WordCamp Portland was this weekend and there were a lot of high quality talks about all things WordPress and beyond. One of the best WordCamp sessions was a lunch time Birds of a Feather (BOF) mastermind on business development lead by Devra Polack of Spinster Design We talked about when and how to scale your business from freelancer to agency and shared resources for managing the transition.
When should you scale your business?
The answer is different for everyone. Devra put together this helpful Google Doc with some resources for people who are just starting out. Here are some things to consider when thinking about scaling your business.
For a month, write down everything you do in your business. Divide the list into different roles and think about where it makes sense to bring on other people to fill a role. Write your job descriptions for each role before bringing in a new person.
Before you start hiring, it's important to have enough cash flow to support your new hires, especially if you're hiring employees. If you've been riding the feast or famine roller coaster, then having either large ongoing contracts or a steady source of recurring revenue will make it much easier to support bringing new staff into your business.
Automate, Delegate, Delete
When I transitioned from just creating websites to offering ongoing support plans, I setup automated billing for my service so that I wouldn't waste time becoming a bill collector. I also outsourced the actual support tasks to a development team so that I would still have time to work on projects. What tasks can you automate or plan to pass on to your new hire? Are there things you can eliminate altogether?
Determine Your Role
If you're building a business beyond yourself, you're not going to do all the roles anymore. Now is your chance to think about the things you either don't like to do or aren't good at, and plan for who will do those roles. It may be employees, contractors, or software. Over the past year, I've been transitioning out of development and into strategy, writing and marketing, which are the things I enjoy most.
Flexible vs Permanent Workforce
There are options for scaling up the people in your business. It can be daunting to bring in that first person but there are ways to test the waters before you commit. Flexible options could include:
- Hiring by the project
- Using a staffing hub like, well… Hub Staff or Codeable.
- White label agencies can act as extensions of your company, allowing you to expand your offering with new skills without the risk of dedicated employees.
If you want to dip your toe into the water for having a dedicated employee, a virtual assistant can be a good first hire to take some repetitive admin work off your plate. Using a company like Zirtual (U.S. based) or Outsourcing Angel (Australia / Philippines), can be a great way to get the benefits of dedicated help without busting your budget.
Marketing to Scale Your Business
As you grow, having a system for marketing becomes even more important. If you wait until you suddenly realize you have no new work coming in, it's too late. There are lots of ways to market your business including:
- Networking events
- Referrals (setup an automated email system reminding people to refer you!)
- ORPIN is where Oregon government agencies go to source contractors for larger jobs. It's very proposal oriented but the jobs can be very lucrative. If you qualify you can get certified as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Women Business Enterprise (MBE), or Emerging Small Business (ESB).
- Content marketing
The important thing is to build a marketing system and create good marketing habits so that you're always filling your pipeline with new leads. If you need help with that, you should get in touch.
Systems and Processes
As you scale, keeping all your business information and processes in your head is simply not an option. You need to start documenting how your business operates. This will make it easier to train and retain your employees because they will know how to do their jobs in the way you want them done without having to read your mind.
Business Admin Resources
Project Management Tools
- Teamwork PM If you're a startup in your first year, you can apply for a free year of all their products.
- 17 Hats
- Better Proposals
- Quote Roller
- Andco (Combines invoicing, contracts and payments)
HR & Accounting
Systems and Processes
- Work the System by Sam Carpenter
- Traction: Get a Grip on your Business by Gino Wickman
- Profit First by Mike Michalowicz
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen
If you found this resource helpful, please share it!
Is there something you think should be added to the list? Let us know in the comments.