There was a brief moment this week when I was going to have to hire another designer and illustrator to help me with a project I was quoting on. While this is a rather exciting prospect it is also pretty nerve wracking. Scaling up your business can be pretty overwhelming so I wanted to find out the best way to go about it.


It's a massive leap from solopreneur (freelancer) to entrepreneur (studio).


The first question that needs to be asked what is the cost of doing the work yourself? 


The easy part is working out how much money you earn by dividing the project rate by the amount of time it took to complete the job. 


Next you need to break down the roles within the project. Client meetings, graphic design, illustration, website design and development… once you have a list you can start to see which areas you need to be doing and which roles you can outsource.


After going through this process I discovered (like most freelancers who do this exercise) that the most important things that only I can do for my business is work on the vision for the company, lead generation (marketing and networking) and sales. It feels counter as I've spent so many years developing my design skills but the reality is there are literally 1000’s of people who are better designers / illustrators / web designers than me. What makes working with me unique is your working with me! 


No one can sell you like you! 


I did a survey of past clients' experience of working with me as part of a course I did earlier this year and ‘being fun to work with’ was 1st equal with being able to articulate peoples ideas. I was almost disappointed at the time (I wanted the answer to be I was an awesome designer!) I now understand that being ‘fun to work with’ is one of my greatest assets. 


Projects that require a designer to be called in are normally fun - they can be a new intuitive, new area of business and new direction for the company! I’ve had loads of zoom calls with 6-7-8 people just because they wanted to be there! 


My ego has now recovered enough for me to start looking for freelancers to work with. Understanding where my strengths and weaknesses are has given me permission to let some of the work go. The key is to be prepared. You don’t want to be looking for freelancers on the day you need them!


Where do you even begin? If you google ‘good designer’ the internet will explode. It can be so overwhelming and people skills can be so intimidated that it can be hard to even start. 


So start small. 


We all have instagram feeds filled with people we admire. If you find someone you're interested in, reach out. Like their work and spend some time on their website. If you think they could potentially be a good fit then DM them. 


You're not asking them to marry you, you just want a quick drink together. Be honest, let them know that you're looking to expand your freelance network, you like their work (be specific about projects) and would love it if they could give you 10 minutes to jump on a call to learn more about their process. 


If they are not interested, you’ve only wasted 10 minutes researching an awesome designer or illustrator. Most people will take the call, shit I would - if someone messages me saying they loved my work and want to hear me talk about it for 10 minutes I’d jump at the opportunity!  


If you manage to get the freelancer on the phone there are a few practical things you’ll need to find out - price, turnaround time, sample of workflow and terms and conditions. The main objective of this phone call is to become an informed buyer of their services. 


For example if I’m engaging with an app developer for a project, I’m going to need to know as much as possible about how they work, terminology and potential problems to look out for. Becoming an educated buyer of their services means that I can talk confidently to my client. Not using the right lingo can raise red flags for the client that I have no idea what I’m talking about. The more I know about the freelancer the better!


As you start to build your network, record it. Create Artist Profiles and rate them! The rating system comes into play once you start to build a freelance matrix. As you start to meet people you're going to get different prices and skill levels. Being able to place them on a matrix gives you super clear understanding on what skills you have available to you. Sounds full on but hopefully my sketch will help explain.


The shift from solopreneur to entrepreneur is a mental one. It can feel almost dishonest that a client would think that I’m doing the work when really I’d hired a freelancer to do it (not that you wouldn’t credit the artist who did the work). In reality it's my problem not theirs. In most instances you don’t actually expect the person whose name is on the door to actually be doing the work. Marc Jacobs isn’t out the back threading a tassel onto your handbag.


I’m pretty excited about working on my network, having this framework in place has given me a path to follow. I’m going to take this opportunity to ask if there are any freelancers in my network already that are interested in working together? Please send me an email at jess@thedesigndept.com.au. I’d love to buy you a virtual coffee and learn more about what you do. 


Quick note about the font of the week - it's by John David Maza and has been inspired by obscure Filipino terms - In computer terminology, kawingan is the Filipino word for "hyperlink." He is donating 100% of the proceeds from the sale of this font to disaster relief in the Philippines after the recent supertyphoons. What a guy!


Video of the week
Scaling Up: How To Run A Successful Studio & Go From Freelance to Entrepreneur
Podcast of the week
Dan Demsky, Co-Founder, Unbound Merino from Hitting The Mark
Font of the week
Kawingan: Font of the week by John David Maza

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