When your freelance business starts to grow and expand, it’s a victory that comes with challenges. More business and clients means more money. But it also means more work. So if your business continues to grow, at some point you need to decide if you are ready to build your team.
A team can help you take on more work, better serve your customers, and bring in additional revenue for your business.
Build your team and you have more hands helping you complete tasks. It can decrease your workload and increase your income — but only if you build your team the right way.
So before you start hiring help, use the following tips and tactics to build a high-functioning team that can support — not hold back — your business.
When is it time to hire help?
Before you build your team, decide if it’s really time to take this step. There are a few reasons why you might want to bring on help. The following situations are good reasons to bring on support staff for your business.
You’re doing work that takes up too much of your time.
If you’re bogged down by tasks and projects that you don’t have enough time in your day to complete, you could probably benefit from getting some help.
You’re doing work that isn’t worth your time.
It’s likely that you started your freelance business because you have a unique skill set — not necessarily because you like entering receipts, tracking inventory, etc. If your week is filled up with tasks that aren’t related to your primary expertise and could be completed by someone else, consider hiring help.
You’re doing something you aren’t good at.
Running a business comes with tasks you might not be fully equipped to accomplish. If there are items on your to-do list that someone could complete better or faster than you, it might be time to build your team and remove them from your plate.
You’re doing something you don’t like.
You probably started a business so you could do what you love. So stop doing tasks that you hate. Build your team for the parts of your business that you don’t enjoy — and that don’t necessarily require your involvement.
As you start to build your team, look for areas in your freelance business that could be filled by others. Pass on tasks that can be performed by someone else as effectively as you, and only hold onto the items that align with your experience, expertise, or skill set.
Consider your hiring options
For someone who is used to working on their own, the concept of hiring can be a little scary — especially when you think about hiring a full-time employee. But remember, building your team doesn’t necessarily mean hiring full-time staff. You can build your team with just contractors, full-time employees, or a little of both.
Hiring an employee
An employee is great because you can set their hours and have more control over their work. In some ways, you can rely more on them and their work. If you want to build your team by hiring employees, keep the following in mind.
Decide whether you want salaried or hourly employees. You don’t have to pay employees a set salary. Instead, you can choose to set their hours and pay for their time. Note that with employees through either of these options, you must pay taxes and take out taxes from the employee’s salary.
Consider extra costs. When you have a full-time employee, you need to pay extra expenses such as employment taxes and paid time-off. You might also need to provide assistance with healthcare costs and retirement contributions.
Outsourcing and hiring contractors
The primary difference between hiring a contractor and an employee is that you can’t tell a contractor when or where to work. They manage their work on their own, and you must provide them with a 1099-MISC tax form. As you decide if this is right for you, consider the following.
Decide whether you want to pay hourly, per project, or on a retainer. You can choose to set up your payment structure through a variety of options.
Do a test project. With contractors, you can ease into your working relationships. Do a small test project to see if you like working together and the quality of their work.
Lay out terms in a contract. Set the guidelines of your relationship or project in writing. Also, consider having contractors (and employees) sign contract agreements, non-competes, and disclosures that project your business intellectual property and client relationships.
Where to hire your team
When you build your team, you have a variety of options and tools for hiring. Consider using any of the following methods for finding both contractors and in-house staff.
- Online recruitment sites
- Social media ads
- Job fairs
Even if you aren’t ready to build your team, keep an eye on people that you might want to hire when you are. Make connections with people who you think could be good additions to your team in the future and keep them on your radar so you can hire them when the time is right.
How to build your team the right way
As you build your team, keep these best practices in mind to ensure that you build a high-performing unit. Using these tips will help you avoid pitfalls and unite a team that helps you do less work, not more.
Have an established company culture
Even if you’re only hiring one contractor, it helps to have an established foundation of company culture for your business. Company culture is a loaded term that can have a lot of elements. You don’t need to build out an entire program at first, but it helps to:
- Write a mission statement that explains why your business exists and what it hopes to accomplish and provide to customers.
- List at least five company core values that guide the priorities of the business.
- Spend time getting to know your first team members. Take them to lunch or spend time on the phone to help them get an idea about who you are and why you started your business.
Having a visible company culture and personality will help you guide new employees as well as attract talent.
The key to building a high-performing team is communication. Being able to clearly state directives, organize projects, and share information within your company is how you streamline your operations and get the most out of your team.
- Set up a communication policy that outlines what communication methods your office prefers (phone, text, email, internal messaging, etc.) and how long employees are expected to take to respond (one day for email, one hour for instant messages, etc.). There are a lot of different tools and expectations for communication, so a policy like this helps get everyone get on the same page.
- Set up a project management system. Creating a system for managing and monitoring projects is essential as you build your team. One dashboard or platform for project management allows you to keep tabs on ongoing plans, helps your team know what is expected of them, and improves overall productivity.
Document your processes before you hire
Before you start training a team member, create a document that outlines your processes. This documentation offers quite a few benefits.
- It helps you go through the entire process before you pass it off to someone else. This allows you to see exactly what is happening and possibly even identify ways to improve the process as you go through it.
- It helps new team members as they have written directions for what to do.
- It puts the information in writing so there is a concrete process to refer back to. There is no questioning what is the right or wrong way to complete a task.
- It can be shared with other team members who might need to also know the process.
- It can be used to train new team members who also perform the same job or fill the role of a departing team member.
Spend time training
Having a documented process and simply handing it over to a new team member is not training. Training is reviewing the process with the new team member, following up to make sure they understand it, and continuing to provide resources to employees and contractors so they can get better and better at their jobs.
Training will not just help your team members perform better.
It can also make them stay with your organization longer and give them more satisfaction with their jobs. Forty percent of employees who receive poor job training leave their positions within the first year, and 68 percent of workers say training and development is the most important workplace policy.
Consider having a remote team
Even if you decided that a full-time employee is a better addition to your team than a contractor, that doesn’t mean the team member needs to be in the office with you (or even in the same state or country as you). More and more organizations are using remote teams for a few reasons:
- You save money on office costs (rent, utilities, etc.).
- You can hire the best talent regardless of their location.
- You increase employee happiness. A TINYpulse survey found that remote employees are more satisfied with their jobs and more productive.
There are plenty of tools that help manage a remote team with features that track time and monitor phone calls. If you’re considering using remote employees, choose a project-management tool that is designed for this type of workforce.
Don’t rush it as you build your team
Take your time and put a lot of thought and care as you build your team. You’re putting your business in the hands of other people, and that is not a task that should be handled lightly. Use the tips in this post to hire and train the right people, and get the help you need to take your business to the next level.
Also published on Medium.