The most successful business managers and owners know when it's time to do some delegating or outsourcing. This does not mean that they are giving up their decision-making capacity or their involvement in a piece of their business, but instead that they are choosing to lighten their burden and make room for things more important and that they enjoy doing.
As a maker, it is often hard to realize when it is time to do a little delegating. Most makers are deeply involved and connected with each and every creation, so it can be hard to recognize when a piece of the process (or maybe even the whole process) should be doled out. I personally feel incredibly connected to my process and knowing that I touch every step in the making of all my pieces. So, imagine my surprise when I recognized I needed to outsource some work not once, but twice in the last week!
The reason I really starting thinking about delegating was when I learned that many quilters love to piece their projects together, but outsource their quilting to a different person. And guess what? That different person LOVES the quilting part of the process. What a neat concept....having every piece of your process cared for with the most love and detail, instead of shelling out something that is only mediocre because you didn't enjoy, or didn't have enough time for, part of the creative process. I had always so wrongfully assumed that a good maker was one who mastered the whole process. It didn't occur to me that mark of a great and successful maker is recognizing their shortcomings, and identifying a better person to help achieve their goals.
For me, it happened the first time a little over a week ago. A good friend who often asks me to do projects for her got in touch about a beautiful, hand-sewn baby mobile. I always jump at the chance to create for this friend because she has wonderful ideas and always shares her love for my creation with lots of friends and family (ahem...possible new customers). She saw this mobile on Etsy, contacted the seller, and discovered that the price was hard to swallow. So, she offered me 2/3 of the price to make the mobile. Without hesitating, I said yes.....and then I panicked. I had never done a project even remotely like this before and I was seriously afraid of it being nowhere near as beautiful as the pictures she sent me. So I sucked it up, and contacted the seller on Etsy. To my suprise, she told me that this project can take up to 10 hours and that the particular design my friend picked is the most difficult.....and here I was going to try and wing it. I took all of this information in and realized it was time to outsource. I could have asked the seller to just make parts of the mobile, but when it all came down to it, my heart (and my time) wasn't in it. So I bought the mobile for my friend as a suprise. It will be EXACTLY what she wants and she deserves it, not just because she is a fantastically loving, caring, funny, and inspirational gal, but because she is my most supportive friend when it comes to my creations. I can't wait to give her that perfect mobile. This may be the handsdown BEST outsourcing decision I ever made.
My second brush with delegating happened just today. I got a call from my sister-in-law asking if I could knit one of those mermaid blankets for my niece. It was the same story as before. She did the research, had some sticker shock, and then asked if I could make it. I am an OK knitter, and in the past I would have taken this request and used it to grow my skillset. But the truth is, I don't really love to knit all that much and my time is much happier spent quilting, sewing, and decoupaging. So I didn't hesitate....I said that I could not do this project. BUT, I did offer to purchase the blanket for my niece for her birthday if she felt the price was too high. It is a special item for a special girl on her special day, so for that, the money is worth spending. And you know what? The maker will put so much love, joy, and creative quality into the blanket that it will last for years. That is not something I could swing in just a couple of months even. Another delegation success.
This new wave of delegation and outsourcing might just be a sign of maturity, or maybe just a sign of being stretched to thin, but it feels good to recognize my limits. Knowing I am connected to and surrounded by so many amazing makers gives me the strength to be a great business owner and know when it is time to outsource to somebody more skilled than myself. The sense of relief I feel for not over-promising and possbily under-delivering is greater than I could have imagined. I will definitely be outsourcing more in the future!