Do you make your own paper? Do you start with wood pulp and mix and bleach and set and produce the sheets you use? My guess is that you save time (and a lot of money) and just go to Staples and buy a ream or two.
The theory of the firm shows us that when people work together in an institution, they are able to produce more than if they work separately. Ricardo makes it obvious that if one person mixes the dough while the other bakes the loaves, they'll get more done than if each did the whole job.
This explains one reason why big companies keep getting bigger. They gain economies of production and marketing as they specialize their workforce.
But what about the small enterprise, the freelancer, the soloist?
The web now makes just about every task outsourceable with a click. Not only don't you have to make your own paper (or hire a paper maker) but you can have someone process payroll and bills, design a website, answer customer calls, schedule appointments and a thousand other things you used to need to do on your own.
Which leads to the key question: When you can outsource everything, what do you do? When you can choose the kind of value you create, you are also choosing what you're going to outsource and what you're going to do yourself.
Here are three reasons to do something as part of your work, from worst to best:
- Because you are the cheapest available worker. Because you need to dosomething, and it's more profitable for you to dothis task than to pay someone else to do it. Because you can't find something more beneficial or profitable to do.
- Because people (clients) will notice whenyoudo it. That might mean that they notice your presence, or they notice the unique nature of what you create (your art) or they will notice that you've learned something doing this when it leads to you doing something great later on. Mario Batali doesn't cook for 99% of his customers (physically impossible), and they can't tell. And he doesn't design 99% (or 5%, I have no idea) of his recipes, because we can't tell. In fact, the only thing people can tell is that it's him on the TV, and that his decisions are guiding what his organization does next.
- Because you love it. Because the work matters to you, and this task, right now, is the best version of the work you can find.
Every time you hire yourself to do something (make paper, pay a bill, change a logo design), you've just decided not to do something else instead.
The first step: your job is to make decisions about what you do. And my guess is that what you do is make decisions.