If I had to guess I’d say for the majority of the Art of the Kickstart community, you’re doing this on the side. You haven’t quite made the jump to full time inventor and creator but the passion definitely burns inside you. You are probably hoping that killing it on Kickstarter will be your launch pad and are just waiting until then to make the plunge.
Just to clarify this is not going to be some super inspirational, change your entire life today -esque post to fire you up into quitting. Sure leaving your job and going tilt towards your dreams is amazingly empowering and boasts incredible benefits, no doubt about it. But it’s also not right for everyone. If you have kids, a house, a mortgage…whatever legitimate responsibilities and considerations it can be tough to free yourself.
Instead of corporate bashing and entrepreneurial anthems let’s make the most of your situation. Actionable as opposed to inspirational will be our focus today.
The Innovator’s Dilemma
So you’re working your 9-5, really more like at 8-6 because your boss is a total tool, and you want to somehow build a business. You get home completely drained work, wanting to spend time with the kids and just maybe get a decent meal or workout in before you go to bed…
It doesn’t leave a lot of time, energy or mental capacity to build a business. Well reality check…this is what entrepreneurship is. It is hard, exhausting and you will undoubtedly consider quitting many times before making it. This is just the barrier to entry, the thing that keeps self-proclaimed aspiring inventors and business builders in corporate their entire lives.
You will need to overcome these issues and undoubtedly sacrifice to make it happen. There’s really no alternative.
But you don’t have to do it all alone.
What is Outsourcing?
In a nutshell outsourcing is your gamechanger. It’s the online empowerment that allows you to leverage your time and resources to make your crowdfunding campaign happen.
Back before the days of Elance, oDesk and so many other outsourcing sites this phenomenon of building remote teams was reserved for only the biggest of businesses. From answering services in India to transcription and data companies in the Philippines, big business has been effectively outsourcing to overcome competitors and keep core team sizes small for decades.
More recently however the revolution in location independent work and the creation of reliable platforms/marketplaces for work have led to insane growth in the industry.
More and more individuals, entrepreneurs and full scale businesses are relying on freelancers from around the globe to get tasks done and paying for performance, rather than full time salaries.
Doubts about Outsourcing
I know what you’re thinking. You’re just about ready to tune this out, you’ve heard this all before and you cannot fathom freelancing any of the work for your startup. How can I afford this? Is it even ethical? Isn’t outsourcing stealing jobs?
These are all the same doubts and fears I had, yet I overcame them.
You could say I cut my teeth in ecommerce, crowdfunding and copywriting on oDesk. Never before had I touched the platform and suddenly it empowered me to live a life outside the norm, outside convention. I was making a living, albeit not spectacularly but certainly enough to support myself by merely plying my skills for cash. It was incredible and it opened my eyes.
I’d only apply to the jobs I wanted, the ones with the pay, skill sets and requirements which fit my situation. Then it clicked. That is what all freelancers do. I wasn’t being taken advantage of but enabled to live and work as I pleased.
It is the same for freelancers in even the poorer 3rd world countries. Although $2-3 per hour sounds dreadfully inadequate, in many places it simply isn’t. Take for example my current situation. Right now I’m living now in Chiang Mai, Thailand where the cost of living is about $1000 per month. Imagine that in NYC, London, Paris or any of the premier locations around the world. For that I’d be a pauper practically begging on the streets. Here that is a solid lifestyle.
Outsourcing for Crowdfunders
But let’s be practical….what can you actually outsource?
As an inventor, entrepreneur and aspiring crowdfunder it can feel funny handing over responsibility for part of your startup. It will be challenging the first few times to be honest. Trust me though the results are well worth it.
Outsourcing enables you to take advantage of all those tedious hours trapped in your cubicle and turn them into productive time preparing for Kickstarter. You can shave weeks if not months off your own timeline by simply seeking help.
But what are the best tasks to outsource?
That is the all-important question. How do you get the most bang for your buck while maintaining quality and success for your campaign?
At least in the beginning you will want to keep it pretty basic. As powerful as outsourcing can be, it can be equally destructive if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’d recommend starting out with the menial and thoughtless tasks on your plate. From building up social media profiles and scheduling out content to creating press lists and shooting out emails, these kinds of focused, easy tasks are ideal for even the most basic of virtual assistants.
And really that is what you need people to help with. It isn’t necessarily the high engagement, super creative portions of the project you need to be handing off. Instead focus on the monotonous and repetitive things you need to accomplish.
So let’s look at the math a little bit. Assuming you follow my recommendations and started building up your social media profiles 2-3 months before launching your campaign and dedicated about 2 hours per week to just that, you’re already at 24 hours or a full day.
Now we factor in at least as much time doing press research and sending out emails to pitch journalists and the time starts to add up. Even at a bare minimum we are looking at 48 hours of manual, mindless labor which isn’t exactly fun.
With a skilled virtual assistant you could have handed off this entire process, allowing you to focus on the critically important parts of launching a successful Kickstarter. For between $2-3 an hour, or about $144 in total, you just bought yourself 48 full hours of higher leverage time to spend prepping.
So how much do you get paid? What’s it worth to be able to spend time with your family, focus on the business tasks only you can accomplish or even just to have a little extra rest now and again. If you can’t afford to swing $144 and have the amazingly beneficial learning experience of being a boss and having a pseudo-employee then I’m not convinced you’re serious about your startup or becoming an entrepreneur.
The Hiring Process
It can be a bit of a challenge to find quality freelancers to work with. The biggest issue comes not from a lack of applicants but from an overabundance.
Your job as the employer is to weed out the spammers, low quality workers and unenthusiastic in order to find a good fit for your company. Here’s how you do it:
1. Post an incredibly detailed job opening on oDesk or Elance.
You need to have a solid job title with in-depth descriptions of exactly what roles or skills you are looking for. This will help more individuals self-evaluate though many unqualified candidates will apply all the same.
2. Put something unexpected in your application.
Many freelancers have less than fluent English. Others are just lazy. Either way you will get a lot of templated job applications where the applicant clearly copy-pasted a cover letter and answers to your questions without really reading over the job description itself.
One trick to overcome this and ensure freelancers are focused and interested in the job is to throw some kind of requirement into the opening. For example in my latest job I asked freelancers to begin their cover letter with the word “ninja.” From about 16 entries only 6 or so actually read through and included it. These guys make it to the next round, everyone else should be instantly cut.
3. Interview your applicants via Skype.
This comes back to the level of English and professionalism with your virtual assistants. Most low level freelancers like the individuals you will be targeting for your virtual assistant positions aren’t exactly keen to chat on the phone. I’ve heard numerous excuses from broken microphones, bad internet and all sorts of other reasons why they prefer a chat based interview.
If you can manage it, make sure you talk to them semi face-to-face. If it isn’t possible then slowly work to build trust with small, managed tasks and oversight until they start to perform well.
And always remember this can be a long term hire and real asset for your business. As an entrepreneur and a startup there will always be tasks that you can outsource. Taking the time to train someone in your systems and work in your team can pay huge dividends down the road, even after a successful Kickstarter.
4. Hire multiple freelancers.
This probably seems counter-intuitive to most. You are bootstrapping your business and short on cash as it is, now I want you to take on not one but two freelancers…
The idea is akin to try it before you buy it or dating before marriage. Not all freelancer relationships work out well. Some individuals kill it on the interview, have the skill sets you need and then constantly drop the ball. Well when reliability is key to creating a business and building out your crowdfunding campaign this can be a bit of a problem.
Instead get two or even three freelancers initially and give them all similar projects. These can be related to your business or something else entirely but make sure that you pay them for their time. At the end of this battle royale the best virtual assistant becomes a part of the team. As long as you make this situation clear upfront most freelancers won’t have any issue with it and you’ll get the best of both worlds.
5. Standard operating procedures.
These are all the rave in the startup community today with so many famed entrepreneurs and outsourcing gurus proclaimingtheir value. While often overkill for many of your true team members, for virtual assistants SOP are vital.
I’ve been working with several virtual assistants lately trying to help grow the podcast and community. The goal is to hopefully be able to reach and help more aspiring inventors and creators out there but it’s been a struggle, that is for sure. But as a team we’ve accomplished so much more than I’d be able to alone. It has been easily worth the initial heartache.
Just know that even after creating explicit SOPs your freelancers will likely still stumble initially. It’s the nature of the game. Be sure to check through their work, especially in the beginning and offer improvements and changes constantly. This is the best way to build a beneficial, lasting relationship for both parties.
6. Fire when you have to.
If you’re an entrepreneur that means you have to make the hard decisions from time to time. Firing a freelancer can be a tough pill to swallow. You’re thinking about this person, their family, their financial situation etc etc…
The problem is this will kill your business in the long run. If you allow toxic or unproductive individuals to hang around it ‘ll ruin your company culture, waste your time and almost assuredly destroy you.
If you have issues with a freelancer’s consistency, results or attitude you can let them go at any time. Personally I’d put the effort in to try to rectify the mistakes but if you’ve tried and failed it’s time to move on.
Honestly I think most every Kickstarter creator can and should take advantage of outsourcing in at least some way. It is a powerful method to speed the launch process, leverage your time and get your crowdfunding campaign off the ground.
What did you think? Have any of you used VA’s in your own campaigns or businesses and what have your experiences been?
By the way if you guys enjoyed this in-depth look into hiring virtual assistants to kickstart your campaign I’d recommend checking out and even pre-ordering the Art of the Kickstart Launch Course. In the course I walk you step-by-step through exactly how to prepare for, setup and run your Kickstarter campaign for maximum success, including more detailed looks into outsourcing and everything else it takes to kill it on Kickstarter.
Whether you’re looking for an exact guide to launch success or merely to outsource and get your campaign killing it sooner I hope this post helped. If you think other Kickstarters and innovators could really benefit from reading this then please share the post. I put a great deal of effort into this and would be pretty disappointed if it didn’t help as many crowdfunders as possible.