A few years ago, a friend who is a talented makeup artist shared a surprising reflection with me: about 90 percent of her time wasn’t spent doing makeup.
As an independent professional, she had so many other things on her plate. And even though her love for makeup artistry was what got her into the biz in the first place, it often had to take the back seat. Especially during those first few years of starting and growing her business.
And in reality, it’s not so surprising that the majority of her time was spent on other things, like prepping her kit, managing her makeup stock, updating her website and social media feeds, answering emails, following up with clients for reviews, and coordinating schedules. No matter what your industry, as a business owner, this is an extremely common experience.
I recently checked in with this very friend, Lindsey Jones of Lindsey Jones Makeup Artistry, to get her perspective on her workload now that she’s been up and running for a few years.
“There's a lot of different ways to crunch the numbers,” she said. “Let's just say there is way more than just the service of your business that goes into running a business.”
By her calculations, she spends about 10 to 15 hours at most per week doing makeup for people. And, as you might expect, she considers this the most fulfilling part of what she does.
“I look at people right in their eyes and listen to them,” Lindsey said. “Like actually listen. Maybe they have only been listened to like that only a couple times in their life. And you know what? That feels so good to them and to me.”
And the rest of the time? She’s consumed by the administrative and marketing aspects of her business day and night (literally — Lindsey said that she even dreams about her business).
So many independent professionals can relate to Lindsey’s experience. When people start their businesses, they’re often learning as they go, and they step into many different roles: administrative coordinator, scheduler, accountant, project manager, and many more.
Some people don’t mind wearing many different hats. But others would be happier if they delegated or rearranged their schedules to make more room for the thing they love.
As a coach, I work with lots of independent professionals to take back their time. I help them manage their schedules and figure out what tasks to outsource so they can devote more time to the thing that really lights them up.
And while it’s definitely not easy to make these changes, at least not at first, it can lead to significant changes in your happiness and productivity.
Here are four potential options for how you can shake up your routine for the better:
1. Get an outsider’s perspective.
In my experience working with clients, most entrepreneurs don’t realize that change is possible until they get an outsider’s perspective. If things appear to be running smoothly enough, they don’t question how things could be improved (often because they simply don’t have the time).
But when they hire an employee, join up with a business partner, or begin working with a coach, they discover that they may be working inefficiently. Often, it’s not until someone else points out a problem that they see how convoluted their current system is. For many entrepreneurs, this is because they learned everything on the go, and they had to become experts in things they had no prior skills in (like accounting, for instance). But someone had to do it, and that someone was them. And then, whether the process worked smoothly or not, they stuck with it because it was all they knew.
An outside perspective that you trust can help you find new ways of doing things. It can help you get out of the zone of operating on autopilot and into a more creative problem-solving mode.
2. Create designated times for tasks (and stick with them).
Very early on in my business, I decided I was only going to take calls and meetings with clients on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, This left Monday and Friday free to focus on the other aspects of running my business. Blog posts need to be written, invoices need to be sent, social media needs to be scheduled, and more. By reserving time to do this, I feel more in control of my schedule, and I know that everything that needs to get done has a time and place.
If your time is occupied with administrative tasks and it’s taking you away from the real purpose of your business, I highly recommend implementing a system like this. By designating certain days for administrative work, and reserving the rest for the work that feels truly purposeful, you impose order on your schedule. And if you can stick with it, it eventually becomes a habit.
3. Don’t be afraid to outsource.
Knowing when to outsource requires you to know your strengths and weaknesses. For example, I have a lot of clients who don’t want to spend money upfront for a professional website, so they do some of the design themselves before realizing it’s worth hiring someone to help them. This can often ultimately take more time and money.
I’m a huge believer in outsourcing work when it makes sense to do so. Hire a virtual assistant, a bookkeeper, an intern, or someone to support you and take some responsibilities off your plate. Your time and energy are valuable, so if there are tasks you don’t enjoy doing or don’t excel at, consider hiring out. While outsourcing can be challenging at first, as you teach someone else the ins and outs of your business if you find the right person it can be incredibly rewarding.
4. If outsourcing isn’t an option, think creatively about other solutions.
If you feel you don’t have the money to outsource, and yet you’re swimming in the back-end tasks of running your business, it’s worthwhile to think creatively about other possible solutions.
If you don’t have the funds to hire out but you’re slammed with work, you might need to consider raising your rates. Or, try thinking about your financial picture overall, either on your own or with the help of a money coach. By determining how much money you’re willing to put into your business on an annual and monthly basis, you can identify where your money is best spent.
Outsourcing also doesn’t have to be expensive. Some virtual assistants have very reasonable rates. And there are platforms like Fiverr, where you can outsource tasks for very little money and have them done well. You don’t necessarily need ongoing support. You can pick and choose where you need it.
Finally, if outsourcing still isn’t an option, consider how to rearrange your schedule. Set aside non-negotiable time for tasks because they do need to get done, but they don’t necessarily need to take up a huge amount of time.
Remember, your time and purpose are valuable. Other people can help you with administrative aspects. But when it comes to the actual mission of your biz, no one else can do what you do.