Taking back life, one chore at a time
Sydney barrister Bridie Nolan spends $6,500 a week outsourcing domestic tasks, childcare and part of her workload - here's why.
Outsourcing is the new black. From virtual assistants to nannies, gardeners to shoppers, there are very few day-to-day tasks that can't be handballed to someone else.
Few would go as far as Bridie Nolan, a Sydney barrister, mum of three and stepmum to two. Her outsourcing bill for professional and personal tasks is a whopping $6500 a week. That includes a live-in nanny, three cleaners, an executive assistant and a researcher.
She says it's the only way she can run her legal practice, get enough sleep and exercise, and make quality time for her family.
"I simply could not do it all, maintain a practice and be nearly human," she says.
But outsourcing is not just for the well-heeled, it's increasingly a popular option favoured by those who see it as a time-saving solution.
But does paying someone else for services you can perform yourself make financial sense?
The answer comes down to the price you put on spare time, says Lacey Filipich, director of financial education program Money School.
"Outsourcing is all about valuing your time," she says.
"By choosing to outsource a task, you're effectively saying your time is more valuable than whatever it's costing you to get someone else to do the work for you."
Outsourcing makes sense when an expert can do it faster, it can be done cheaply by someone else or if it's a chore you detest, says Filipich.
"It's difficult to quantify the emotional and mental benefits of outsourcing, but they're at least as important as the financial benefits," she says.
"Not having to think about these activities, knowing they'll simply get done, is liberating. It leaves space for more important things, like time with family.
"This is especially true if it's something annoying."
Sites such as Airtasker and Freelancer have put outsourcing at people's fingertips. Those wanting help post their jobs online to be fulfilled by those wanting work. Physical tasks such as furniture moving are performed by locals, while website development or logo creation can be done from anywhere in the world.
Virtual assistants can be found for as little as $2 a day. VAs can be hired to do personal and professional tasks – anything from making dinner reservations to surveying customers.
Surging demand for outsourcing has seen a growth in this fledgling industry both overseas and locally.
Kay Marco, director of the Institute of Concierge and Lifestyle Managers, says almost 300 Australian businesses have emerged in this space during the past 10 years.
"The past five years has seen the most significant growth in the industry," she says.
"Clients aren't ashamed to admit that they can't do it all. They like the fact that they can have someone take care of the things that they don't have the time, the expertise or the inclination to do."
The industry is continuing to expand, with the institute introducing a new Diploma of Personal Concierge Services last month.
Most Australian concierge businesses are run by solopreneurs like Layla Roberts, who runs Concierge Connections and Sydney Concierge. Concierge Connections is designed to help busy mums tick off their to-do lists, while Sydney Concierge helps Sydneysiders and tourists organise travel and events.
Her clients are mostly full-time employed women, who either work long hours or have children. They pay up to $65 an hour for Roberts' assistance.
Calculating the time savings versus expense depends on a variety of factors for her clients, she says.
"They probably think about what their time is worth and what their hourly rate is," she says.
"When they get home from work they rarely want to spend four hours trawling the internet finding information and feeling overwhelmed by Google results and conflicting reviews of TripAdvisor," she says.
"For others, I think they just need to get it done. They realise they can do anything, but can't do everything, and need to prioritise their time.
"Or they come to me with something that's been on their to-do list for three months, six months."
Trusting a stranger with important tasks, no matter how small, is a major hurdle for some. But outsourcing advocate and human behaviour specialist Dr John Demartini says there are ways to ensure you get a good result.
"Like any delegation process, you have to make sure the values of the individuals you outsource to match the objectives you need outsourcing," he says.
"Engage quality people, set your deadline and make your expectations clear."
'A better version of me'
Nolan says paying others to do tasks she doesn't have time for frees up valuable time to spend with family or for the basic necessities such as sleeping.
"I know outsourcing to the extent to which I do is not for everyone, but when what you have to sell is your time, there is not really any other option," she says.
"There are only 24 hours in a day. I have learned in my older years that I need to sleep eight of those hours, exercise for one of those hours, and travel to and from work for another hour.
"That leaves me with 14 hours. I realistically need to spend 11 to 12 of those hours working. So those remaining two hours a day, I need to spend with my girls and my husband, not cleaning, doing my accounts, following up emails, washing or tidying the house."
Nolan's support network includes her father, who helps with the children's homework once a week, and her husband, who manages the promotion of her business and investments.
Her paid employees include an executive assistant who does bookkeeping, diary management, liaises with clients and debt collection. There's also a researcher for big case work, a French Australian live-in nanny and three cleaners who visit once a week.
Outsourcing domestic duties as well as professional tasks means there's more time spent relaxing, not rushing, says Nolan.
"I have time to sit with the kids and watch movies on rainy weekends, get out and spend hours outdoors. I also have time to spend, although not as much as I would like, with my husband," she says.
"It has freed me to be a better version of me."