Wish you had more free time? Outsource your chores.
Working Mother Magazine – September Issue, 2006
Working mothers are constantly wishing that they could be in (at least) two places at once-especially when Spot has to go to the vet on the morning of the school play. Since cloning capabilities are still a ways off, Stacey Hall, 47, a real estate agent and mom of two, discovered another solution: outsourcing.
After her second child was born, she started farming out all of the mandatory household duties like laundry and time-consuming errands like vet appointments. “If I try to do it all, I’m a basket case,” says Stacey, who lives in Los Gatos, CA. “Delegating these tasks allows me to spend quality time with my children, to help with homework instead of frantically trying to handle the housework.”
These days, Stacey is an expert at outsourcing everything from dusting to gift shopping. She says she spends an average of $600 a month to have other people do her chores. But buying some extra time can cost you as little as $16.
That’s what Stacey pays per hour to Julie Robinson, owner of Errand Solutions. Last summer, after working in the accounts payable department of a major corporation for five years, Robinson, a 39-year-old mother of three who lives in San Jose, CA, decided to start her errands business because she often found herself overwhelmed by her to-do list. “Most of the corporate world is not friendly to people with children,” says Robinson. So she bet that outsourcing wasn’t just a corporate solution anymore-it was what working moms needed in their overscheduled lives.
Her hunch paid off: Nearly all of her clients are working mothers. Now Robinson comes to their rescue, whether it’s waiting for a home inspector, chauffeuring a child to a tutoring session or picking up new window shades form the hardware store.
Fortunately, armies of entrepreneurs like Robinson are willing to do tasks you never thought could be hired out. No time to pay the bills? Hate bookkeeping? Irene Kuda and Christine Morris, owners of the Queens, NY-based Christine’s Errand Service, will make sure the car payment is madeand get the car washed and waxed for $20 an hour. Like many of their colleagues in the errand business, Morris and Kuda advertise on Craigslist (www.craigslist.org), the mostly free online classifieds service that has over 300 worldwide sites. The Internet makes it easy to find good help these days. But old-fashioned Help Wanted signs are worth putting up, especially on bulletin boards at local community colleges, Stacey says. The signs should clearly state what you need done (laundry, gift shopping) and how many hours a week you think these tasks will take.
Don’t mention money on the signs, though. “I never put how much I will pay for something, because some people are willing to do the job for less than what you think,” Stacey says. “And if there is someone really great who charges a dollar more than what you’re offering, she’ll be discouraged from calling you.”
College students may run errands for $10 to $12 an hour, well below the going rate of $15 to $20. But even established services may offer some cost relief. Christine’s Errand Service may adjust its hourly rate from $20 to $15 for a regular client, Kuda says. Noel Sutter of Mill Valley, CA, charges $25 to $30 an hour for most errands but charges only $10 for pickup/drop-off of things like dry cleaning for her elderly clients.
Aside from cost and references, an initial conversation should include a detailed description of the job you need done. “You can weed out a lot of folks on the phone,” Stacey says. Ask for at least three references, and when you call them, inquire about the person’s work habits. Also look for red flags like a bad driving record, a long period of unemployment or an unreliable vehicle. “Listen to your working-mom instincts,” says Stacey. Once you check references and decide on a person, do a walk-through of the task and create a to-do list. If you’re hiring someone to buy a gift, for example, go online and print out a picture of what you want. If you want her to do laundry, show her how you like it to be done. “Directions are key,” Stacey says. “If I don’t make the task very clear, it doesn’t get done the way I want.”
Of course, not everything can be outsourced. You can’t hire someone to take that spin class or sneak in an hour of yoga. But you can hire someone to go grocery shopping while you work up a sweat.
Source: Working Mother Magazine, Paloma Lisa McGregor (September 2006)
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