Why your next start-up should be a done-for-you service

Updated to Productivity on December 19, 2022.

I was in a car the other day with a radiologist and a neurosurgeon talking about hypertension. 

This conversation is actually not as unusual as it might sound. I volunteer for a local society that does trail clearing in a popular hiking and mountain bike park and many of the volunteers happen to be recently retired doctors. 

Back in the car, one of the doctors happened to mention that recently his medical partner, who is in his early 60’s, had a mild stroke. As we wound our way further up the dirt road to our work site my education continued. 

I learned that strokes are the second biggest cause of mortality worldwide and the third most common cause of disability. The scary statistics get worse. As you age your chance of a stroke doubles every 10 years after 55

There’s a checklist of health conditions that make you more susceptible to a stroke, like obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. But the biggest culprit – six times out of ten – is hypertension or high blood pressure. In my books, that’s worth paying attention to.

What’s interesting is that stress, in itself, is not the direct cause of high blood pressure. It’s what we do when under stress that leads to nasty results. We eat too much, drink too much, and move too little. Basically, we deal with stress by making unhealthy choices.

For me, stress starts with worry.

Ngoc Son Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

I’ve had a lot of worries

There is a world of problems you can worry about – take your pick. You can worry that Ukraine will be pummeled into a tiny province of rubble, or that we’ve passed the tipping point with global warming, or the tiny spot on your chin is cancer. 

Or not.

“I’ve had a lot of worries,” quipped Mark Twain “most of which never happened.” Our mind loves a good worry. Like a dog chewing a bone, we want to turn our worry around, looking from all angles, poking and prodding until it swells up into something bigger than it really is.

I used to worry incessantly before every keynote speech. I’d worry I’d miss my flight or wasn’t prepared enough, or I would be greeted by the “audience from hell.” Trust me, when you have 60 minutes to educate, entertain, inspire, motivate, and get laughs from an audience you’ve never met before, any sane person would invent a long list of worries.

It was at one of those events when a fellow speaker opened an exit door for my worries. He suggested that audiences don’t want you to fail – in fact, they want you to succeed. “They want to see you having fun—enjoying yourself. That way,” he explained, “they can enjoy the ride with you.”

When I accepted the long list of what I could never control – my flights, the audience, the speaker before me going overtime – I was free to focus on what I could control.

Enjoying the moment. 

What your life will have been

In her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön tells the story of delighting in the preciousness of every single moment.

A woman is running from lions. She runs and she runs, and the lions are getting closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds onto it. Then she looks down and sees that there are lions below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks a the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Learning what to focus on, and what to ignore, seems to be the ultimate secret to living a healthy, stress-free life. “Whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment,” writes Oliver Burkeman in Four Thousand Weeks (a must-read for anyone over 50), “is simply what your life will have been.”

So, what are you focussing on?

What to focus on

You can learn a lot when you’re the dumbest one in a car full of doctors. I learned that strokes are a silent pandemic. And that hypertension is the leading cause of that pandemic. And I learned the leading cause of hypertension is stress. 

I was also reminded that stress is a choice.

We all have lions and tigers in our life. Maybe even a mouse or two gnawing away at something we value. Meanwhile, we have the moment.

Choosing what to focus on (and what not to) might just be the healthiest choice you can make.

Got this far? You might also like these posts:

Photo of eggs by Nik on Unsplash
Photo of Ngoc Son Temple by author
Photo of tigers by author

Here’s a question for you:

If you’re busy, would you rather learn how to cut your lawn faster or hire someone to do it?

I admit it’s a silly example, but the truth is most people would rather give a neighbourhood kid a few bucks to run the mower back and forth a couple times a month.

That’s an easy one.

What about your bookkeeping, advertising, web site maintenance, shipping, customer service or hiring new staff. And, on the home front, what about dog walking, meal prep and spring cleaning?

According to a new study by Upwork, a global freelancing platform, freelancers make up 35% of the American workforce, with a total $1Trillion in revenues in 2016. And it makes sense: busy people will pay to have domestic and work routines outsourced and technology makes it easier to match the buyers with freelancers.

Some fun math: If you chop three zeros off of your income and halve it…

“Some fun math: If you chop three zeros off of your income and halve it, that’s roughly your hourly income (assuming 40 hours per week average and two weeks of vacation per year). So, if you make $50,000 per year, you make approximately $25 per hour. For far less than that, you will be able to outsource nearly anything in your life that you dislike.” — Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek

And freelancers are not limited to simply completing a task, like advertising your event, editing your articles or booking your travel. One big step up on the outsourcing ladder are Done-For-You Services.


A Done-For-You Service is the ultimate outsource: book it, pay for it, forget about it. What I consider a Done-For-You Service completes a routine on a regular basis with minimal direction from you—it’s a complete solution.

Done-For-You Services are everywhere:

  • bookkeepers
  • property managers
  • house cleaners
  • office organizers
  • landscape maintenance
  • managing your email
  • meal delivery
  • posting on social media
  • publishing your blog
  • customer service – online or call centre

For about $3 a call, you can outsource your customer service needs. For about $10 per person have pre-planned ingredients for your meal arrive at your door. For $39 per month have someone coordinate all your meetings. And for $20 your pooch (poop bags and GPS tracking included) gets a daily walk.

For about $10 per person have pre-planned ingredients for your meal arrive at your door.

And if you’re not sure where to start, companies like (for your business) and (for your home) and (for your pooch) provide options to choose from or bundle.

A Done-For-You twist on more typical house cleaning services is the start-up Hello Alfred.


If you’re a busy urban professional (Hello Alfred was started in New York), you can book an ‘Alfred’ for regular dry cleaning, dog walking, grocery shopping – even annual flowers for birthdays. The two Harvard grads, Marcela Sapone and Jessica Beck, designed Hello Alfred around monthly budgets for clients (starting at $99/month), not one-offs—they want to be a regular part of your life.

With Hello Alfred, clients pay a flat, monthly fee plus expenses

“It’s kind of like a milkman run,” says Sapone “where you have one person who’s going to do the errands for everyone at the same time and go on these standard routes, just like a milkman would visit a neighborhood and would pick up and take away the milk bottles from every door.”

Even though I won’t do your laundry, I had a similar model in mind when I created BlogWorks.


When I created BlogWorks I wanted a solution to promote my blog that was hands-off, predictable but still had a ‘human element’. I knew the market of social media solutions was flush with scheduling software. And they are getting increasingly powerful and intuitive. You can plan, schedule and promote your blog post all on one tool.

But, it’s only part of the solution—the user still has to spend hours every week creating all the content. Most don’t and so most fail.

When I created SOS I wanted a solution to promote my blog that was hands-off, predictable but still had a ‘human element.

My goal was to create a Done-For-You service that required quick, one-time setup and then we do the rest. And it works.

We now have 6 editors on the SOS team (all live in Canada) who read a client’s blog and then turn it into daily social media updates (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+) designed to drive traffic back to their blog. We are using the client’s original content to generate more traffic back to the site.

The blogger gets their time back, gets more traffic, and gets to stop worrying about promoting their blog. A typical client is saving 3 to 6 hours a week and getting a 10-15% lift in their monthly web traffic with qualified prospects. Pretty nice for about $5/day.

What about you? Is there a Done-For-You service you can create?


The marriage between software and human talent opens the doors to incredible opportunities in Done-For-You services. Here are some examples (some already exist):

  • turning your blog into video, infographics and SlideShare decks, and scheduling those out to social
  • daily email triage to reduce InBox fatigue
  • daily social media monitoring and response
  • quarterly health audits and fitness plans
  • bi-weekly curation of web content ready to turn into blog posts or video
  • podcast production and publishing
  • video production and publishing
  • quarterly website performance audits and fixes
  • weekly fitness coach with meal delivery

Once you’re done solving your client’s problems, you deserve some time for less serious distractions, like some sweet revenge.


If you’re looking for a fun outsourcing solution for your political angst, Brooklyn baker (and detective), Kat Thek will turn nasty comments from social media into a cake and mail it to the troll who wrote the comment.

Sweet revenge: for just $35 have a custom cake mailed to the troll’s address

“Your time is worth something. If you truly hate a certain task—whether it be grocery shopping, cleaning, or anything else—why not outsource the task so you can spend those hours with your family, or working on a personal project? It’s a case where money can actually buy you happiness and reclaim one of life’s most limited resources: your time.” – Whitson Gordon, editor in chief of