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Generally, having too many clients is an excellent problem to have. However, in the freelancing world, you can only feasibly take on so many clients at one time. As a solopreneur, the number of hours you can physically work in a week is limited. Eventually, you come to a crossroads, where you’re already working a 40-hour week, but more clients continue to pour in. What do you do?
Sure, you can turn them down, but that’s a difficult thing to do. When you work for yourself, you know that there are highs and lows, and turning down paying clients doesn’t make fiscal sense. The most reasonable next step is to hire other freelancers, like yourself, to take on some of the work.
Essentially, by choosing this route, you’re taking your solo-freelancing gig and turning it into a fully-fledged remote agency. It’s simple in theory, but there is a lot to consider before you make the jump.
Before you dive face-first into creating an agency, you must be pragmatic and honest with yourself. Running an agency and managing other people is a lot different than working for yourself. As a freelancer, you enjoy a lot of freedom. You can take time off when you feel like it. You can have slow months and be okay. When other people depend on you, there’s more to consider.
Can you regiment your schedule and workflow to accommodate other freelancers? Moreover, do you want to? Beyond that (be honest with yourself here), can you manage other people? Ask yourself these tough questions. While everyone wants to make more money, sometimes the freedom and lifestyle are worth more.
If you check all the boxes and you’re ready to start an agency, there are a few steps you must take.
Step One: Decide on The Specifics
First, you need to decide which services you want to offer in your agency. If you’re a freelance writer, you might start a writing agency. If you’re a graphic designer, you might create a design agency. If you’re a social media marketer, you might start a marketing agency. However, sometimes freelancers decide to branch out and offer more than what they can do themselves.
As a rule of thumb, it’s typically best to start with what you know. You already have clients, proof-of-concept, and a general feeling of the workflow for your current trade. However, if you are proficient as several skills, having a multi-faceted agency that offers more than just one service could be the right move. Ninety-five percent of freelancers have more than one skill, so if you fall into that statistic, don’t be afraid to branch out. Either way, whether you start with one or several services, you can always build and scale later.
Step Two: Name Your Agency
The second thing you need to figure out is the name of your agency. Sometimes, freelancers will keep operating under their name. They continue doing their services as themselves while having others work beneath them. This approach works well for freelancers who have built a big name for themselves.
The downside to going with your name is that your clients are going to expect your work. So, proceed with caution. If you operate under your name, all the work will need to be edited and overseen by you to ensure that it appears to be work done by you.
The alternative is to come up with a business name. If you go with this route, pick something marketable and something that can grow with you. Make sure to check trademarks, domain availability, and business name availability in your state.
As with any business, your finances and legal must be in order. Make sure that you have enough cash flow to sustain yourself and your team. Sometimes clients don’t pay, or work goes sour, and you have to refund. You need to have a cushion so that when these things happen, you can still pay your team members what you owe them.
Also, on the topic of finances, you need to know the appropriate way to pay freelancers for tax purposes. Make sure you have them fill out the necessary paperwork and ensure you have a method by which to pay them.
For legal, figure out how you want to file your business. Should it be an LLC structure, a 1099, or a corporation? Beyond that, it’s always good to have contracts for your freelancers and your clients written and ready to go.
Step Three: Find the Team
Once you’re ready to roll, it’s time to find the right team of freelancers. Perhaps you already know some people in your life. Think about ex-coworkers or freelancers you’ve worked with before. It’s always a benefit when you can pull from your existing network.
If you don’t know any freelancers offhand, don’t fret. There are currently over 56.7 million freelancers working in the U.S. If you don’t know where to find them, consider a freelance marketplace like UpWork or FreeeUp. They’re platforms where clients post jobs and freelancers bid for them. You can also consider scouring LinkedIn or regular job boards to find top talent. Also, most established freelancers have websites, so a simple Google search could yield some great team members.
Step Four: Land the Clients
You’ve been landing clients as a solo freelancer, so you already know a thing or two about landing clients. Keep doing what you’re doing, but amp it up, because now you have a full team ready to work.
You can always scour the freelance marketplaces and reach into your existing network of clients. Don’t be afraid to branch out. Work on pitching your agency with phone calls, emails, and on the web. Treat your agency like a business and market it accordingly. Don’t be afraid to get in-depth with your marketing strategy. Make a plan for landing clients and stick to it.
As an agency owner, it’s also important to consider the types of clients you want to have. Don’t feel like you must agree to every opportunity. Instead, focus on finding clients that fit your big goals.
Turning your freelancing gig into a remote agency is the logical next step to grow your income as a freelancer. It’s a smart decision, but make sure that you don’t go into it half-heartedly. Really determine if it’s what you want, and then take steps to set you on the path to success. Nail out the specifics, get your legal and finances in order, choose the right team, and start landing those big clients.
Marla DiCarlo is an accomplished business consultant with more than 28 years of professional accounting experience. As co-owner and CEO of Raincatcher, she helps business owners like you learn how to sell your business to get paid the maximum value for your company.