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Why Mastering Delegation is Crucial in the Gig Economy

In my own life, I’ve seen massive shifts in delegation since I began to engage regularly with freelancers. I get more done, and the projects benefit from the contributions of experts. I also get to spend more time with my family, doing things we all enjoy.

I also spend a lot of my time writing and teaching on the Gig Mindset. Both writing and teaching require a great deal of communication. In addition to speaking at conferences, I deliver a weekly newsletter to more than 60,000 people and record regular podcasts.

I call this approach the Gig Mindset.

The Gig Mindset involves making my network of freelancers my first port of call when I have something to accomplish. Every element of the Gig Mindset takes practice. By far, the hardest, in my experience, is delegation.

Delegation requires you to let others run with your ideas.

It’s difficult because, to delegate successfully, you need to be willing to give up control. It takes courage to change your mindset, trust in people with diverse backgrounds, and radically reinvent how you work and live.

To truly engage with what is possible in the Gig Economy, however, delegation essential. Let’s break down what I mean by delegation in a Gig Mindset context — and why it’s such an important skill.

Giving up Control

What is delegation? When I use the term, I’m not simply saying that you tell a freelancer what you want to be done. Imagine you’ve ordered an Uber. The app allows you to plot your journey and dial in the exact spot to be dropped off. When you get in the car, you could ride the entire way in silence. Maybe, as you approach your destination, you offer a few bits of clarity to guide in those last few blocks. Think about the trust you just placed in your driver.

Could you have sat down in the passenger seat, app out, playing navigator the entire time? Sure. You could also just drive yourself if you need to have that much control. Delegation means stepping back from the driver’s seat and trusting your freelancer to follow directions and ask questions if they get stuck.

Right now, I have people that do web research and data to support my arguments and narratives around a variety of topics. I have an expert who does motion graphics. I have another editor for videos. Sometimes I need graphs and charts based on the data I’ve sourced to support articles and newsletters.

All of these tasks represent someone I’ve delegated to. Someone I’ve trusted to run with my instructions. This is the type of delegation that will allow you to thrive in the Gig Economy.

Conferring Authority on Your Team

The reason delegation is difficult is that it requires you to assign both responsibility and authority to the freelancers with whom you work.

Responsibility is easy. When you hire someone full time, you are giving them responsibility. It’s part of their job description. When you delegate to someone, you are assigning them authority. They can make decisions based on your instructions and your intent. You are trusting them to make the right choices in pursuit of a shared goal, for which you are ultimately accountable. For so many people I’ve met, that is the scariest thing imaginable.

I can’t emphasize enough how hard that idea was for me and still is for people who are beginning to work without a shared context. Human beings have difficulty seeing how delegation can be a blessing.

If we’re honest with ourselves, it looks like a threat. We all have that expectation that we are “the only ones who can do this task.” We tell ourselves that we’re the only person who can do it. If we don’t do it personally, it just won’t get done. Or it won’t get done right.

For anyone who has managed a team of people, you know delegating won’t lead to the same end result as doing something yourself. But I’ll bet that you have experience of getting things done through delegation.

No matter the task, you and your team pulled through. And that diversity of thought made the project better. Different doesn’t equal worse. Working with a wide group of people adds new voices and perspectives and helps find new solutions to a variety of challenges.

When I engage with freelancers and bring together a wider team, I gain knowledge. My life experience is limited to my gender, my race, the neighborhood I grew up in, and the schools I attended, as well as the companies and industries where I worked.

What looks “right” to me is fixed and rigid. Adding in the perspectives of people from around the world teaches me how to connect on a whole new level. It makes the market research better, designs products better, and forces me to improve my management skills and communication.

The Gig Mindset is not a shallow pond. You can’t just dip in your toes, play around, and then go back to your old lifestyle. In fact, you have to come to this with a little faith, the belief that this will work. You have to lean into it, dive into the deep end with the expectation that—for just a moment—you will be completely underwater.

How to Communicate Effectively

The number one challenge, the number one place where people struggle, is communication. I’ve seen it from thousands of people. They struggle with how to communicate their expectations to someone who may not have a shared context; to give up control and trust.

The “control” problem isn’t exclusive to business relationships. Control affects millions of intimate relationships too. Couples counseling is a huge industry in the United States — becasue of the “control” issue.

Now they have to articulate those tasks. They have to provide specific instructions and then just walk away. For a lot of people, this is new. It’s easy to sit in a meeting and just talk, but far more difficult when you have to write a descriptive project brief to delegate.

It’s understandable. Your tasks are so innate to you. If you closed your eyes, you could picture every detail. Now you have to work with someone who doesn’t share that context, and you have to place all your hopes and expectations into them. It’s a real learning process.

Delegation isn’t just saying, “Go do this.” It’s building expectations, setting timelines, and really engaging with these experts. To delegate is to get your vision on paper with examples of things that inspire you.

Effective delegation is inviting the other individual to provide guidance –to you– on how they work and feedback on your thinking. It’s trusting that they are professionals and want to deliver the very best. Most of all, it’s about having an open and curious mind throughout the process.

Delegation in Action

Let’s use an example to illustrate how delegation works—and how it doesn’t work. You need to cater to a working lunch for a group of ten. Now, if you were to ask a virtual assistant to find a place to eat, you’d get back a pretty bland response. Maybe something on their list would fit your needs, but it would be a roll of the dice. What about dietary restrictions or allergies? In this case — you’ve provided too little information and context to expect a good result.

So, you go back to the freelancer, but you ask a more detailed question: “I’d like somewhere to order lunch. It needs to be within fifteen miles of my office, my boss prefers Italian, and it needs to be vegan-friendly. Also, we are capped at $30 a person.”

You’ve provided the same request but with context. You want something specific, but not so specific that the request is redundant. If I engaged a virtual assistant and said, “I’d like to eat at McDonald’s tonight,” I’ve wasted our time and my money.

The sweet spot lies in providing enough information to your freelancer for them to come back with specific recommendations that meet your needs, but not so much that their input is redundant. To delegate effectively, you need to know what you want, create a brief, then trust an expert to fulfill that brief.

A Delegation Revolution

To excel at delegation, you need to be clear about what you gain. It is all about your relationship with time. You have to go back and look at all the tasks for this project. What are the trade-offs? What has to go? No matter what you do in life, your time is finite.

Whether you work in the mailroom or the top-floor corner office, you have the same number of hours in a day. You can’t do everything you want. You can’t even do all the tasks you need to do, at least not alone. So, you need to start looking at your life and selecting those items you can delegate out. What can you give up, relinquish all control of, so you can have more time and space?

Radical delegation is about practice. Start delegating with small tasks, which leads you to more complex tasks. Do a couple of projects in the virtual system. Engage with a virtual assistant on one of the platforms and practice giving detailed instructions. You’re not writing pages and pages of notes, just a few bulleted guidelines.

Giving up control is hard. It takes time. But it gets easier as you build your trusted network of freelancers. The goal is to find your tribe. After a while, you will see that your value isn’t the control. Your value comes with the exponential opportunities you create by engaging with these experts.

When you empower your employees to use the Gig Mindset, you add a force multiplier to your team. Each person becomes an engine of activity, bringing in expertise that you couldn’t have expected before.

Do you have a special project you want to do at work? Or a family activity that keeps being pushed back? Or a trip to visit family and friends? Find a freelancer, brief them thoroughly, then stand back and allow them to do their job.

For more advice on mastering delegation, you can find Gig Mindset on Amazon.

Paul Estes

Paul Estes is an unstoppable advocate for the gig economy who is dedicated to creating opportunity for everyone, reskilling by doing, and bringing diversity to our work. After twenty years of driving innovation in Big Tech (Dell, Microsoft, Amazon), Paul transitioned into working as an independent, remote freelancer. He shares his insights from main stages as a keynote speaker and offers his thoughts and advice through articles on LinkedIn. By engaging with freelancers, Paul gets exponentially more done at work and has more time for his wife and two daughters. He’s the author of the best-selling book, Gig Mindset: Reclaim Your Time, Reinvent Your Career, and Ride the Next Wave of Disruption.

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How to Make a Professional Website That Will Actually Get People to Notice You

Keeping up your own professional website can be critical to your success.

Whether you own a business or toil in the corporate world, it allows you to broadcast your talents and experience for everyone to see. And with the right look and tricks, it can dazzle potential clients, and employers, without ever having to speak to them.

When I launched a freelance career a few years ago, I knew it would take more than friendly word of mouth to pay my bills. But I was tight on time, and while I had built websites as a tech-obsessed kid (some might say a nerd), my Photoshop, HTML, and CSS skills were more than a little rusty.

Luckily, a number of tools and services, free and otherwise, have made it super convenient to throw up an impressive site that sends the right people your way.

From aesthetic to content, here’s how to put together a professional website, from start to finish, that you can be proud of.

Should you go DIY or hire a designer?

It used to be mighty hard to create a cool, gleaming website without serious design and tech skills (let’s not forget the tragedies of GeoCities pages, entertaining as they were).

Now platforms such as WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix are go-to resources for DIY sites that are indistinguishable from those made by coding whizzes.

Still, some people may benefit from hiring a professional to take on the task. This depends on your needs and, of course, how much cash you’re comfortable handing over.

Fees for hiring a designer vary widely. You can expect to pay around $1,000-$5,000 for a site made by a freelance designer, says Jordan Smith, a web designer and developer for hire. But if you hire a full-on agency used to meeting thorny corporate demands, you’re looking at a minimum of $10,000. The number of pages and special additions will, of course, influence the price.

If you’re spotlighting yourself or run a small business with limited means, going it alone is perfectly acceptable. And if you do decide to go with the hard-to-beat pros, make sure they’re actual pros.

To separate the wheat from the chaff, Smith recommends asking prospective designers about experience level, maintenance issues, and expertise in search engine optimization (SEO) — i.e., how they plan to get your stuff seen.

“There needs to be some due diligence in finding the right designer,” Smith says. “There are many people out there right now claiming to be web designers who simply are nothing of the sort.”

A website created by Jordan smith on behalf of a client — image courtesy of Jordan Smith

WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix?

If you ultimately go DIY, choosing a platform is its own journey.

WordPress has long been widely used — and for good reason.

“I generally recommend WordPress 100%,” Smith says. “It’s just a really solid platform and you have full control over everything.”

WordPress is free when used as an open source content management system (CMS), which means users can adopt from a massive selection of design templates by third-party sources. And if you’re curious to learn more about relatively simple programming like CSS (a style sheet language that determines how content and objects are presented), you can personally trick out your designs.

WordPress also offers its own hosting. The free version is extremely limited and includes ads, making it less professional-looking, but other options start at $4 a month and include a free personalized domain for a year, so you can be your own “.com.”

Taughnee Stone, a Croatia-based American brand strategist, recommends buying your own hosting from a site like GoDaddy.

“Self-hosted WordPress is my platform of choice because the sky is really the limit in what you can do with it, and you can host it on any server you want,” she says.

A personal website created with Squarespace — image courtesy of Paul Schrodt

The one major drawback of a self-hosted WordPress is that you are responsible for keeping everything upgraded, backed up, and secure.

“It’s not hard, but if you want to ‘set it and forget it,’ WordPress is probably not for you,” Stone says.

Squarespace is another popular option — and the one that I went with. The company, which just flexed with its $5.6 million 30-second Super Bowl ad, is known for providing “beautifully designed templates you can customize and get up and running quickly,” Stone says. And it’s an all-in-one hosted solution that takes care of backend maintenance, so you won’t have to bother with any of that that. Plans start at $12 a month (if you pay annually—otherwise you’ll pay more).

However, Stone warns, if you decide to move to a new platform, you’ll have to start over.

“In a way, you’re building your business on rented land,” she says.

Wix, a well-reviewed Squarespace competitor, has a free version — but it locks you into its domain and ads. More professional plans start at $13 a month.

But … what do you actually put on the site?

No matter how you get your site up (which is no small task!), your content is what people will ultimately zero in on.

“It’s easy to think that your website is all about you—how skilled, talented, and capable you are and why you’re so passionate about what you do,” Stone says.But it’s important to keep in mind your website visitors are there to learn how you are going to help them.”

Lead with a proposition visitors can grasp in a few seconds: “What’s in it for them? What problem are you going to solve? What are the benefits of whatever you’re offering, and how is it different from other offers they’re looking at?” Stone asks.

Avoid jargon — try to sound like an actual human, she says. And use powerful real images, including of yourself.

Whatever bells and whistles you end up adding, don’t get so carried away that they slow down the loading of your site to a crawl. Confirm that hyperlinks actually direct to the right places. And test on mobile, too, since that’s how many people will find you in 2020.

Smith, for his part, likes to focus on “a single, clear idea we’re communicating.” He’s a fan of white space to make things coherent (“let the design breath!”) as well as “calls to action” (how can visitors get in touch?).

“Spend time thinking about what’s going to be really important to the visitor,” he says. “Know your audience and what information they’re looking for.”