personal outsourcing

Personal Outsourcing – The Fine Art of Leveraging Other People’s Time

Everyone in business knows about the tremendous benefits of outsourcing. Fortune 500 companies have been outsourcing parts of their production to countries like China, Bangladesh and Mexico for more than a decade. Tim Ferris and his best selling book “The 4 Hour Work Week” even managed to make outsourcing “sexy” for entrepreneurs. This practice has allowed companies to increase their profits and concentrate on what they are really good at. In other words, outsourcing has allowed them to become more productive. If the most successful entrepreneurs and the biggest companies in the world are doing it, why aren’t you?

What Is Personal Outsourcing

Outsourcing generally means delegating a task, or a series of tasks to another entity that is outside of your company and in most cases, in a different geographical region.

Personal outsourcing follows the same idea, but from the perspective of your personal life. Instead of outsourcing production and shipping like the big companies, you are outsourcing some of your daily/weekly/yearly tasks such as cleaning, gardening, shopping, and even taxes.

To Outsource or Not To Outsource

How can you figure out if something is worth outsourcing? The easiest way is to first figure out what an hour of your time is worth.

Take your income for the last year (include salary and wages but don’t add any investment or passive income) and divide it by an estimated total of the hours you’ve spent acquiring that income. To get a good estimate of the total hours, figure out how much time you spend at the office on a weekly basis (don’t forget to add your hours spent commuting, overtime, conferences and workshops). Multiply that number by 52 and you should arrive to your total work hours.

So if you earned $55 000 last year and you worked 9 to 5 each day with a 30 minute commute each time plus some overtime and workshop hours, an hour of your time roughly equals (55 000 / (8 hrs of work + 1 hr commute) x 5 days + 1 hr over time per week ) x 52 weeks) = $22.99 per hour.

This means that if a task costs less than $23 per hour, it has the potential to be outsourced.

What To Outsource

There are two types of tasks that you should consider outsourcing:

1) Ones that take a lot of your time

2) Ones that you don’t enjoy (or even hate) doing.

If you have a big house for example and you want to keep it neat and organized, you can spend anywhere between 2 to 5 hours each week in cleaning. The opportunity cost of cleaning your house than becomes between $66 and $115 ( 2 to 5 hrs x $23 per hour) per week, or $264 to $460 per month. Same principle can be applied to lawn mowing, cooking, grocery shopping etc.

If a task does not take that much time, but you absolutely detest doing it, you should find a way to outsource it. If something is not enjoyable, you are not going to be efficient at doing it. If you hate doing your taxes, you are going to postpone the process as much as possible and it will take you often times twice as much time it would take someone who actually loves the process.

Here is a list of the most common tasks you should consider outsourcing so you can free up your time to do more productive activities:

  • Cleaning – outsourcing this can be one of the biggest time savers in your personal life. As mentioned above, some people spend as much as 2 to 5 hours per week in cleaning related activities. Finding someone to clean your house once a week on Craigslist is relatively easy and inexpensive. Prices vary depending on where you live but you can often find a student, or a stay at home mom who provides cleaning services for as low as $5 per hour.
  • Gardening and lawn mowing – as with cleaning, Craigslist provides a great resource for finding people that can take care of your garden for you.
  • Laundry – if you live in a big city, check the prices of the local laundromat. You will be surprised by how cheap their services can be. When I lived in New York, I had no laundry machine in the building so I was forced to do my laundry elsewhere. My first taught was “Omg I have to spend so much money” but it turned out that my local laundromat was offering doing your laundry, drying, and folding your clothes for roughly $15. If you live in a house outside of the city, look on Craigslist, or consider placing an ad yourself.
  • Grocery shopping – most grocery stores have some sort of a delivery service. My local store in Montreal delivers groceries for $5 regardless of size and weight. Most big chains such as Pathmark, Stop & Shop and Trader Joe’s offer grocery pick up and delivery so check their prices. Another choice is Amazon.com. Their Prime program costs $79 per year which gives you unlimited 2nd day delivery by UPS shipments for free. Most people don’t think of Amazon when it comes to shopping for groceries, but you’ll be surprised by the variety of items you can buy online.
  • Taxes – this is one of those things I don’t like doing so I would outsource it regardless of the price. It used to be quite expensive to hire someone to do your taxes, but in recent years the folks at H & R Block can take care of that in a hour for a pretty low flat rate fee. If you live outside of North America, check with your local bank, or CPA. You can even look online on sites like oDesk and elance. I personally know a couple of people who found people to take care of their taxes through those sites.
  • Bills – keeping track of and paying the bills can take a considerable amount of time, especially if you have a big family. Fortunately, most of it can be done online and can be automated. I have a person in the Philippines taking care of bills for me. I found her through onlinejobs.ph and she charges $3 per hour for her services. Disclaimer: she has worked for me for years on other tasks so I trust that my financial information is safe with her. I wouldn’t blindly trust anyone with such sensitive information. As you can never be too safe, I’ve given her limited access to my bank information and the card that she uses to pay the bills has a small limit. Plus, I check every now and then my credit card statements online to make sure only my bills are being paid.

These are some of the most common tasks that might makes sense for you to outsource. In reality you can outsource almost anything. I know people that don’t drive themselves, don’t pick up their kids from school themselves, don’t process their mail, don’t cook, don’t answer phones and much more. If somethings takes a lot of your time or you don’t enjoy doing it, it has the potential to be outsourced.

Resources

Here is a list of my favorite places to find reliable people that can make my life just a little easier and more productive:

Craigslist

oDesk

Elance

Fiverr

Kijiji

TaskRabbit

OnlineJobs.ph

Tip: pretend that you are looking for work on these sites and check out what other people want to outsource. This can spark some ideas in your head about what can be outsourced.

Over to you now

Make a list of the most time consuming tasks of your personal life. Add to them the activities that you don’t like doing and consider taking advantage of the fine art of personal outsourcing.

What are some of the tasks that you have already outsourced or want to start outsourcing? Share in the comment section below.