Personally Virtual Blog

15th February, 2018

It’s easy to assume the role of ‘Jack of all trades’ in your business, particularly if you are a sole trader or small business owner with a restricted team.  But should you really try to ‘Do it yourself?’ or is it better to bring the experts in?

In my experience, it definitely helps to carry out some research in the area you want to outsource, or even try carrying out some of the work yourself before you pass it on to a third party, as this helps to ensure that:

a.) you’ve got an understanding of what is a fair/appropriate timescale to complete the work

b.) you know what is involved and can ask for occasional or regular feedback (and actually understand it!)

c.) you can decide whether it is going to be cost-effective to outsource the task, based on the hourly rate of an expert and the potential ROI.

Let’s use the slightly scary example of Digital Marketing to illustrate this idea; Prior to speaking to any Digital Marketing about the work your business needs, it’s worth carrying out some research work into the activity so that you understand what a massive and multi-faceted industry it is (and therefore don’t make the assumption that it’s ‘just SEO’ or ‘just Social Media Marketing’).  Just a few hours of research into the subject will soon lead you to the conclusion that 1 hour of Digital Marketing support per month isn’t going to have you celebrating dozens of number one positions in the Search Engine Results pages for relevant search terms anytime soon! A little research should also help to de-mystify some of the jargon that full-time Digital Marketers regularly spout – PPC, SEO, CPC. O.M.G. Thankfully, with a little reading or a handy homemade glossary to hand, you’ll actually understand what your resident Digital Marketing expert is going on about without just having to nod and smile… Finally, by doing a little research you’ll get a bit of an understanding about the size of investment you’d need to make in an activity in order to see the best results possible; if you can only afford to take on support for a couple of hours a month, but want the results that a full-time member of staff would have difficulty achieving in a 40-hour-week, you’ll need to re-think your approach to outsourcing and consider ‘doing it yourself’ until you have the funds available to seek external help.

Once you are satisfied that outsourcing really is the best option for you and your business, it’s worth making sure that the professional business support provider you are trusting to carry out your work is skilled and proficient in that particular area; cheap labour and a super-quick turnaround may sound appealing, but ‘cheap and quick’ doesn’t necessarily mean that the work is going to be carried out with the precision and attention to detail that you may need.  Seek out an experienced and proven professional to help you with any work that you want to outsource – it may seem like their hourly or package rate is slightly higher, but the likelihood is that they will complete your work far quicker than someone with limited experience in the field, and you can also rest assured that your data and work is in the safe and responsible hands of a business owner who invests in your business by ensuring that they have appropriate insurance and qualifications and/or are registered with specific regulatory bodies set up to take care of your work responsibly.

If you’re a small business owner or sole trader, it’s like that YOU are carrying out every aspect of your business from marketing to finance to day to day admin – not to mention actually delivering the product/service that your business is set up to do!  Chances are that though you are the marketing department, finance team, HR department, client service desk, etc., you don’t actually enjoy all of those jobs. So why not do the ‘unthinkable’ and relinquish control of some of these tasks to someone who actually does like them? I know, mad idea, right? Let me explain how and why it could work…

When you are at the top of your game and doing the job that you were made for (be that sales, technical support, coaching, whatever!) and have the opportunity to carry out the task efficiently, you bring in £X per hour to your business.  When you are carrying out administrative tasks, or doing your marketing (or something else you don’t enjoy) you aren’t able to bring in the £X per hour that you usually can and the actual process of completing the task may be a long and arduous process.  However, if you outsource some of the tasks that a.) take ages because you aren’t very good at them or b.) you’d rather poke yourself in the eye with a fork than complete, you’d have extra hours in the day to go and get your £X per hour, and would be paying £Y per hour for the privilege – probably less than the £X an hour that you are able to make.

Even if the immediate financial benefit of outsourcing isn’t visible (i.e. £X per hour minus £Y per hour leaves nothing, or involves you paying out extra), the long term benefits of outsourcing definitely have value. For example, by bringing a talented and proven external team member (a virtual freelancer, in this case), you are enabling certain aspects of your business to continue, come rain or shine, providing back-up and support if you are out of the office or the country, unwell or on holiday.  The feelings of comfort and wellbeing that an experienced and proven ‘extra pair of hands’ can bring to a small business can be significant, leaving you to recover/sip your G&T at a beach-side café* with significantly reduced stress levels.  So why not consider what you could outsource in 2018?


*delete as applicable


19th January, 2018

It sounds painful, but I can assure you that self-development is an incredibly worthwhile exercise.  It’s all too easy to fall into a familiar routine of household chores and day-to-day work, sitting down every evening to watch the same television programmes before going to bed and starting the entire process again, day in, day out...  A mental or physical challenge to learn a new skill (or improve on an existing hobby) can draw you out of this monotonous state and give your personal and professional life a boost, though I know that can seem like a far-fetched idea on a cold, grey January day, when all of the motivation and inspiration that swept you in to 2018 like some kind of productivity god appears to have vapourised.

Learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby – regardless of whether it is a physical activity or a more sedate occupation – has been found to improve both psychological and physiological wellbeing.  A 2013 article in the Washington Poststated that “research has shown that people who have hobbies are generally healthier, and have a lower risk of depression and dementia[1].  Last year I had a go at both painting and paddleboarding (with dog!) and those times really were the most relaxed I felt at any point in the year – even with the likely risks of falling into cold water or creating something that looked more like a 3-year old’s finger painting effort than a Monet.  

Learning new skills can help to keep your brain active and, if engaged in a team sport or if you are learning in a classroom setting, the social benefits of getting out and about and interacting with different people can also prove to be a rewarding experience, particularly for remote, lone-workers like small business owners and self-employed individuals, who can potentially go for weeks without having meaningful face-to-face interaction with anyone! Trust me, it can happen!

Admittedly, making time for a new hobby or course can be a difficult process in itself! If you’re already busy at work or have a million and one things to do at home every day, it’s difficult to justify spending an hour or two a week on what could be perceived to be a ‘frivolous’ activity.  But self-development isn’t a purely selfish act – with the health benefits associated with hobbies, it’s an investment in your own future, and an aid to relieve stress that could otherwise manifest itself in other aspects of your personal or working life.  Upskilling via an online or open course, or even the odd webinar, will also help to benefit your clients in the long term; you may be able to offer them an additional service, or have greater knowledge in an area that you already work in. So, block out a regular slot in your diary for self-development, and treat it as a business necessity, just like invoicing and marketing, to ensure that your business remains competitive and sustainable.  There’s never been a better time to start.

19th January, 2018

The majority of people I know adore learning, and soak up new information like over-enthusiastic sponges at every given opportunity, poring over books and podcasts, signing up for obscure lectures and classes, and visiting museums with much enthusiasm to look at dusty artefacts in glass cases.  Other people claim to hate it, reminded too much of school days and reciting irrelevant facts and figures that are of little use in real life (for example, the highly useful German phrase “gemischte gesamtschule” meaning “mixed comprehensive school”).

Learning doesn’t have to be in a traditional classroom setting anymore, with full time, long term courses carried out over a number of months or years.  In today’s digital age, more and more academic institutions and professional bodies are making learning accessible on the go via distance or online learning courses, eBooks and podcasts.

If you want to learn a new skill, but feel as though you are time poor already and can’t justify dedicating a few hours a week to sit down and access written learning material, why not consider listening to educational material on a topic of your choice whilst you are carrying out another activity? Need to walk the dog? Half an hour listening to an Audible audiobook (there are over 200,000 titles available – see the website: ) could help you use your time more productively, meaning that you are learning about a new subject without having to make additional time available in your busy schedule.

Business related Podcasts are another great way to keep up to date with the latest developments in your field without having to take extra time out of your working day; listening to a podcast whilst driving, cleaning or walking can help to boost your working efficiency during periods when you might have felt that time was otherwise ‘wasted’ doing practical (read: essential) activities that you wouldn’t be able to charge a customer for!  If you need a little help finding a business related podcast, why not start by taking a look at a list of recommended podcasts compiled by Forbes – you can find it here:

Just because you don’t have a spare year available to sign up for a full-time course right now, it doesn’t mean that learning has to be put on hold.  Self-development and education – both for professional skills and personal satisfaction – can easily be shoe-horned into the tiniest of available spaces.  And the great thing is, with so much choice out there, you don’t have to learn pointless facts and useless statistics unless you really want too.

I’m just going to leave you with one more German thought for the day.

Der Krankenwagen ist kaput. The Ambulance is broken.

Happy Learning!

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