One thing I’ve been talking with #lawtwitter about recently is the difference between a freelancer and a solopreneur.
Dan Lear of Avvo and I have been batting around a couple of podcasts with marketing genius Seth Godin on the subject. Let me quote from him to give a broad view of this distinction:
”Solopreneurs make decisions, not stuff.”
Solo attorneys are generally bad at understanding whether they’re freelancers or solopreneurs, and it impacts all of our decisions. Which means many of us are making the wrong choices for our businesses.
This subject is so important that it’ll probably be the focus of my Lawyer Forward opening talk in 2019 (spoiler alert). But I’ve thought about it and want to be a solopreneur.
Which means I needed to hire some help.
First, Define The Role
I’ve always wanted to hire the Super Assistant. You know, the person who just gets me. That balance between being my mom and not mothering me.
She (and it’s always a “she” in my mind – mommy issues) knows how to write and market and file things and schedule my flights…
I’ve tried to hire this person several times and it just hasn’t gone well. I needed to tie the role to a narrower task, make it a part time position, and hire out for other tasks. So I focused on intake calls.
The Super Assistant ain’t walking though that door.
Second, Post The Job
I needed to find the best applicants for this phone intake role. But there are so many bad options out there.
Have you used Craigslist before to find a hire? Nightmare.
Or maybe you’ve asked friends who they know. Crapshoot.
Or even worse, gone to a big site like Zip Recruiter and gotten a thousand resumes for your position. Time suck.
I’ve had bad experiences with every typical approach. Finally, I asked my friend and outsourcing expert Dina Eisenberg what I should do. She recommended a site called HireMyMom.com and I posted a job there.
It was a decent interface. Not hard to post a job. And the applications came fast and furious.
I was really detailed about my part time, low-paying, unpredictable job. And I got so many highly qualified applicants.
I emailed each applicant and gave them a longer explanation of the position I imagined, then gave them a link to schedule a call with me. That filtered the list down to about 10 great people.
Third, Shrink The Pool
Once I had the list down to 10 or so, I took phone interviews. This is a phone-focused and virtual position so the phone interview worked great.
Just based on their ability to interact on the phone, I narrowed that group to 3 or 4. I was blown away by how qualified they were. And all were willing to work virtually with no guarantee of weekly hours. Most of them had multiple clients doing the same kind of part time admin hiring that I’m doing, so it works.
But then I had to choose between them. Which was sooooo difficult.
Fourth, Balance The Now With The Later
I found myself wanting to create three positions for the three best applicants. I could have – between the law firm and Lawyer Forward, I definitely need help from three people – but cash flow doesn’t justify that yet.
I was torn. I couldn’t figure out how to prioritize. After complaining about it on Twitter, Canadian family law super ninja Jennifer Reynolds told me to call her so we could brain it out.
We talked for a while about what I wanted to accomplish and what made each applicant unique. I told her I was considering hiring every one of them into roles that didn’t exist yet. Wisely, she shut that down.
Jennifer reminded me that every employee has a time cost. Every one would need to be trained, they’d each take meeting time from me every week, and they’d take some time getting ramped up with their weekly projects. With three employees, I may just be inviting a huge time suck.
The she gave the advice that made the decision for me: to use the first hire to create the processes and procedures for the second and third hire. That way everyone in the future will have a smoother onboarding process.
One of the applicants, Patty, had a lot of experience designing and training on processes. She is overqualified for the phone job, but really they all were. But she has the skills to set us up for the future. She got the job.
We’re Just Getting Started
I called the other applicants and told them I’d love to keep them on my radar. I can easily see several months from now needing to hire for the other two positions in my head. But, for now, Patty is focused on building the right foundation.
This week I have her doing content work (which excites her because she’ll finally be able to use her English degree). She’s basically rewriting some family law and probate/estate planning guides I found from public sources like TYLA and TexasLawHelp.org.
No, she isn’t plagiarizing. And, no, she isn’t writing stuff that I’ll just post on the site. But this exercise will make her learn the basics of my practice areas. And I’ll have the groundwork for useful content tools later.
All in all, this has been a good experience so far. I’m seeing progress on important work while I still personally handle the urgent stuff.
Hopefully I can get that stuff off my plate soon as well. It’s time for me to make more decisions than stuff.