Copy by Franziska Neumann of FZK Franziska, a creative agency that helps design-oriented clients grow and steward their online presence.
As designers, we tend to wear all the hats. It’s just part of being a business owner. Chances are you’ve been doing everything by yourself for years— from the actual design work and client management to all your marketing efforts, including social media and website development.
Most designers tend to start with DIY solutions: templated websites, logos drafted up on the back of cocktail napkins, and blog content written whenever you have a spare hour or two (which is usually never). While this is a completely valid (and often necessary) way to start your marketing, it’s time to start thinking about letting someone else take over as your business grows.
Yep, I’m talking about outsourcing. A scary topic for some, I know. It’s completely normal to not want to let go of control of your business, even a small part of it. But at a certain point, you’ll need to uplevel your branding to match your value and continue to attract the right clients. And that’s when it’s time to bring someone onboard to help.
“Should I outsource, or just hire internally?”
When you reach that stage of growth where you simply can’t do things on your own anymore, it’s very common to wonder whether you should outsource or simply hire in-house specialists. The short answer to that question is: do both.
If you can afford to bring an intern or entry-level employee on board, that’s fantastic. However, no matter how big your team grows, there will always be gaps in their skill set.
An intern who knows how to use Instagram might not necessarily know how to develop a social media strategy. Having a stellar photographer on your team means great imagery, but you might not have anybody who knows how to use those images in the right way to grow your reach and influence. A multi-talented team, on the other hand, can create a cohesive, overarching strategy that ties everything together and makes the best use of your in-house resources.
It’s hard (okay, impossible) to find a unicorn employee that can cover the entire skill set you need to really succeed. Outsourcing your online presence to a team, on the other hand, gives you access to a wider skill set, resulting in more efficient and higher quality work.
“But… will it still be ‘me’?”
When handing over certain parts of your business to an outside team, it’s normal to feel hesitant that your own personality and voice will disappear. However, if you work with the right team, it will merely make your personality shine brighter.
Compare it to your own work. As designers (myself included), we always try our best to do work that visually reflects our clients and their personal styles, tastes, and lifestyles. We want to see and fully understand our clients and reflect that back to them in the work we do.
Well, the right team can also do that with your branding and online presence. A talented copywriter, for example, should be able to write in a way that perfectly captures your voice. They might get to know you and your style by interviewing you or by reading some of your own content. It’s the same skillset, merely applied through writing rather than visually.
“How do I make it work?”
Outsourcing is always going to be an adjustment at first. However, one of the best ways to make it work for your business is to find a creative team that really ‘gets’ you.
My friend and client Heather French, of French & French Interiors, talks about this often when she meets other designers who are a little nervous about outsourcing for the first time. Her advice?
“I always want to be open and honest with my own clients and make them feel like I am interpreting what they’re saying in the right way. So, because that’s something I value, I was looking for a business partner who would make me feel the same. Trust is so important. You want to be able to hand over a project and say, you do what you do. You get me.”
Look for agencies that work specifically within your industry, so they’re familiar with the ins and outs of your day-to-day life. But also look for a team that has the same values as you, is willing to listen to what you say, and is passionate about helping you succeed without changing who you are. Then, trust them to do the work you’re paying them to do. Before long, you’ll wonder how you did it by yourself in the first place!
Heather and I will be talking about all these things and more at the upcoming Design Influence Conference in Atlanta, GA on Tuesday, February 26. Drop by our chat at 10AM if you’re interested in hearing more about how we make our collaborative partnership work, and to get some actionable tips on how you too can create a successful online brand.