Things Every Polyentrepreneur Needs to Thrive: Support

See the full list of needs here.

 10. Support.

There are only 24 hours in a day, and at least a few of them (hopefully around 8-9) need to be spent sleeping.  So get it through your head now: you cannot do this alone. This might mean hiring employees, it might mean outsourcing some of your business functions, or it might simply mean that your siblings, friends, or significant other will pitch in every now and then. It should also definitely mean hanging out with your fellow polyentrepreneurs. : )

Hello! Welcome to the first full-length article dedicated to expanding my Top 10 Things Every Polyentrepreneur Needs to Thrive.

One of the defining characteristics of an entrepreneur is a do-it-yourself attitude; it’s kind of necessary to that “creating and running your own business” thing. Especially because when starting out the vast majority of us are forced by lack of funds to wear all the hats, even the hats we plan to hire other people to wear later.

In a polyentrepreneur this tendency seems to be even worse. I met one man a couple of years ago who truly mourned that he lacked the time and expertise to not only fully run the two or three businesses he was planning, but also to build his own house, grow his own food, even put together his own car! If he had his way (and infinite hours) he would do everything himself. And for many polyentrepreneurs, that draw is hard to ignore. Plus, many of our businesses are built on our talents – you can’t outsource or automate your singing, poetry, public speaking, or dance!

On the other hand, having someone to brainstorm with and bounce ideas off of, or who has a different set of skills than you do, can be a huge boost for your business! So can dropping off your receipts with a professional accountant and not giving a second thought to taxes. And, as mentioned above, there are only 24 hours in a day.

Obviously, no matter how much we might wish to keep our businesses all to ourselves, it’s not possible or even recommended. But how to we get from admitting that to actually applying it?

Identify where you don’t need to be involved.

Take a step back from your business(es) and look objectively. Every business, even one built around the talent of a specific person, has parts that can be outsourced. It’s hard to let that control go, which may make it hard for you to see what can be delegated, but there has to be something. Common areas that can be outsourced include: scheduling, marketing/pr, copy writing/editing, taking and editing photos, building a website, bookkeeping, and order fulfillment (if you ship physical items). Make a list of all the aspects in your business that you can let go of, even if right now you don’t want to.

Decide what kind of help you want/need.

Now that you’ve identified the areas of your business that will not whither away without your constant supervision, look at each area and decide who could take on that task. Some things, like bookkeeping or building a website, are best done by a professional (or a talented friend if you’re lucky); depending on your size and budget, outsourcing those may be beyond your abilities right now. However, other things, like shipping, can be handled by almost anyone; you could hire a teenager from your neighborhood or just have your brother or sister or significant other pitch in every now and then. If you want something in between, try putting out a general call for help on your personal Facebook page or in your circle of friends. You may be surprised who has helpful talents, which can also save you money if you’re in the shoestring-budget boat.

Don’t panic.

It may be that you look at your business, find some tasks that could be given to others, and then seize up. Will the person you hire package your items with as much love and care as you do? Could someone else know the best way to photograph your items? Could your PR person possibly understand your brand well enough to pitch to the right people?

Yes, yes, and yes.

Calm your fears by using a technique I heard about from Meredith of Smaller Box (a fantastic blog that I strongly recommend): train whoever you hire so thoroughly that they come to know the business as well as you do. Show your new hire how to package items and then watch him or her do it over and over. Show the photographer your previous product photos and explain what’s important to show (plus, honestly, anyone you pay to take your photos should have a good idea of how to shoot well!) Hire someone to do PR and then have them follow and watch you for weeks or even months until they learn to think like you do when it comes to getting press for your company.

In short, take whoever it is and mold them into the employee that you need them to be. (Within reason – with a different perspective/skill set, they may have good ideas that you haven’t thought of! Don’t squelch that.)

Get moral support, too.

There’s a reason this point on the list was called “support” and not “employees.” No matter how good your hires are, you still need your friends/family/community – and when you’re too small for a hire to make sense, they’re all you have! So reach out and find others who want to hear of your successes and are willing to listen to your gripes, who can lend help and advice in a pinch, who are rooting for you and truly want you to be your best self. For most of us there will be at least a couple of friends/family members or a significant other who fits the bill. You can also find support in Facebook groups, forums, and Etsy teams (if you’re on Etsy). You won’t be the best you can be if you don’t have the emotional support too.

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