though I’m intrigued by the idea. I use housecleaning and lawn maintenance services and have hired out some child care tasks.

What tasks do you outsource? And what tasks would you like to hand off to someone else, if you could only find someone qualified?

  1. How often is “good financial sense” the same as good emotional, physical or spiritual sense? If the goal is to live a one-dimensional life, then by all means outsource as much as possible. Get rid of those pesky pets and children. They just eat into your precious supply of billable hours.

    Recreation? Forget about it. It just doesn’t pay.

    Sleep? There will be plenty of time for that in the grave.

    Share
  2. Hiring someone else to do chores you don’t enjoy has benefits for personal life as well. Outsourcing tasks like housecleaning and bill-paying can mean finding more time for family, for recreation, even for sleep. It’s important for each person to find a balance that works for him or her.

    If you need more help balancing work and your personal life, here are some related articles:

    When worlds collide: Transitioning between home and work
    How to manage kids in the home office

    Share
  3. I’m all for outsourcing things I don’t enjoy, like maintenance and cleaning – they suck away energy. Project management is not something to outsource as I see it, it’s a key to the success of the project, and it’s often the window to/from the client. Financials, just as a personal matter, is something I like to keep in-house. But by all means get rid of the mundane and repetitive, typically those aren’t going to be core competencies or a trade secrets.

    Share
  4. This is crazy! Just clean your own damn house. Or don’t! But don’t think you are doing anyone else a favor by paying them to do it. And if your suffering from writer/coders block one of the best ways to get over it is to start cleaning or mowing the yard.

    Share
  5. As a virtual assistant myself who specializes in bookkeeping, I try to “practice what I preach” :) I’ve outsourced everything from my housekeeping to my writing – ghostwriters have saved me who knows how much mental stress! I try to keep with my strengths and outsource those things that I’m either not good at or that I just don’t want to do.

    It’s not an easy task to find a good subcontractor though. My practice has grown pretty large and finding good help has been an issue. I know start that process 2 months before I actually want to hire someone. My point? Do your homework about someone before you jump in too. So many wait until they are just at their wits end and blindly grab someone. Usually it works out, but make sure you mesh well with them both professionally and personally.

    Share
  6. Jason, I don’t understand your position. If someone works as a house cleaner, of course it benefits them to get hired.

    Manual labor can be a great way to get through writers’ or coders’ block for sure. Getting away from the computer by weeding the garden, cooking dinner, or watching the kids’ sports practice can all be enjoyable and refreshing at the same time. Cleaning the house and mowing the lawn might be good too — if that’s what suits you and your budget and your work demands.

    Share
  7. Candy: good point. It can take a long time to find good help. Probably makes sense to start the process of finding help before you’re utterly crazed.

    Just curious… do you usually work entirely virtually with your clients, or do many of them meet with you in person?

    Share
  8. Perhaps an obvious point, but when outsourcing, fear-the-overhead and do the cost/benefit trade. There is always the management associated with outsourcing, which at times can zero-out the benefits if not put you in a deficit. My most memorable example is from my fat corporate days when I had a full time secretary, which at times consumed more of my mental energy than the benefits provided.

    Share
  9. At home, grocery shopping is something that can quickly be outsourced using online grocery shopping. You can “buy” the things when you think of them, then save the time on picking and delivery. The small fee that most grocery stores charge is well worth the time – especially in my household of 5.

    Plus it integrates nicely with GTD – think of something, add it to the shopping list.

    Share
  10. I gt the lawn mowed–in part because it’s something that has to be done on a schedule which can be difficult when I’m traveling. I have a housekeeper who also does my neighbor’s place more frequently come by every few weeks. I still do housecleaning/organizing myself but this gives everything a good once over on a schedule. Taxes get outsourced to an accountant. Also, not mentioned, but really another form of outsourcing, I use all manner of online bill pay, automatic payments, Netflix, etc. These all save time. (I’ve also tried online grocery delivery but, aside from when I was having trouble getting around with a broken foot, I don’t find it much of a particular benefit.

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post