Starting and owning a business can be challenging at any age, but young entrepreneurs face particular challenges. Time is a limited commodity and some young business owners struggle to balance the demands of college courses and work. Others may work a demanding job during the day and build their business in their off hours.
Young entrepreneurs are often pulled in many different directions, so it’s critical to develop a project management plan to make sure you’re focusing your efforts on the most important tasks. This leads to the natural question of how to identify what your most important tasks are.
Use the 80/20 Rule to Identify Your Core Strengths and Key Tasks
The 80/20 rule was originally developed by an economist and essentially hypothesizes that 80 percent of income is generated by 20 percent of the population. This rule generally holds true and can be applied to more than just earnings and economic output. Some have applied it to work teams, citing that 20 percent of the employees do 80 percent of the work. The same maxim applies to customers, meaning that 20 percent of your customers will generate 80 percent of your revenues.
You can use the 80/20 rule to evaluate vendors or products and services that your business uses, then stick to the ones that help you generate the most income, and then jettison the rest. You can apply the same rule to clients and customers.
In order to prioritize your own efforts, use the 80/20 rule to identify the small set of activities you do on a regular basis that yield the biggest results. This list generally is comprised of tasks you enjoy that are within your core strengths, which is why this work is the most productive. Concentrate on these items and consider delegating or outsourcing the remaining items.
Outsourcing for Success
Outsourcing can be a huge boost to your small business while reducing your stress and increasing your satisfaction. As with anything else in business, outsourcing is most beneficial when you start with a plan. Out of your list of items that you’re considering outsourcing, identify which tasks you’re going to outsource first. This might be the top two or three items that you need done more quickly, that you feel most comfortable outsourcing or that you have the least proficiency with or dread doing the most.
The next step is to identify who the right person is to do the work. Define the skills and experience that are most crucial to the task, how many hours a week you think the work will require and what your budget is. You should also recognize that cheaper labor isn’t always better. In fact, the opposite often holds true. Make sure you’ve allotted enough budget to attract a qualified candidate so that you don’t waste time and money re-doing work or outsourcing the same work multiple times.
Finding the Right Outsourcing Candidates
One of the best ways to find prospective candidates is through word of mouth. Let your friends and professional contacts know that you’re looking for help and reach out to your contacts on social networks. You can also use job board postings as well as the array of websites that are specifically geared to match freelancers with people who are looking for help.
Online Outsourcing Resources
Some of the most popular outsourcing websites include eLance.com, freelancer.com, odesk.com and guru.com. Many of these sites run on an auction basis in which you create a project listing the specific work you need and freelancers bid on your project. Some sites, like elance.com, also allow you to list projects with hourly or flat rates. Most offer tools to manage your projects, collaborate with workers, monitor their activity and manage payments.
Other sites use a different pricing model, such as 99designs.com, which is geared towards graphic design and works like a contest. You submit a creative brief describing the work you want done and designers compete by producing finished designs for you to judge. You only pay for the work you select.
Sites like fittytown.com and fiverr.com use flat rate pricing at 50 and five dollars respectively. Sellers list specific services they are willing to provide for each site’s allowed price point and buyers simply order or buy whichever services they’re interested in.
Regardless of which method you use to generate a list of candidates, you should arrange a virtual interview using Skype or other video conferencing tool that allows you to screen each applicant and get a feel for how you would work together.
Working with Your Outsourcing Partners
Once you’ve chosen your outsourcing partners, make sure that they have the tools and information that they need to complete the work. You’ll also need to set up standard communications and file sharing tools. For hourly tasks, you’ll also need to provide a way for the freelancer to report their hours. If you used an outsourcing website, most provide these tools to you as part of your project posting. If you plan to use your partners for more than one-off tasks, take the time to instill effective work processes and cultivate a good working relationship with them.
The last step is simply to enjoy yourself and grow your business. Now that you’ve freed yourself of some of the tasks that you don’t want to do, you can focus on doing the things you like to do and ultimately on expanding your business. Your business’s growth is only limited by available time and resources, so now that you have more of both, the sky’s the limit.
Julian is an internet entrepreneur with years of online project management experience. He writes on topics such as business, marketing, and education. Through Business Administration Information, he strives to help professionals and students achieve their goals and provide access to the information & education they need to achieve them.
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