Your business demands a lot of different skills. Aside from the reductive, cartoon version of the job itself (wearing a beret and heading out to a dreamy plein air shaded terrace to paint the day away), you need to build a brand, introduce design elements, market your work, print it, write about it, create and produce physical materials of all kinds, develop online content, source supplies, create advert copy, develop a refined sales strategy and technique, manage your finances and more.
If you were to insist on doing it all yourself, some of what you end up learning might not be applicable daily, and could possibly be a waste of time.
Where do you draw the line?
After a long time only using social media for casual exposure and promotion, I started my own website in 2016 using WordPress. For the four years during which I had complete control, I was quite proud of it.
I’ve never known (nor wished to learn) how to code. If I needed a new feature or if a small problem cropped up, there’d be a “plugin” to meet the need, which is a ready-made 3rd party add-on. Plugins can provide a secure backup function, an online shop facility, contact forms and so on, without the need to add code.
Where plugins failed, I could search the web for a very specific problem, and the solution would involve an additional script I could insert without having to go into the “back end”. Over time, I’d added a few too many of these plugins and scripts, and the scales were tipped when they didn’t all agree with one another, leaving the site no longer very elegant, stable or fast.
My website operated just well enough, for long enough, without being perfect, and I knew the time would come where I’d need to call for help. Once a few issues had compounded to the point they were more of a real hindrance than just an inconvenience, I made the jump and outsourced a fresh design to a professional.
If it’s possible to perform tailored, one-off work yourself, to 80% of your satisfaction as an interim measure, I’d recommend to do so, while keeping one eye open for a fairly-priced professional to suitably perform the “real job”.
Outsourcing some things is sensible, as this remaining 20% quality can involve considerably more skill that’s not worth your extra investment in equipment or years of training.
These percentages aren’t based on any empirical data, but on a relationship that makes sense to me, if my crude extrapolation of the Pareto Law is worth anything at all.
I understand the temptation to seek a professional from the outset. You know that a certain task can’t be covered fully by your current skill base, and you’ve already identified this as a waste of time if you’re just going to ask someone else eventually.
However, I’ve appreciated the value of trying one’s hand first – more so as time has passed. During this time, unrefined as the result of your attempt may be, you’re developing ideas of your own, allowing some of the fog to clear, and collecting little snippets of information about what works and what doesn’t. Then, once you’re ready to make the move to a pro, you can make some more preference-based, informed choices, with the appropriate guidance you know you also need.
Moreover, it’s helpful to possess a small degree of understanding of any outsourced elements of your business, so that you appreciate a professional’s value, you’re able to join the conversation about the work without feeling dazed by the information, and you’re a little more insured against charlatans, should you have the misfortune of choosing one.
As worn out and as untrue a cliché as this may be, I’d never know what a car mechanic is really doing if they look under the bonnet, suck air through pursed lips and say “this’ll cost ya,” as my understanding of cars is embarrassingly scant. Knowing something might help you get a whiff if there’s something rotten in the air.
Waiting forever until you’re finally ready to outsource might actually harm your progress in the long run, too.
“Kaizen” thinking champions small improvements daily, to reap greater rewards in the future. If your new e-commerce website is primitive-looking or riddled with errors…at least you have one! You can make a few sales, collect feedback from customers about what can be improved and adjust accordingly. By day 7, your business is well in motion and you’re getting on with things! You’re also much closer to a great website than if you’d kept your powder dry and not created one at all.
My approach may change over time, as the landscape of my little business transforms and develops, and as I collect more information on the subject. However, I’m proud not to be boxed in by the one skill for which I’m known, and to have had the varied lessons conferred on me by the old “suck it and see”. Today, I feel a lot more capable, confident and useful, thanks to this approach.
Are you a “do everything” kind of person, or do you want to focus on the thing(s) you do best? Where do you draw the line? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comment section below 🙂