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Alternatives to Hiring Help for Your Homebased Business

by Barbara Brabec

Not everyone has a spouse, partner or child they can employ in their business, and even when they do, help from others is not always the solution. In fact, anyone who builds a business around their own skills and talents--such as artists, craft designers, Web designers, writers and consultants--will have a hard time farming out enough work to make a difference. In my experience, I found it always took more time for me to explain to someone how to do a menial office job than it did for me to do it myself. First, they couldn't do it as fast as I could and, second, they were not only underfoot, but had to be constantly managed (lots of questions that interrupted my concentration). My husband, Harry, was a great spousal employee for many years (best little tax deduction I ever had!), but after 2000 when he was no longer able to help me with the business due to health problems, I found myself back where I started, with too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

In the recent past, I've hired people to help me get my Web site up and running, and I have computer experts I can call if I run into a technical problem I can't handle myself. But the only way I have consistently found the extra time needed for work is to either work longer hours or not do numerous home-related jobs my Bohemian husband has always thought a good wife should do, even if she is working full time. I think Annie Lang, Annie Things Possible, has the perfect solution to my current problem (if only I can convince Harry to go along with it). Instead of hiring help with her business, she hired housekeeping help (easier to find and cheaper than an office worker). "This is the smartest thing I've done lately," she told me. "This saves me six hours a week--the equivalent of three eight-hour work days per month."

Unless they're blessed with a fellow who likes to cook, most women running businesses at home have to devise clever ways to cut down on the time spent on shopping and meal preparation each day. With no children and just me and Harry to cook for, my solution has been to shop one morning a week and prepare six servings of meals that take a long time to prepare. I then freeze a portion and serve a repeat or variation of that meal a couple of days later. BeautiControl consultant Martha Oskvig's strategy is to cook an oven full of meat in one day, then debone it (with hubby's help) and freeze it in the evening so she's ready for a variety of quick meals all month long.

Using Outside Services

  • Work with a Virtual Assistant (VA). If you believe you could move ahead in business if you could find someone to handle business details that do not need your personal attention, then a VA should be perfect for you. (A search of the Internet for "virtual assistant" will lead you to many individuals who provide such services.) To some, a "virtual assistant" is just another name for "secretarial service," but the work they do usually involves more high-tech skills than a secretary might provide. "Virtual assistance is the art of helping people organize the details of their business and personal lives without being physically present," says Donna L. Gunter, "A VA will provide a collaborative partnership or another set of eyes and ears for the business owner, rather than simply completing piecemeal tasks."


  • Hire a Fulfillment or Packaging Service. If you've been selling products to individuals by mail and find that order fulfillment is eating too much of your time or energy, hire an order fulfillment service to do this work for you. I used a book fulfillment service for many years and found the cost of the service was small compared to the benefits derived from it.

    Many product makers hire out work related to the packaging of products, but sometimes quality suffers in the process. "Although many soapmakers contract out their wrapping, labeling, and shipping, I'm reluctant to do this," says Karen White, "You must be careful to exercise quality control, especially if the service ships the product without you seeing it. A colleague was losing wholesale accounts and couldn't figure out why, until one store told her that the products were arriving looking as though someone had used their feet to wrap them!"

  • Use Sales Reps or Distributors. If you're a product maker with a growing wholesale line, consider working with sales reps who can get your products into the right kind of shops, take your products to trade shows, and get them into gift marts. The additional business a good sales rep team can generate for you should more than offset the cost of their service
  • Deliver Products Electronically. Self-publishers quickly figured out how to save time and money by publishing their books electronically, but pattern sellers on the Internet have also embraced this technology. Instead of wholesaling her print patterns to shops or selling them one at a time to individuals, Debbie Spaulding now delivers 90 percent of her patterns electronically from, saving not only printing, packaging and postage costs, but tons of time she can more profitably spend on designing new products. "My customers just love my e-patterns because they are immediately available without their having to wait for them to arrive in the mail," she says. "I do think people are becoming more comfortable with ordering online and with eBooks in general. It takes awhile for everyone to become more comfortable with any change, but once people see how easy it is they are more willing to try it."

Finally, try taking a look at all the routine home-related work you do that is stealing time from your business and figure out what it would cost to hire others to do this work. For example, if you're mowing the lawn, raking leaves, washing windows or shoveling snow to save money, consider how much income you might be able to generate if you worked in your office or workshop while someone else did this menial work at a much lower hourly rate of pay. If you can gain more time, you may never need an employee.

Excerpted from HOMEMADE MONEY: Bringing in the Bucks! - A Business Management and Marketing Bible for Home-Business Owners, Self-Employed Individuals, and Web Entrepreneurs Working from Home Base. ©2003 by Barbara Brabec. Get details, other homebiz articles, resources, and a free subscription to The Brabec Bulletin on Barbara Brabecs World.

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