You may have noticed that I haven’t been writing much lately. A combination of travel, family events, and business challenges have interrupted my normal writing rhythm.
I’ve also been in a bit of a slump in my business lately. That’s the topic of this post. I’m not writing any of this to whine or complain about any of it, but to show you some of the challenges that come with this journey.
Let’s get into it.
Low Energy & Fighting Colds
Sickness. This winter has been tough because I just haven’t had as much energy as I did in the fall. Part of that has been due to a continuous series of colds.
I don’t know what happened, but I think this is the sickest winter I’ve ever had. I’ve had one cold after another. Most of them haven’t been very severe, just energy draining, and I never got over the last one before the next one came, leaving me feeling like I was dragging most of the winter.
No Exercise. Exercise in the morning gives me energy, but I just haven’t been able to drag myself out of bed early enough to do it, continuing the downward spiral of low energy.
I take full responsibility for this and I don’t blame it on the weather, sickness, or my bed. I’ve decided that at the very least every morning I can put on my shoes and go for a quick run or walk.
Just when I felt like I was getting back on top of things, spring break came. As I’ve mentioned before, I struggle to find a balance between enjoying the freedom and time to spend with family, and hustling on my business.
This week I just went with the flow and spent lots of time with my daughter, including a long weekend family trip to the beach with the cousins. That was fantastic.
I let go and enjoyed the family time, but I do feel that internal pressure to get to work.
For some reason all of my customers in the last few months have wanted to do a lot of back-and-forth negotiation for weeks or months before they purchase. I knew that was a part of this business, but last fall there were still plenty of automatic sales, where someone would order online on their own or call to make an immediate purchase.
These days, nobody is ready to make their purchase yet. That’s fine, but it ends up taking a lot more of my time.
Because of the sheer volume of questions and inquiries I’m getting, I’m not able to practice the productivity system that I laid out in this post or spend time on my ONE Thing, without losing sales. It’s led to frustration and neglect of my task management and prioritization system.
So why don’t I just hire someone to handle customer service, like I said I would?
Waiting To Hire Staff
I don’t actually know if I can afford to hire someone because my bookkeeping isn’t up to date. I need to know what I’m committing myself to before I make the hire.
For the past 4-6 weeks I’ve just been waiting and waiting for my books to be finished, getting more and more frustrated.
Freelance Bookkeeper Disaster
I don’t do bookkeeping; I hate it, I’m not good at it, other people can do it better and cheaper than I can. I needed to get my 2015 books done for taxes, and my own understanding of the finances.
I hired a bookkeeper from Pakistan on Upwork because I thought it would be cheaper than hiring an US based company. He impressed me during my hiring process, but I was sorely wrong about him.
I decided to start using Xero, an online accounting software, and he had a lot of work to get last year’s books finished and getting caught up. I wanted to pay him monthly because I thought I’d only need him a few hours each month, but to get to that point I decided to pay him hourly to get caught up.
But that never happened. I paid him $1200 over the course of four months, starting in November, and he still never got caught up. I was just watching money disappear without results. I knew it was a lot of work, so I let him keep going.
We also had plenty of other problems. When the tax filing deadline was coming close I asked him time and time again to give me an ETA on his tasks, but he never would, and I was increasingly frustrated.
I had lots of questions about bookkeeping in general, but it always felt to me like I was telling him what to do instead of him advising me, which is what he should do.
After he finished preparing the books for my 2015 taxes I fired him and started looking for a new bookkeeper.
Just last week I hired a US-based bookkeeping company, and they’re only charging me $100/month, including my $30 Xero subscription. They’re not freelancers, and I think this will work out much better.
In the meantime I’m getting further behind on my goals, which are all hinged on hiring help. It’s really frustrating.
I shouldn’t complain too much though, as he did my books for the entire year and the work he did was fine. If I had paid the new company to do the entire year it would have been about the same.
EDIT 6/11/2016: I recently learned his work was not fine. Yes, the numbers were entered correctly so that my taxes were correct, but the way he did them was completely wrong and really screwed up my Xero account. Now my new bookkeeper has a lot of work fixing all the bad data in my account.
Lately I’ve decided that I needed to focus more on things that will give me short-term income rather than the long term. I’ve been spending months on this content marketing system, using up all of my time and not seeing any results from it yet. I knew it was a long-term play, but I’m tired of not seeing growth right now.
Now I am changing my priorities around, but still playing the waiting game to hire staff, which will really set me free.
I don’t have a very clear direction right now, which makes it hard to focus, even though I do have plenty of immediate tasks that should generate some short-term growth.
Lessons Learned in Hiring
Here are some lessons I’ve learned in this experience with the bookkeeper and other recent hires.
The whole bookkeeping situation is my fault. I didn’t stay on top of the freelancer, I didn’t set clear expectations, I didn’t ask him for regular updates until I started to panic, and I didn’t ask him for estimated timeframes in the beginning.
You can’t blame others for anything that happens. Take total responsibility for yourself and your business.
Don’t Pay Hourly. When you pay someone hourly, they are not incentivized to do a task quickly.
You can ask a freelancer how long something will take, but they’ll just take longer. Then when you ask how much longer it will take, the process repeats itself. You will be frustrated and end up paying a lot more than you expected.
That doesn’t mean they’re trying to cheat you. It’s just human nature. We always think we can do something faster we really can.
Instead of paying hourly, ask for a time estimate at the beginning, negotiate a price, and stick to that price. Then they are incentivized to do good work quickly, and you won’t pay for their poor judgement.
If you have a VA who is a permanent team member, pay them monthly or weekly, with clear expectations of what they’re to accomplish. Increase their pay as their responsibilities grow.
Status Updates. Stay on top of your freelancers. Have them give you an update every week telling you where they are on their task, and how much longer it will take. If they continually take too long, find someone else to do the job.
You can’t let this kind of stuff you down. You have to keep moving. Acknowledge it, find a solution and keep hustling.
What challenges are you facing?
You’ve heard some of my recent challenges, now what are you struggling with? Let me know in the comments section below. You might find that just getting them out of your head can help you think clearly.