Freelancing comes with a lot of freedom. Freedom about working on your own terms, choosing your schedule, your office, etc. A freelancer is largely on his or her own. However, a lot of freelancers feel the absence of career growth in the longer run. In all likelihood, most freelancers would not like to end their careers as a freelancer. They would want to step it up at some other level. A natural transition generally observed is going from a freelancer to an agency. However, not all freelancers can handle it since building an agency requires a whole lot of different skills as compared to being an independent freelancer.
1. Change the mindset Running an agency is equivalent to running a business. While some skills which you acquired as a freelancer will come in handy, a lot of new skills will be required. Hiring people, managing them, their career progression, resource allocation to projects, managing offices, generating work for all the team members, it is way more than what you used to do as an individual. Not all freelancers are cut out to run businesses. That’s okay. There are other alternatives as well. So, before getting all excited about this, just sit and think whether you really want to do this and are you ready for all this.
2. Do a pilot Having decided that you can do it, take one more step before you actually jump into setting up an agency. Do a pilot. It is always good to test waters first before entering into them. The way to do it is by creating a virtual team. Find skillful people who can offload you in case you take more work than you can individually do. If you are able to run through this virtual team experience, you are ready to take the next step. Another option is to hire an intern. You can help the intern learn and offload some of your repetitive tasks. You will also have a company at the workplace. It’s a low commitment way to start.
3. Register an LLP or Private Limited Company You now have experience of running a small team. The pilot has been largely successful. Clients would want to work with a registered firm. Having a registered firm is not only professional but also increases your credibility leading to high chances of landing a client.
4. Decide the workspace Once you have a basic team in place, and a registered company, you need to decide the workspace from where you would want to operate. COVID-19 has forced remote working experience on companies, many have uncovered untapped productivity levels. So, you can decide if that option works well for you.
5. Make the virtual team ‘Real’ The next step is to release legally binding offer letters to your virtual team and get them on board legally. At this step, you will have to decide their designations, roles, and compensation structure. Since you are an early stage agency owner, hiring a full-time HR professional is not recommended, but a part-time HR consultant can help you in making compensation decisions and structures.
6. Start executing the projects This you have been doing already. The stakes are higher now. Earlier only your personal credibility was at stake, now it’s your agency’s credibility. Many of your employees depend on you, so timely and quality delivery is immensely important. Initially, things will look like they are falling apart. People problems will crop up, something that you have seen earlier. For your employees, imagine that you are the client, what can you do to get them to adhere to timelines and commitments?
7. Look out for more clients in parallel As a soloist, even if you have some break between two projects, you can manage from your savings or by taking a break. As an agency owner, you won’t like to have a situation of “no clients”. You are already incurring some fixed monthly expenses like rent, salaries, and utility bills which you won’t like to pay from your pockets. So, it is imperative that you always keep looking out for new leads, working with them, and closing them before any of your current projects are over. Also, it is recommended that there are legal contracts with clients in place now to avoid serious monetary or reputation problems in the future.
8. Keep your books in place Managing accounts is another important activity. Depending on the scale, you might like to hire a full-time accountant or a part-time one. As much as you run away from it, doing this is critical to see the real numbers and real growth and also to make sure you are complying by all the laws.
9. Plan for future As an agency owner, you will not like to be a transactional leader who is only firefighting all the time. You would want to foresee some problems and plan for the future. Planning for the future includes what kind of clients you want to work with in the future, what is the skillset in your team you expect, how many people, and how much revenue and profit. All this is not easy, but now that you are the owner, you have to do it. That’s the main purpose why you started it, right?. So, that’s it. It is going to be a journey full of learning, excitement, and challenges. Growth is what everyone needs and transitioning to an agency is the right step. So, make up your mind and take the plunge.