When (and How) to Scale Your Content Services
Most people go into business for themselves to have more of two things in their lives: freedom, and control. These might seem like opposites, but it’s really two sides of the same coin. When you have more control over your work, you’ll be able to build a life with more freedom, so you can do the things that really matter to you.
But when you’re a freelancer, particularly in the content field, it can be hard to have freedom and control when you become successful. That’s because your clients (and future clients) often connect your content so closely to you that they’re just unwilling or unable to consider working with anyone else. And since you can’t automate great content, you can quickly run up against the limits of your own endurance as you become a successful freelance content writer.
There are ways to reclaim the control and freedom you give up to serve loyal clients. Many freelancers simply do this by raising their rates. This works if you’re in such high demand that your clients will accept any increase in prices, and if you still want to write everything yourself.
But if you’re truly looking for control and freedom, you might want to consider scaling your services by hiring employees or other freelancers.
You’ll know when it’s time to consider scaling up your content services when…
When: You’re Working Too Much
This seems obvious, but many entrepreneurial freelancers ignore signs of burnout or overwork until it’s too late. The “hustle” cult is powerful, but it also goes against the established science on productivity. You simply aren’t going to be significantly more productive if you work 80 hours a week than if you work 40 — and when you harm your health through overwork, you can hinder productivity over a much longer period.
If you feel like there’s never any time for yourself because you’re constantly trying to fulfill client demands, you should definitely think about scaling up.
When: Clients are knocking down your door
Turning clients away because you don’t have the time to take care of their needs? That’s a sure sign it’s time to consider scaling up. If you can handle the needs of more clients with a larger team, while maintaining satisfaction, you should certainly consider it.
If you turn down an interested prospect, you may not get another chance to work with them. People want results quickly, and they may not want to wait for your schedule to clear up if there’s business to be done now.
When: You’ve got great systems for content creation
The difference between businesses that thrive and those that just get buy is in their systems. Great businesses have systems, processes, and/or procedures to complete key business tasks and reliably fulfill the terms of their client contracts.
If you’re hitting your marks quickly because of the systems or processes you’ve put in place for your work, you might want to consider the possibility of using those systems to manage other peoples’ workflow as well. After all, having a content development process that works might make the difference between being a solo freelancer and owning a multimillion-dollar business.
If you’ve agreed with these points, you may be ready to scale up. But there’s a big difference between a readiness to grow and the real ability to grow a profitable business.
How should you approach scaling up your content services?
How: Develop a brand that isn’t all about you
If you’re freelancing, clients probably connect all the work you turn in with your name, even if you might be working with others to complete certain deliverables. To transform your freelancing into a scalable business, you should be able to build a brand that isn’t just you and your name.
Does this mean you can’t use your name as the brand for your business? Of course not. Many service providers and consulting firms use their founders’ name(s) as their brand.
The key distinction is that the brand itself encompasses everyone on staff as well as the founder. A client hiring your brand might know that you’re the mastermind behind its great work, but they should also know that you trust your team to execute your ideas and fulfill your promises.
How: Create a financial plan
Running a business is much more complicated than being a freelancer. Businesses that want to grow will need equipment, supplies, branding (we already covered that), marketing, and payroll, among other things.
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Even if you intend to hire other freelancers and never operate in a more expansive location than your home or the local Starbucks, you’ll still need to have a good understanding of necessary costs, and expected expenses, for your evolution from freelancer to entrepreneur.
In order to scale successfully, you’ll need to be able to price your work so you can make a profit from each contract, which requires a firm handle on all the costs you expect to incur in the process of completing them.
Putting together a detailed business plan, with projections, can certainly help you get a handle on the costs of scaling up. If you find your near-term costs a little too high to handle out of client revenue, you might want to consider taking out a business loan.
If you’ve already established a business entity for your freelance work, the combination of stable financial history and a strong business plan should help you get the funding you need to bridge any short-term financial gaps while you scale up.
How: Implement systems and processes that scale
You might already have systems, but do you know if they’ll effectively help you farm out work to others? After all, one freelancer’s process might be bewildering to someone else.
Take a close look at the systems you have in place now, and think about how they might be made to work to help many people. If you’re already using Trello to manage large client projects, it’ll be pretty simple to add more people to your project boards.
However, if you’ve got a well-defined step-by-step process for creating and publishing content for clients, you’ll have to make sure everyone you work with will eventually be able to execute that process as efficiently as you do today.
Systems can include the methods and technology to hire other freelancers or contractors; online financial services that will allow you to process salaries or fees to your team and/or accept payments from clients; the particular content management systems you use to draft, manage, and publish content; and even defined brand voice guidelines to help your team consistently write content the way your clients want it.
A successful business is built on many systems, and you’ll need to have them all working well together when you bring in new talent to help you scale your services.