I used to think I could and should do EVERYTHING myself. I would be a renaissance Maya. With my first business (a retail art supply shop) I took control of everything and accomplished… not a lot. I hired people but didn’t give them meaningful work to do. I tried to be marketing, marketing communications (even though I didn’t know that term yet,) sales, janitorial, IT, purchasing, and everything else. Many things were thus half-assed; pardon my French. There were many wonderful things about the business – but it disproved the Maya-should-do-everything theory. That store is just one example; I bit off more than I could chew in many areas of my life.
“Then”… I “saw the light.”

For a long time, I thought Shoemaker Medical should stay very narrow in its offerings. Medical illustration already spans several scientific subjects and can vary quite a bit from project to project. This would provide all the excitement I could ever want. I would only sell medical illustration/animation no matter what. This is what I was trained for. This is what I do.

I kept saying things like “stick to what you’re an expert at” (not grammar, it would seem) and “I should only sell services that I am realllly good at doing.” It was a good sentiment. I didn’t want to sell anybody crap or subject my clients to my learning curve while picking up a new skill. OR bite off more that I could chew, again.

I am now realizing that a brilliant middle ground exists, where I can expand my business and at the same time take BETTER care of my clients. I’m just beginning to subcontract others (experts in other vocations,) to take care of needs such as medical writing, social media, and design. This came about when I started listening to what clients were saying, even if they weren’t consciously asking me to sell them a new service. I finally realized that my advice to my client – to hire a qualified professional to write something, or to design something, or whatever – was not helpful enough. (Even if the company has hired that type of vendor before, chances are your contact has not personally done it.) I found out that by finding, hiring, and managing a medical writer for one of my clients, I was easing their mind and taking care of something big for them with much less effort. The look of relief on my contact’s face was enough to tell me I was doing the right thing.

So far we are wrapping up the first couple of projects using subcontractors and they’ve been great. My job is to make sure everybody has what they need, the job gets done, and the files go to the right place. Sometimes this makes my life easier too! For example, we’re writing copy and I’m doing illustrations related to that copy. Now, I’m in the loop, I have a better understanding of the content faster, and I don’t have to spend the time hunting for that copy – I know exactly where it is! Pretty cool.

If a client wants my advice on who to hire without paying me to manage, I still gladly refer them to great vendors; however, if they need my help, I am willing and able to offer that now.

So, is Shoemaker Medical going to turn into an “agency” for Healthcare Communications? I don’t know. I don’t think so. Am I going to actively market medical writing and web design? I’m not sure. But I know I am personally adding one additional service – project management – and hiring experts to provide real needs as I see them for my clients. Turns out I am good at project management, so the “don’t want to sell crap” excuse holds no water. It’s a new day for my business, and maybe I’m experiencing a little personal growth too.

If you’re interested in learning more about subcontracting for your small business, check out this article on Freelance Switch.