Outsource Your “Side Dish” Writing Work

Here’s something it took me a long time to learn as a freelancer:

You can’t be responsible for everything.

Since we’ve got our food theme going this week, let’s think about this in terms of a holiday feast.

Say you’re planning an elegant holiday dinner for 12 in the weeks to come. You can either do all the planning, cooking, and baking yourself, or you can recruit some help.

If you do it all yourself, you’ll have serious bragging rights once you’re done — especially if you go all out. I’m picturing roast turkey with apple-raisin stuffing … sweet potato soufflé … caramelized butternut squash … spiced apple pudding … seven kinds of pie …

I could go on, but the point is, making all that on your own — unless you’re the Barefoot Contessa — could easily overwhelm you. Even if you pull it off, you’d be too exhausted to enjoy the feast.

The better approach is to recruit help. Get your neighbor to bring the sweet potatoes. Ask Grandma Jimsie to bake a pie. Buy the pudding from an upscale grocery store.

Divvy out responsibilities until all that’s left is the roast turkey. That’s the one you’ll want to do yourself. Why? Because it’s the centerpiece of the meal. It’ll earn the greatest respect and the most compliments.

I’ll confess … I’ve never hosted a big holiday meal. I never had the courage because I saw it as a tremendous undertaking. I just wasn’t up for the planning and stress of it. I didn’t want to mess up and have a bunch of hungry people glaring at me.

Of course, that was before I realized the value of outsourcing. I was a firm do-it-yourselfer until last year, when I made my big, public goal to earn six-figures as a freelance writer in only one year.

It quickly became clear I couldn’t manage a major career jump — much less manage a household — without any support.

I went from doing it all myself to outsourcing everything but my writing.

On the home front, that meant getting my husband to take over errands and cooking. It meant hiring out everything else, including yard work, housecleaning, pest control, dog grooming, and home repair — all things my husband and I previously did ourselves.

On the business front, it meant hiring a graphic designer, having my website reworked by a professional, engaging a mentor, and getting subscriptions to automated services, like email software management and a fax-to-email system. All were things I’d either tried to do myself or didn’t think I needed.

In the end, I spent close to $21,000 on business-related purchases.

But that same year, I broke the six-figure ceiling. And that was saying something, since I’d only made $24,000 the year before.

And, even though I got a lot of support from a lot of people along the way, I also got the big payoff in the end — kind of like being the one who gets all the glory by making the holiday turkey.

As entrepreneurial-minded freelancers, most of us are interested in a lot of things, and most of us are pretty good at most things. But, if we focus all of our efforts on one thing — like freelance writing — then that can be the thing that really takes off for us.

It wasn’t easy to admit I couldn’t do everything. But when I finally did, it was beyond worth it.

What about you — is there something you outsource currently, or want to outsource, to pave your way to freelance writing success? Tell me about it here.

And just for fun, I’ve included my own recipe for a stunning freelance writing career. It worked for me … hopefully it’ll help you, too.

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Published: December 1, 2011

6 Responses to “Outsource Your “Side Dish” Writing Work”

  1. I did start outsourcing some of my writing this last year, but it was hard for me to do. I went through 4 writers before I found someone that I didn't have to re-do everything.

    Yes, I'm particular about what goes out with my name on it and even when I do outsource I read every single word!

    I am thinking of outsourcing some blog commenting and forum posting as well but have not done that. My problem is letting go of all the control! Trusting who you outsource to is something I need to overcome, but still it's hard for a control freak like me!

    Guest (RhondaG)

  2. Mindy, While I don't have the funds nor the husband to allow me to outsource while I focus on a career, what holds me back more than anything is the lack of belief in my writing ability.
    WHERE do you get that from?

    I received more criticism than compliments for the quality of my writing with most saying I "underwhelmed" the customer.

    What's the secret to unleashing the hidden rockstar writer within?
    OR, when does one have to accept that being a writer is more fantasy than fact?

    Cheers Terri

    Guest (Terri)

  3. Having prepared dinners for 24 & loving to cook, I would never outsource! My pumpkin pie recipe is a secret - never found better. Ditto for my cran-apple pie, traditional sage dressing, homemade bread, etc. "Never outsource what you do well (especially if you love it)" should be a major rule for freelancers.

    Glad you have a spouse to take some of the load & money to hire help. Many have neither. Especially when starting out, working capital is often very scarce. Paying rent, internet & electric must come first. That means fixing your plumbing, too, even if you hate it & have to teach yourself how. There's no money for a plumber.

    Also consider your learning curve. If you want to expand from writing to, say, desktop marketing or PR consulting, you'd better do various tasks yourself and master them before considering outsourcing. If you want to expand into web writing, you'd better do your own site. (Besides, your site becomes a sample of your we

    J


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