How to Scale Your Consulting Business Without Losing Your Mind
When your business is firing on all cylinders and plugging along profitably, it can be hard to take a step back from the day-to-day operations and evaluate the big picture.
Sure, your business is doing great so you’re probably hesitant to change what’s working so successfully. But if you don’t start thinking about expansion, you could be holding your business back from reaching its true potential.
This dilemma is especially difficult to see if you’re deep in the trenches, laser-focused on hitting your deadlines and staying afloat each day. You probably feel as if you don’t have time to even consider scaling your business with all the work piling up.
It’s time to end this cycle.
Today we’ll show you how to maneuver this pivotal point in your business so you’ll be prepared to scale up without losing your mind.
We’ll discuss the red flags that signal when it’s time for your business to expand—and even discuss a way to make this transition go smoothly for your business, clients, and employees.
Telltale Signs it’s Time to Scale Up
The most obvious sign that it’s time to scale up: You start missing deadlines because details are slipping through the cracks.
Hopefully your business doesn’t get to this point—because this can completely ruin your credibility and chances of repeat work. If you’re already here, take this as a clear sign that you need to scale up immediately before your business starts to suffer.
Another telltale sign: Your never-ending to-do list constantly rolls over to the next day.
Now, this comes with a caveat.
Your first priority should always be servicing your biggest clients. If you cannot do that with your current resources, it’s definitely time to scale up.
But if you’re not prioritizing clients and resources correctly, no amount of scaling will help. In fact, it will probably make things much worse.
The same logic goes for your team as well. They need to prioritize their focus on your most important clients or your best asset (your team’s time) will be consistently wasted.
So before you jump on the scaling bandwagon, sit down with your team (or by yourself if you’re a solopreneur) to hash out a few important details.
Answer these questions:
- Who are our biggest clients?
- Are we servicing them correctly now? (i.e., Are we giving them enough attention?)
- Do we currently have the resources to service them properly? If not, what are we missing?
- How could scaling make this issue better? Could scaling making this worse?
Take a look at how you and your team have been prioritizing and allocating work time. Does it make sense? Are you spending too much time on smaller clients? Should you get rid of them altogether?
Big-fish clients are your main source of income, which means they demand the largest chunk of your attention and resources. Just don’t go overboard and make it unprofitable to give this much dedication.
Remember, when you don’t take care of your biggest clients—or you don’t have enough time for them because you’re too busy focusing on the smaller, less profitable clients—you’ll have no reason to scale in the first place.
What Should You Start Outsourcing First?
When you make the decision to finally bring in extra help, you’ll need to figure out what to outsource first.
Here’s the best way to do this: Look at how you spend your time and compare it to how your team spends theirs.
When I say the dreaded word ‘outsource’, I don’t mean that you have to hire someone for pennies overseas. In fact, please don’t do this.
Instead, find an experienced freelancer who can alleviate your workload without sacrificing the quality you produce. You’ll feel confident outsourcing some of the work to them if you think they’re truly qualified (hint: they should be!). You can start out slow without having to make a long-term commitment and gradually increase the workload when they prove themselves capable.
Freelancers are used to adjusting to hectic times that call for fast turnarounds, and they’re also comfortable with slow times when you may not need them as much.
Determine which tasks are costing your team way too much time and start outsourcing those first.
These could be small administrative tasks or they could be as important as writing content or building websites. The point is, you shouldn’t be wasting your time on tasks that don’t take your business to the next level (or take too long for you to tackle). Your time will be better spent in other key areas of your business.
When to Call in the Experts
Don’t be afraid to hire freelancers with experience. Sure, it will cost you more out of pocket, but if it helps your business run more efficiently, your investment will certainly be worth it.
Let’s use hiring a professional freelance writer for example. Someone like this will provide you with an edited, polished, and ready-to-publish draft that doesn’t need much work from your team to go live (except maybe a few pictures).
On the flipside, when you hire a $10/hour writer to complete a content page worth $25, but your team has to edit it, re-work it, and make it publish-ready according to your standards, you’re not really saving much.
You’re better off hiring the more expensive writer who can accomplish three tasks (writer, editor, and content manager) instead of the cheaper alternative who requires more from your team.
The goal of outsourcing is to make your business run more efficiently while still maximizing the quality of work your team produces.
To do this without losing your mind, just follow these simple steps.
How to Start Scaling the Right Way
1. Track your time (+ your team’s time)
It’s going to be very difficult to accurately assess how efficient your agency is running if you don’t track the time you spend working.
Using free tools like Toggl, track your time and your team’s time for at least one week. Ideally you should track your time over a month to get a more accurate picture. Record any second spent servicing clients—all work and every email and phone call needs to be accounted for.
Next, review these hours to make sure you’re not over/under servicing clients. Can you spot any inefficient areas?
Seeing your hours lined up like this is the perfect way to evaluate where your team needs help the most.
2. Get clear about what you need
Once you identify tasks that may be taking your team too long to accomplish, make a clear plan about the type of person you want to bring on the team to help out. You want to find the best possible match so look for experienced teammates who can alleviate or streamline your workload with very little supervision or time from your current team.
3. Understand what you can afford
You don’t have to settle for the cheapest freelancer just because you can’t afford the most expensive one. Strike a balance between spending on quality without sacrificing your profits.
This is why it’s so important to get crystal clear about what you need. If this person will make your business more efficient, which then increases profit, the extra money will be well spent. But you’ll have to evaluate a budget on your own to see what’s right for your business.
4. Start off slow
As we mentioned earlier, it pays to start off slow. You don’t want to dump every task on your new person’s plate and overwhelm them. Instead, feel them out by giving them a few (paid) test projects.
Don’t get discouraged if the first one doesn’t go as well as planned. They’ll need time to adjust to you, too.
5. Give 90 days before reevaluating (& don’t hold on to dead weight)
You’ll want to give this new person a 30–60 day minimum, but no more than 90 days, to see if they’re really helping you reach your goals.
If they’re not, it’s time to move on. You don’t want to hold on to any dead weight. Keep repeating this process as your business expands and your needs grow. Don’t take any shortcuts; you’ll need to repeat these steps from the beginning instead of guessing and assuming that you need extra hands to scale up efficiently.
Going through these moves may even show you that a few crucial details need to change before you can even consider scaling.