How to grow your freelance business without hiring more staff

Screen shot 2012-07-16 at 8.36.08 AM
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If you were around at the beginning of the year, you remember that in late 2011, GraphicDesignBlender.com was seriously hacked. The site was down for a few weeks and it was quite a challenge to recover fully.

Once we finally got back on our feet, we upgraded the whole site and I kicked off the new year with a question: What do you want to read about in 2012?

Well, tons of you answered and gave us some great material to write about this year.

You gave us so many good ideas, in fact, that I’m still trying to catch up on all of them!

Here’s one for today…

Tristan writes (among other great suggestions):

What I’m struggling with now is … how to grow without necessarily taking on staff.

Growing a freelance business without hiring more staff

It’s a pretty common problem that a lot of well-established freelancers end up facing.

Here’s why:

There simply comes a point where clients, projects, and demands exceed what you’re able to do as one person.

So what’s to be done?

Here are a few things I’ve done to continue to grow my freelance business without hiring a ton of extra people.

(I should also add that I have hired a few people over the years to help specifically with this blog. April Greer, for example, writes weekly posts here at the blog and has become a vital part of the team! But nonetheless, here’s my strategy on hiring-or not hiring-new employees.)

How to grow without hiring a giant staff

There are lots of alternatives to hiring a full-time expensive staff to work for your freelance business. I’ll include a few below and I’d love it if you would add your tips in the comments!

  • Work with other freelancers. One of the best way to build your freelance business is to find a fellow freelancer who has a completely unique skill set from yours.

    Make an agreement that they will send all logo design business they run into your way (or whatever you’re good at that they’re not) and you’ll send all the PHP programming projects your clients bring to you their direction (again, or whatever their strength is that you can’t handle).

    See what I mean by reading this post.

  • Hire out on the small tasks. Sometimes hiring makes sense. For example, if you find yourself responding to endless emails each day from clients who aren’t really serious about hiring you. Or you need help working on SEO for your site on a daily basis, hiring a virtual assistant is a wonderful solution!

    There are all sorts of places that you can find talented people that don’t charge much, but do great work.

    I personally use oDesk when I need to hire someone for small tasks that keep my freelance business running. This allows me to focus on the bigger, more important tasks that are the life blood of my business.

    For more on outsourcing (or hiring someone to manage small tasks for you), read this post, and this post too.

  • Find a partner. This solution is a step up from establishing an agreement with a fellow freelancer who can supplement your skills (advice #1 above).

    There may come a time when you simply can’t run the business on your own. Instead of hiring a huge staff (and giving yourself more work by becoming a manager), find a partner.

    You’ve heard the cheesy saying right? 1+1=3

    Well, it’s kind of true.

    If you find a great partner who, together, you can build a great business together, then why not join forces, synergize, and together, you can build something way better than either of you could have built by yourself.

    That’s what we’ve said before here at GDB that networking with your competition isn’t all that bad of an idea.

A word of caution

One last word of caution from someone who’s gone through multiple growth stages in his entrepreneurial career:

Grow slow.

I don’t mean you should hold yourself back or limit your success, but grow smart.

Don’t just hire people or partner with people because I said to.

When the moment is right in your business, you’ll know.

And when the moment is right, do it.

But not a moment sooner.

Did that answer the question?

Ok, Tristan, did that answer the question you were getting at?

Everyone else, leave a comment on this post to help Tristan and all of us learn how to best grow our freelance businesses without hiring tons of additional staff.

And as usual, if you have a question that needs answered here at GDB, leave a comment on this post or shoot me an email at preston [at] graphicdesignblender [dot] com.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. Thanks for this April. I also use Odesk and have found that it’s very helpful when you find the right contractors….That’s the time consuming part, but well worth the hunt when you do find them.

    I always appreciate your blogs!

    • Preston D Lee says:

      Lisa, glad you enjoyed the post. It can be time consuming to find the right person, but once you do, it’s awesome!

  2. Just saw this was written by Preston! Sorry guy!

  3. Networking with other freelancers is a great way to grow your own business. I am a freelance developer and became good friends with a freelance web designer. Over time, I would ask him questions about designing and front-end web development, and he would ask me questions about back-end development. Now he has asked me to help him on a major project as the back-end developer and we have begun discussing different ideas for doing our own projects together. None of this would have been possible if we didn’t become friends and trust one another’s skills and abilities.

  4. Thanks Preston!
    Another one of my (many) questions answered :)

    I’m lucky enough to be sharing an office with another guy who does web development.
    So we’ve been complimenting each other’s services for a while now.
    Slowly but surely the clients and budgets are getting bigger.

    So I guess I have in a way partnered up, and it is working great.

    You are definitely right about growing slow. It’s a much smoother ride, and gives you a much more solid base to work from.

    • Preston D Lee says:

      Great added advice, Tristan. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I need to get to your other questions now! :)

  5. Great stuff there, Preston. On larger (and sometimes even smaller) sites, have you ever used Odesk or another virtual assistant just to enter content (images/copy) into the site once the copy has been sent by the client or a copywriter? The question I wonder about is can I find someone that can not only enter content but can work within an editor (whether wordpress, joomla, etc.) and make adjustments if needed in the html. Thoughts on that?

  6. If you live in a smaller community, it can be very helpful to find your alliances in different cities. I live in Salem, OR, but work with people in Eugene, Portland and Seattle.

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  1. […] How to grow your freelance business without hiring more staff …By Preston D LeePosted July 16th, 2012 by Preston D Lee & filed under Freelancing. Screen shot 2012-07-16 at 8.36.08 AM. If you were around at the beginning of the year, you remember that in late 2011, GraphicDesignBlender.com was seriously hacked.Graphic Design Blender […]

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