When Chris Kilbourn jumped into the world of entrepreneurship, he found himself bogged down by simple tasks that were holding back his business's growth. Instead of spending his time recruiting new customers and researching new markets, he was entrenched in an administrative to-do list.
"My first four years as an entrepreneur was spent wasting so much time on pointless things—going to the post office to mail one letter, going to the bank to deposit a small check, responding to hundreds of emails with the same answers to the same questions," says Kilbourn. "It was bad."
Kilbourn quickly learned how to work smarter, and by his early 20s, the Salt Lake City-based entrepreneur managed to establish and grow multiple successful ventures—band management agency Monolith Management, virtual assistant company TaskBullet and online marketing agency TOFU Marketing.
His secret? As a one-person operation, he came to rely on the help and expertise of independent contractors.
Know the Value of Time
Kilbourn realized that by doing everything himself, he was wasting time—not just in business, but in his life.
"Time is immensely valuable—much more than most people actually believe it to be," Kilbourn says. "Why spend the best years of your life working, only to retire at an age that restricts you from enjoying it?"
This moment of revelation inspired him to shift his business model into a self-sustaining machine.
"I decided to pursue a company that generated relatively 'passive' income," he says. "Who doesn't want this, right? What a lot of people don't realize is the best way to do that is through building a business that can operate itself using independent contractors and software."
Know What to Outsource
Kilbourn says you should be strategic in what you outsource to contractors.
"There's no point in spending a ridiculous amount of time in doing rudimentary tasks like data collection or replying back to emails that can be answered with a FAQ," he says. "Outsource it."
Independent contractors can help make your business bigger. "The truth is, the more you can outsource, the easier it is to scale your business and the less time you have to spend growing and maintaining it," Kilbourn says. Outsource the tasks that are most crucial to helping your business evolve.
"The key is to select the right contractors for the right jobs," Kilbourn recommends. "Just like hiring an employee in the U.S., every contractor can't complete every task you can imagine. It's healthy to have a contractor for customer service, one for sales, another for marketing, etc."
Trust is Crucial
It's Kilbourn's demand for quality that inspired him to launch his task management company.
"Thankfully, I had a personal referral to this team in the Philippines that did great work, and inexpensively too," he says. "That's what actually inspired me to work with them and launch TaskBullet. I knew that fellow entrepreneurs and business owners would absolutely love this resource."
When hiring contractors, you need to make sure that you do your due diligence. Don't just jump in and trust everybody.
"Selecting the wrong contractors can definitely hurt your business," Kilbourn says. Know what you're hiring for. If you're looking to outsource your SEO efforts, read as much as you can about the topic before hiring someone. The same goes with other technical tasks. I've heard more horror stories from companies outsourcing their SEO efforts than any other task, mostly because of Google's new updates that are killing spam, and news hasn't quite hit Asia. Or they just don't care."
The key is to invest time into your recruiting and hiring.
"If you need a virtual assistant company, go with one that has a money back guarantee," Kilbourn says. "If you're using oDesk or Elance, post a job, filter the responders based on their applications, and select some of the applicants to do a 'test run' for a few hours. Recently, I went from 100 applicants to hiring two workers that could actually complete my tasks correctly, all without wasting a dime."
It's easy to feel bogged down by the routine in your business. Don't do it, says Kilbourn.
"Your time is valuable, and you have an almost infinite number of tasks that also require your attention," he says. "There's a keen sense of satisfaction that arises from finishing a large number of tasks. But frequently, those tasks didn't do much to push your business forward. Don't waste your time. Your business can't afford to lose it."
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Ritika Puri is a San Francisco-based blogger who writes about trends in business, internet culture and marketing. She's inspired by the intersection between technology, entrepreneurship and sociology. Ritika blogs via Contently.com
Photo: Courtesy of Chris Kilbourn