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How Much Can You Achieve By Yourself?

By Yaro Starak
32 Comments

In recent months I’ve interviewed quite a few successful self-starter internet marketers. People like Farnoosh Brock, Brian Moran, Chris Guillebeau, and Adam Baker, all tell stories from the first few years of their online business where they were doing everything by themselves.

Tim Ferriss popularized the concept of outsourcing your entire life to other people so you can spend more time doing important things or taking mini-vacations. Of course Tim didn’t come up with the idea of outsourcing, but he became a shining example of how an individual earning money in a Western Country with a strong currency can make use of low-cost labour in other countries to get things done for you.

Outsourcing isn’t just about gaining leverage from overseas sources of labour. Hiring local is powerful too, especially when you are looking for people who are much more talented than you to take on specialist roles. Every single startup success story I have read states the importance of A-Player employees, and how no company grows big without them.

I’m not here to argue against any of these ideas. In fact I have instructed people to get their blog tech work outsourced as the first step in building a success blog if you are not a technical person. This is among many other examples of things you can outsource to other people that I have talked about over the years.

I’ve also seen lately how my two business partners, Gideon Shalwick and Leslie Samual, have leveraged talented overseas workers to get everything done from video editing and production, membership site creation, transcriptions, customer support, blog writing and editing and much more.

Outsourcing is great and one of the best ways to grow quickly and do more in less time. However one thing has continually stuck out to me every time I do interviews: Most people do everything by themselves at the start until they have some significant level of success.

I Did It Myself

When I started online I played around in my spare time with bulletin boards and chat rooms. I read basic websites that were around in the late nineties, which were nothing more than text and images, often with poor layouts and crazy backgrounds.

Eventually I wanted my own website, so I found a free service called Geocities and built a site myself using their basic tools. I eventually grew tired of the free website building tools, bought a book to learn some HTML, figured out how domain names and web servers worked and set up my own proper website.

From there I learned how to market my site, build links, joined banner exchanges, started selling ads, made contact with industry people, participated in online communities, installed scripts that did cool things like run forums and chat rooms, and so much more. This lead to having my first business, where I built the website, did SEO, wrote articles for other sites, contacted companies about joint ventures…I did a lot!

All of this was done completely by myself for a good five years. Although I had a few contributions for people who would write articles for my site, or moderate forums, everything was set up and promoted by myself. I handled all the monetization, all the technology, all the email – everything.

When people ask me if I would do things differently if I had my early years again I usually say I would outsource sooner and learn about leverage sooner. This is true, however I can’t discount the fact that by doing so much myself early on I built up a thorough sense of familiarity with the online world. I wasn’t a programmer, or a graphics designer or a copywriter, or a server admin, but I had skills in all of these areas and understood each of these roles.

This sense of familiarity made me nimble. I could set up projects fast, and although I’d waste time on things I wasn’t good at, like tweaking website designs for way too many late nights, I wasn’t daunted by online business. I knew how to set up a website and how they could make money, the rest was a matter of execution.

This comfort that came from actually creating things online helped reduce something that kills most projects off before they start: Fear.

As I’ve written about before, most people believe they will fail or set themselves up for failure even before they start. I never had this sense of doubt about building the necessary pieces of the puzzle, I only wondered whether people would want my creation once it was available.

The One Man Or Woman Show

When it comes to a lifestyle design business, in particular those focused on information products, I hear the same background story over and over again from those who have succeeded.

  1. Get a job and discover you don’t like it.
  2. Look for ways to make money online and start side projects.
  3. Spend copious amounts of time on side project until you earn enough money to quit your job.
  4. Continue to grow business and then eventually hire people to help.

Notice how all three first steps to begin with focus only on the founder doing the work (and it’s usually motivated by leaving a job they don’t like).

It’s a one-person show for a long time, filling every spare hour outside of work on your little internet business until it’s big enough to justify quitting your job and going full time entrepreneur. Once it reaches true sustainability you can finally bring on help and you gain back some time freedom in exchange (or more money, or both).

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that even though outsourcing is touted as the smart thing to do, most people who eventually succeed do not do any, or at least not much beyond the odd outsourced logo design, during the early days. This tends to hold true for first time entrepreneurs, those who are established with capital from previous businesses or who raise capital using investors, generally hire straight away to speed things up.

Perhaps the true answer then is that finances dictate the need for thrift, so despite the low cost of outsourcing, the budget isn’t there for it.

I think there is more to it than simply a lack of money for your first business. Solo entrepreneurs don’t want to hire people until they are confident in what they are doing with their business. If it’s completely new to them, hiring, whether outsourced or local employees, may in fact be a mistake because you won’t understand who to hire or why. You lack familiarity with how your business works to know what type of person you need.

That’s why going it alone is often the smartest choice. It saves you money and it builds your experience so you understand what jobs need to be done by other people and how those jobs impact your company.

Is It Too Much Work?

The differentiator is about your willingness to spend all your free time on doing jobs that you probably shouldn’t – jobs that you will eventually outsource to others.

Things like setting up a wordpress blog and installing a nice theme. Managing your web host and domain names. Learning how to write copy and set up opt-in forms and sales pages. How to set up your email list, customize your social media profiles and create videos. All these jobs that you are not great at, and will eventually get help with, but to start you learn just enough to get by so you understand how it all works.

Although it’s hardly efficient and not sustainable long term, the ability to juggle a lot of plates and wear a lot of hats early often makes the difference. It’s as if those who succeed are stubborn enough or have the right kind of brain to get good at a lot of things, if not great at them.

Somehow these people even manage to do all their business tasks while working full time jobs, getting married, having babies, traveling or all kinds of life tasks that take your time.

You might find this idea daunting, but it can also be inspiring. Other people have succeeded in worse situations than you are in now, and they do it with the same resources you have – a computer, access to the internet, and a brain.

Take Responsibility

The key take aways from this article and what I’ve learned from doing so many interviews of people who succeed at building money making websites, is that they can do so given minimal resources, and it’s never too late to make it happen.

The opportunity for an online business is available to you and if you think there is something you are missing that you can’t afford or can’t do right now that is holding you back, you are lying to yourself. It’s just a limiting belief.

I’ve had to take this idea on board myself again recently as family circumstances have taken away many hours from my once relaxed schedule. I’ve had to figure out how to get productive in shorter time frames like I was when I started. In other words – pull my finger out as the saying goes.

Perhaps it’s time you pulled your finger out too?

Yaro Starak
Back To Work

Photo courtesy of orcmid

About Yaro Starak

Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and .

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32 Comments

  • Solo startups with a great idea is a great startup indeed.

    It is great that you have told a story behind the article with your own experiences.

    Solo startups help you gain the right experiences and the the ups and downs of it. Then, fix the jobs you don’t really need to do by your hand, and outsource it. Excellent article Yaro.

  • Yaro, I agree with you. It’s so important to do everything on your own first before you outsource something. When I wasn’t making any money I did everything on my own, but as the profits started rolling it I reinvested them to really ramp up my business with outsourcers. Outsourcing was huge key to my success, but only after my INITIAL SUCCESS.

    • I don’t think you have to everything on your own to begin with, but as I wrote in the article, there are benefits and clearly a lot of successful people online started solo.

      Thanks for sharing your input Mike!

  • Yaro, this makes a lot of sense. I don’t outsource yet for exactly the reason you said, I am not confident that even I understand how my business works. I’m still working towards that understanding that is needed to take
    things to the next level. Thanks for this post. I feel like I have a better idea about what I have been looking for.

    • No worries David, I’m glad I could make things a little clearer with my thoughts.

  • Excellent read Yaro, I couldn’t agree more, I wanted to change my life but couldn’t afford to outsource as all the ‘gurus’ would tell me to so I would spend my evenings while the other half was watching the soaps sat on the sofa with my laptop creating WordPress sites and playing with opt in forms, writing content creating videos etc.

    All of this practice and playing helped me get this job of a paid blogger and social media manager which took me off the dangerous building sites and dirty workshops.

    I know that when the time comes and I need to outsource I know what I really want, what I need what I will pay for etc as I know how to do the things I am willing to pay to have done.

    Andi

    • Great story Andi – I don’t think enough people focus on the option to get a form of a job they like, doing something online like paid blogging or social media marketing. You don’t HAVE to start your own website, you can contract or be employed by others, which is not necessarily a bad way to get out of a job you hate.

  • You must have a system in place before you even think of outsourcing. Otherwise it will lead to chaos. I am a firm believer of delegating and outsourcing but before that process automation should be implemented.

  • I have started a web hosting company a year ago and it was a solo startup. It was a huge amount of work and time spent in figuring out things.

    Now I just launched a new blog, I am doing it all over again. Starting alone at first. I feel it’s really important for any founder to pour his maximum effort in his project to get “familiar” with the unique nature of his new startup.

    I feel every new startup has a unique feel. unique audience who prefer unique things. You must go through the hardships of figuring this out yourself first.
    Then you can outsource what you see necessary.

    Anan

    • Exactly Anan. While I don’t think it’s mandatory, it seems more and more that leaders of successful companies know their customers well. To get that kind of intimate knowledge at the start, it doesn’t hurt to be heavily involved yourself.

  • Hi Yaro, great article. There’s absolutely a limit to what one person can accomplish on their own — but how are you going to train an employee/contractor until you’ve done it yourself and become the expert?

    For me it was three years of nights and weekends before I was comfortable quitting my job, and a few more months after that before I was comfortable hiring my first virtual assistant.

    It came down to a couple internal objections: trust and time. First, could I trust someone on the other side of the world enough to let them into my business? And second, could I afford the time it would take to train them in my processes?

    Of course looking back it was worth it and like everyone else, now I say I should have done it much earlier.

    Another thing to consider is that outsourcing doesn’t necessarily mean overseas. There are tons of qualified freelance workers in the US — and I was actually pleasantly surprised by their asking rates on the last job I posted on Elance.

    Cheers,

    Nick

    • Hey Nick, thanks for sharing a bit of your story. I have to wonder how you managed to stay motived for three years? Did you see continued growth that kept you motivated?

  • This article makes me feel really good. I started my website in February this year, messed it up and rebuilt it in March. I did it by myself and felt really great. Of cause with the mentor ship of BAB. Yesterday I spent 16 hours -no sleep trying to figure out why the text on my header was not showing after I upgraded the theme. I researched until I found information from the fellow who designed it, in Germany. I fixed it by myself. I felt that I really need a tech person but I was proud of myself because I learnt so much. As soon as I started writing articles I hired an editor who I pay a decent amount because English is my 3rd language and people may not understand my written “swahili/english” :)
    The day I make some money I will definitely outsource to a tech person. But I will have a good idea what they are dealing with. After reading this article I don’t feel so guilty for using too much of my time on tech stuff.

    • Hi Joyce, I’m glad this article was inspiring. Keep up the good work and keep using those little successes and learning experiences to push you forward. It’s the little day to day achievements that end up taking you to the big result in the end.

    • I’m glad to finally find a woman doing this too! I find there are mostly men doing this – and that’s great! I’ve got no problem hanging with the boys!! Thanks for all of your information tucked away in your brains, I sure am learning as I go!

  • In my opinion it is very important to outsource other tasks to people that do them best – your bussiness will never grow or develope to it’s potential all by yourself, there is just not enough time in the day even if you new everything! Nice topic to discuss. Have a great day Yaro on purpose!

  • I have started and run many blogs and online applications. I loved when you mentioned the 4 steps that most people follow when starting an online business.

    1. Get a job and discover you don’t like it.
    2. Look for ways to make money online and start side projects.
    3. Spend copious amounts of time on side project until you earn enough money to quit your job.
    4. Continue to grow business and then eventually hire people to help.

    This article opened my eyes to the possibility of using outsourcing as a way to do more with the limited time I have in the evenings and on weekends.

    I think what holds be back is that “I could have done it in the time I found someone else to do it for me” attitude. Maybe I just need to look for simply items to quickly outsource.

    Thanks for the words.

    • Outsourcing is a fine art Travis. I personally have not had much success with overseas contractors, but my partners have. I think much of it for me has to do with knowing exactly what I want them to do and taking the time to find the good people. You sometimes need to go through a few bad apples to find the a-players, which can be a discouraging road to walk when you are spending money on poor output.

  • I used to do everything myself too but now I am working with two freelancers. One of them writes articles about the subject he is better at than I am, and another one develops my app. Of course I could study coding and develop it myself but it would take months or even a year until I create something more or less worthwile. So I prefer people who are better at something do that work faster and great than me doing it slower and worse.

  • A great read. I am a mostly solo act, with one successful online business rolling I am just launching a second to expand my income. This time, I am hiring help here and there for specific tasks. There are lots of great places online to find very capable people who will do time consuming tasks reasonably, like editing videos for instance.
    Also, I must have a post it note bulletin board after seeing yours. Those things create an ugly mess around my monitor and that is an awesome solution. Thanks for that one!

  • Thanks for a very inspirational article Yaro! I am working solo on my site and it can be daunting and time consuming to try to figure everything out. However, it can also be liberating because you gain confidence in knowing that you really can solve problems as they arise. Yes, it does mean moving at a slower pace, but the reward of my own personal growth happening throughout the learning process makes it all worth it. Sometimes the true reward we receive for our hard work isn’t money at all. Thanks again!

  • loved the article Yaro and agree with you on all accounts.

    I didn’t hire my first VA until I had a couple (not just one) websites that were generating enough money to pay me dividends and sustain the cost of an employee on an ongoing basis.

    I would then add a full time staff each time my business grew to the point where it could sustain the added headcount cost and continue to pay me dividends as well.

  • I certainly agree with you Yaro, It is also good to have a basic knowledge of something before handing it over to someone to do it for you, that way, you will be able to discover at the end of the whether it’s well done or not.

    Since i started i have been doing everything my self though i use to be confused sometimes but i have to continue moving on. Although am thinking of outsourcing some parts soon.

    I have always been enjoying your posts and this one is not exceptional.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • I didn’t outsource anything for my first online business until I was bringing in $250k a year. Like you Yaro I taught myself how to do everything, which gave me a solid foundation and kept me in control of everything that was mission-critical.

    By the time I finally got around to outsourcing (you can feel too busy to do it), I practically burst into tears of relief when I found my first VA and she had a team to help me.

    Perhaps that was a necessary phase for me, but today all my VAs work directly for me not through a middle person. It was an expensive and painful lesson.

  • I agree it is the smartest decision to do all the jobs on your own until you don’t have the potential to outsource the experts, and after a stability in business will always deserve the hiring and you should do because that can skyrocket your business and you will get time for better management.

    Thanks for your words Yaro, it was really an informative article !

  • Even I started to design my site myself entirely. Did the needy onpage and offpage seo as well. It needs to have some knowledge of hosting servers, deploying websites, installing wordpress and little bit of css and php will be definitely an added advantage.

  • This is a timely article for me Yaro. I’ve just spent quite a bit of time with James Schramko and am now working towards quicker implementation through building a team. It’s ridiculous when you stop for a moment, step back and say “Am I really doing all of this stuff???”

    For me, it’s now time to project manage, rather than be sitting here writing content, programming and messing about doing other menial tasks.

    Like you said, once you know what works, it’s really all about execution, in which case, it’s just a matter of processes.

    Anyone can usually do that with the right guidance.

    Hope you’re well mate.

  • This article is reaffirming to me, someone who is exactly the person you describe: first-time entrepreneur, going at it alone for lack of resources. I look forward to the day when I can outsource some of the work, but I’m excited to be on my feet and doing well, and to know that I’m following in the footsteps of other successful people.

    I am glad to be getting all of this experience under my belt. I know that it will make me a better manager when the time comes. I also appreciate the ability to control every aspect of my seedling business. A working knowledge of everything that goes into it will help me ensure that my business is run as I want it to be, even when it grows too large for me to handle on my own.

  • I’m a stubborn so and so, and as a result I’m determined to do it all myself. I can do all my blogs, all my affiliate stuff, I just struggle with the marketing and SEO side of things.

    I want to learn myself, but I’m doubting whether or not I’m costing myself earnings because I don’t have that little extra bit of knowledge required that could make a world of difference.

    I do believe I’m not a million miles away and someone with the know how could look at my site and say “hey, I could get you ranking higher easily.”

    As a result of this view I’m not sure whether to stay as I am and learn myself or pay/ask for help.

    Ultimately I would like to learn SEO myself as you’ve always got it then. Not sure if my reluctance to get help is stupidity, stubbornness or the right thing (probably one of the first two to be honest).

    • Gemma W.

      Actually, with SEO (and it’s the same for web development and web design for that matter) it’s no longer a simple matter of learning it and then you’ve always got it.

      SEO evolves over time, so you will find that half of what you knew perhaps a year ago is quickly out of date because new developments have come up. It’s one of these industries where you have to keep learning in order to stay relevant.

      So in your case, unless you have a specific interest or passion for SEO, you’re better off hiring an agency or freelance consultant with a solid reputation. Be warned, there are many charlatans out there who call themselves SEO experts.

  • A great article which I’ve just stumbled on. Small businesses can really benefit from hiring a virtual assistant. It’s having the courage to delegate and trusting that your VA will get things done. Of course, as with all relationships your VA will need to earn your trust… so starting with small tasks initially is a good way to go. You also don’t need to worry about PAYE, office space etc etc.

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