In all the time I lived in London, I always wanted to take the chunnel. The chunnel is the railway tunnel that runs between the UK and Paris, so in just a few hours, you can go from Big Ben to the Eiffel Tower. Cool, right?
Until two months ago, though, I had never actually done it! And then one day, we woke up in London, decided to go for it, and boarded a train that would whisk us away at 186 mph, taking us under the English Channel, through the countryside of northern France, and into the city of light.
And as I was walking around the streets of Paris, totally dominating any flaky pastry unfortunate enough to cross my path, you know what was the absolute furthest thing from my mind? (No, not carbs! Come on!)
Now, I’m not telling you this story to brag – because five years ago, the only rails I was riding belonged to Chicago’s elevated train, which carted me back and forth across the frigid midwest while I was hustling to build my business from nothing. (Ah, memories!)
I’m telling you this story precisely because I built my business up from diddly, and that allows me to do the things I want to do, and that’s exactly what your business should be doing for you.
Your business should support a life of freedom.
There came a point in your life when you could have gotten a new job, or even kept the one you had. But you chose to leave that life behind and become an entrepreneur – why? So you could create another job that left you exhausted on a daily basis, and that you’d grow to resent?
Even if you’re front and center in your business, your goal should be to create something for which you don’t have to do everything yourself – and that’s coming from a gal whose face is on the side of this page! Your business should empower and liberate you – NOT burn you out.
And that means you have to STOP trying to do everything yourself.
And THAT means you have to hire people.
Hiring can be an intimidating concept.
You hear “hire people” and you get nightmarish visions of 401Ks and W2s and all kinds of complicated paperwork with scary, alphanumeric names, right? It’s terrifying!
But that’s because the business world you live in is WAY different from the business world most OTHER people live in.
You know what percentage of people in the United States started their own business in 2013? Only .28 percent. That’s 28 out of 10,000 people – and not everyone has gazillionaire investors off in Silicon Valley, making it rain on them! I know I didn’t. People like us are bootstrappers – we start from scratch and our businesses grow organically. And that means that most of the stuff you read out there about hiring people and running a business isn’t written for people like you. But THIS is, and that brings me to the first hard truth of learning NOT to do everything yourself:
Truth #1: When you’re starting out with a small business, you HAVE to make small hiring decisions.
When you think of hiring in the traditional sense, you probably think of someone walking into an office building with a briefcase and walking out with a job and a salary. But that’s not what hiring IS in the bootstrap world!
You have to escape the mindset of hiring a full-time team member with an $80K salary.
When you’re starting out, that’s just not how it works – and that’s why so many entrepreneurs NEVER hire, even long after they should! We’re fed this ideal about how we’re supposed to hire a full-time team of salaried pros, because that’s what big, funded businesses do – and waiting for that ideal circumstance to somehow manifest itself is gonna stop you from making ANY progress at all.
Hiring someone can mean a few hours a week. It can mean you have someone in your rolodex (do people still use rolodexes?) who you can contact any time you need a specific job done. It can mean saving enough to hire a temp for a month and getting as much work out of them as you possibly can for 30 glorious days.
My first hire was a super smart, driven stay-at-home mom who did part-time work at a rate of $500 a month – and she made a huuuuuge difference when I was getting my business off the ground! Investing in whatever help you can afford will pay off in BIG dividends, both now and down the line – and that brings me to your second hard truth.
Truth #2: You have to stop paying for ideas.
“Um, Laura, don’t you sell training courses?”
Why yes, dear reader, yes I do. But the fact is, all the training and ideas in the world aren’t going to make a difference if you can’t actually DO the things they teach.
I teach courses on marketing your business on social media, and they’ve helped a LOT of people. But if you don’t take the time to put what I teach into practice, all the training in the world isn’t going to do squat!
We all only get 24 hours in a day, and yet we have this secret fantasy that if we’re only clever enough, and we read enough time management blogs, the hours would somehow expand, like that Violet girl from Willy Wonka. Well, it ain’t gonna happen!
You can, however, buy yourself some time – literally. Because remember, we ALL have 24 hours in a day – so when you hire someone, think of it as buying their hours. This is how you accomplish things. This is how you GROW. If you have a big vision that just isn’t happening, it might be time to add someone else into the mix – someone with hours you can add onto your own, allowing you to do other things.
Feel like you’re never gonna find the right person to go in that mix, though? Well, there’s another hard truth you have to hear:
Truth #3: There are lots of people who can do the things you need – and they can do them really, really well.
Let’s say you’re ready to build a professional website for your business. You saved up, and you’ve got the money for your graphic designer, your developer, your web hosting, everything – except for your marketing copy. You’re just gonna write that yourself.
“Well, why shouldn’t I write it myself? Nobody knows my business better than me. Only I can communicate my values the way I want.”
You’re right about one thing – nobody knows your business better than you. But there are a lot of talented people in the world who are trained and experienced in writing website copy! People whose only job is to write websites for companies like yours. And if you aren’t willing to cede a little control, you won’t benefit from their expertise.
I’m totally guilty of this myself.
I used to be a graphic designer, and for years, I put off hiring one for LKR. I just knew that nobody on the entire planet could live up to my expectations! So for years, my design work was cobbled together bit by bit, and my site suffered for it. (For the record, my designer right now is THE BOMB, and no, you can’t have her.)
The idea that nobody can do as good a job as you want is, quite frankly, insane – and if you don’t get rid of that mindset now, it’s gonna hold you back. If the people you’re finding genuinely aren’t what you’re looking for, it’s probably time to suck it up and revisit your expectations of cost – because the people who are good at what they do aren’t usually the people who do it for the cheapest.
Think of every hire as a profit center – not a drain on your resources, but a way to accumulate more. And that includes indirect profit, too! If you have a guy who does your Facebook ads, you can pretty easily compare the money he brings in and the money he costs. A person who handles your customer service, on the other hand, isn’t quiiiiiite as simple to analyze when it comes to gauging profitability – but they’re also eliminating time that YOU would spend on that task, and the way you spend YOUR newfound time can be very profitable. And while we’re on the topic of spending time, I should hit you with one last hard truth:
Truth #4: You’re going to spend a lot of time learning (and yes, making mistakes).
Can I tell you a secret? Come on, lean in real close.
Ready? Okay, just imagine me saying this in like, a whispery voice.
Nobody knows what the heck they’re doing when they hire their first person. NOOOOOBOOODDYYYYY.
It doesn’t matter how many blogs you read or how many podcasts you listen to – hiring the right people is a learn-by-doing process. I know – I’ve made mistakes! Everyone has. There isn’t a business in the world that has kept every employee it ever hired FOREVER.
It’s gonna get complicated, and you’re going to have to google a lot of things. You’ll have to deal with all that weird paperwork we talked about before. It’s cool. Everyone does.
But if you don’t accept the hard truths of hiring people – of NOT trying to do everything yourself – you’re holding yourself and your business back. You started your own business so you could be the boss. Being the boss is AWESOME. Doing everything yourself isn’t. So be good to yourself, and be good to the future you’re building! You’ll be surprised how much more rewarding it is when you don’t try to do it on your own.
Check out my talk from Pioneer Nation to learn more about hiring in the bootstrap world!
Last month, I spoke at the Pioneer Nation conference in Portland about this very subject. If you get a nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach when you think about hiring, or you’re just sick and tired of doing every last thing yourself, this talk is for you. Check it out!
Got any pointers of your own for your fellow bootstrappers thinking about hiring help? Let us know below!