How outsourcing helps you scale your creative business (without losing your personal touch)

Personal Development Strategy & Operations
21 min read
In this Article

“How do you do it all?”

There’s so much that goes into being a creator—writing, recording, replying, planning, creating, teaching, taking care of admin. You’ve likely heard that question more than once… And if not, you certainly thought of it.

As a creator, it feels like your work rarely stops. And the more you grow, the more there is to do—and it’s a road that can easily lead to burnout.

Charli Marie, a part time creator (and ConvertKit’s creative director), has an answer to the “How do you do it all?” question:

“I don’t. I have help.”

Hiring outside help can have a huge positive impact on your growth, as well as your balance between life and work—but only if you do it in the right way.

In this guide, you’ll learn if you’re ready for outsourcing, what to outsource, where to find the best people to hire, and how to best prepare for working with contractors. You’ll free up your valuable time without losing what makes you a unique creator. Let’s go!

Outsourcing

What is outsourcing and why does it matter?

Outsourcing is the practice of working with a contractor to handle tasks you would otherwise do yourself.

As a creator, you’re always balancing your schedule between two categories:

  1. Maintaining the day-to-day work: content creation, your newsletter, consistent posting on social media, and backend admin. If you take a break, none of these tasks happen.
  2. Being open to new opportunities: a potential partnership, a new digital product brewing, a creative content format you want to explore. If you don’t create space to brainstorm and plan in your schedule, you hinder your growth.

The first category is what grows your audience and allows you to make a living doing what you want. It’s where your tasks come from, and where it’s easy to reach the point of burnout.

That’s where outsourcing comes in. Outsourcing isn’t about letting go of the work you love doing. It’s about freeing yourself from the feeling you need to be “always on”—delegating the tasks that support your creative efforts, but:

  • Aren’t in your zone of genius;
  • You don’t enjoy doing; or
  • Take too much of your time.

If at least two of these are true for a task you do on the regular—especially once or more per week—it’s a solid candidate for outsourcing.

Support your growing business

ConvertKit helps creators like you grow your audience, connect and build a relationship with that audience, and earn a living online by selling digital products.

Start a free 14-day ConvertKit trial

How to know if you’re ready to outsource as a creator

Outsourcing is a great option for freeing up your time and creative energy—but only if it makes financial sense.
So how do you know if you’re ready to outsource and delegate some of your work? Answer these four questions to make sure you’re ready:

Outsourcing

1. How do your finances line up?

Outsourcing can buy you more time—but that time comes at the cost of lower business margins. Hiring a contractor or VA can be a significant jump in your monthly business expenses, reducing how much profit ends up in your pocket at the end of the day.

Here’s a super-simple formula for understanding your business finances:

Revenue – Profit = Business Expenses

Start by looking at how much business revenue you’re making. Will outsourcing some of your tasks help you grow your revenue further? If so, it’s likely a great investment.

Next, subtract how much profit you need to make to cover your personal expenses and taxes. If your coaching or digital product income is a bonus on top of full-time income in your household, you might feel safer trading part of it for additional help. But if you and your family are relying on your creative income for your living expenses, consider what will happen to your profit after you pay a contractor for a month.

Finally, you can work out how much remaining money you have to spend on business expenses like contractors.
This will give you a solid idea of contractor fees you can afford right now, and how much you need to increase your revenue to be comfortable outsourcing some of your work.

Take it from Benjamin Houy, the creator behind language learning blog French Together. Ben resisted outsourcing for a long time because he felt he was better off doing everything himself. But when he launched his French course and made more revenue than he expected, he realized it would make more sense for him to focus on marketing and building courses than writing content on his blog.

I already had a clear marketing funnel, so it was obvious that more blog content would lead to more visitors. More people would sign up for my newsletter and buy my course, and I knew the investment would be worth it.

But there’s more to consider than cold, hard numbers, which brings us to the second question:

2. Can you buy more time for revenue-generating work?

There are many things you can do to increase your revenue as a creator. You can run live product launches, take on more clients, get sponsors for your podcast, or launch a paid newsletter.

But what if you simply don’t have enough hours in the day to make this happen?

This is where outsourcing makes a true impact. Take it from our very own Charli Marie, ConvertKit’s creative director. In her spare time, Charli also runs a thriving YouTube channel, a podcast, and a blog.

On her blog, she discusses outsourcing some of her side project work in 2020, dubbing outsourcing “a bet which seems to be paying off.” In the previous 12 months, she made around £20,000 ($28,300) total from side projects. After hiring contractors, she made around £19,000 ($26,900) in six months. She added:

The expense of hiring help is actually an investment into the potential of earning more income from these projects in the future. […] Hiring help has freed up my time to focus on the big picture, but also to just do things purely for the fun of it too (like streaming on Twitch!).

3. What is taking more time than is sustainable?

The next key question is: what do you spend your time on, and is it sustainable long-term?

Try tracking your time for a few weeks to see how you divide your time between planning, creating, selling, admin work, and other tasks you need to do to keep your business afloat. Use a free tool like Toggl Track, which lets you start your timer and label each session in a couple of clicks.

Here’s one example of such report:

Toggl report
An example of a time tracking report in Toggl.

At the end of this experiment, view your report and analyze how you spend your time. Here’s what to ask yourself when reviewing these categories:

  • Is the time spent on this category likely to grow in the future? (for example: customer support or email management)
  • If it grows, will I be able to keep doing this well?
  • Am I the only one who can do this?

If the answers reveal you might struggle to keep up with this task category, hiring help will bring you massive relief.

This is exactly what Monica Lent did with her online community Blogging for Devs:

Communities are time-consuming to run, but not necessarily the most profitable. It became clear that as the community grew, I couldn't stay on top of everything myself. It's also not something you can automate, because communities rely on personal connection.

I knew that if I brought on help, I could do more for the current members—and this would improve engagement and retention, and ultimately the bottom line, too. That's why it was clear to me that bringing on help from within the community was the perfect next step.

4. What is holding you back?

Are there tasks you don’t mind doing, but you just aren’t that great at them?

If something is outside of your zone of genius, but needs to happen in order to publish your ideas and grow your audience, it’s a task worth outsourcing. Be open to letting go of tasks you’re not great at. It will free up your time and energy to focus on what you’re the best at.

Take it from Andrea Bizzotto, who teaches Flutter app development through emails, videos, and courses:

I have basic design skills, but all the banners I was producing didn't stand out. I knew that a skilled designer could produce great-looking banners for a fraction of the time it took me and with acceptable cost, so this was a no brainer.

Doing this definitely paid off—every piece of content he publishes looks polished and consistent:

Outsourcing example work
Video thumbnails on Andrea Bizzotto’s YouTube channel. Image via Code With Andrea.

There’s a bonus benefit to this that Charli summed up perfectly:

The more we work together, the more the work my editors and content manager produce matches up with what I had in mind; and often it’s even better, because it’s their area of expertise that I get to benefit from.

What can you outsource to a contractor? 32 tasks to inspire you

It can be hard to let go of tasks. After all, you’ve been the only one doing them for months—or years—and it creates a shift in how you organize your time and energy.

Charli Marie says she was worried outsourcing will make her content less hers. She wanted to stay authentic and keep a strong personal connection to her audience. She asked herself these three questions to find what she could never let go of:

  • What do I love doing most?
  • What things can only be done by me?
  • What would be inauthentic if it were done by someone else?

Charli’s answers included making/designing, writing, speaking, topic planning, and communicating with her audience.

This meant she could outsource video and podcast editing, video uploading, content promotion, newsletter layout and sending, inbox management, paying invoices, and bookkeeping.

Andrea Bizzotto suggests you work out your weaknesses and outsource them. “It’s easier to outsource work that can be entirely handed over without too much back and forth,” he added.

Find what you don’t want to outsource. Then, use the list of tasks below to get an idea of tasks you can start outsourcing.

Outsourcing tasks list

Content creation tasks

  • Research and outlining (blog posts, videos, emails)
  • Blog post writing
  • Editing and proofreading (blog posts, emails, social copy)
  • SEO keyword research
  • Writing website copy
  • Writing captions for social media
  • Writing descriptions for YouTube videos
  • Instagram hashtag research
  • Video editing for YouTube
  • Repurposing YouTube videos into shorter formats for social media
  • Podcast editing
  • Recording voice overs
  • Designing graphics for your website, YouTube, emails, social media posts

Admin tasks

  • Sending invoices to clients
  • Paying invoices
  • Bookkeeping, accounting, and taxes
  • Meeting scheduling
  • Email inbox management

PR and partnership tasks

  • Pitching publications
  • Pitching for podcast appearances
  • Pitching for speaking
  • Managing sponsors and/or affiliate partnerships

Operations tasks

  • Help with managing your free or paid community (in a Facebook group, in Slack, on Circle, etc.)
  • Uploading emails to your email marketing software
  • Updating website
  • Uploading videos to YouTube, adding description and tags, setting up end screen cards
  • Scheduling social media posts
  • Uploading course videos and materials to your course platform
  • Collecting analytics from email marketing software and social media accounts

Customer service tasks

  • Collecting testimonials
  • Monitoring comments and direct messages on social media
  • Triaging emails from customers

Where to find the best people to outsource tasks to

Now you know which tasks you’d like to outsource, it’s time to find someone who can tackle the work.

If you’re new to working with a team, this step is easier said than done. There’s no single best place to hire someone to help with tasks.

After working with thousands of creators, we’ve put together six ideas for finding the best people to outsource your tasks. Some of these six ideas will make more sense for your situation than the others—use them to find your best starting point.

Tap into your network: ask your list and social media followers

You already have an audience that knows what you do and who you serve—they’re on your email list and in your social media audience.

Kick off your search process by defining what you’re looking for and asking for recommendations from other creators on social media platforms. This is what Charli did on Twitter:

Charli successfully hired a content VA after getting an email from her off the back of this tweet.

Andrea Bizzotto also used Twitter when looking for a graphic designer. He heard from 10 potential hires and checked their portfolio on Behance, an online platform designers use to showcase their creative work.

One of the portfolios stood out and I liked the style of the author, so I commissioned the first set of banners. The result exceeded my expectations so I hired him and he's been consistently delivering great work ever since.

Allea Grummert, a conversion copywriter, found her operations manager through her email list. This person was a subscriber and replied to one of Allea’s emails months before she knew she would be hiring for this position.

Don’t be afraid to tell your email subscribers about what you want to outsource—and consider people who’ve already engaged with your emails in the past.

Hire a customer

Your past customers already know your products and services, making it easier for them to get up to speed on the rest of your business.

Monica Lent hired one of her first paid community members to help her with the day-to-day tasks in the Blogging for Devs community:

My first hire was one of my first customers, so she already knew the DNA of the community and didn’t require as much onboarding. She already believed in my product and was the ideal extension of my business. That’s also why I wasn’t worried about letting her take over these tasks; if I hired externally, I’d definitely worry about not being on the same wavelength with that person.

Your potential hire might be a long-time course student or a former client—consider those options if it fits your business model and style of work.

Run searches on Twitter and LinkedIn

Searching on Twitter and LinkedIn is an excellent way to expand your pool of options, especially if you have a smaller audience on those platforms.

The process is simple:

  • Start by defining the roles of people that could help you with your tasks. For example: graphic designer, video editor, virtual assistant.
  • Add the word ‘freelance’ to it to make sure you search for contractors who are likely open to client work.

On LinkedIn, run a search and filter by ‘People,’ as well as location if you want to make sure you’re looking within your time zone:

LinkedIn contractors
Search for contractors on LinkedIn.

On Twitter, type in your query in the search box and click on the ‘People’ tab:

Contractors on Twitter
Search for contractors on Twitter.

Click through interesting profiles and message or tweet those that seem like a good fit.

Post a job on specialized job sites

Use specialized job sites to reach experts who are actively looking for jobs in their area.
Here are some recommendations to get you started:

Credo
The form for hiring marketing providers on Credo. Image via Credo.

Many specialized platforms will let you post a job for free or for a low one-time fee, so once you know what you’re looking for, this is a great way to find talent to outsource your tasks to.

Post a job on a freelancing platform

If you want to expand your reach beyond specialized platforms, you can use online job marketplaces like Freelancer or Upwork.

Their upside is the sheer number of freelancers they reach across all industries, specialties, locations, and price ranges.

The main downside of these platforms is that they’re the ones facilitating payments, so you pay a fee (usually around 3%) on top of your freelancer’s rate. If you find the ideal person for the tasks you’re looking to outsource, though, that fee will feel insignificant.

Use a matchmaking service for hiring virtual assistants

Want to hire a virtual assistant, rather than an expert in one niche area?
There’s one extra way you can look for the best virtual assistant for your needs: virtual assistant matchmaking services. Here are a few:

These services ask you questions about the tasks you’re looking to delegate, skills and qualities you’re looking for, your budget, and other details so they can suggest the VA that fits your needs best.

Virtual assistant finder
The form on Virtual Assistant Finder. GIF via Horkey HandBook.

6 tips for effective outsourcing and delegation

We’ll leave you with some tips to make the most of this process so you can truly remove tasks off your plate and free up your time and energy for other things you want to focus on.

1. Be prepared for giving more feedback early on

When you first work with a contractor, it may take some time for the process to become smooth and seamless.
This is normal and you should be prepared for it. You’ll likely share quite a bit of feedback in the beginning, but the clearer your feedback early on, the better your contractors will work.

Charli described her experience after providing lots of feedback to her editors:

They quickly picked up on what I liked and didn’t. So if you outsource something and don’t feel initially like it saved you a lot of time, stick with it a while and it should get faster the more you both ease into the process (and if it doesn’t, maybe it’s time to try someone else).

This initial extra time you’re spending with a new hire is what creator Khe Hy calls the J-Curve, a term borrowed from the world of investing.

J-curve
The J-Curve in financial investing. Image via RadReads.

You start “in the red” because you invest some time on training and setting up processes, but that investment pays for itself quickly because the hire saves you time in the long run.

2. Start small

Outsourcing doesn’t have to be a massive, scary endeavour. It doesn’t need to fully clear your schedule or transform every step of every process in your business.
Starting small lets you minimize the risk and still reap the benefits of delegating tasks you don’t want to do, aren’t great at, and don’t have time for.

Benjamin Houy of French Together recommends giving it a try, even if you’re not sure.

There’s very little risk, and working with fellow creators can be life-changing. It helped me create much better content and focus on my true strengths.

Start by outsourcing just a couple of tasks or with a small number of contractor hours per week. Notice how that makes you feel and tweak your approach accordingly.

3. Be clear about what you need from your contractor

Effective outsourcing leaves no room for vague tasks and job descriptions. Be as clear as you can from the first assignment, and you’ll make your ongoing relationship with your contractor better—and your communication simple and clear.

Andrea Bizzotto recommends you clearly document tasks and requirements upfront as this will reduce interactions needed until the job can be considered done. He added:

For the first assignment I outsourced, I created a detailed design spec outlining what I wanted. Then, I trusted my hire to do all the magic and produce a great result. Now when I need a banner, I just send a low-fi concept of what I have in mind, wait for the first delivery, provide some feedback, and get the final result.

4. Establish a workflow and a hub for work

Instead of relying on back-and-forth emails, set up a central place that both you and your contractors can refer to for files, checklists, and all project and task details.

The choice of tool(s) is less important—go with whatever is practical for you and your contractor. Monica and her contractor use Notion for weekly tasks and ongoing projects, as do Charli and her content VA. Charli also uses Dropbox to share footage and notes with her video editors.

Use your tool of choice to define tasks and due dates and any dependencies between tasks. It’s also a great place to store written or video walkthroughs of certain processes, which helps with reusing these resources if you hire more contractors.

5. Create guidelines

If you’re worried your contractor won’t be able to replicate your work the way you want to, like your tone of voice or visual style, creating comprehensive guidelines will help.

Benjamin Houy shared his own process:

My main worry before outsourcing was that the creators wouldn't understand French Together's learning philosophy and brand, so I spent a few hours writing a style guide, as well as a guide explaining what the blog stands for and who our audience is. This made a huge difference.

Based on what you’re outsourcing, your guidelines can include details such as:

  • Phrases and words your audience uses (and doesn’t use)
  • Desired tone of voice with scenario examples
  • Colors and imagery that resonate with your brand
  • Questions and pain points your audience struggles with

6. Be legally sound

Finally, make sure you’re always on firm legal ground. Never hire without a contract, and always make sure all terms are clearly outlined, including:

  • Length of your agreement
  • Services your contractor will provide you
  • Payment terms, including rates, responsibilities around expenses, and invoicing process
  • Considerations around late fees, delayed payments, and taxes
  • Confidentiality
  • Cancellation and dispute terms
  • Renewals

Your contractor might have a standard contract they use, but you can also put your own contract in place. You can find free templates online, or purchase a specific template that matches your situation.

Start scaling your online business

You’re ready to make your online business more efficient. Make sure your tech setup is ready, too—ConvertKit helps you send perfectly targeted emails automatically. See what ConvertKit automations can do for you.

Support your growing business

ConvertKit helps creators like you grow your audience, connect and build a relationship with that audience, and earn a living online by selling digital products.

Start a free 14-day ConvertKit trial

Marijana Kay

Marijana Kay is a freelance writer for leading B2B SaaS companies. She uses data-backed, actionable content to help them hit and exceed their growth goals. In her spare time, she collects books and logs running miles.

The future belongs to creators

ConvertKit helps creators like you take their projects from idea to reality. It's never been easier to build an audience and grow a business. And you can do it all for free.

Launch your next project