In my first year of entrepreneurship, I didn’t even make enough money to pay rent. I couldn’t afford to delegate anything.
I felt like Phil Knight, founder of Nike. In his autobiography Shoe Dog, Knight described the early years of Nike, back when he and his old college running coach built a literal laboratory in Knight’s garage to create experimental rubber soles (that eventually left Knight’s running coach with a permanent cough after inhaling dangerous vapor fumes from the burnt rubber!).
Knight was selling shoeboxes out of his trunk at track meets, asking his parents to borrow more money to stay afloat another quarter, and flying back-and-forth from Japan several times a month to manage the warehouse and manufacturing by himself. He had no employees, just his business partner (his coach), who eventually left.
When you’re first starting out, it’s hard to delegate anything because:
- You can’t afford it
- You don’t know anyone who knows how to do the task
- You don’t have time to teach a new person what to do
This pretty much described me and my whole business in my first year. So I did everything myself: writing/editing content, recording/editing videos, designing my website, handling refunds/cancellations, running social media, managing ad campaigns, and doing my taxes (thank God, my wife helped with that – thanks honey!).
You might not have the means to delegate yet. That’s fine. As George S. Clason wrote in The Richest Man in Babylon: “This is the process by which wealth is accumulated; first in small sums, then in larger ones as a man learns and becomes more capable.”
This money principle is also a business principle – if you want to build a huge success, you have to prove you can handle it by building a small success first.
As you’re building your business, you want to start delegating these five tasks as soon as possible. The faster you delegate, the faster your business will grow.
If I can be truly, truly honest:
I hate email.
The only emails I don’t hate are the personal messages from my readers/clients, which make the whole thing worth it.
But I’d say 99 percent of my emails serve only to stress me out, distract me, worry me, make me jealous, or waste my time.
If you’re being brutally honest, I’d imagine it’s about the same for you, too. I still manage most of my email, but I’m brutally efficient with it. In The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss even goes as far as to recommend creating an auto-response to every single email you receive, explaining that you only check email once (maybe twice) a day. This helps break the superficial belief that you always have to be on-call for things and lets people know you might not get back to them immediately.
Your business is too important to get side-tracked and distracted by email. The most successful entrepreneurs I know rarely check their email – if they do, they have a private email for family/friends, and a totally separate business email managed by someone else.
There have been virtually zero emails I’ve ever received as an entrepreneur, ever, that I absolutely needed to answer myself, immediately, right on the spot. They could all wait, or be handled by someone else.
The belief that you always have to be checking your email is low-level thinking.
The times I place email aside are the most productive times I have. Ferriss went on to describe how he built an enormous online supplement business while significantly decreasing his stress and anxiety – he only checked his email once a week.
Again, you might not have the luxury to do this yet. But the sooner someone else handles your business emails, the better.
2. Editing Anything
If you’re reading this, you’re an entrepreneur. That means you create things that help the world.
One of the most taxing parts of creating something is to edit it; fix it, tweak it, get it just right. As a full-time writer, I’m especially familiar with this. I’ve had to learn how to delegate my editing, publishing, and promoting; it’s just too much work and drains my precious energy reserves.
After studying dozens of entrepreneurs and their countless forms of content – writing articles, recording podcasts, publishing videos, posting on social media, creating training courses, etc. – I learned that in virtually every case, the creator created the content, and sent it off to someone else to edit. That way, the entrepreneur could keep creating and using their unique knowledge and perspective to attract customers.
You know what they absolutely weren’t doing? Editing everything after it was done.
Years ago, I went to best-selling author and entrepreneur Jeff Goins’s Tribe Conference. He explained a principle that totally changed my perspective on writing; Goins said that most writers he worked with spent more time promoting their content than actually making it.
This is fatal. It’s hard enough to create great content that will attract new readers, subscribers, and customers – it’s nearly impossible to do it while you’re busy editing, tweaking, and promoting that content all the time.
As soon as you can, delegate everything that comes after creating your work. It’s draining, exhausting, and tedious. Reinvest as much energy as you can back into creating great products and content for your audience.
3. Client Complaints, Problems, or Cancellations
I’ve lost track of how many customers personally I’ve helped over email.
I’ve fixed bugs in their product.
I’ve answered every possible question.
I’ve given refunds and handled cancellations.
I’ve spent weeks handling one customer’s problems with a little $37 product (for which they eventually asked for a refund).
I ran my business like a one-man enterprise because that’s what it was! I had no employees, no team to handle these things for me.
It was really stressful, and I shudder thinking back to those days. It’s one of the reasons I grew to dread email – I’d wake up each day, slowly open and peek at my inbox like a bomb detonator cutting a wire, and pray I hadn’t gotten an influx of complaints, problems, or cancellations.
The thing was – those kinds of emails usually didn’t come! But I had grown used to them and began expecting them all the time. It was horrible.
Can you imagine the CEO of a world-class company handling every email herself? Can you picture this six- or seven-figure entrepreneur manually issuing refunds or resending login information?
It’s crazy. You need to delegate these tasks as soon as possible.
In principle, you want your clients to pay a lot for your time. Why? Because your time is expensive. Not just anyone can do what you do – most people have not made the jump you have and created a business. You need to value your time for what it’s worth, and answering minor client problems is not going to be a major part of your job.
You have to safeguard yourself from getting caught in the weeds from needy, finicky, sometimes, angry customers. It will completely derail you and your productivity.
In The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss explained how he removed himself from this exhausting environment. His online supplement business was doing well, and he even had a few employees to help with purchase orders. But as the business grew, his employees kept coming to Ferriss with new problems and new customer complaints.
Ferriss’s solution? He placed the authority in his employees’ hands. He told them if the problem would take less than $100 to fix, just make the call and do it. This effectively cut out at least 80–90 percent of the usual minor problems that were flooding his inbox.
It was a difficult move, but Ferriss was prioritizing his future (and sanity) over saving a few hundred bucks by handling everything himself. He focused on growing his business, and his business grew tremendously.
Get someone else to handle these minor problems. It’s better for you, your customers, and your business.
4. Taxes and Bookkeeping
My wife joked the other day that 95 percent of people in the world don’t have a job like mine.
Frankly, it’s probably higher than that. As an entrepreneur with a variety of income streams, managing my taxes and income is a headache wrapped around a hassle. It’s extremely complicated, and I’ve tried doing it myself…it didn’t end well. If you’re an entrepreneur, you probably have the same problem.
I have several income streams – book sales, affiliate links, online courses, coaching, freelance work, etc. I get income from all sorts of payment funnels – Stripe, PayPal, personal invoices (incoming and outgoing), checks, contracts, you name it. It goes far beyond the scope of an average worker’s salary, and it requires outside expertise.
In my first year of entrepreneurship, I made about $20,000 from all the ways listed above. My wife and I tried to handle the taxes and bookkeeping ourselves, using a cheap service like TurboTax and keeping track of everything in a simple Google spreadsheet.
It was horrible! We had no idea what we were doing. We paid far more than we needed to and we weren’t even sure if we did everything (or anything) right. If you have an official business license or LLC, it gets even more complicated.
These are things you need to delegate as soon as possible. One of the most important pieces of advice I give other entrepreneurs is to always focus on your power activities, the things that actually make money and help your business grow day-to-day.
Taxes and bookkeeping are no one’s power activities (unless you’re an accountant or tax professional working for someone else). Delegate these tasks, and you’ll feel far better.
My wife and I definitely do now. We’ve hired an expert accountant to take care of all my business expenses and bookkeeping. Each year, we go in and pay him about $1,000. That might seem like a lot, but we save ten times more money this way (and minimize an enormous headache).
Invest in yourself and your business – delegate your taxes and bookkeeping as soon as possible.
5. Researching Any Data
Learning new skills is one of the most important ways to grow your business and your life. I’ve been reading a book every week or two for the past few years now, and I wouldn’t have half the knowledge or experience without researching skills myself.
What you want to delegate is data research. If you want to become a world-class entrepreneur, you don’t want any part of that – hire someone else to do it.
Fortunately, delegating research tasks is fairly cheap in today’s gig economy. When I was looking to promote a new online course, I paid someone $50 to research 50 top podcasts I could go on to promote my product.
That would’ve taken me weeks. I hate researching stuff like that.
My freelancer got back to me in two days.
I’ve delegated research tasks like finding other writers in my category, the best business tools to use, SEO keywords/data, and several other time-consuming research tasks.
You know what’s funny – I’ve been approached by companies and entrepreneurs asking to pay to research stuff for them. I have to chuckle because I know what they’re doing; they want someone else to do the work. Good for them! I do the same thing!
Don’t research data yourself. Spend just a little bit of money to save weeks, even months of a big headache when someone else could do it in a few hours.
The world’s best entrepreneurs aren’t side-tracked trying to do something they could easily have someone else do.
The world’s best companies are headed by entrepreneurs who spend most of their time doing truly important work, work only they can do, work that truly makes money and makes a difference.
It’s not about learning “how” to do something, it’s learning how to find a “who” that can do it for you.
I get it – you don’t always have the money to delegate. I sure didn’t.
But the sooner you delegate, the faster your business will grow. When you focus on reinvesting profits back into your business (instead of spending them), the money will start to come, and you can build something truly extraordinary.