Blog

The Beauty of Outsourcing

 

Note from Colin: Outsourcing is one of those skills that I’m not very good at yet, but I’m convinced that if I hang out with Maren Kate often enough I’ll pick it up by osmosis. Because it is such a potentially-useful tool to have in your belt, I’ve asked MK to write an introduction to outsourcing for my readers, and she’s come through. Enjoy!

I work an insane schedule, on paper at least. My productive hours per day usually average 15 and that’s pure, unadulterated work. Strangely though I have one of the most flexible and free schedules of anyone, I travel a lot, wake up late and spend my evenings socializing. Many people think I’m ridiculously productive, burning the midnight oil till the wee hours of the morn when in reality I just outsource… it’s that simple.

Don’t shudder just yet… I’ve never heard more people react negatively to a word that so few understand. Often people look at me like I said “I just sacrifice babies” or “I just have the plague” when in reality outsourcing can be a beautiful thing between two people that benefits both parties… now this sounds weird. But it’s not! Really outsourcing is something I’ve used since I got started on my entrepreneurial journey and it’s something I couldn’t have succeeded without.

It’s what gives me the freedom to go swimming in the middle of the work day while simultaneously getting projects done and bringing in income and if you desire to live an unconventional life and build a unique business as I do then I’d love to share with you just how outsourcing works.

Why Outsourcing Works

You know the saying “if only I had more hours in the day”? Well luckily we all can tap into an endless supply of additional working hours each day through simple outsourcing. It’s as easy as knowing you have 5 tasks that need to be done but realizing you only have time for 2, this is where hiring a virtual worker to help lighten the load comes in. They can take over the other 3 or they could take over all 5 and free you up to grow your business or make your current activities more productive. Virtual workers (also known as outsourced workers) are so amazing because they not only lighten your load but can help you grow your business exponentially for much less than hiring someone in house.

Outsourcing many of your business activities to virtual workers can help you work less, earn more and build things faster than you would ever be able to do by yourself. It also allows you freedom of location since you don’t have to be stuck in an office watching over employees like a mindful babysitter. Virtual workers are used to working on their own and carrying out instructions without a hitch. It’s what they do day in and day out, so all that’s needed from you are the instructions to get them going.

Outsourcing Pitfalls

I hate it when people paint an overly optimistic picture without being reasonable, so I won’t do that here. There are many pitfalls to outsourcing, fortunately though they can be avoided 99% of the time if you’re smart about it.

One of the biggest outsourcing problems people have boils down to communication, the employer says “I want a logo” and the virtual worker makes one, but problems arise when their idea of a good looking logo and the employers are vastly different. This is a valuable lesson, not just for outsourcing but for business in general – it’s important to learn how to delegate early and often.

Practice being very specific when you assign tasks to others, this will take care of most of the problems that would normally come up. Don’t just say “I want this to be red”, instead go to ColourLovers.com and send them a link to the exact shade of red you want. On the same note never say “I want you to build me a website”, instead spend an hour browsing the websites you like the most and creating a project plan for your virtual worker complete with examples, colors & fonts you’d like to see implemented in the design. Good ole’ communication will solve a lot of your outsourcing problems before they start.

Another outsourcing pitfall is not choosing wisely. Never go with the cheapest virtual worker just because they’re inexpensive or you’ll quite often get the cheapest results. Instead find the person that resonates the best with you & your specific needs through interviews and reading over their resume.

Avoiding outsourcing pitfalls can be summed up by doing your due diligence when hiring a virtual worker and communicating well when working with one. Do these simple things and your outsourcing experience will be 100 times better.

Outsourcing as a way of life

If you are determined to live an unorthodox life like many who read this blog, then I’d like to share with you some of the ways outsourcing can allow you to enjoy more freedom, both personally and in your business.

I personally have used outsourcing to grow my business while I travel and pursue other interests. Of course it’s not a completely hands off thing, because as all good business owners know that would be foolhardy. Instead outsourcing allows you a lot of flexibility when it comes to building a mini empire that will allow you to travel the world, to spend more time with your loved ones or to seek adventure far and wide.

Outsourcing gives you a team that is constantly working on the most essential parts of your business while you do other things. As you delegate more to your virtual workers, you’ll end up with more time on your hands that you can use in many ways. Anything from globe trotting, to waking up late, or simply spending more time brainstorming the next creative steps that will take your business to the next level.

It’s like gaining an extra 8 hours a day that you’re free to do anything you like with, as long as you use your noggin and delegate intelligently to your outsourced team. It’s not perfect but outsourcing can play an essential role in building the business and life of your dreams.

Eager to outsource now? Check out Maren Kate’s job board, which connects employers and virtual workers to each other free of charge, here.

Maren Kate Donovan is a miniature entrepreneur with big ideas and more than enough know-how to take over the world, Napoleon-style (but, you know, without being exiled to Elba). Check out more of her writing and keep up with her empire-building ambitions at Escaping the 9 to 5, and check out her Twitter updates here.

Blog

72 Hours of Pain, Elves and Time-Travel

 

Three days ago, I pulled my blinds, sealing off the last bit of light coming into my apartment.

My intention was to ease the pain I was feeling in my head, but as far as I could tell cutting off the light did little in the way of curing my ailment, and in fact led to more stumbling around in the dark than anything.

It did, however, set the stage for a really crappy 72 hours.

If I had to describe the pain, I’d say it was like some miniature person was behind my eyes, slowly tightening screws into the orbs, while a few of his miniature friends took jackhammers to the back of my skull. There were other miniature people pulling on every hair follicle on my body, while still others poured concrete into my joints.

I’m clearly not a doctor, but I propose that the world of medicine has been focusing their energy in the wrong direction for too long: what we really need is a cure for elves.

Because of the darkness and the fact that I would sleep for 20 minutes then wake up for an hour and then sleep for 3 hours and then wake up for 10 minute and so on and so forth, I lost track of day and night.

The pain in my head lead to an intense nausea, and my bowels could be best described as ‘gurgly, like a bog,’ so circadian habits like eating were out of the question. I had no real anchor to latch onto, and though I was getting emails and Twitter updates through my phone, I had to check and recheck to make sure I wasn’t dreaming some of the conversations I was having.

I had feverish dreams of Twitter conversations with dead Presidents. I’m not making this up.

Reality was distorted by the pain, and all I could focus on was alleviating that pain. I drank lots of water, tried getting a massage (BIG mistake, when you’re suffering from chills and your hair follicles hurt), got some pain killers and tried to eat something, but nothing stuck. This was something I would just have to deal with.

So I did what I do in times of personal adversity: I locked the moment in my mind. Everything I was feeling, everything going on around me, my thoughts, concerns, etc are stored into a snapshot ‘mental moment-in-time’ and sealed off like a time capsule. I tell myself I’ll come back and revisit it when everything’s over.

It’s a silly exercise, but one that works. It helps me to remember that time is not one long stretch, but a series of moments, some good and some bad. I’ve been through enough bad moments to know that they pass, and when they do, I’m always able to look back and say ‘well that sucked, but it wasn’t the end of the world.’

It’s a bit like time-travel, but cheaper.

Creating touchstones makes it easier to hunker down and cope with the time in between, rather than fighting the idea of something bad happening, potentially missing out on something valuable you can take away from the situation, or at the very least allowing yourself to just get better…sometimes your energy is better spent on your immune system than your logical concerns.

I’m not completely in the clear yet, but this morning I woke up feeling better than I have in 3 days. The headache is gone, my stomach is more stable and I have an appetite. Most, if not all, of the elves have left their stations and the world seems full of possibilities again.

I had my touchstone moment as I raised the blinds and let the light back in. Looking out the window, there are storm clouds along the horizon, but it looks to be a beautiful day in Bangkok.

Blog, Project

Most Interesting People in the Room

 

The Premise

There are some conversations that stick with you.

You remember the location, the people involved, the smells, the art on the walls or the texture of the bamboo mats beneath your feet. The moment stands out because the discussion you had was so engrossing, so world-shattering and parallax-shifting that you’ve filed it in your mind under ‘Epiphany Moments’ and go back to reference it from time to time.

And if you’re anything like the majority of people in the world, you can count on one hand the number of times you’ve had this kind of moment.

This is no reflection on you, of course: it’s rare that the stars align in such a way that a group of remarkable people with interesting opinions and unique collections of experiences find themselves in the same room at the same time and all ready and willing to converse about whatever happens to come up in the moment.

If given the opportunity, however, I think most of us would like be in these kinds of conversations more often, and unfortunately it’s getting more and more difficult to do so, even online.

Increasingly, forums and comment sections have become places to agree with whatever has just been said (or a way to get your name out) when they’re available at all. Hot debates are few and far between, and most aren’t so much real conversations as pissing contests between two egos with a reputation to manage.

I feel like there should be an alternative, and I’ve set up a new project – an experiment, really – to allow everyone to have a potentially life-changing conversation at least once per week.

Most Interesting People in the Room

The new project, which is called Most Interesting People in the Room, is a newsletter (powered by letter.ly) and message board (powered by Disqus, just like the comments on this blog) through which I’m aiming to provide a unique interactive experience.

Each week (on Tuesday night), subscribers receive an email with 5 prompts: a quote, a question, a thought, a link and an exercise.

Subscribers are then able to go to the message board and engage in riveting conversation using these prompts to get the party going.

There is a great deal of deviation from the prompts (at least there has been so far) and often the deviations are the best part. The point is not to definitively answer a question or do homework (you don’t have to talk about the prompts at all), it’s to have some jumping-off points that serve as common ground to start with and then move on from there.

A simple concept, I know, but here’s where I mix it up a bit.

Every week, the person who had the most interesting/helpful/insightful commentary will be named ‘Most Interesting Person in the Room’ and will be awarded 10% of the total subscription income.

The cost of subscribing is $10/month, a nominal fee, but one that grows quickly when a decent number of people sign up for something.

I invited a core group of people to join me (from my personal contacts and my newsletter) with 10 paying subscribers among them, so right now the reward each week is $10, which repays the recipient’s monthly membership fee.

Matthew Stillman is the Most Interesting Person in the Room this week, by the way, so go tell him congrats through his newly redesigned website if you get the chance!

Takeaway Points

This project can be many things – a networking tool, business venture, conversation starter, fun experiment – but below are a list of points in case any important distinctions were lost in the paragraphs above.

  • Most Interesting People in the Room is a subscription-funded newsletter and comment board
  • The main purpose is to engage people in stirring conversation at least once per week (and hopefully more than that)
  • The cost is $10/month, and each WEEK whomever is the ‘Most Interesting Person in the Room’ will receive 10% of the total income from membership fees (that means 40% of total fees are given right back out to subscribers)

This is not a project for everyone, but I would recommend it to

  • People who are looking to exercise their brain every week (in a way that their work- and home-life can’t provide)
  • Those who are looking to meet new and interesting people
  • Anyone who is looking to improve their discussion/conversational/debate skills with others who are doing the same
  • Folks who want the chance to get paid for providing value to a group of people who will appreciate their candor
  • Individuals who are looking for some amazing content to read, generated not for an audience of blog-readers (no top ten lists or pithy recycled advice here), but for an audience of intelligent people who are looking to expand their horizons and help others do the same

I would love to build this up so that everyone is able to become engrossed in excellent conversation every week and I’m able to give away thousands of dollars to people for being brilliant, so come and check it out now if you want to help shape the direction of the project from the beginning.

If you haven’t been scared away, you can click here to subscribe to Most Interesting People in the Room, or shoot me an email with any questions you might have.

The next newsletter goes out Tuesday night, so if you sign up before then you’ll be able to jump right in to the fray!