Podcast #396 How (and What) to Delegate as a Creative Professional
This is the latest in my series of conversations with Melanie the Marketer who’s trying to pull back the curtain on my business.
She reached out to me with this message:
Delegating is something I need to think more about. The timeless saying, The cobbler's kids go shoeless, resonates with me. But it could also be holding me back.
Here are some of the questions she wanted to tackle:
- Delegating is giving up control. Running our business can make us little control freaks, so how do we accept outside help?
- If a writer hires another writer to write blog posts for them, is that cheating Similarly, if you're a designer, how do you get comfortable having someone design for your clients?
- When is delegating a breeze – is there a secret to delegating?
- What if you’re not good at managing people?
- How/when should a creative pro delegate -- and how do you know whether to just dip a toe or dive all in?
- What delegation strategies work for the creative pros I coach?
- What delegating doesn't work out and why?
- How can we justify the amount of money outsourcing costs us with what it saves us -- time (to do more enjoyable work), stress (offloading can be freeing!) and/or money (I pay someone a lesser rate so I can fill that gap with higher-paying work)?
I know delegating is easier said than done. But what if you could find someone really good and you train them to do things the way you want? Or, better yet, what if you could trust them to do things better than you could ever do them? Wouldn’t that be awesome?
That's my strategy and that's how I delegate most of the work on my website, all of my podcasting post-production, the writing of my case studies and much more. In fact, here are a few of the creatives I delegate to at the moment:
- Melanie "the Marketer" Deardorff writes my case studies (she also guest posts on this blog)
- Maureen Adamo is responsible for my brand, my web site and much more
- Deidre Rienzo used to write my blog posts (in my voice) and now regularly guest posts on this blog (in her voice)
I shared my own experience, as well as that of my clients in the new episode, so listen here (or below):
And here's a transcript of our conversation.
This is the next in my series of conversations with Melanie the Marketer, who’s trying to pull back the curtain on my business—and I’m happy to do so. Today, we're talking about outsourcing and delegating: what to delegate, when, and to whom.
I do think it's an important topic, because as you grow your creative business, you're going to reach your capacity, sooner rather than later, if you're doing your marketing, of course. A lot of the creative professionals I work with have struggled with questions such as:
- What if I'm just too much of a control freak to delegate?
- Is it cheating if I delegate writing, if I'm a writer? Or, design, if I'm a designer?” Or, as in Melanie's case, marketing, if I'm a marketer?
- How do you afford, or justify, the cost of outsourcing, if it would be easier—and obviously less expensive—to just do it yourself?
I shared my own experiences, as well as those of my clients. So, listen and learn.
Hello, Melanie, welcome back to the podcast. I know you are curious about how I do what I do, because I don't really talk or write about it too much. I just do it. You have asked me to reveal more about my process because you think that people could learn from it. So, I'm happy to do that.
You came up with another bunch of questions or a topic that you wanted to talk about. So, why don't you introduce yourself and then tell us the idea you came up with.
I'm Melanie Deardorff. I'm a marketing consultant in a suburb of Phoenix called Queen Creek. I work with primarily small businesses, helping them achieve their marketing dreams. I also work with a lot of creative professionals: fellow communicators, marketers, a lot of graphic designers. Sometimes we partner together on one of their clients, sometimes they need help with their own marketing, and they asked me for help.
Excellent, and you came to me and said, “How do you stay so organized?” I guess it looks like I'm organized. Maybe that would be a good place to start. What is that perception based on?
Well, I follow you in a lot of different channels, and I'm connected to you through a small group and one-to-one coaching. I see all the different things you send out, you communicate, you accomplish in a given week—everything from keeping your email marketing going to writing on your blog, to guest blogging for other people, doing webinars for other companies and for yourself. So I asked you: “How do you keep organized?” Are you getting help? Are you doing this on your own?”
I thought it would be interesting to learn more about what you do, and maybe what you delegate, and if this is something that you've always done or have you done more of over time as your business has grown.
I'm sure you're not the only one wondering how to do more. I know that your business is growing and you're finding yourself at capacity, and then trying to figure out what to delegate— because I think that's a question people have also.
Yes, and I've been wondering, as copywriter and a marketing person, if I have someone write copy for my blog, is that cheating? If a graphic designer has someone design their social media shares that they want to do, is that cheating? Or, is this just a natural evolution, and if some of the skills overlap between someone that helps me versus what I can do … What feels right to have someone help me with? And what feels like: ‘No, that's my thing—If I can't do that, I can't do my marketing.’
Let me start there and say that I don't think any of it is cheating, number one, because I don't think anyone is watching as closely to determine whether or not you are doing it or someone else is doing it.
To me, what's important with all of my content, and the way I run my business—which I've been doing now for 32 years, so a lot of this takes time and gets distilled into processes and becomes second nature.
I almost feel like that's part of my answer to you, is that I've been doing it so long that none of it really takes all that long anymore. But I'll come back to that.
So, the idea that, if I'm a copywriter or a writer, and someone else writes any of my stuff, is that cheating, and vice versa? Similarly, with designers or marketers—do you have to do all of your own marketing? I hope not, because hopefully, you can keep doing more. So, I don't think any of it is cheating.
When I think about outsourcing and delegating—I don't know if this is possible—but to me the key to it—I do have a lot of people who say, “I just want to keep my business to myself, one person, because I'm not good managing people.” Or, “I'm a control freak, and I would never be happy with someone else doing what I know I could do better.”
Yes, it's true. I tend to have my own control issues. There are certain things that if I don't have time for them, but if I want them done, then someone else is going to have to do it.
When people come to me and say, “I just want to keep it small,” but they're at capacity—I'm thinking of one person in particular who was complaining to me because she was at capacity for years, but also insisted she didn't want to delegate to anyone. So, there wasn't really anywhere to go with that.
But what we came to, actually, was this idea that if you can find the right people, then delegating is a breeze.
I think one of the reasons that people don't like to delegate, or give up on it too quickly, is because they don't have the patience to find the right people.
It's the same with marketing. We talked about that in terms of clients, as well—looking for better clients constantly. I think the same thing applies to people who help you. What do you think of that?
I agree. When I think about some of the things that I could possibly delegate, then I wonder: Is this is this something that shows my expertise, and so would I be not representing myself accurately if I had someone else help?
I guess what you're saying is, you can look for the places in your business where it makes sense, but you also have to be patient and allow some time for someone to step in and take something off your plate.
There's a bit of a control thing there. I don't really think of myself as a ‘control freak.’ But I do know from having a little bit of help with some writing for the last couple of months that I felt I was being extra critical or particular when I was looking at what someone else was doing on my behalf. So, some of that, I think you just have to get comfortable with, maybe start small, and go from there.
On the point of ‘what someone else does, represents you,’ there has to be the quality, of course. I think that's not the same thing as ‘it has to be as if I had done it.’
There's also the question of: do your clients know, do they need to know—especially if you're subcontracting some of this work, like the writing that you're talking about—is it any of the client’s business who's doing the writing?
Or, in terms of you representing the work—the fact that you choose the person who's going to do it, you oversee the process, maybe you creative direct it or art direct it, and you fix it—if it doesn't come back, not the way you would have done it, but the way you think it should be done … . I do think those are two different things.
I'm thinking of someone else now, who has been struggling with this delegating process and, little by little, letting go of some of the design work that she would otherwise have done. And letting go also of ‘I have to like it,’ because the client doesn't have the same taste as you do. They probably don't have the same quality control that you do as a marketer.
So, if someone that you've subcontracted to submits something that you don't think is as good as what you would have done, should you submit it anyway? Should you throw it away and do something better? That would be a total waste of your time and money, I think.
I have advised this person to just present the work, if it's good enough. If the client has a problem with it, then you fix it, but don't presume that the client will have a problem with it, just because you don't love it.
True. What just dawned on me now is, you know how I've struggled getting my email newsletter out. I vow that I'm going to do it. I say, “I’m going to do it next month,” and many months have gone by when I haven't. I guess that's one area that—especially given what a typical newsletter might include, which could be what I'm working on lately, or a new blog post that I wrote—I'm realizing that could probably be something that I could delegate to someone because it's curated content.
I guess I'm realizing that, for me, maybe I don't feel comfortable subbing out writing because I really haven't discussed that with the client, and I feel like that's something I might need to say or introduce to them. But when it comes to getting help for maybe some of the other things that I'm kind of stuck on, like my email newsletter, somebody probably could help me with that.
I would think so.
My list is growing, if I would put the names in MailChimp, but I'm just not getting around to getting the email out. Yet, I have things that I could talk about in it. I have partnerships or client projects or interesting stories, new blog content, guest blogging somewhere else, this podcast. So, I just I had just a little mini epiphany while we were talking.
That that's one area I really struggled with, yet I think it's super important. Because when I work with clients, they don't have a regular way of reaching out to their clients, à la an email newsletter. I’ve thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, what's wrong with you? You're missing out on a great opportunity!’
I agree with you totally. I might add, that the fact that you're not doing it looks worse than if someone else did it for you.
Ooh. You got me there.
Do you agree? A marketing touché?
I do. And I feel a lot of guilt. Someone could look at me and say: ‘Gosh, she's not practicing what she preaches. Maybe you can't take her advice.’
If you said to someone, “Hey, wait a minute, where is your email newsletter?” And they turned around and said to you, “Where's your email newsletter?” Then, that would be a marketing touché.
That would be. I'm starting to believe it.
Okay, so what else then?
Well, did you find, when you were outsourcing things … maybe just talk a little bit about what you do get help with. I know one thing that you get help with is that I write case studies for you, which I enjoy doing. I get to talk with some of your happy clients and find out their experience of working with you. So, that's one thing I know you delegate. Are there other things that you can share?
Yes, so I'll talk first about the writing, because it all comes under the heading of ‘marketing.’
I do a lot of my own marketing, just because it is really second nature to me. I love doing it. It comes very quickly and easily. I do a lot of my own writing, including my blogging, my newsletters, the podcast—there's no writing involved, really, it's just talking. So, I'm the one who does that, and I think my authenticity comes through in that.
Then the goal is—and I think this is the key when someone is writing for you—is finding someone who can write in your voice.
I have had people write for me. In fact, Deidre Rienzo, one of the copywriters that I often recommend, her specialty actually is writing in your voice. Whatever your voice is, she can write in it. She did a lot of my blogging for many years, about 10 years ago. Then little by little, she decided, ‘No, that's not what I want to do, I want to do something else.’ So, I took it over and started doing it myself.
I go back and forth with that type of thing. But when it comes to case studies, for example, then that is a much bigger project which requires interviewing people, and then doing the writing, and there's a whole process that I definitely don't have time for. So, I was really glad to find you, Melanie, who was willing to do that for me, because I think they come out beautifully.
So, there's that. The only other thing I want to say about the fact that I do my own writing now, for the most part, is because there's less time, I just write it and I send it. I write it and I post it. I never know what it is I want to do until I sit down to do it, and by that point, it doesn't make sense to have someone else be involved. That's what I mean when I say, “After all of these years, it's just gotten really simple.”
The other thing I would say is, all of my content is interconnected—so, the videos that I do for the Simplest Marketing Planner, and the blog posts that come out of that, and the Quick Tips that come out of that, and then the things that I post on LinkedIn—it's all interconnected. So, unless someone was doing all of it, they couldn't do just a piece here or there. I think that's part of the issue, as well.
I was working on my newsletter on Sunday, and I wrote it, and I liked it, but then I always put it away for a couple of days. Then I was looking at it and thought, ‘No, it's backwards, I have to reverse it.’
So, the two ideas that I had, I'm rewriting tonight, and then I'm going to send it out tomorrow. Hopefully it'll be good enough. I think there's also that willingness to say, ‘Okay, it's good enough; it's going out.’
I think you hold yourself to more of a deadline, even if you give yourself a couple days in between the first draft and when you push it out. I think for my clients, I'm very focused on getting things done by the deadline—middle of the month for the next newsletter.
When it comes to my stuff, everything can float, a little bit. Then what turns out to be a couple of days is a couple months. And then I think, ‘Ugh, I'm not doing a monthly newsletter.’
I know a lot of that is prioritizing that your own marketing is important and and I know that's part of it. I give myself a little bit of grace on it, though, just because I know I'm doing other things. I'm connecting with people on LinkedIn. I'm sending somebody an article that I read, because I know that they're a good prospect for me, and I genuinely had something that I wanted to share with them. So, I'm not being a total slacker. But, when it comes to email marketing, I know it's important and I preach it to people, but I'm not living it myself, and I need to get better at that.
I didn't mean for this to turn into a coaching session, but it sounds like that is something you could commit to and say: ‘Alright, I'm going to find someone good; maybe you even have someone in mind who can take this off of my plate.’
I know that one of your questions, also, is: How do you justify the money it costs? That is sometimes an obstacle for people. “Well, I could do it just as easily and it wouldn't cost anything.”
And often I’d say, “But, you're not.” So, “How much is it costing you not to do?” is the way I would reframe that.
I'm very frugal. I'm generous to others, but I'm frugal when it comes to spending a dollar for my business. It's just like with my website, too. I've been wanting to change my website, but I know how much it's probably going to cost, yet if I could just hire someone to do it instead of thinking, ‘Okay, I'll just figure it out myself—I'll redo my website, like I did before.’
All that time thinking about it, worrying about it, missing deadlines, not doing it—there is a cost there, there's an energy and mind share cost; dollars are taken away, even though I'm not spending anything.
I do think there's a wide variety of people that I now know, thanks to being closer to your network of connections—and for this last year and a half that I've been working with you, there are a lot more people that I could talk to about helping me with things.
I guess it's like when you make any purchasing decision, I can talk to two or three people and let them know, ‘I’m talking to two or three of you, and I'd like to have your thoughts.’ I'm not obligated to ask one particular person or even go with them once we talk about it. I've got to go with what makes sense for, not just my budget, but also my gut.
The other thing I would say is that, you can try a few different people out. You don't have to make a long-term commitment at the very beginning.
That's the other thing I've learned over the years. For my social media, for example, I don't do most of that myself. I do have some someone else who does it. I've had three different people who have done it over the years, and they've all done it totally differently, but also very beautifully. I appreciate that.
But, I have learned to let go enough so that I say to the person who's doing it, “Okay, do it in your own way. I don't need it done this way.” And then they bring something new to the process that I never would have thought of.
That's cool. I didn't know if you did your own social media. So, I just know I always see you sharing things on LinkedIn. And I thought, ‘There she goes again. She's everywhere.’
I think we have time for one more question. Do you have one more question, Melanie?
I am sure that you've talked to a lot of creative professionals over the years where you've heard delegation success stories and maybe horror stories. What's your advice for someone going down this path of wanting to delegate or outsource or get some help? And then, what's a pitfall that I would want to avoid or that someone listening to this would want to step away from?
I don't know if this answers both sides of the question, but as you're talking, the thought that comes to my mind goes back to something I've already said, but I want to underscore—which is: It's really essential to be flexible and open and detached as much as possible, once you have found the right person or are willing to try a couple of different people. I find that the pitfalls are when you have some idea about, ‘Here's how I want it done.’
The point I'm making is that you have to know if you're looking for a pair of hands or a strategic partner. We've talked about that difference. If you're looking for a pair of hands—just someone to implement your idea—that is something totally different from someone that I would go to. I'm more often looking for a strategic partner or an expert at whatever it is that they do.
For example, Maureen Adamo—I will give her total credit—my brand is in her hands. She comes to me with ideas and says, “I think we should do this” or “I think it should look like this.”
And I told her, “Maureen, do whatever you think is best. I totally trust you.” So, my brand new website, which you have seen—I didn't do any work on it. She worked on it for a year. She would, from time to time, show me what she was doing. I told her: “Looks great, keep going.”
She came out with something that I love—and it's only because she knows me, and she knows my work, and I trust her and let her take as long as she needed to take to do the best possible job that she can.
That's kind of the extreme, but the more you can err on that side of finding people you can trust and then just letting them do what they do, the better. Wouldn't you want to be that person?
Sure. I love it when my clients trust me to do my thing for them on their behalf. I'm a trusting person, so I think there's probably more to this hindrance that I've given myself. It's not just it's not a trust thing it's probably also a focus thing— carving out enough time to find people, to interview people, for how they could help me.
It's not just because I have a lot more client work now, which I do, but I also tend to not take care of my own needs, at times, and it probably manifests itself in my business, because some of my marketing gets put to the side.
So maybe, all you do is keep it really focused and break it down. Just say, “I'm going find someone to do the email newsletter.” That’s it. Start with that.
I'm on board with the idea now and I know you'll hold me to it.
Alright, I think we should put the bookmark there. Maybe there will be a part two to this. Melanie? You never know.
Did she delegate? Did she not?
Exactly. But thank you, as always, for bringing me your wonderful ideas. I know that if you're thinking of something or wondering about something, you are not the only one, and that's why I'm just open to it. So, thank you for being proactive in that way. I'm sure we will continue this conversation.
Thanks so much, Ilise.
Let me give you a chance to promote yourself and tell people where to find you online. Melanie the Marketer—where can they find you?
Thanks to the domain that I bought a few months ago, it is MelanieTheMarketer.com. That takes you to my website. My name is Melanie Deardorff. I'm also on Instagram, as meldeardorff and Twitter @meldeardorff, and my personal Facebook page.
I do hope that was helpful and that you can sooner, rather than later, test these ideas for yourself. You'll see how they will change the way you run your business. It really is the small things that can truly have an impact over time. If you want details about my one-on-one accountability or small group coaching, go to Marketing-Mentor.com. I'll be back soon with more conversations with creative professionals who are practicing what I preach to overcome, once and for all, the feast or famine syndrome. See you next time.