I got an email a few days ago about a project we are getting ready to work on. My first thought was that I needed to check my personal schedule to see when it could fit in – and then a lightbulb went off.
I have a team for that!
I’ve had my developer Nicole on my team for over a year now, and I still default to thinking I have to wear all of the hats.
As a solopreneur and especially as a service provider who created your business because you’re good at what you do, you might feel like it’s impossible to delegate out your main job functions.
I know how you feel. I code websites a very specific way and know that it could be hard to teach that.
But not delegating out tasks and trying to wear all of the hats was a quick trip to burnout city.
If you’re new to delegating and just thinking about bringing on your first team member, or simply if this is your weak point like it is mine, I’d love to share with you a few tips my business coach and other experts have tried to hammer into my head as I’ve worked to grow my business without burning out.
Delegating Can Help You Grow Your Business
It may seem counterintuitive to hire someone and pay them to do what you yourself can do, but I promise you, the fastest way to grow your business is to bring on someone to help you.
When I really started leaning in to having Nicole help me, it was amazing at how my revenue went up.
It wasn’t just that I had increased capacity. It meant that I was able to put my focus on the things that mattered most for the health of the business.
This isn’t the easiest thing for me to do, though. As I shared at the top, I literally still default to trying to figure out how *I* am going to accomplish a task, and I’ve also literally promised myself that I’m not going to work in development unless I have to (because I should be focusing on my business and because Nicole is that awesome).
So, if you struggle with even the thought of delegating, these are literally all of the tips that were shared with me when I got started and the steps I take to make this work.
Steps to Start Delegating
Start with Small Tasks
To build trust and confidence in your new virtual assistant or contractor, start by delegating small tasks that are less complex and require less supervision. Think of those tasks that are repeatable and that you probably hate to do because they’re boring.
When I first hired Nicole, she was hired to do the WordPress maintenance tasks for my hosting clients. This was an easy task to hand off because it’s a process that was easy for me to document once and create an SOP (standard operating procedure) for.
The first few times she did this, I made sure I was available while she was working just in case she ran into any issues.
We slowly worked up to more updates, tasks, and now she’s building full websites for our clients.
Be Clear and Specific
This is where SOPs will be your saving grace, though don’t wait to hire someone until you have everything documented.
The key to delegation I’ve learned is that I have to provide super clear instructions and expectations. Explain the purpose of the task, the expected outcome, and any specific guidelines or requirements. This helps your VA or contractor to understand the task and what is expected of them.
Surprisingly, the most important part of the communication process is to provide the outcome. Not everyone will perform the assigned tasks the exact same you would (even if you have an SOP), but you want them to be able to reach the intended goal.
We recently switched internally to assigning outcomes only. I just have to tell my team what I want it to look like and trust that they know better than me on how to get there. Because honestly, they’re in it more every day than I am anymore.
It’s an odd feeling, believe me.
Provide Training Where Necessary
As a service provider who’s an expert in your own business, you probably have a process for how you do things. You also might be hiring someone who isn’t as well versed as you in whatever it is you do for clients.
When you hire someone to delegate tasks to, you’ll need to plan on providing some training. That doesn’t mean you have to get on Zoom and spend hours showing them how something works though.
Explore using screen recording videos through tools like Loom and Scribe How (which turns those steps into a handy SOP with screenshots), offer subscriptions to tools and training, and even pay for them to do some of that training.
Maybe I’m unique, but my major goal with any of my team members is that they’re able to learn things while working for Captain Coder that they can use to expand their knowledge base and become rockstars on their own terms.
I even allow Nicole to spend an hour or two per week researching new updates in WordPress and coding on my dime because honestly, the better she is at her job, the better she does for our clients. It’s really a win-win situation.
Make On-Going Communication Easy
When I first started working with Nicole, we were passing emails back and forth about certain tasks.
As you can imagine, that quickly became unmanageable. I didn’t know where anything was and it was hard to find a message again.
Then we tried Google Chat which allowed her to reach me more immediately when she needed, but again, things got lost in the constant-message shuffle.
Try an Instant Message Platform
Now we use Discord (which is like Slack if you’re familiar with that). This free tool allows us to not only separate out conversations by client and/or project so that discussion stays with the rest of the relevant conversation, but it also means the other members of our team are privy to those communications as well.
With more than one person on my team, it’s imperative that we’re all on the same page.
Plus, I’m just going to say that having a form of instant message communication tool has been great in helping foster our team culture. We are all in different states so it would be easy to feel disconnected. With a tool where we can all talk, it allows us to build a friendship and rapport that just makes work a bit more fun.
Take Time for Team Meetings
The other thing that helps us as a team and me as the delegator is having regular team meetings. We meet once a week on Mondays so we can talk through any projects and make sure we’re all on the same page for the week ahead.
While we use Google Meet, you can use Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or whatever you have access to that allows for video communication.
I know that not everyone likes to have their cameras on, but I think it’s important to touch base at least once a week with the cameras. It’s another way for us to communicate more clearly but also really get to know each other.
Ask any member of my team – we rarely end our meeting right on time because we’re often having a bit of fun catching up and laughing about something.
The worst part of delegating, especially when you’re new to the entire process, is getting back something that’s not quite right.
If you’re like me at all, you tend to want to just “fix it” and move on.
The problem with that? Your VA or contractor will keep making that same mistake because you’ve not told them what they’ve done wrong or how to fix it. That means you’re going to keep getting frustrated when you only have yourself to blame.
If you’re using someone to help you create content, use features like comments to provide constructive feedback on how you would fix something. And make sure you’re including the “why” behind that so they can understand where you’re coming from.
For our more technical projects, I’ll often record a quick screen capture video for my team to show what I did differently and why I did that.
As we’ve worked together longer, now I just correct the outcome, ask for the change and why, and let them get to work.
It’s not just about the negative feedback either. When your contractor does something awesome, tell them! That can be a quick acknowledgement in your Discord channel so the entire team can see it (if there’s more than two of you) or even sending a quick Amazon gift card to just say thanks for a super awesome job well done.
We do a lot of regular work for clients, too, and I always make sure to pass on the kudos from our clients when it was my team that did the work.
Don’t Get Mad if They Mess Up
No matter how hard you try to set things up the right way, anyone you hire is going to make a mistake at some point.
Do you know why?
Because we’re all human!
I mean, you’ve made mistakes on client projects before, right? Of course they’re going to, especially when they first start working with you.
When you’ve delegated a task to someone and you get it back and it’s just not right, getting mad helps no one.
If you need to, take a deep breath and wait a few before you send that feedback.
Want to know a secret?
You’re often the reason they messed up anyway.
Go back and look at how you assigned the task. Did you include everything in the instructions? Is there something you forgot to mention or were you not clear in the instructions?
Of course, sometimes they legitimately did just make a mistake. Focus on pointing out the mistake, help them learn from that, and move on.
Now of course, if you’ve hired the wrong person and these things keep happening that’s a different discussion. But getting mad helps no one regardless of the circumstances.
Invest in a Project Management Tool
This is perhaps the most important part of the delegation process. When you’re working on your own, it can be all too easy to think that you can keep track of everything on your plate either in your head or in some to-do lists.
That doesn’t work when it’s more than just you.
Make everyone’s expectations super clear, improve communication, provide feedback on tasks, and just shortcut all the potential problems of delegating tasks when you use a tool meant just for that.
My favorite tool is ClickUp, which allows you to get as simple or as complex as you’d like. You can add task details, attach files, (we can even add code snippets), and set start and due dates. Subtasks let you break things down so they have a clear view of what they’ll need to do to get to the overall goal. If you upgrade your plan, you can even set expected hours that a project will take so you can track what all is on your employee’s plate that day.
ClickUp offers a lot with the free tool so you can start there and see how you like it, but I’ve quite literally tried all of them on the market and it’s the most flexible and powerful without costing an arm and a leg.
Plus, you can have all sorts of views like boards, lists, Gantt charts, custom Dashboards, whiteboards, and pretty much anything you can think of.
If you’re new to a project management tool, it’s worth it to hire someone to set it up for you so that everything is created correctly from the beginning and they can even teach you some of the tools.
Believe me, Erin on our team is who set up ClickUp and makes sure we’re getting the value out of it.
Stop Wearing All the Hats
When you want to build a business that actually scales, you’re going to have to delegate tasks. It’s just that simple. But as an entrepreneur who is used to working alone, delegating tasks to employees can be a difficult transition.
However, when you delegate tasks effectively by being clear and specific, utilizing training, and a project management tool, you’ll be surprised at how fast your business can grow.
Plus, you’ll be giving yourself the gift of improved time management, the ability to focus on the tasks that move your business forward, and building a business that is actually ready to scale.
Delegating tasks also helps you to build a stronger team, develop employee skills, and create a culture of trust and accountability. By following the tips outlined above and embracing the benefits of delegation, you can take your business to the next level and achieve even greater success. So, take a deep breath, trust your team, and start delegating!