Many freelancers will be happy just to scrape enough work together to make ends meet, but at the other end of the scale some of us find ourselves with more work than we can handle.
It’s at this point that many freelancers consider starting an agency, transforming themselves from a self-employed single operator to an employer responsible for several other people, whether formally or informally. (Note: even if you decide to not start an agency, you should strongly consider incorporating for its legal and tax benefits). If you’re starting to think in this direction, there are a few key questions to ask yourself.
What do your clients want?
Why are you getting so much work coming your way? If it’s because you have a particular flair for design or have [specialized in a niche and highly demanded programming skill], you’re going to need a team that can replicate this. If clients are coming to you because of your particular take on a skill — rather than the skill itself — then you need to make sure that agency will offer the same level of quality, otherwise the work can easily start drying up again.
It might be worth speaking to some of your biggest and most trusted clients to sound them out about the prospect of converting to an agency — would they be happy to continue your working relationship? It’s a good way of sounding them out while getting the plan straight in your own head.
What do you want?
Being the director of an agency is significantly different than being a solo worker. Are you happy and confident managing teams and chairing meetings? Does the thought of being responsible for an overall vision fill you with excitement or dread? As the person in charge, you’ll be spending less of your time on the day-to-day work and more time managing employees and building up relationships with clients.
If you’re eager to escape from the daily grind of Sketch files and code, then starting an agency can be a great move. On the other hand, if that’s where you find most of your job satisfaction then consider whether you’re ready to give some (or all) of it up to focus on other tasks. It’s likely that the amount of admin duties that are coming your way will increase, for example.
What’s the plan?
Setting up an agency isn’t the only way to deal with a daunting workload, but it does help you tackle projects that would be out of your reach as a single freelancer. Are any of these projects coming your way at the moment, or do you know where to find them? As with freelancing itself, a small trial run can be invaluable in testing the waters and getting a feel for agency life. It’s not something to jump into lightly, but the rewards can be significant.
If you possibly can, map out a long-term plan and strategy — there’s a lot of red tape to work through and a lot of effort required to get up and running. Speaking to someone else who’s already made the jump is another good idea, as is sounding out freelancers in your area of work who might be interested in joining the team. Is the agency route something you’re considering? Or have you already made a successful go of it? Let us know in the comments.