When designers and freelancers begin to think about growth, they eventually run into needing to hire. When you sell services there is no other way to grow except to hire people. You can use software, become more efficient, and even let AI help you do some of your work. But you will eventually have to replace yourself if you want to grow the revenue of your creative studio.
Who do you hire first? Of course this depends, but there are some general principles we can learn from here. When growing, most smaller design and freelance studios think of replacing themselves to grow. So if they do the design for a client, they may think they need to hire a designer first to replace themselves. That actually makes sense on the surface. But there are a few reasons this can be difficult:
- Hiring another designer as an employee can be expensive. If you are small and trying to grow you may not have as much client work to fill that new position. You may not be able to afford them if you don’t have that much work to give them.
- Hiring a designer as a contractor is even more expensive. Of course you don’t have to pay them unless they are working but keep in mind that a contractor is running their own business (like you). So their labor is not a set amount of time you can count on.
- When you are a smaller studio, you likely have clients that want your design skills, not the skills of a hired gun. So you may be hurting yourself just by trying to replace yourself too early.
Most miss the fact that the initial to do’s that overwhelm smaller design studio owners are the administrative, contracting, scheduling, etc. These tasks don’t actually produce revenue so it is an expensive hire since the investment won’t directly make you any money. But these are also the lowest value tasks, and that is what guides who you hire. When hiring, you are always trying to find a role that will remove the least valuable task from your plate. To be clear, it’s not that these tasks are not valuable, it’s that they are not valuable for the owner to continue to do.
So think about hiring an administrative Executive Assistant or Virtual Assistant as your first hire. They can usually do a lot of the things that you should not be doing as the owner. In return, with these tasks off of your plate, this is your chance to sell larger, longer, and more profitable work to the market you serve. Make it your goal to sell new work that will pay for the new VA you just hired.