For the first five years after starting my online business, I did about 99 percent of the work on my own. There were a few one-off projects here and there that I had help with, such as getting voiceover work done for my study guide at GreenExamAcademy.com (which I actually did try to do on my own at first), but beyond that, it was all me.
I set up my own websites. I customized the themes. I wrote the content. I recorded, edited, and published all of my podcast episodes. I did all of the graphic design on my own using Photoshop. I handled all of my own emails and social media channels. It was all me. If there was something to do and I didn’t know how to do it, I figured it out on my own by watching YouTube videos, reading books, and taking courses.
If you were to ask me back then how I felt about doing all of the work myself, I would have told you that I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Ask me about it today, however, and I’ll be the first to tell you that I shouldn’t have done it all on my own.
I should have started building my team sooner.
Since working with a team over the past three years, I’ve been able to exponentially grow my business, create new businesses and income streams, and be less stressed and much happier as a result.
I only wish I started looking for help sooner. In this post, I’ll tell you why, and give you some tips I’ve learned along the way while building my team. But first, let’s talk about why I didn’t have a desire to build a team at all.
Why I Resisted Building a Team for So Long
Getting help and hiring people was not an unknown idea to me. After the first year of business, I learned from a number of colleagues that there were these people called virtual assistants (VAs) you could hire to take care of a lot of the day-to-day tasks that one might do to open up more time to do other things.
In 2010, Chris Ducker and I became good friends. Chris owns a 250+ employee brick-and-mortar call center in the Philippines. He is also the founder of Virtual Staff Finder, and author of Virtual Freedom, the bestselling book on building teams. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through these links.] He’s basically the headmaster of the Hogwarts School of VAs and he was quick to tell me that I was making a big mistake by not getting help from others.
He once asked me why I was so afraid to get help, and here was my reply:
“I’m not really afraid to get help, I just don’t think I need it. I’ve got the systems down, I can do the work myself in the way that I want it to, and I don’t have to worry about others messing things up. If something goes wrong, I know it’s my fault and I like having that control.”
Reflecting back, there was also a sense of pride there too. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a guy, and you know most of us guys always try to figure things out on our own. (e.g., we don’t ask for directions if we get lost), but I’ve since learned that pride is a double-edged sword. You must be proud of your work to keep going, but pride can hinder one’s ability to let go, which is an ability that is an essential part of building a business.
I also felt that there was a sense of honor in being able to do everything on my own. I used to boast about how I was a one-man show, and when people would ask me about how big my team was, I’d proudly state that it was just me. I always thought that was a good thing, but now I realize it just showed others that I was still in the beginning stages of my business.
There’s nothing wrong with doing everything on your own, and at the start of my online business journey, and for most others, that’s what we have to do. Maybe it’s a lack of funds, or there just aren’t enough tasks to hand off to others. Whatever the case, there’s absolutely no shame in being a one-person show. But, when the business begins to build momentum, in order to grow, you have to build a team or else one of two things will eventually happen:
- You will become overwhelmed as things begin to pile up on you. You can keep up with the demand, but things will either begin to slip through your fingers, or ultimately you will burn out.
- Your business will remain stagnant and no longer have the opportunity to grow.
For me, it was both.
I didn’t experience burnout, but I felt like I was headed in that direction. With regularly scheduled blog posts and podcast episodes, it got to a point where I always felt like I was playing catch up. I’d miss a blog post or two here and there, podcast episodes fell behind, and I’d go hard on the weekends or late at night to try to get back on track.
My email inbox was a good reflection of how things were going. At times, I’d have over 10,000 unread emails in my inbox, and with each set of new emails I’d receive every day, I began to realize that it was that many people I was letting down because I was trying to be a super-entrepreneur.
And as a result, my business did begin to slow down a bit. The income reports were showing no significant growth, my traffic had begun to flatline, and I was losing energy. It was for these reasons that, in 2013, I created some big goals for myself—ones that I couldn’t possibly achieve on my own, and ones that would require me to look elsewhere for help.
How Can Building a Team Work Against You?
As great as team building can be, like with anything, there can be consequences. I’ve been fortunate to have very positive experiences while my team has grown, but I’ve heard some horror stories. Most people hire help to save time, but for many who don’t know how to manage their team (or manage their team too much or grow too fast), it actually takes extra time, which defeats the whole purpose.
In other cases, people get hired, but don’t stay long. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t work out, and then the re-hiring process has to start again, which can cause a lot of pain and potentially become a nightmare, especially if the person leaving had their hands in many aspects of your business.
To help with any potential transitions, it’s always best to create replicable systems or SOPs (standard operating procedures) in your business so that in case someone does have to leave, another person (including you) can easily perform those same tasks and keep the business running. Of course, a lot of this has to do with who you hire, so finding the right people will play a key role in the long-term success of your business. So, let’s talk about that for a bit.
"Finding the right people will play a key role in the long-term success of your business."
Where Can You Find Great People to Hire?
One of my favorite quotes related to hiring comes from none other than Chris Ducker, who said “Hire for the role, not the task.” Whether you’re hiring a part-time or full-time person, no matter if it’s someone overseas or someone local, hiring for the role you’re trying to fill as opposed to just a person to do the tasks, is a key part of the mindset you have to have when searching for help.
This mindset will help you approach hiring staff as truly building a team of people beyond yourself who actually play a role in the success of the business, which means you can delegate, let got of responsibilities you’ve given to your team, and make them feel included and necessary.
Now, before we move on, there may be instances where you have an upcoming, one-off project to do where it actually doesn’t make sense at all to hire a part-time or full-time employee. For example, if you need voiceover work done for your book so you can publish it on Audible, you can hire for that one task until the job is complete. If tasks are required to be ongoing, however, then you’d really benefit from someone joining the team.
All of my team members were hired through people I already knew, and starting with your network is what I’d recommend. It’ll be easier for you to trust recommendations coming from your friends and colleagues, rather than an Internet job marketplace where it’s only about resumes and portfolios.
That said, there are a lot of great places you can find that right hire:
- Virtual Staff Finder: This service, owned by Chris Ducker, is for those who are looking to find part-time or full-time staff who work in the Philippines, in particular ones who have gone through a testing process to know that they can do the job. There are a lot of advantages to finding team members in the Philippines, and primarily, it’s the cost. For anywhere between $400-800 per month for each VA, you can get 40 hours of work per week. This is a normal price range for overseas VAs, and it’s this inexpensive because of the smaller economies where many of these VAs call home. I’ve had incredible success working with VAs on various projects when I started outsourcing my work. I don’t use overseas VAs anymore, though, and I’ll talk more about why in just a moment. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
- Your Community: The next place to find people to work with is within your existing community. If you’re just starting out, then of course this isn’t really an option, but even a small community can be a great source of help because those people already support what you do, and many would be thrilled to work with you. Here’s an image from SPI friend David Siteman Garland who recently posted this to his community on Facebook and Instagram.
- ZipRecruiter.com: And if you have to use a service like a job site, I’d recommend ZipRecruiter.com, which is a sponsor for the AskPat podcast. I’ve had a lot of messages from listeners who absolutely loved using this service to find the right candidates. Instead of posting descriptions on the dozens of different websites out there, ZipRecruiter will do all of that hard work for you. Post once and they send it out, help to screen applicants, and find the best recruits for you. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
The Big Difference Between Working with People Overseas vs. Locally
For a while, I started out by hiring two VAs through Chris’s service, and they were fantastic! They always did the work I had asked them to do, and it was always done with great quality. I never really had to make any corrections or let them know things weren’t up to par. After a year and a half of working with them, however, I decided to let them go because there was one element that was missing that I just couldn’t get from VAs, something I really wanted: the sense of a real team.
And it wasn’t because they weren’t great people. Like I said, they were amazing, and we all got along very well. Being half Filipino myself, there were a lot of commonalities and things I already understood about their culture and work ethic that made it even more comfortable for me to work with them. The big thing that was missing though was their initiative to step outside of their job description and offer suggestions, and to truly feel like they were a part of the brand.
Within the Filipino culture, it’s very much a “follow the rules and always do what you’re told to do” type of situation, both in families and in business. Filipinos are very careful not to overstep their boundaries, and as such, my VAs never offered suggestions on how things could potentially be done better or more efficiently. It was always what I had asked them to do, in the way I had told them to do it. Nothing more, nothing less.
I wanted to build a team where everyone was invested in making the company and brand better as a whole. To never be afraid to offer suggestions and tell ME how I could run things better, or what else could be added to the brand to achieve our ultimate goals. I knew that I’d have this sense of culture if I started to build a team that was more local (based in the U.S.), so that’s exactly what started to happen.
Starting small, I ended up hiring Matt Gartland. You may remember Matt from Session 138 of the SPI Podcast where I visited Columbus, Ohio and interviewed many of my team members who happen to live in that area. Matt and I started working together initially on a single project, Let Go, my first ebook. He was the editor for the book, and in that experience we really bonded and discovered we wanted to do more work together, which is when he came on to become my executive producer—sort of like a project manager—who would be the person to help manage the systems we were going to use, the production of various projects, and finding and managing the people we were going to need for those projects.
He’s been instrumental in helping shape what the brand has become today, and he and the rest of the team who have since been hired are absolutely as much a part of this as I am. And what’s best is, a lot of the ideas that you see, the new and innovative aspects of SPI that have rolled out over the years, they’ve been the result of not just my ideas and their execution, but all of our ideas and suggestions put together, and I love that.
The team is definitely more expensive now that they are local when compared to the VAs from the Philippines, but to me, what they add in terms of camaraderie and culture, is priceless.
The One Tip I Want to Recommend to Those Building a Team or Working with Virtual Assistants
I’ve learned a lot over the past few years since working with my team. I’ve learned that money well spent on the people who help you add more value to your audience, your subscribers, and customers can give you massive returns, not just when it comes to the money that you make and the projects that you churn out, but the reduced levels of stress, and the increased levels of energy and time.
The one tip I’d like to share with anyone related to team building and working with anyone else in your business is this:
Always show appreciation for those who help you.
It sounds simple, but it goes a long, long way. I do my best to always make sure my team knows they are appreciated, that they do good work, and that they are useful. I’m not sure if it’s because when I was working 9-to-5 in the architecture industry, I was so upset because I worked so hard and never got an ounce of thanks in return, or perhaps it’s just who I am as a person, but I beg you—please thank your team, your VAs, your assistants, and contractors for what they do.
Not only does it help them stay encouraged, wanting to help you crush your objective and meet your business goals, and not only does it make them feel great, but it’s just absolutely the right thing to do.
And here’s your quick but powerful call to action for today:
If you have any team members on board currently, take a moment today to thank them.