This week I presented a breakout session at the National Speaker’s Association’s conference, Influence. Here’s a link to the shared resources folder I set up, which includes my handout. Thank you to FYT Virtual Assistants and Mountain Mojo Group for sponsoring my session. If you want a recap of my session and more information about the services I have used and how they have benefitted me, read on:
In the last two years I have built a profitable business as a professional speaker, trainer, and facilitator. As my business has gained complexity, I have needed to hire specific services and more general administrative help.
Do you work alone running your own business?
Do you sit in your home office talking to your cat and singing the theme to Moana?
This is Elsa, my cat. She is SO over my ballads.
You want to get these tasks off your to-do list so that you can focus on what really matters or what you are actually good at and enjoy doing.
You want help.
But you know where to get good help. Maybe you don’t actually have enough profit yet because you are bogged down with the minutia and cannot do revenue-generating activities. It is an evil death spiral!
If we don’t get out of this crazy spiral we will end up with the worst of both worlds. As Jess Pettitt said in a podcast interview, we got away from the traditional workforce to escape lousy bosses and the rules and constraints of a workplace. Which was a great idea… until we realized that we are now our own lousy boss, and we are also now our own lousy employee.
We are trapped in the evil death spiral of business failure where we can’t get ahead because we can’t delegate anything, so we are left to do both the work we are good at, as well as the work we aren’t. We are unable to capitalize on our actual value because we keep spending our time doing things that someone else will do for less value.
I am a new NSA member. A new professional speaker. A new business owner. I am also a fifth generation government employee who never hosted a lemonade stand and never hustled anything for any reason. I love doing good work for good reasons for good people. I do not have an MBA and haven’t taken any business classes.
However, I am a responsible person who always tries to do the right thing, so I bought QuickBooks and got a business only bank account. I connected the two and called that bookkeeping. My friend, a retired accountant, asked me if I was reconciling my accounts. Because we are friends I came clean and admitted that I didn’t actually know what the verb “reconcile” meant in this context. She agreed to walk me through it if I would buy her a coffee and a scone.
After a primer from her, I set about reconciling the last quarter of my accounts. Turns out I had been triple charged two months ago by a restaurant, scammed into a software subscription I didn’t know I was paying for, and accidently kept two dental insurance plans without realizing it. After cancellations and refunds I suddenly realized the value of bookkeeping.
I realize the value of bookkeeping, and I have now done it myself enough to know what it entails. I have now delegated bookkeeping to FYT Virtual Assistants because they can do it more effectively that I can.
I chose to hire a professional service rather than go with a local student or intern. My friend and colleague is nicer and more generous than me and is not afraid of young people. She had gone the “hire a local college student and get an intern” route at first. She found herself spending more time training and mentoring and babysitting than actually making progress. Since she is an amazing mentor and trainer, and just generally a better person than I am, this wasn’t as painful or frustrating to her as it would have been for me.
I know, you are thinking – but I can’t afford an expert, all I can afford is a free intern.
I have no cash flow. I only made a few thousand dollars in profit last year. I am only in my second full time year of business. If I can leverage my revenue to hire help, so can you. The most important thing is to ensure that the help will actually be helpful, by first getting clear on what you will do differently as a result.
What will you do with the time you have saved?
How will you spend 80% of your time on revenue generating activities?
Tasks and projects that will grow your audience, grow your expertise, and grow your revenue.
My approach to hiring help has been to diversify and spread the work around to find the best fit for each project. I hire locally for event assistants. I have hired a marketing firm (Mountain Mojo Marketing), photographer, office organizer, guest speakers, accountant, playwright, videographer, business coach, etc.
Last December, I decided to celebrate a milestone in my business of my One Year Anniversary. I invited all of my local clients and all of the people I had hired for various specialties throughout the year. I had door prizes and a scrapbook for guests to sign. As clients mingled with vendors and friends, I beamed with pride and delight at the tribe I was building around this business.
Being a speaker, a small business owner… is a lonely road sometimes. Surround yourself with people who share your values and believe in the work that you are doing. You will be able to do more with more. You are building a tribe to move your mission forward.
When I left my position at AmeriCorps, I had a sad realization that I was no longer part of a national movement that had the people and connections to create a large scale change. Then I realized that change also happens through loosely-connected networks. You can create that network, and it can start with being strategic about who you spend your money with.
I created a spreadsheet of all the tasks that didn’t fall in those 80% of revenue generating activities and then used a decision matrix to prioritize them. I have uploaded my spreadsheet template into a resource folder for you so that you can try this for yourself. This is my 30-Day Outcome for all of you – to figure out what tasks you have for an assistant to do, prioritize them, and see what can be done virtually versus what you may want to hire for locally.
Next, I decided in-person versus virtual for the tasks on my list.
A common misstep from myself and many other speakers I talked to is hiring someone you know who needs the money but is not working as a professional assistant. This is not a good way to leverage your limited dollars, and it may create an awkward or even resentful situation down the road.
Finally, I did my due diligence in researching the firm I would be hiring. I checked references, checked out their website, and was careful to observe my interactions with them to look for any red flags.
In the resource folder I have also included an example scope of work and an example subcontractor agreement for you to use as a reference.
In addition to hiring local people to help me with specific events, I have hired skilled professionals like the graphic designers and marketing experts at Mountain Mojo to design my logo and my Speaker One Sheet. I hired the FYT Virtual Assistants agency for Content Delivery and Bookkeeping. I will also be trying out their services for managing my customer relationship management (CRM) system as a well as their Coach and Speaker Operations Services. I have been very impressed with the work of both companies, and it has freed me up to focus on what is most important and the value I want to create for my customers.
My business has grown and I am getting more clarity and focus. I am on track to reach six figures in revenue in my third year of business and will be able to develop my new podcast season, my new keynote, and deliver better customer service to my clients.
What will success look like for you? You must be able to define a vision of success for your company so that the people you hire can help you achieve it. Last year, I wasn’t ready, I didn’t know where I was going.
Hiring an assistant is like adding a motor to the back wheel of your bicycle. If you are pointed towards a cliff, they will just get you there faster.
A professional assistant does not just give you time, they can also help you systematize your workflow and give you templates and tools for working smarter not harder. One of these such tools is in the Resource Folder.
What are your expectations of yourself after hiring an assistant? What additional work will you be able to get done in each of the next three months? How much additional revenue will you have generated? How many new leads will you have nurtured?
What are your expectations of the quality and quantity of the assistant’s work? Is their work strengthening your company’s services and products? Does it align with your values and your brand?
After you hire, set regular check-ins to evaluate the progress with the person(s) you hire. Then set a check-in with yourself. Are you actually doing more revenue-generating activities or are you spending more time on Facebook?
Recognize the value that you can bring when you stand in your strength and get to do what you do best. Keep that in mind when you hire. Are you hiring people to do what they do best? Are you setting them up for success and thus setting yourself up for success?
Money is a tool, just one tool of many, to realize your vision. No one else can define that vision for you. The National Speaker’s Association is amazing because we support one another in becoming the best versions of ourselves, so that we can share our gifts with the world and make it a better place. Focus your energies there, and when you are ready, ask for help from someone who sees your vision and can use their unique strengths to help make it a reality.