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How to Grow a Business & Delgate the Rest

by Arianne Foulks

July 21, 2015

Delegating business tasks: You have to evaluate every thing you are responsible for in your business. Ask yourself, does that "thing" define me? Will it make me more successful? Photography defines me. Not accounting, answering emails or scheduling.

Creative business owners: join me to shape up our businesses! I have written an eight part series that will help you:

  • Increase efficiency and focus,
  • Enjoy your work more,
  • Reach your goals,
  • Learn to quit trying to do every darn thing that goes into running a business yourself!

How to Build a Successful Creative Business on Limited Time
How to Find Time by Cutting Back on Reactive Work
Shift Into CEO Mode and Get Help With the Rest
Kill Your To-Do List and Focus on ONE Thing

We are going to talk more about delegation this week. This post is an appetizer, helping you think about why you might be resisting delegating the tasks that you don’t want to do yourself (or don’t have time for). Once you’re over this hurdle, and feeling enthusiastic about getting help, we’ll speak more on this subject.

Kym Ventola, photographer and boss, was my inspiration for my latest round of delegation, and I wanted to share her with you all! She joined us in the new Aeolidia Facebook group for a Q&A about delegation. Creative product-based businesses, come join us! There will be more of these.

We’ve tidied up the Facebook back and forth into something readable so we won’t lose this great info, and you can see Kym’s thoughts here. All quoted text below is from Kym, and all bold text is from our Facebook community.

Hello! I am looking forward to chatting with you all today! I’ll be answering any questions you might have about setting healthy boundaries in your business, to allow more time for your family and yourself.

My turning point 5 years ago was a heartbreaking question that my then 3-year-old son asked me: “Do you love your phone more than you love me?” I was justifying my excessive time on my phone with the need to keep up with client emails, update social media and answer every phone call. It was ridiculous.

At that moment, I set my phone down and made a commitment to my son. HE needed me. I needed him.

As soon as I turned off my email, Instagram & Facebook notifications, life changed. My phone wasn’t beeping at me or lighting up every 5 minutes. It was mostly silent. PEACE.


When I told my story at the Dream Rock retreat in February (where I met the awesome Arianne Foulks), most of the group gasped when I showed this photo of my son, along with the question “Do you love your phone more than me?” Why? Because so many moms relate to this. Deep down, most of us are struggling with this. I get it. No judgements from me. Disconnecting from your phone is a big commitment. But it’s totally worth seeing how we reconnect with the people we love.

What do you recommend for someone just starting out at setting up their own creative business, in terms of easing into a routine for balancing creative work, financial tasks and having a life outside of these things, since they seem to overlap once you start working at home? Thanks! (Pam Winters)

Hi Pam! Thanks for the question! This is so great. As creative people it is SO easy for us to jump right in to the “fun” stuff: graphic design, setting up a website, working on products or services. But my best advice is to start with the foundation of your business. Get legal. Get your business license, set up sales tax (if necessary). Consult an accountant. Do the “boring” stuff first. This will allow you to feel free to be the creative human being you are. If those things are left undone, they can become a burden and negatively impact our creativity.

I would also recommend delegating, Pam! When I mentor business owners, we always establish what they WANT to do and what they are great at. I see too often that work can suffer if you’re trying to do something that you’re not knowledgeable about or have a little bit of passion for.

Hope that helps!! (Kym Ventola)

Hi Kym! Your story about your son really resonated with me! (As my daughter is binging on care bear movies while I simultaneously print out orders and join this facebook conversation…) Can you tell us more about how you transitioned to a place of setting boundaries with work and opening up more time for yourself and family? And getting past that point of feeling like YOU had to do it ALL? And maybe some tips for how to delegate on a small budget? (Emily Roach-Griffin)

I would create a list of all of your responsibilities: EVERY task necessary to see your business function on a daily basis. Determine which of these things you love doing and which of them stress you out. It may seem crazy and impossible at first, but you can delegate those things to people that LOVE doing them and are extremely good at doing them. Think about it… I’m terrible at plumbing, I’m not interested in it. If I do it, it will create so much work, stress and money in the long run. It will be a mess. The same goes for aspects of our businesses.

I worked on my website for 2 YEARS you guys. 2 YEARS. Then, I outsourced it. It was done in 2 weeks.

I would also look into something like ShootQ (for photographers) or 17hats to help keep your business organized online! This will allow you to keep track of communications, orders, finances, scheduling, etc.

It is so hard, isn’t it?! I was working 60 hours/week. It was TOO MUCH. I ended up hiring a studio manager. I kid you not. She works about 10 hours a week and she freed up (are you ready for this?) 30 hours a week for me. This girl is efficient and loves doing this job. She does everything I hated doing. Now, I have more time with my family, but I also have more time to take on more weddings, hence I make more money! It’s interesting, isn’t it?!! (Kym Ventola)

Asking for a friend… “won’t it just be easier for me to do? I don’t know how to train someone and not sure I want someone in my space; feel like it will just slow me down” (Kat Stewart G)

That is something that I hear all of the time! I used to tell myself the same thing! BUT, let me tell y’all something interesting: I WAS AN ACCOUNTANT BEFORE I BECAME A PHOTOGRAPHER. I do not do my own accounting. I could easily do it, I’m knowledgeable, I have the tools. But it wasn’t my passion and it was taking me away from photographing and being creative. My work was suffering and it was clear to everyone. (Kym Ventola)

I love it Kym! How did you find the right person? It feels like such an overwhelming and intimidating process! (Not to mention Kat’s friend’s points of not being sure about wanting someone in her space–I feel the same way!) I did hire a great assistant and I love her to pieces! But she’s a student and can only work a little bit during her breaks. But delegating more than just cutting paper feels scary! (Emily Roach-Griffin)

So, the commitment is big. You have to evaluate every thing you are responsible for in your business. Ask yourself, does that “thing” define me? Will it make me more successful? Photography defines me. Not accounting, answering emails or scheduling. (Kym Ventola)

How can people budget to hire someone BEFORE the money-making effect of having some help kicks in? (Arianne Foulks)

Great question! There is always an investment in creating the job description and setting boundaries. It will take a little time to clearly define the job. Set aside (on your calendar) a day and time and turn off Facebook (lol) and have zero distractions (except a good show on Netflix) and write out your expectations.

I wrote down what my perfect “studio manager” looked like/what their talents were. Then, in a post on Facebook (business and personal), I wrote out (in a very upbeat and friendly way) the job listing. My biggest rule is NO FRIENDS, NO FAMILY. The best people to hire are usually FRIENDS OF FRIENDS. I narrow down my interview list to five people and spend 30 min with each (at a coffee shop). Then, I invite three more for a second interview at my studio and show them the space and get a feel for how they respond to the environment. Believe me, it works! (Kym Ventola)

Awesome, advice, Kym! Yes, when we hired our perfect amazing wonderful project manager, it took a TON of my time and it was so stressful trying to run the business while in between project managers that I started clenching my teeth at night and my dentist had me start wearing a night guard. But taking the extra time to be super particular, list out exactly what you’re looking for, check references, do in-person interviews and training is worth all of the (temporary) agony! Aeolidia would be a total mess without Sam. (Arianne Foulks)

People are usually very surprised to find out how affordable it can be to hire someone to help you. 🙂 Here’s why “investing” in someone works for me (for example): I brought on my studio manager; within 2 weeks she was trained and ready. After that, my calendar was wide open (in comparison to pre-studio manager). Sooooooo, I took on more weddings (because those are what I love, love, love doing) and in 6 months, I saw a 45% increase in revenue. I had MORE than paid for my studio manager at that point. Today, same story. (Kym Ventola)

Doing all of your normal work plus all of the extra work of hiring is no candyland. Maybe get some help from family or friends as you transition? Just let other stuff fall apart (laundry, social life) as you make the big move? That worked for me. (Arianne Foulks)

I do agree with Arianne, if there are areas in your life that friends and family can help with to ease the pressure, then absolutely! (Kym Ventola)

How do you stay organized about how you do social media and when do you find the best times to be on there/out there is without losing the rest of your life?! I’m finding managing my time when it comes to social media has been a bear, especially since I am rolling out a new project and trying to connect with new people across different platforms and worlds…(Bonbon Oiseau)

My first rule is to turn off all notifications. I don’t want them disrupting my personal time with friends and family. 😉 Second, I actually schedule time each day or every other day to post something or follow up on comments. The big advice is: SCHEDULE IT. 😉 I hope that helps!! (Kym Ventola)

Arianne: Bonbon, I don’t know what you’re doing now, but sticking with just ONE social media platform to concentrate hard on (while checking in with the rest) is a good way to get started. Be amazing in one place instead of mediocre in five.

Bonbon: You’re right–I think I’m trying to learn them all and trying to discover which one would be the one to concentrate on. I’ve never been that into Twitter but find I’m learning so much by being on there and people, since there’s more freedom to be more content-rich, have been sharing on Facebook, but FB’s dumb algorithm is so limiting, allowing only the truly engaged to see my posts, I like to moderate that and post decent content as I find it on FB. And Instagram seems like such a good place to curate and connect people to some of the other err…connecting grounds, since my project is, well, all about connection and story. This has been the challenge as it seems, to grow, I need all of them for different reasons—have been trying to build each into my day–but some days it’s just too much–thank you for such great advice!

That is great advice, Arianne! Bonbon Oiseau, I do agree with Arianne. I hired a social media expert and I was told that Instagram is the most effective. Of course, to each their own (some people don’t connect with IG). But I hear a lot of success stories from it! Good luck! (Kym Ventola)

I…have a website that I created using Weebly until I can do more. Right now, it averages around 10 sales a month. I don’t do anything to promote it. I don’t do much to promote the Etsy shop and I run around 350 – 400 sales a month there. (Leeanna Pittman Prejean)

That is fabulous that Etsy is sending you so much traffic and sales! But what would happen to your business if they change their algorithm (what is featured, what shows up in search etc.) so that number dropped to zero? It could happen! It’s best to be more in control of your shop and make promotion a priority so you don’t have to rely on Etsy to support your business. (Arianne Foulks)

Leeanna: I completely agree, Arianne. I have new shops on other platforms, but then my Etsy shop gets busy, and I end up putting them on vacation until I can get the Etsy orders out the door. I have actually put enough money in the bank to be able to have a very limited number of items available on Etsy this summer so that I can spend sometime working on other platforms, my website and introduce new products. It’s the how to keep up with the sales from the various platforms as well as keeping up with the supplies I need so that everything runs smoothly. Since I work from home and have deed restrictions about having a business out of your house that has employees, that isn’t an option until I am ready to set up a retail front (another three years away at least).

Leeanna, could your helper(s) work primarily out of their own homes? Is there non-production work another person could do which would free you up to make jewelry? Could you move all of your shipping supplies to your helper’s home and bring her orders daily to get out the door while you tend to your business? Seems like there must be a way to get some help now when you could really use it. Having to close your shop entirely to catch up is a big signal that you need help and help would bump you up to the next level of growth. Keep up the great work!! (Arianne Foulks)

I am considering hiring someone to help me set up my website, I have in my head exactly how I want it to function and how I want it to look, but have not yet figured out how to do either. I would like learning to do it myself (because I like new adventures, and am afraid that a professional won’t get what I want). So I am hesitant spending money that I don’t have on something that is not exactly what I want. But then, I am stuck now with technicalities. I want it up and running smoothly starting 2016 when I stop my full time job. I have a schedule and paperwork to get everything done, like the city business license, stocking up supplies when I know there is a sale, business cards, I have my excel programs all set up. Is it reasonable to give myself a few more weeks to work on the website, or should I just leave it to a professional and use my free time enjoying making items? (Pien WijtmansBouwhuis)

That will depend on budget, Pien! And you might consider forgetting about having things “exactly how you want them” when you’re just starting out. Done is better than perfect, and especially with a new business, your style, customer, preferences, and needs may change, so a perfect expensive website might not be top priority at the moment. (Arianne Foulks)

kym ventola

Meet Kym: For years, international wedding photographer, Kym Ventola, had been struggling to find that “balance” of being a great wife, mom and business owner (she’s not alone, am I right?!). In 2010, her marriage was suffering & her 3 year old son asked her if she loved her phone more than she loved him (having your business email on your phone is a time suck, you guys!). There is no business in the world more important than family or your well-being. Kym was forever humbled, but not defeated.

Within a few months, Kym learned to delegate the things she was not passionate about (in her business) so that she could put her energy and focus on the things she loved to do: photograph, meet with clients and travel. It took trust, patience, and a small financial investment in the beginning… but it all paid off.

Today, she is the happiest version of herself, her family is stronger than ever and her business is thriving. She is able to take on more of the work that she loves, while others are doing the tasks she used to dread or neglect. It’s a win-win for everyone. Kym is also the founder of Nine Retreat, a retreat for small-business owners that focuses on both business AND relaxation.

Your homework

This week:

  1. Think about why you’re resisting delegating work that you don’t want to do.
  2. Imagine possible ways to get some help that don’t compromise your values and your enjoyment of your work.
  3. Sketch out a tentative plan, and meet me back here next week for more detailed information on delegation.

Ready, set go! Then, when you’ve accomplished this, let’s celebrate and support each other in the Aeolidia Facebook group for creative business owners!

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