One of life’s cruel realities is that when you’re young, you have plenty of time but little money. As you age, you earn a bit more money but careers, kids and other responsibilities consume your free time hour by hour.
As any successful entrepreneur knows, there comes a time when you can’t do it all yourself. Businesses don’t grow on the backs of one person: they hire the right people for the right jobs. Every employee does what he or she does best. Done right, hiring, delegating and outsourcing not only make a business more productive, it frees up the entrepreneur’s life.
Whether you have any entrepreneurial aspirations or not, there is a lesson for all of us. Sometimes hiring somebody to do something for you is the best way to spend money.
Now, I know — depending on where you’re at in life, the thought of spending money on something like housecleaning may seem like a ridiculous luxury.
It’s certainly not something I would recommend to anyone still working on getting their finances in order.
We all outsource!
Chances are you’ve already outsourced something in your life (if you’ve ever taken your car to a mechanic or called a plumber to fix a leaky pipe).
Sometimes, you need someone with different skills to get the job done. (And there are always some things you shouldn’t do yourself).
But what about stuff we can all do – mowing the lawn, cleaning the floors or moving your apartment?
If you can afford these things, outsourcing becomes something of a luxury: You can hire someone to do things you don’t like to do simply because you don’t like them.
In other cases, outsourcing can be an investment.
For example: Child care
Child care is a good example of outsourcing as an investment. For parents who both work outside the home, the decision to enroll kids in daycare or hire a nanny isn’t always economically clear-cut. For many families, childcare costs almost as much as one parent’s salary.
So why, then, would both parents work? No parent I know goes back to work because they’d rather be working than spend time with their kids!
It may be that one parents’ benefits are vital to the family’s wellbeing. Most of a dad’s paycheck might all go to childcare, but his employer pays for health insurance and matches 401(k) contributions.
In addition, continuing to work may have long-term benefits for the family’s career-long income. A mom or dad who drops out of the workforce for many years will have a harder time re-entering at the same salary.
Yes, we hired house cleaners
Frugalites, avert your eyes: Lauren I pay to have our house cleaned every week.
After our first daughter was born four years ago, Lauren and I found ourselves seriously strapped for time between my job running Money Under 30 full-time and my wife’s career as an attorney. With Molly in daycare and most of our weekends spend cleaning, mowing and running errands, there were just a few hours left in the week for family time and anything else we might want to do.
We are very fortunate to have worked our way up from broke, indebted 20-somethings to a comfortable lifestyle in our early 30s.
We’re not rich, but we’re financially secure: Our mortgage is our only debt, we have the fully-funded emergency savings I always preach about, maxed out retirement accounts and savings left over for our kids’ college funds, house projects, vacations, etc.
And so, we hired house cleaners.
I still gulp when I write the checks, but I’m appreciative we don’t have to spend our time cleaning with so much else going on. Of course, I could think about how much we’re spending and what that might add up to if we invested it over the next 25 years.
But time and money are the ultimate trade-off.
You can always apply yourself and earn another dollar, but once an hour is gone you can’t get it back. Those hours become especially invaluable when you have young kids and realize they’re growing everyday.
When should YOU outsource?
In theory, the decision to outsource is easy: For the time it takes to complete a given task, if you could earn more money working than what it costs to hire somebody – outsource.
Unless of course you enjoy the task. Recently our dishwasher broke. I knew I could call a repair guy and have it fixed that day, but I like trying to solve problems so I diagnosed it and ordered the part. Taking a couple hours to fix it instead of working may have been a wash, but I had fun and learned something new.
Often, however, the decision to outsource isn’t so clear-cut.
For example, if you’re a young professional climbing a career ladder or an entrepreneur who works long hours, hiring someone to clean or do your errands might not be as indulgent as it seems.
Here are some out-of-the-box ways outsourcing might be able to help you get more value for your time, even if you’re still working towards financial stability.
Ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are making it easier than ever to live without a car in certain cities. Depending on where you live and how often you drive, using these services may actually be cheaper than owning a car. Plus, you can get things done from the back seat that you can’t behind the wheel.
The decision to outsource is about getting a positive return on your investment. As a busy young professional, it might be tempting to outsource your laundry to a wash-and-fold service instead of spending three hours at the laundromat every Sunday, but is it worth it? Could you do something more valuable with that time? Assuming you could set up your laptop and work on a side hustle between loads, it’s probably still a better value to do it yourself.
If you’ve got a few year’s work experience under your belt, one of the smartest financial moves you can make is to leverage your experience to dramatically increase your salary by landing another job. Finding such a job takes time, however, and you don’t want to be one of those people caught browsing other jobs from work.
Engaging a career coach might be a worthwhile investment to help you focus your search. Another (free) strategy is to befriend recruiters in your industry. Recruiters work for employers looking to fill jobs, so they won’t be scrambling to find YOU a job, but if a good fit comes along you want to be on their lists.
Starting your side hustle
It takes a lot of time to start a successful side hustle to earn extra money or begin the road to working for yourself. The best side hustles are ones you can start without investing a lot of money up front, but there are smart ways to spend a little bit to earn more money faster.
Although the first thing you should do when starting a side hustle is to get two or three clients through your personal network — before starting a Website, before ordering business cards — you’ll want to create a professional online persona once you get rolling. If Web development isn’t your thing (or you’re not that fast), you can find cheap help creating a basic Website or designing a logo on sites like Fiverr or Elance.
Learn more about outsourcing
If you subscribe to my free email group, you know that I recommend everyone begin following several habits that are common among millionaires. Delegation is one. Another is to read at least one nonfiction book a month. Even if you’re not ready to begin outsourcing your life, I recommend the book Virtual Freedom by Chris Drucker.
If you’ve read The Four Hour Workweek and thought “Ha, nice concept, but how does anyone actually do this stuff?” Chris’ book has some answers. Chris runs several successful businesses and enjoys a relatively free, hands-off life while travelling the world. I had the opportunity to meet Chris and his passion for and knowledge on the subject of outsourcing are unmatched.
As your business grows, a dedicated virtual assistant (VA) can help with tasks that don’t make you money directly such as invoicing, setting appointments, or supporting existing customers. Chris Drucker also has a business, Virtual Staff Finder, that can help match you with an affordable overseas VA.
Do you outsource tasks in your personal or professional life? What? Why or why not?