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Delegation Skills: Being a Soloprenuer Doesn’t Mean You Do It All Yourself.

Sarah is a freelance writer. In addition to her writing projects, she also had to do the billing, marketing, website updating and business accounting.

Sarah started her freelance writing business about five years ago, and worked on her own for the first three. As her business grew, she realized she needed help, so she hired two virtual assistant, each filling several different roles.

Sarah called me because she was on overload. Business was booming, but she was working round the clock, paying out too much to her assistants and still not achieving an efficient and comfortable workflow.

When I asked her for details on what each of her assistants were responsible for, she admitted that she was throwing out a hodgepodge of tasks to each, often different tasks each week. This ill-planned strategy was terribly inefficient.

Here’s what we did:

1. We looked at Sarah’s long term goals. She dreamed of retiring to the Carolina coast by the time she was 60, in less than 10 years. In order to do that, she needed to pay off her business debts, increase revenues and profits and put 15k per year into her retirement and savings accounts once the debt was paid off.

2. We focused on her strengths and which aspects of the work she most enjoyed. Sarah loved writing, editing and working with her clients. She was very skilled at listening carefully to them and then telling their stories and clarifying their messages. Sarah wasn’t as in tune with finances, had little patience for social media marketing, hated dealing with minutia and paperwork, and uncomfortable with delegation; skills that she felt were important to running her business effectively.

3. We identified the values that were most important to her. Quality and integrity were two of her guiding principals. She was passionate about delivering quality work and had built her reputation on it.

4. We listed the myriad of different tasks and responsibilities that were involved in running the business, and sorted them by category: creative, client communication, marketing, technology, bookkeeping and administrative. When sharpening delegation skills, it’s critical to understand what you’re delegating.

5. We determined what Sarah wanted to continue doing and what she was willing to part with. She realized that she’d loved her work with clients much more before her business grew enough to require more marketing, accounting and administrative work. She also reflected on the smaller writing tasks that she could parse out to another writer as overflow work. It took a while, but she finally agreed to delegate the rest to others who had the appropriate skills another key step to sharpening her delegation skills.

6. We created job descriptions for each area so she would know what each team member would be responsible for, and devised a strategy to judge if they had the best skill set for the job.

7. We took a hard look at the skills and experience of her virtual assistants, and compared their strengths and weaknesses with the job descriptions. Although the process made her a little uneasy, Sarah was pleased when she realized that Nick was well suited for technology work: updating her website, creating digital ads, sending out email blasts and similar tasks. Whew – she could keep him on without hesitation. Instead of using him as a jack of all trades, she could have him focus on what he does best.

Kathleen was great at paperwork, invoicing and bookkeeping, so Sarah delegated those tasks to her. While Sarah was hesitant at first, because such a change would reduce Kathleen’s weekly hours, Kathleen confided that she was relieved to limit her role to her strengths, so both parties benefited from the change.

Lastly, Sarah enlisted the help of a social media manager who took up her social media marketing and also took occasional overflow writing tasks.

Sarah was delighted with the results. Her two original assistants far exceeded her expectations once they were assigned tasks well-suited to their strengths. While their weekly hours with her were reduced, she happily referred their services to colleagues (now that she realized their strengths). The reduction of Kathleen’s hours left plenty to pay her social media manager, and at the end of each month, she was saving $300. Furthermore, she was able to accomplish much more work this way, so she was able to increase her productivity and finally enjoy some downtime.

Sarah developed the delegation skills she needed to effectively manage her business and strategically delegate tasks, so that she is now free to focus on her own strengths and the work that is most fulfilling to her.

Do you have to do it all yourself?

Susan Martin, Business Leadership Coaching

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