I Get By With A Little Help

I have a neighbor who loves to get help. Paid help. Cleaning ladies, yard people, nannies, whatever, she loves it. For whatever reason I’ve never been that way. While my parents seek out hotels and restaurants where lots of service is the draw–people carrying your bags, people turning down your beds, people hovering over your table–I’ve always been uncomfortable with it.

And that same reticence to “get help” has translated to my business as well. I have no problem hiring people to do things I simply can’t–editors, cover artists, web designers–but my motto has pretty much been, “if I’m capable of doing it then I should be the one to do it.” And in the indie world “doing it all yourself” is sort of point of pride, a contest almost to see who can work the longest hours, cram in the most tasks, be the handiest, dandiest woman on the Internet.

A few months ago, however, Mr. L looked at me and said, “You know you can’t keep doing all of this.” And deep down I knew he was right. My production has dropped, my sales have dropped, and I feel more than a little overwhelmed by everything that’s sitting there waiting for me each morning when I get up and “go” to work (you know, in the room down the hall).

The idea of getting help sunk in over a few weeks, and then I heard about a service that would help me run contests, grow my mailing list, maintain my website, and give me access to a large pool of dedicated romance readers. But, but, those are things I’m able to do myself, right? Technically, yes. Was I doing it well? No. Was I doing it effectively? No. Efficiently? Again, no. I realized that for all the headaches that stuff was giving me, and for all the time it was taking away from the primary function of my job–to WRITE BOOKS–I’d be better off coughing up the money for the service than continuing to half-ass it on my own. Fast forward a few more weeks when a good friend suggested that I talk to someone she knew about working for me part-time, I gave in and said, “Ok.” So now, in the course of a month I find myself putting out several hundred dollars more than I was previously, but I also find myself with a boatload of new contractors working on my behalf.

The effect was pretty much immediate. With my mind freed up from the worries of all the details that clutter my head daily, my wordcount improved immediately. I’m not naive enough to think that getting help is going to solve all my problems, or make my job always smooth and easy. Just this morning I was trying to put down 5,000 new words while my poor assistant struggled with Amazon’s wonky purchasing system and my teenager showed up after school had started looking for her essay and something else that I never could figure out–mostly because I didn’t want to–and I thought there was a great possibility that my head might explode. But only for a moment. And then I got the words done, and I ate three meals that were relatively nutritious, and I even walked for 45 minutes, so all things considered it was better than a lot of days I’ve had over the last few months. Because any day I get 5,000 words down is a day when I not only did my job, I kicked ass at it.

But kicking ass at my job requires that my head be clear enough for words to form, and when I’m trying to do everything myself my head is never clear. So, in the future, I might modify how I get help, or where I get help, or what the helpers do, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going back to doing it all myself. In my mind it’s all about the long-term investment, and this business has reached a point where I can’t grow it by myself anymore. Luckily, help is on the way.

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