As a freelancer, you’re probably used to wearing different hats for your business. You’re the boss who calls the shots, but you’re also the employee who does the actual legwork. You’re your own accountant, project manager, marketing manager, janitor, and everything else in between.
While doing everything yourself may satisfy your need for control, it’s necessary to delegate at least some aspects of your business in order to maximize your productivity. In fact, according to ScaleTime, CEOs who delegate tasks generate 33% more revenue than those who don’t.
If you’re ready to stay sane during tight deadlines, it’s time to start delegating tasks to the right people. Here are some delegation strategies you can start putting into practice.
Because you’ve been on your own for so long, you may feel unable to let go of some aspects of your work. You probably feel so dedicated to complete everything on your own, or maybe you fear that others won’t measure up to the quality of work that you put out. Whatever the case is, the first step to effective delegation is learning to let go.
Start outsourcing a minor, repeating task—like hiring a housekeeper to come in and clean your home every other day so you can focus on work instead of the mess around you. Then maybe hire an accountant to do your taxes so you know exactly how much you’re actually making. Work your delegation up until you feel comfortable delegating professional tasks like writing and designing, so you can prioritize the tasks that only you can do, like acquiring more business.
Once you do hand off some tasks, resist the temptation to become a micromanager. Other people may do something differently than you, but as long as the work gets done and up to standard, try to remember that you’re no longer the one doing it.
If you’re looking to delegate repeating tasks, an essential step is to document your process. It can be as simple as a list of chores you print out and stick on the fridge for the housekeeper. Later, for more complex tasks, consider putting up a knowledgebase (Google Sites is a popular free option) which will contain documentation for all your business processes.
The purpose of this internal knowledgebase will be to provide resources to individuals you’ll want to delegate certain tasks to. It should include detailed step-by-step guides on how to do business-specific activities and where and how to access paperwork. Ideally it should be organized by categories and subcategories and with a search functionality.
When you document your processes, think about how the things you do on auto-pilot is not going to come as naturally for other people. Add annotated screenshots, video walkthroughs, and FAQs (anticipate questions and issues that may come up as others work on certain tasks). With proper documentation, tasks can be done in the same way you do, even when you take a day off.
If you’re going to start delegating, you’re going to need to assemble a team. Make sure that you find the right people for your business by getting referrals and interviewing. You’re probably going to do a lot of contracting if you’re working as a freelancer, so it will be good to keep a database of suppliers you can add to a project team should a need arises.
Whatever the job you are delegating to other people, it’s important to find people who already have a personal sense of responsibility and accountability in getting things done.
When assigning a task to a team member, it’s important to give people full autonomy and accountability over the work. Autonomy keeps people engaged to complete a task, while accountability ensures it’s completed on time.
This autonomy/accountability system can break down easily if one thing is not clear cut: expected results. When you’re assigning tasks, make sure the expected results and deadlines are properly accounted for in a project management tool that everyone on the team has access to.
Fostering a culture of autonomy and accountability in your team starts with setting deadlines with your team members. You need to work with them in deciding what the project milestones will be, because they’re the ones who will be doing the work, not you.
Feedback is important in delegation, and it works both ways. Give feedback and empower your team by recognizing success publicly. When your team feels that the overall results are also their results, they feel more engaged and willing to take on more work.
You also need to set aside time for receiving feedback with your team to give everyone a chance to discuss difficulties and provide suggestions for future delegation—after all, they are the ones who did the work, so they know better than you.
Delegating tasks isn’t always going to be a breeze, but the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll become better at it. With the right people, an autonomy/accountability system, and a culture of feedback, you can produce quality projects and grow your freelance business.
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