A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

Five Steps to Freedom: How to Outsource Your Repetitive Tasks

How to outsource
Don’t enjoy cleaning your house, cooking,
or mowing your lawn? How to outsource
boring jobs in five easy steps.
If you haven’t outsourced something like cooking or cleaning yet, and you’re still doing boring drudge work in your everyday life, read on. In one week or less, you will free up 10+ hours of your time every week to do what you love!

My Story

I’m a lazy cook. Anything that takes longer than 15 minutes is longer than my attention span. So I end up cooking a lot of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese.

Since I was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease, I can no longer eat out at many restaurants.

I needed a solution.

Step 1: Decide What You Want to Outsource

My first thought was to research recipes online. After reading a few of them, I quickly realized cooking could become my second full-time job. Gluten-free cooking requires understanding a myriad of various flours–and which flour works best for which purpose.

Around that time, I was reading the new expanded version of The Four-Hour Work Week. Tim Ferriss added tons of case studies to it, and one of them was about a guy who was looking for an Indian vegetarian cook and posted about it on craigslist.

That hit me like a lightning bolt. I realized my dilemma–either eat a bunch of hot dogs and Chipotle or take on a new “job” of cooking–had a third option: Hire someone.

Step 2: Push Through Your Fears

Immediately, I was beset by fears. Would this be ridiculously expensive? Would I be able to find someone who knew how to cook gluten-free food? Would I find someone who cooked terrible food that I hated or that made me sick? Would they need to use my kitchen for hours on end?

The questions didn’t stop, but I realized that, like my business fears, I would simply have to push through them and try it out.

Whenever I get paralyzed by fear, I like to play this game called “What’s the worst that could happen?” I imagine the most outrageous scenario possible. I often do this before public speaking. Feel free to make it totally insane. Here’s one from public speaking: “I go up on stage, and aliens abduct the audience. Then an earthquake hits. Then I’m suddenly transported back in time to the Ice Age…”

Once you start laughing, your fears are usually gone. Whatever it is, it can’t be as bad as your crazy imagination makes it out to be.

I applied this technique to hiring a cook. “She charges $500 an hour, and claims she knows how to cook gluten-free, but then uses flour in everything…she makes the worst food imaginable…” (And then I started imagining food that looked terrible and tasted even worse.)

Step 3: Post the Ad

I needn’t have worried. My craigslist posting (below) generated 14 responses within the first day; the vast majority of the responders mentioned that they were gluten-free themselves!

My craigslist post. Within a week, I had hired my chef!

The prices were all over the place. I mentioned I wanted to pay hourly, but some of the more professional chefs wanted to charge per meal. That could get expensive quickly! I pretty much instantly ruled the pros out–I’ve learned that those at the top of their game probably aren’t the best to hire for this type of task, anyway.

Step 4: Follow Up With Questions and Do a Test Run

I responded to several emails with followup questions. The woman I ended up hiring has a day job and is also gluten-free in her daily life. She was looking for a way to earn extra cash on the side.

I decided to give her a test. If it worked out, I’d hire her. She agreed to the challenge, and I had her make some time-consuming gluten-free cinnamon rolls. I reimbursed her for the ingredients. The cinnamon rolls turned out great–and Richard and I spent a day gorging ourselves on them!

After I ate the cinnamon rolls, I hired her. Yum!

Step 5: Hire, and Make the Details Clear

Here’s how our arrangement works: I pay her $10/hour, plus reimbursements for food with provided receipt. That hourly rate includes time shopping and driving the food to my house.

Since her kitchen is gluten-free, she cooks at her own house every Sunday and Wednesday and brings food over. She lives close by–about 10-15 minutes from me. We coordinate menus via email. Richard and I read gluten-free blogs and cookbooks and send her recipes.

My total spent is about $300 a month (plus food costs), and for all that I get fantastic meals that would have cost us a lot more were we to eat them in a restaurant.

Am I paying a little more than I would have to make food myself? Yes.
Am I eating better, higher-quality food? Heck, yes!

Here I am enjoying some of the fruits of my chef’s labor–gluten-free shrimp scampi!

My Rule of Thumb

There’s no rule that says you have to do everything around your house–especially if you don’t particularly enjoy a certain task. If you don’t like cleaning, mowing your yard, doing taxes, or cooking, hire someone else to do it.

Here’s my rule of thumb: If it stays on my to-do list for longer than two weeks, it’s time to hire someone else to do it.

“But I Can’t Afford It!”

If you think you can’t afford it, do a budget. See exactly what you’re spending money on every month. Then take $200 of those expenses and get rid of them, and use that money to hire someone. Cell phone plans, car insurance, your cable bill, and miscellaneous junk (like, oh, stopping at the convenience store after work) are all easy targets.

You can also do a few hours of side work. Typically, you will be able to bill your skills out at a higher rate than you’ll pay someone to work on your house. I really enjoy giving advice over the phone, for instance. So one alternative would be for me to do an hour of consulting a month and bill it at $500. If I can confidently deliver at least $500 of value to the person on the other end during our hour, it will be well worth it for both of us. Even if your hourly rate is lower, it’s probably still higher than $10-$12.

I live in one of the most expensive areas of the United States (N. County San Diego), so you may be able to find a chef for even less than I did!

Life is too short to do boring chores you hate because you’re afraid to hire someone else. Do your homework (and trust your gut instinct if it says to not hire a certain person) and find the right people. Spend your time doing things you love instead. You won’t regret your decision!

Recommended Reading:

  • The Expanded Version of The Four-Hour Work Week. I already had the former version of this book, but the new version includes 100+ additional pages of case studies. The information on hiring a chef alone made this book well worth the purchase price.

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After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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