Turning your independent career into a boutique consulting firm

While you may often find threads on the Internet on “how to get more clients as a freelancer,” seldom are there any on “what to do when there are too many.”

Most independent professionals foray into the world of freelancing as a “one-person army.” While it’s easy to juggle commitments when you have fewer projects in hand, there may arise a situation when you may have to bite off more than you can chew. 

As an independent professional, it’s crucial to approach your future with an entrepreneurial mindset, gradually working your way up to building a secure, sustainable, and well-paying career— which translates to securing more projects from both existing and new clients. 

Too much to do? What then?

Naturally, there will come a time when you have too many projects and find yourself running out of time and energy to complete them.  Consequently, you may reject legitimate and often lucrative work opportunities. In such a scenario, ask yourself these questions – 

  1. Are you constantly overwhelmed by work?
  2. Are you ready to take on the responsibility of A) a team leader, B) a project director, C) a quality assurance partner simultaneously while ensuring business keeps flowing in?
  3. Are your projects earning you adequate profits for you to subcontract your work?

If you answered in the affirmative, it might be time to build a team or establish your boutique consulting firm.

Freelancer to Founder

The jump from a solopreneur career to starting your consulting firm can be intimidating, to say the least. No matter how experienced you are or how many years you have been in the freelancing business, treading into unknown waters is bound to get to even the best.

Freelancers looking to build an enterprise have the choice of collaborating with other freelancers, hiring full-time associates or a combination of both— each with its own set of pros, cons, and challenges. 

Building a team is the easiest way to grow your business, free up time, and make more money. 

If you are interested in going down this road, we bring the five pro tips you should definitely keep in mind. 

5 pro tips for creating a team of freelancing superheroes

1. Choose wisely between hiring a freelancer v.s a full-time associate 

The first step is to decide whether hiring freelancers, full-time employees, or a combination of both is the right fit for your firm. How do the two compare?

  • An employee works during fixed hours; a freelancer works when and where she pleases. If you wish to keep a pre-defined set of hours for work, you should employ full-time associates; however, hiring freelancers is the best option if time and place aren’t constraints. 
  • While a freelancer uses her own resources (laptop, WiFi, etc.), you most certainly would have to provide your full-time associates with the essential equipment. If that is the kind of money you are willing to invest, hiring full-time associates is an option available at your disposal.
  • Moreover, full-time associates will earn a fixed salary every month, while a freelancer is paid by the project.  If you decide to hire full-time associates, make sure you have enough work and a consistent revenue stream to be able to afford and justify their pay. 
  • With a freelancer, you would ideally need a backup always to tide through unexpected situations. The people you hire may leave the project mid-way or not adhere to timelines due to other commitments.  Hence, you would always need a backup team to do all your last-minute crunch work if initial plans go awry.

2. Choose the right platforms and maintain a solid digital presence

If you don’t have a vast network of professionals working in your field, freelancing platforms like Outsized, TopTal, and others can help match your requirements with freelancers from a pool of global talent. 

Or, you may partner with another firm to provide you with the right talent. However, there is always a small price (commission/fee) to pay when you hire talent from a platform or another firm, so make sure you have the budget for that.

Maintaining adequate visibility and a well-rounded profile on LinkedIn can help you build a team of expert professionals for your venture.  However, getting the best from one of the largest global networking sites would require you to follow a series of simple steps dedicatedly, enlisted below –

  • Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date with your profession, location, and industry. Don’t forget to include a concise yet complete summary of who you are and what you can bring to the table, preferably along with a few samples of your work.
  • Do mention that you are currently “actively looking to hire a team.”
  • Start connecting with other LinkedIn users from your field through LinkedIn Messaging, InMail, or simply by commenting on their posts. 
  • Grab attention by creating engaging, relevant, and creative content that works well with your target audience.
  • Leverage LinkedIn groups to connect with like-minded individuals or people within your targeted profession.

3. Commission a sample before you agree on a long-term engagement

Hiring a team and starting a boutique consulting firm comes with its advantages; however, it may turn out to be one of your greatest perils if you don’t proceed with caution. After all, while your team may do the actual work, you are the TEAM LEADER and the PROJECT MANAGER, responsible for ensuring the best deliverables reach your clients.  

Therefore, always request samples or give test assignments to the freelancers (or prospective full-time associates) to ensure they respond promptly, follow the brief and guidelines, and deliver projects within stipulated deadlines.

4. Protect yourself legally

While subcontracting work to a team may seem enticing, make sure you have a legal agreement in place to protect yourself and your firm’s reputation. After all, you are “the face of the project” for the client. Plus, having invested the time and energy in scoping the project, you wouldn’t want to run into the risk of your team approaching the client directly on the deal.

Consult a lawyer or buy an agreement template online. Clearly define the scope of work, deliverables, deadlines, payment terms, the confidentiality clause, and the measures you would take should the piece fail to meet expectations or isn’t delivered.

5. Use the right project management tools

When building a team and subcontracting projects, you can’t just assign the work and forget about it altogether. After all, it’s crucial to maintain quality and review all work before it is finally client-ready.

Checking in constantly with your team is a hassle, something you wouldn’t want to take on top of the work you already have for yourself. That is why it is essential to invest in a good project management tool (Slack, Basecamp, Asana) that can help communicate with your team, manage deadlines, and ensure everything runs smoothly.

No thanks, I’d rather fly solo!

As a freelancer, feeling overwhelmed by work is a natural state of mind when you have more work than you can handle. And if you feel ready to turn your independent career into a consulting firm, don’t forget first to read the pro-tips we have in store for you. 

However, if you feel you’d stick to being solo and handle all your clients independently, that’s also fine. After all, you are in the driver’s seat of your career.