August 27, 2021
 in 
Business

When Should You Scale Your Design Business

by

Eric Phung

You have been working hard on your own, a solopreneur, to try to make a living. There is a point where you feel like your business is not growing fast enough, despite the fact that you have had a lot of experience over the years working with many different companies from small start-up to medium size businesses. As the title of this article suggests, when is the best time for you, as a designer and a business owner, to take on the risk and scale your business?

Before I dive in to explain, you should be open that this may not apply to you, so tweak it as you see fit. We quit our job to something we love, and we end up working more than we thought. As a solopreneur, you will learn almost everything that a business should have, but on a small scale. You will do your own taxes, write your own contract, look through the resume and hire people, talk to clients, design, develop, raise your kids, you name it.

What-makes-you-team-design-benefits-your-business

As you grow, literally, you become wiser, but sometimes you are just so tired that you only want to guide people to do the work for you. And you will focus on the business itself instead of working in the business.

  • Working in the business: You execute the work. Like planning, what to do, how to do it.
  • Working on the business: You work on the strategy for the business such as business development, cashflow, marketing strategy, product development, etc. We often call this the C-suite executives including chief executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer (CFO), chief operating officer (COO), and chief information officer (CIO).

Long story short, the best time to scale your business is when you feel like there is so much to do, and you don't have the time to spend on learning new things, it's time to scale. Your role as a solopreneur, small business owner, all-in-one designer will quickly turn into a Creative Director.

The Dream Team

The dream team for a design business includes 6 type of people:

  • Creative Director (You)
  • Graphic Designer
  • Web Designer
  • Accountant
  • Project Manager
  • Digital Marketer

Let me explain why I chose them. Indeed, it is not a massive firm like Blind, No Format, or Kota but it give you a lot flexibility, income, and purpose.

Team Member

There is a saying:

"If You Want to Run Fast, Run Alone. If You Want to Run Far, Run Together."
  • Creative Director (Annual Salary ~ $123,981)

Your purpose is run the business. Guide people through your amazing art direction that all your clients love. You will need to take care of own corporate taxes so you know you are in the green zone or the red zone. A business that doesn't make a profit is the game for the big whales like WeWork or Uber, but you are in business to make money with your own capabilities. You would know more than enough of what you want, hence, the hiring process.

  • Graphic Designer (Annual Salary ~ $49,336)

You have been doing this job for years, making countless revisions and too many heated conversations with your clients (I'm sure you have). Now it's time to pass on the work to someone else. I highly suggest that you spend time to look through their portfolio, find the one that is closest to yours, before you hire them. The reason is that you don't want to end up hiring someone that doesn't understand your art direction. Your clients love you for what do did for them, so make sure your graphic designer would be able to do the same.

  • Web Designer (Annual Salary ~ $57,416)

A web designer is similar to a graphic designer, but a web designer would know about UX/UI (User Experience and User Interface) and some basic HTML/CSS coding. As the demand for making a website is still growing exponentially, you want to be able to offer this service to your clients as an upsell from your branding and packaging packages. Web designer will design how your website should look like, research about the user flow and user journey on different screen size (You can learn more about responsive web design here). With some knowledge of coding, your web designer can build the website in-house and the process will be smooth.

  • Accountant (Annual Salary ~ $59,015)

Whether you are in the United States, United Kingdoms or anywhere else in the world, you are subjective to taxes. It is your responsibility but is also a burden to your business. Having an accountant will give you a break from thinking about all the non-sense numbers and focus on being creative with your work. The accountant will guide you through all the tedious process and the paperwork. Submit them to the IRS on your behalf. They are also the savior of your business because with their knowledge, they can help you save a big portion of your income. (Of course, it's all legal, like how Bezos does it).

  • Project Manager (Annual Salary ~ $87,511)

A project manager is someone who will help you take care of your business work, as the name suggests, project management. For my business, I use ClickUp, and to be honest, I do not have a project manager yet because I can manage them with ease using project management tool. However, as you grow, there will be time where you don't have the time at all to input all the new information of the new clients, project status, scheduling, sending emails, and more. This is where a project manager would come in handy and they will help to take some weight off your shoulder.

  • Digital Marketer (Annual Salary ~ $121,676)

A business without a marketing plan is destined to fail. Since you know how to do your thing, why not having someone else who knows other things better than you? A digital marketer will likely know everything about SEO, SEM, social media marketing, keyword research, pay per click, traffic, and more. They will work with the Graphic Designer to help you update the graphics your Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook account. They will optimize your website to make sure you have the optimal organic traffic. They will do keyword research and help you find the most profitable keywords. In the nutshell, a digital marketer will help you execute your marketing plan.

Conclusion

In the end, the team can be expanded further if you have the resources such as a copywriter, content writer, account manager, developer, and sales manager. But the power team of 6 should suffice. You will know who you need the most as you grow. Never hire too fast if you are unsure and have an unstable stream of clients or it will make you go broke within 3 months.

As you can see, the numbers add up pretty quickly. If you don't have an investor, hire slow. You want someone who can work with you long term, so you can focus on growing your business without getting burnt out.

Another way is to sub-contract. You hire subcontractors to work for you on a project based basis. The advantage is that you will know exactly how much you will spend and what you will get. You don't have to worry about paying them if you don't have any work. The down side is that the subcontractors may not be available to work with you if they are also booked up. The best you can do is to try to give them a constant stream of work so they stick around and help you out. As you build the relationship, things will go smoothly and you can scale again by hiring more people.

If you go with the latter, you only need to hire one person to work with you, and outsource the rest.

Socialectric is a boutique website design agency. We work with Startups, Small Businesses, and mainly female-owned Creative Agencies. Our capabilities include website design, website development, and SEO. You give us the ideas, we will turn them into your ultimate websites. Contact us.

*Salary data was taken from Glassdoor

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