Is it time to scale your business? Maybe things are going well, and you’re receiving more inquiries for work than you can personally handle. Or, you’re working hard, but need to hit a higher volume in order to reach your income goals. Some freelance professions scale more naturally than others, but for others, there are only so many orders that one person alone can fill.
Not long ago, I was faced with the reality of receiving more project inquiries than I could take on. Several friends suggested that I take on other writers to help with the overflow. But when I really thought about my business model and what I value, my commitment to quality and the freedom to work without managing employees was critical to me. Artists, writers, photographers, graphic designers and anyone else who creates a product with their own hands need to be creative about finding different strategies to grow their business. Here are five different ways to scale — and how to know if it’s right for you.
1. Outsource Core Parts of Your Creative Workflow
Outsourcing key parts of my workflow — while completing the writing myself — has helped me achieve scale, increase the quality of my work and stay true to my vision of an ideal career. As a writer, I need to constantly be on the lookout for spelling and grammar, odd turns of phrase and fact-checking. Working with an experienced copy editor and proofreader has been a critical part of my success. While I am a fast writer, it’s difficult for me to efficiently edit my own work. As I complete each piece, I hand it off and spend any additional time only reviewing her comments and changes. This saves me countless hours of fruitlessly hunting for typos.
Freelancers should look at their own workflow to determine whether or not there are areas that could be outsourced. For writers, that might mean copy editing, background research or contacting interview subjects. For designers, it could mean sourcing photographs, researching a client’s brand guidelines, marketing, web development … the list goes on.
2. Use a Virtual Assistant for Your Administrative Work
Running a business comes with a steady stream of administrative work, from keeping track of potential client inquiries, to developing a system to manage invoices and receipts. Hiring a virtual assistant or a part-time in-person assistant can help you stay on top of important management and administrative tasks, while freeing up your time to focus on the creative side of your business. Start by making a list of all the administrative tasks you do on a weekly, monthly or annual basis, and determine whether investing in support could help you increase your income.
3. Invest in Marketing Support
Marketing is the lifeblood of any growing business, and for freelancers, it can be a complex jigsaw puzzle to manage. The average freelancer might maintain a website, social media channels, email accounts and inquiry forms, profiles on various sites and agency relationships. Your marketing workflow includes everything from writing and posting social media content, to ensuring your latest projects have made it into all of your portfolios.
Marketing support reinforces a professional brand image, helps you keep your feelers out for exciting new opportunities and makes sure that you respond to inquiries in a timely fashion. This can come in the form of a web designer to maintain your site, an SEO expert to optimize your channels or a virtual assistant who’s dedicated to the full scope of maintaining your company’s outreach. Consider the different ways you can scale your business with more strategic marketing through ongoing projects — keeping your portfolios updated, for instance — and big “one-time” initiatives like sending out letters of interest to creative agencies.
4. Hire an Apprentice or Employee
Sometimes, offloading certain tasks creates more time in your schedule to focus solely on your work, which lets you dive into projects and make more money. What should you do if your work requires more hands? One freelance writer I know took on an apprentice. She paid her apprentice a salary and performance bonuses, and let certain clients know that she would be overseeing the work of another writer — in essence, running a de facto tiny content studio. Eventually, the apprentice moved into the field full-time and the writer has continued taking on more junior staff.
There are multiple ways to add more manpower to your business of one. Think about hiring an independent contractor or employee, taking on an apprentice, working with interns or building collaborations with other people in your field.
5. Get a Strong Management Team in Place
Freelancers are often viewed as a business of one — and the management structures you have in place can be a barrier to scaling your own work. For example, if you don’t have a good contract, you can end up wasting time chasing clients who don’t pay. Legal advice can help you avoid these sticky situations. Working with a bookkeeper and tax accountant ensures that you’re not spending days (or weeks) getting ready for tax time or auditing your books to make sure you’ve been paid. Look at the important behind-the-scenes aspects of your business and consider ongoing relationships with experts, one-time consultations and even investing invoicing and bookkeeping software as potential solutions for different challenges.
Finding ways to scale your business can help you tackle bigger projects, make more money and take your creative fulfillment to a higher level. Consider different options, from outsourcing your creative workflow to hiring people to handle the non-client aspects of your business. Investing in team members, or even software, can also free up time. With deeper expertise at your fingertips and the compounded benefit of more free time, you’ll be able to build a freelance career that’s the perfect fit for your long-term vision.