Why you should outsource everything but your brilliance 

Find out why you need to outsource any tasks that aren’t your brilliance – and how to work out what that is.

May businesses and freelancers today rely on the help of a virtual assistant. The main reason to use an assistant is to free up your time so you can do what you are brilliant at. But what is ‘brilliance’?

Can you go into an organisation and help them fix their culture? Can you coach people to stand up in front of a crowd of people and hold them spellbound for 30 minutes? Can you help people advertise their business to new clients? Are you a writer? A teacher? A plumber? A philosopher or a biochemist? 

Everyone has that thing, that spark, that talent they do brilliantly. What’s yours? What is the thing that you sell, essentially, in the case of most service businesses? Or is your brilliance the selling, having those meetings with prospects and getting new business into the organisation? 

What is YOUR brilliance?

Understanding your brilliance is key to thinking about outsourcing. Your brilliance is what needs to be protected. It’s not simply what you can do, but what you must do. We can all do many things, but there’s a strong chance others can do them as well.

What we’re looking for here is the bit that is just you. If you’re not sure what it is, think about what you’re doing when you are most in a flow state – that’s usually a sign that you are in your zone of genius. Time flies, it doesn’t feel like work, and it is deeply satisfying, even if it is also sometimes challenging. 

We all have things we are amazing at. And things that we’re less amazing at. Finding a role that only consists of the first set of things is nigh on impossible, even in a business that you set up yourself. Every role has a certain amount of “stuff” that surrounds it.

Somewhat ironically, often the better you are at your brilliance, the quicker you get promoted or the more clients you get and then the less of your brilliance you get to do on a daily basis. Success seems to breed administrative tasks! 

An example of outsourcing your brilliance – a novelist

Let’s say you are a novelist. Your brilliance is writing fantastic crime thrillers that people love to read. The writing element is your brilliance: creating plots and characterisation and managing the pace of the action. 

If you want your work to be read, then the books must be published, which is going to involve all manner of pitches, meetings, reviews, edits, decisions around covers and more. Then you’ll market the book, so people know that it is out there. We’re probably talking launch events, endless PR emails to drum up local or national press coverage, maybe some tours of bookshops and a lot of social media.

These things will all need booking into your diary and coordinating, especially if it’s a tour. You might need a website, social media feeds to pump with promotional posts, and marketing bumph to send out to booksellers. You might need to navigate Kindle versions and audio books of your creations as well.

Once the money starts coming in, you’ll need to manage your finances, track expense receipts and mileage from those bookshop trips and pay some taxes. If your book is a hit, then you may have fan letters (or emails and DMs) to manage. It’s a long list. And while you are busy doing this list, you aren’t doing the thing that is your brilliance. 

An example of outsourcing your brilliance – a director or a small consultancy

Maybe you are a director in a small consultancy. You were employed because you are amazing with people, drawing out the nuances of complex businesses and human needs. You have a quick mind and can think in ways others can’t to solve problems.

You have a Finance department, so you don’t do much in the way of billing, there’s a Marketing department and PR agency and none of that really falls under your remit anyway. But are you the one getting workshops and meetings booked? Organising post-it notes, Miro boards, and catering? Researching flights and trains?

For your internal commitments are you having to go back and forth on meeting slots? Do you have a guilty pile of your own expense receipts even as you send out notes to the team telling them to process expenses promptly at the end of the month? Are you holding a lot of mental load around the next follow ups with prospects or things that need to go into the diary later in the year? 

As you can see, even in a company that has back-office support, a busy role can have things that need doing – well outside of your brilliance. 

The cost of doing it all

It would be easy enough to say “Well, I can do everything, so I might as well. I can just about fit it in”. That may be the case, but your brilliance is the key here. How much does your brilliance cost? How much do you sell it for? And how much energy do you need to conserve in order to preserve it?

We humans just aren’t geared up to work hell-for-leather for eight hours straight (or longer), and when we do, mistakes happen. We can’t reach our full potential. If your solution to the problem is to work harder and longer, you may not be anywhere near as effective as you think. 

Brilliance often isn’t the kind of thing you can shove into thirty-minute slots. Often, brilliance needs space. Space for deep work, thinking, and energy to do those things. If your brain is cluttered with a hundred other things that need doing, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to sit down and say “right, brilliance time. I’ve got 40 minutes to have an amazing idea for this project, let’s go!”

It just doesn’t work like that. Apart from the brain space, you also need the brain ease and time to just be. Not rushing from task to task and meeting to meeting like a ball in a pinball machine. Often people get their best ideas or solutions to problems when they are walking the dog, or at the gym, or just out for a coffee with a friend. Our busy brains are remarkable, but having space to do other things is key to keeping them that way.

Your brilliance is worth protecting

By now, I hope I’ve convinced you that your brilliance is worth protecting, for your sake and the sake of your business.

Now it’s time to get really clear on how you spend your time – what tasks are your brilliance, what tasks are not, but need you to get them done anyway, and what tasks you should not be doing at all. It’s the first step in deciding whether you need to outsource some work.

This is an adapted extract from How To Work With A Virtual Assistant by Kathy Soulsby