Welcome back to the Ready to Wander Podcast! I am your host, Sydney Breann, and I am SO excited for today’s episode because I have an amazing guest here today! My virtual assistant and life saver, Courtney with CP Productivity is joining us to share the importance of outsourcing tasks that don’t bring you joy.
Courtney is a virtual assistant and social media manager for wedding + elopement photographers specifically. She assists them by creating + planning content, social media management, writing blogs, copywriting, website creation, and client gifting. But really, we could go on and on about what she does!
Today’s episode is for the business owners – whether you’re a photographer, bakery owner, or something else. Specifically, we are chatting about outsourcing. We’ll be chatting about what outsourcing is, when to outsource, and what sort of tasks you can outsource to free up your time and start filling your days with things that actually bring you joy. What I mean by this, is fill your work day with tasks that fuel you. Tasks that you don’t dread sitting down to do, or tasks that are preventing you from living the life you want to live, or running the business you want to run. So, let’s get into it!
I am happy to have Courtney here to chat about outsourcing for business owners, because I was SO hesitant to start outsourcing tasks when I first went to her a couple of years ago. Now, I realize it is the best thing I ever did to get my life back and really love running my business again. Before we dive into the nitty gritty, I want to share a bit about Courtney’s background and how she got started with her business.
“I have my associates degree as an Administrative Assistant, but I didn’t get into this line of work in a traditional manner. I got my degree back in 2017, and I didn’t start my business until April of 2021. And let me tell ya. I definitely didn’t even have this in mind, nor did I set out to do this when I got my degree all those years ago. Like so many, I was actually laid off during the pandemic. And it took me quite a while to find a job. BUT once I finally did, I realized that I wasn’t happy or fulfilled with what I was doing.
In the meantime, I had been interacting with a photographer on Instagram for quite awhile (Morgan Elizabeth Photos). I really just loved her personality + work. And I can honestly say that I don’t know what prompted me to do so, but I slid into her DM’s and asked if she needed any help with admin tasks (since that was what I knew how to do). When I reached out, it was currently slow season for her, so she didn’t need me at the moment, but she assured me she’d reach out in a couple months. Flash forward to April 2021, she DID reach out and I realized just how much I loved what I was doing. I quickly got my first 5 clients (one of them being Sydney), quit my 8-5 job, and with lots of hard work, the rest is history!”
I outsource mainly blogging, Pinterest, and like email marketing. I also have Courtney do my graphics for social media & this podcast, and she helps with any launches I have. With that being said, I definitely am not outsourcing as many tasks as I could be. I know tons of photographers that outsource all of their social media, engagement, short-form content creation, and even photo editing. However, not every virtual assistant offers the same kind of assistance. So, I asked Courtney what tasks are commonly outsourced!
“First and foremost, any task that you can think of as a photographer can be outsourced! Like I mentioned, when I first started out, I focused primarily on administrative tasks (such as calendar management, replying to emails, sending galleries to vendors, etc.) Organically, I was able to move more towards social media management and blogging. So those are definitely a few of the main things photographers choose to outsource.
What it comes down to is thinking about what brings you joy vs. what doesn’t bring you joy. A lot of times, though, it also comes down to TIME. If you’re a business owner, you know how many hats you have to wear. The last thing you want to do is engagement on instagram, write a blog, or email a vendor. So as a virtual assistant, my job is to take any of those tasks off your hands so that you can focus on what you do love – which is taking care of your clients!
For social media a virtual assistant or social media manager will, plan out Instagram grids, create captions, research hashtags, create reels, and do engagement. Other VA’s may specialize in editing and can take editing off your hands, or culling. It really depends on the VA + what you are looking for from a VA when it comes to outsourcing tasks.”
When I first started outsourcing, I was so hesitant because I didn’t know how it was going to work in terms of collaboration. I had it in my head that I would be giving up control of my social media account or my blog and that it wouldn’t be mine anymore, but that is definitely not the case. We are really a team and are always collaborating. Can you help ease people’s fears a little bit? How do you communicate and collaborate with clients to ensure their needs are met when outsourcing tasks?
“When I first start working with a client, I make an effort to really get tot know them. I want to know how they naturally talk, what emojis they like to use, what expressions they say frequently. I’m never writing anything from my perspective, it is always from the client’s. Most often, a virtual assistant is a ghost writer for their client to ensure the client’s voice is still being heard.
Logistically, my clients and I use Asana to keep track of all of our due dates. Something that’s really important to me is to keep communication open with my clients. Sometimes an email will suffice, other times we are hopping on a call once a week to chat through projects. I also do my best to listen to them beyond what’s “assigned” to me. So if I notice one of my clients is really struggling showing up on Instagram, I can reach out and see if they need additional help. I just want to do my best to be there for my clients, because they aren’t just my clients. They are my friends.”
Now, these next few questions are really why we are doing this podcast. We want people to know that it is okay to outsource work if it is bogging you down or burning you out. Truly, if you are dragging your feet through a task or if it is dreadful to you and sucking the joy out of your business, it’s time to start outsourcing tasks. Or if you feel like you don’t have the time to put your all into the task, you need to outsource it and give that task to someone that will enjoy it or have more time for it. So, this next question is a big one. After you answer, I can chat about my perspective a little bit, but can you help people understand how to determine which tasks are worth outsourcing as a photographer or small business owner?
“It comes down to what brings you joy, what doesn’t, and what you have the capacity for. When I first hop on a call with a potential client, we talk about their pain points as a photographer. So, maybe right now, you’re in a place where you don’t know if outsourcing tasks is a good idea. My biggest encouragement is to go through your business and identify what tasks you love, like, don’t have motivation for, and can’t stand. That’s the best starting point. If you have a whack-ton of tasks in the “lack of motivation + can’t stand” categories, it’s time to look into hiring someone.”
Similarly, I look at tasks in two ways. One, does it make me excited or bring me joy to do and complete? Or two, am I pushing it off or avoiding it, or doing a half-assed job because it is soul sucking and taking up way too much of my time?
If it is the latter, you need to get rid of it. Give that responsibility to someone else and get back to loving the parts of your business that you excel at. Like for example, blogging. I LOVE writing; I have always kept a journal and I love telling stories. But when it came time to write a blog, I kept getting in my head about it. I felt so much pressure trying to make it perfect and ended up spending a lot of time trying to write these lengthy blogs, choosing the best photos, ensuring it was SEO friendly. Basically: ICK. Blogging took the joy out of writing for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I have all kinds of ideas. But I was just really feeling overwhelmed at trying to tackle all of those blog ideas and writing on my own because I was pouring so much of my time into them. It was starting to become something that I dreaded doing because I knew I would have to sit down for HOURS at a time to complete a single blog. Now, Courtney takes on that task for me. I (or we) come up with ideas, I write notes, tell stories, and upload a gallery of images. Then, I give everything to Courtney, and she puts the words together into a blog with more detail, imagery, SEO, and all of that fancy stuff that was stressing me out.
Now, I am excited to sit down, come up with blog ideas, and write notes for Courtney. I know that I am doing the backend work and that the rest of the work is done for me. I spend about two-three hours per month sitting down to write notes. It’s such a relief to know I am putting my top effort into the notes and the idea, rather than spending hours upon hours writing a single blog.
So in my mind, outsourcing a task is worth it if you are spending more time than you have into it. Or, even if it’s a task that you are constantly putting on the back-burner. Time is seriously money! Think about just how much more time you could put into another task that you are stoked about. Or the time you could put into communicating and creating relationships with clients. Think about the extra time you may also have with your family or being outside doing things you love. A task is also worth outsourcing if you are feeling burned out, you are missing that creative spark, or again, if it simply does not bring you joy.
Oooof, that was a lot and we are just diving right into another juicy question! We are going to chat about the positives. The roots of why you need to outsource. There are 3 main reasons you need to outsource.
This may seem obvious, but can you touch on free time and why offloading tasks to you can give business owners the time and mental space to focus on other aspects of their work?
“This is such a good question! Gosh, a lack of free time is probably why many people start a business. Free time and flexibility are what you pictured when you started your biz, at least I know I did! But, we all know that being a business owner has it’s downfalls. One of those being that we feel the need to do it all on our own. Outsourcing tasks doesn’t make you a failure – it makes you an even better business owner. What it really comes down to is that doing it all on your own is NOT sustainable.”
The second main reason you need to outsource is that it allows you to scale and grow your business more efficiently. So how can outsourcing help small businesses and entrepreneurs scale their business more efficiently?
“Truly, outsourcing is the difference between scaling your business vs. remaining stagnant. We all only have so much capacity – even if we would like to do it all. You know that guide or course you’ve been itching to create? It’s pretty hard to find time to do so when you’re spending all of your free time doing things that don’t fill your cup.”
Well for one, there is more time for your clients. Client experience and happiness is the number one factor in the success of your business. If you have more time to pour into understanding your clients’ stories, needs, or just them in general, you’ll have way happier clients. You’ll even have more time to create helpful resources for them which will lead to great reviews, which means more wonderful clients to serve.
Second, if you outsource you will have more time and energy for business ventures that you otherwise wouldn’t have time for, like rebranding, updating your website, starting another business, launching a coaching program or workshop, etc.
Third, and perhaps my favorite way to grow and scale, is you will have more time for rest and rejuvenation, which is really key to serving clients and excelling at your job. You will have more time to spend rejuvenating with your family and friends, going on vacation, or taking a break from your emails and desk all together. Outsourcing tasks allows you to be able to step away and leave those pesky tasks to your VA, who will definitely take care of you.
I know for me, when was in my first year as a full time business owner, I was shooting 35 weddings. On top of that number, I was while also taking portraits for seniors and families. And then, I was still trying to maintain social relationships, go on vacations, create relationships with clients, update my website and create resources for potential clients, and the list goes on.
Business owners wear a lot of hats and juggle a lot of balls. When you are juggling, you are bound to drop a ball here and there. For me, I was dropping the ball when it came to family and friends. I also wasn’t diving deep into client relationships, because I honestly didn’t have the time. I was feeling burnt out from editing and doing the backend work of my business. Even though my shoots and weddings were amazing and I felt so fulfilled after shooting, I was drowning in work at the desk.
However, I was still hesitant to give up some tasks. I kept thinking that I needed to be a one-woman show to be successful or to even prove that I could do it all. But truthfully, nobody can do it all. As humans, we are not meant to put so much stress on our bodies and minds. We certainly are not built to handle it all. I was finally convinced by a friend to give Courtney a shot, and it was the best thing I ever did.
Not only for my business, but for my relationships and mental health. I was able to make more time for travel and being outdoors. I was able to pour more of my heart into tasks that I did love, and I was able to focus on my clients. And I think that is the key here. If you try to do it all and start to drag your feet through tasks or get burnt out, you are not being the best you can be for your clients. Once I made that realization, it made all the difference.
So I needed to outsource to get rid of burnout. I needed to get rid of the resentment I felt toward my job for keeping me away from friends and family. And I needed to free up time to provide the amazing client experience that people rave about. I needed to free up time to pour my heart into the tasks that DO bring me joy, and to allow me to get back to living my life away from the desk.
Getting rid of the tasks that did not bring me joy allowed me to:
This is just a small list of the things I have been able to accomplish with the extra time on my hands. And I have even more time to pour into my business and personal life.
Seriously, if you are on the fence about outsourcing, there is no harm in trying it out. I can honestly say hiring Courtney was the best thing I did for my business. Now, when I sit down to tackle my to-do list, I am way more productive and focused. I am actually stoked to run my business and when I hand something off to her, I can literally feel the weight get lifted off my shoulder. In my 3rd year as a full-time elopement photographer, I can confidently say that I don’t feel an ounce of stress surrounding my business. I have workflows in place, and I have an amazing VA that takes tasks off my back so that I can keep supporting my clients and create epic experiences to celebrate love.
It was so fun to chat about what my VA does not only for my business, but what a VA can do for other businesses when it comes to outsourcing tasks. If you’re looking for more productivity tips or to outsource your own tasks, you can find Courtney on Instagram (@cpproductivity) and on her website (cpproductivityva.com).
Well, this is it folks. Thank you so much for listening to our business chat about outsourcing, and I really hope you find the courage, even if it is scary, to give up some of the stress inducing and dreadful tasks that may be holding you back.
I have some other amazing guests lined up for the next few episodes, and I am amped for you to hear all of their knowledge and experiences! You can keep up with me over on the ‘Gram (@sydneybreannphoto) to stay up-to-date with my adventures. So what do you say, are you ready to wander?