Freelancers: Do you *really* want to scale?
SCALING ←- this is a favorite word in the freelance universe.
Does it scale?
How are you going to scale that?
Right now I’m looking to scale
But what does it mean? And should you do it? And if you do, how?
The answer is more complex than business bros like to preach.
I just finished “Company of One” by Paul Jarvis and it really gave me pause to think about WHY scaling has become a goal and IF it’s right for me. Next month, I’m sending a copy to all the Freelance Co-op members.
It’s that good. And that important.
He asks us to think about the end goal. Why did you start this business anyway?
Likely “growing big” was not the answer. For me, I wanted more time with my family and the means to do fun things with them in that time. And I’m writing this from a cottage on the coast of Ireland. My kids are climbing an old abandoned house in the backyard and after one 15-minute meeting today, I’ll be joining them.
Growing my business massively might mean more money in my pocket, but it also might mean that I don’t have the flexibility to do this.
It reminds me of a story I heard somewhere about a fisherman.
The fisherman was bringing a small basket of fish up the pier when a vacationing business consultant saw him. The consultant asked why the fisherman’s catch was so small. The fisherman explained that he only caught enough for his family and a little extra to sell to friends in the village.
“It’s still early,” the consultant said, “what do you do for the rest of the day?”
The fisherman said he loved his carefree life. He went fishing in the morning, spent the day with his wife and children, took naps in the afternoon and spent time with friends in the evening.
The consultant suggested that there was a huge business opportunity that the fisherman was missing. If he spent all day fishing, he could make enough money to buy a boat and a crew and expand his business further, eventually after 10 or 20 years, making enough money to retire. “What would I do after I retire?” the fisherman asked.
“Well,” the consultant said, “Anything you want. You could live a carefree life! Spend your days with your wife and children, take naps in the afternoon and spend time with friends in the evening!”
I love this story because it illustrates the danger in “scaling” without an end goal in mind. For me, the best way to reach my goals of travel, time with my family, and a flexible schedule might not be a huge mult-million dollar business with dozens of employees.
That doesn’t mean I’m not constantly looking for ways to maximize revenue while minimizing effort and time.
The Freelance Co-op was recently selected for the SBA Emerging Leaders program and over the next 6 months, we’ll be focusing on creating a 3-year growth plan to be intentional about how we scale.
I also recently attended a full-day workshop with Dan Kennedy where he shared the 5 proven ways to scale as a freelancer. I wrote them down furiously:
Be the go-to ____ for _____ . In the factory scaling model, you focus on one deliverable for one niche. For example, become the premier facebook ads expert for dry cleaners. You can scale by creating a repeatable process and becoming the most efficient and effective at one specific deliverable. This allow you to charge higher prices and gain market notoriety.
In the agency model, you hire junior people to do the work for/with you. An example of this is a “copy cub” program where a senior copywriter is ultimately responsible for client deliverables, but outsources some of the work to more junior writers. Junior staff can function as apprentices, learning the craft as they go, or simply be subcontractors.
One way to more deeply serve your clients and offer more comprehensive packages, you can partner with adjacent service providers. An example is a graphic designer partnering with a copywriter, ads manager, and video editor to offer a full-service ads package. This can look like an agency model or function as a partnership or joint venture.
If you have long-term clients where you’re deeply involved in their marketing, you can turn these clients into partners and grow with them by creating a partnership or royalty arrangement. Then, as revenues at that company grow, you get a piece of the growth. This is most common for marketing consultants and copywriters.
Group Use Scaling
In the group use model, you turn your processes into templates, checklists, group coaching or info products. This allows you to coach or work with multiple clients at one time rather than focusing solely on 1-on-1 work.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on scaling. What does your business look like next year? In 5 years? What’s your end goal?