The Way We Work

By Matt Keener, president of Keener Marketing Solutions

It’s a good problem to have. But, nonetheless, it’s still a problem: you’re only one person, but clients continuously ask for more of your time.

As a solopreneur, your natural inclination is to do everything yourself. However, have you ever considered when it might make sense to stop doing it all on your own?

I’m a living case study for this question. Several years ago, I started as a part-time consultant on oDesk. My client base grew to a point that, by late 2012, I could no longer do everything by myself.

I started by hiring people who could help me automate certain aspects of what I do each day. Today, I feel much more at ease when clients ask me to add new services.

Including others in your team is a big decision to make; here are three signs that it’s something you should consider.

#1: You’ve hit your workload limit, but clients still need more

If you’re good at what you do, the demand for your products or services will rightly increase. However, if you’re a one-person shop, eventually your availability will max out. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Once you’ve hit your capacity, you really have two options: decline the new inquiries or “staff up” to become more efficient.

I don’t take this decision lightly. Sure, some business isn’t worth taking. But when an existing client asks you to solve a problem, it can be hard to say no.

The good news is that the client trusts your ability to deliver. The bad news is that you currently don’t have the capacity.

If you turn down the business, you run the risk of disappointing the client. This can lead to friction and further frustration. However, if you accept the challenge and extend yourself to the breaking point, will you actually do a good job? In either situation, the outcome isn’t great. Hence, the decision to staff up seems logical.

#2: You’ve already increased your rates to meet growing demand

Client demand dictates what you can charge for your services. As demand increases, you’re likely to raise your rates.

However, at a certain point, most people realize that there is a market rate for any type of service. So, if you’re already at the top of the pay scale for what you do, further raising your rates may not be an option.

In this scenario, revenue growth can no longer be achieved simply by raising your rates. It’s safe to say you’re at the top of your game, and it’s time to coach others, build capacity, and drive incremental growth.

#3: Internal administrative work is beginning to interfere with client needs

Stop and think about your average week. What percentage of your time is spent on revenue-producing activities?

About a year ago, I analyzed my time and realized I was spending more than five hours per week on administrative tasks. For example, I attend a lot of meetings in a given week: each resulted in at least one hour of administrative work (i.e. organizing meeting minutes, to do list data entry, scheduling, and other follow-up). Every hour of admin costs me an hour of work at my full billing rate. Is it worth it? Probably not.

This is why I’ve hired a team of administrative specialists. They dial into my calls, take notes, and update my task list for me. I can now re-allocate those five hours to value-added client activities and, in many cases, feel even more organized thanks to my team.

One final suggestion

When you’re programmed to do everything yourself, bringing others on board can seem intimidating. Thanks to oDesk’s helpful client center, you can hit the ground running in no time. You may find some of the guides I’ve written to be useful as well.

Start small, establish a system that works for you, and in no time, you’ll feel even more productive than you already are.