The path to building the business of your dreams isn’t going to be predictable. Take it from a girl who planned to run a coaching business, not become a social media manager.
Would I change any of it? Not at all.
In this episode, I talk about my unexpected journey to creating a full-blown digital marketing agency. I dive into how I grew from being a solo freelancer to building out my team - what I recommend, what I would do differently, and everything in between.
Join me as I discuss:
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[00:00:59] Lindsay: Hello, my loves. Welcome back to another unhinged episode of Quit Your Job, Sis. So I wanted to make this episode like a Q&A/"What Would Lindsay Do?" type of advice episode, and I put a question box up on my Instagram story, and a couple of people asked about how I have scaled my agency, and I realized that I haven't really talked about this much on the podcast or really on social media.
[00:01:31] And it might not quite fit with the unhinged season because it's more like a business topic. But I really wanted to answer this question, and I feel like I can make a whole episode on this topic. And to be honest, it's kind of unhinged because the process of how I got here, it's really just like, Not predictable at all, and not necessarily how I would do it again or how I would recommend it, but that is very on brand for me.
[00:02:01] So I want to share kind of how I quite accidentally created a full-blown digital marketing agency. And hopefully, you'll be able to take away some advice from this episode. And I'll also share some of the things that I would recommend and that I would probably do differently if I were building this business again from scratch.
[00:02:28] I never set out to create a marketing agency. This is not something that I ever pictured myself doing, and it's not a direction that I even necessarily Wanted my business to go, but it was the direction that my business wanted to go, and I had to ultimately just kind of accept That and run with it.
[00:02:50] So I always imagined that I would be a coach, right? That was what I started my business doing and what I always saw myself doing, and part of what I liked about coaching was that I really had control over Everything. I had control over my schedule and the clients that I worked with, and I felt like I could grow a coaching business and scale that type of business without really needing to hire a team.
[00:03:15] I saw myself maybe having a virtual assistant at some point, and I have my podcast team, but I honestly didn't want to have a business that required me to hire people and have a team because that felt super overwhelming and confusing and stressful and like, I wouldn't have as much control over my business and I would have to just be dealing with people and different work styles and things going wrong and then people leaving and me having to replace them and It felt like a lot and not what I wanted to do.
[00:03:51] So I literally, not only did I never picture myself here, I actively fought against it for a while. So, I started offering social media management just as a side gig while I was trying to build my coaching business. And I never offered it with the intention of it becoming a full-time income stream.
[00:04:12] And it just kind of happened. This part of my business has been so effortless to grow, and I started first offering social media management in, I think, the spring of 2020. And by that summer, wait, do I have these dates right? Yeah. Spring of 2020. Well, okay. So, I had my Fiverr gig at the beginning of 2019, but that was just a Fiverr gig.
[00:04:41] I had paused it and unpaused it multiple times, but when I actually started offering social media management services off of Fiverr, that was spring of 2020. Okay, by August of that year, I already had more clients than I could keep up with. I was like so overwhelmed. I was working late every day.
[00:05:02] I was like burnt out, and I knew that I couldn't keep doing that or I was gonna burn out very quickly. And I didn't want to have to, you know, I didn't want to give up the income that I was getting. So, the only way for me to keep maintaining that level of clients or take on more clients was if I delegated some of that work to someone.
[00:05:22] And so I did hire someone. Everyone I've ever hired has been an independent contractor. So they're not employees of mine, but They are other freelancers and social media managers who I have contracted to, you know, help out with some of the client work, but the problem that I ran into early on, and this was a result of just my business took off much quicker than I expected it to was that my prices were not that high because I had literally just started this thing and then within a couple of months I was at a point where I needed to delegate work, but I was hiring someone and paying them not that much less than what I was getting from my clients and so my profit margins were basically non-existent because I wasn't about to raise my prices when I've only been working with these clients for three months, you know, so I kind of got stuck in a place where like, I wish I had started with my prices higher than what they were so that it would give me a buffer.
[00:06:35] Yes, I might have gotten less clients, and I wouldn't have grown as quickly, but I would have still been making… the money would have evened out because I'd have less clients potentially, but be charging each of those clients more. And then, when I eventually reached the point where I couldn't handle that workload on my own, I would have a buffer there and a profit margin for me to be able to outsource and hire someone, right?
[00:07:03] And there are also options if I could have, I guess, found cheaper work, but to me, I always value having good quality work and paying people well. And I would rather my profit margins take a hit but work with someone who I know is, is doing good quality work. Okay, here's another thing, and this is really important.
[00:07:24] The number one thing that I would have done differently is I wouldn't have charged an hourly rate. From the beginning, I would have made packages instead of charging by the hour. In the beginning, it just felt easier to charge by the hour because I didn't really know what would be included in a package.
[00:07:45] And I just felt like, well, if I charge by the hour, then I can just do whatever each of my clients needs me to do in that time. And I would have more flexibility there because it felt really confusing for me to come up with packages, and then what if the client asks for something that's not included in the package or they need like an extra few posts this month or something?
[00:08:06] But here is the problem with that. When you are charging by the hour, you are punishing yourself for being efficient. The better that I got at my job, the less time it would take me to do things, but then if I do it in less time, I'm getting paid less. So I'm getting paid less for being better at my job.
[00:08:24] And then the other problem is that, so I would have, and I still have some clients that are on this structure, and I'm figuring out how I can transition them onto a package base, but The other problem is that I'm getting more efficient at the things I do, but then my clients have me on a retainer.
[00:08:43] Let's say a client has me on a retainer for 20 hours a month, and I'm sending them my time report at the end of the month. They're paying for 20 hours. They're going to expect me to fill those 20 hours, right? So even if what they give me to do. I can do it in 10 hours. I can't send them a time report for 10 hours because then they're going to be like, why am I paying you for 20?
[00:09:04] I'm just going to downgrade my package. You know what I mean? I'm just going to downgrade my retainer to 10 hours if that's all that you need. So I was spending so much time. I mean, I was doing work, I would just find additional things to do for clients. I wasn't just bullshitting my time, but I would be so stressed out every month.
[00:09:24] Trying to make sure that I filled all of my client hours, even if it didn't actually need to take me that long to do all of the things that they needed to get done for that client in a month. So it added stress onto my plate. And then when I started hiring people, it was also just, it's more stressful for me to work on an hourly rate because Then I feel like I'm having to monitor them and make sure that they're filling all the client hours because if they don't use all the hours, then I'm the one who has to answer to the client and explain why they paid us for 20 hours, but only 10 hours were used.
[00:09:57] So I, if I could go back, would have just created packages from the beginning and charged based on packages rather than hours because trading your time for money is the exact opposite of why you want to be a freelancer, right? It's the exact opposite of why you want to have your own business because you don't want to have to be trading time for money anymore.
[00:10:20] You want to work less. You're never going to be able to work less if you're charging per hour because the only way for you to scale is to work more hours, right? Right. And so that is something that I would change, or if you are charging hourly, I would make it a goal for you to transition to packages at some point and maybe take a look at what you're doing for all of your clients.
[00:10:44] When I really looked at what I was doing for each of my clients, they all needed pretty similar things. But clients who were having me do additional, like, beyond just posting and managing social media for some of them, we were doing blog posts for some of them, we were writing LinkedIn articles or whatever it was that required more hours.
[00:11:03] It's like instead of charging for that time. I could just create a package like a basic package that includes kind of the bare minimum of what I do for all of my clients. And then I can take a look at, okay, what are the extra things that I'm doing for certain clients that I'm spending more time on?
[00:11:23] And how can I turn that into a package? Instead of it being based on hours, it's based on deliverables, right? It's based on how many posts we're creating or how many platforms we're managing. Right now, I'm even thinking about coming up with packages that are LinkedIn-specific because a lot of our clients use LinkedIn as their main platform.
[00:11:40] We've been doing a lot of like LinkedIn outreach. And I've been thinking a lot about, okay, how can I turn this into a package instead of it being based on hours? And yes, the time involved varies from client to client, depending on what you're doing. But in general, it really doesn't vary all that much.
[00:11:57] And so, there is a way for me to put it into a package. And still be profitable. And yeah, that's something that is the number one thing and one of the only things that I would change if I were starting my social media agency all over again. So, going back, I was working with that one contractor for a few months, and then I had a couple of clients whose contracts wrapped up, and they decided not to continue working with me, and then that contractor ended up getting a full-time job, and so she was no longer working with me, and I was still working with a couple of clients from the end of 2020 through early 2021.
[00:12:41] But again, coaching was my main business, and that's what I was working toward. I didn't want to be a full-time social media manager, so I was just kind of okay with things quieting down on the social media side so I could focus on coaching again. But I was struggling so much to grow my coaching business, and Just as a side note, you guys, pay attention to the shit that comes easy to you.
[00:13:08] When I tell you, my social media agency has grown effortlessly from day one. I have never marketed my social media services online. The only place I've ever really marketed them, if you want to call it that, is by having a gig on Fiverr and having a profile on Contra, like on different freelancing websites.
[00:13:31] But, my main website, even still is mostly focused on coaching, which I'm not even doing anymore, but I just haven't updated it. And then all of my own social media has always been focused on the side of my brand that's like helping others to quit their job and start freelancing and start a business and grow their business.
[00:13:53] And So I've never really marketed my social media management services on there because it's just like not really what I want to be talking about on social media and on my podcast. I've never marketed it. And I keep, I think, in the past. Since May, I'm recording this in October. Since May of this year, I have gotten a new client every month.
[00:14:18] And I've never, I'm telling you, they literally come out of nowhere. Some of them are from Fiverr or Contra. Some of them are just referrals and word of mouth. And some of them are just random ass opportunities that I never could have, seen coming. And it's grown so effortlessly.
[00:14:39] And yet, I was working on my coaching business for years, and yes, you know, I was successful with that, but it felt so much harder to get to a point with coaching where I had steady, consistent income and clients coming in. And with my agency, it's just happened organically and effortlessly without me even fucking trying, and I can't explain it to you other than that is the direction my business wanted to go in, and I feel like it was just the universe Giving me so much evidence that you can trust this is the path for you and even though I had so much resistance against it and I literally sabotaged myself by letting all my clients fall away and convincing myself I was just gonna go back to coaching. It just it came back, and every single time I've gone back to it, It's grown so effortlessly that eventually I was like, I'm just gonna go all in on this thing. So Anyway, it was early 2021. I was struggling to get coaching clients, and I knew that I had social media management as something I could fall back on.
[00:15:49] So I kind of just leaned back into that, and I applied to this contract position with Another agency where I was essentially a contractor for them, and they would match me with their clients. So, from the summer of 2021 until earlier this year, 2023, I was working with that agency. And so that's where I was getting, I think I had like three clients through them, maybe four at one point that I was working with just part-time.
[00:16:24] I was still doing coaching. I had a couple of coaching clients throughout that time, but that was where I was getting some of my social media clients. And then my social media agency outside of that still kept growing. I was still getting clients outside of that agency. And again, it just kept growing effortlessly.
[00:16:45] I wasn't doing anything, and clients were coming to me. And so eventually, I just reached a point where I was like, I gotta go all in on this thing. And Toward the end of 2022, summer into fall of 2022, was when my Fiverr was just popping off. I had so many more orders than I could even possibly keep up with.
[00:17:08] And so that was when I decided to hire and outsource again. And I was like, I'm going to lean into this. Even though it's fucking scary and overwhelming, and I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing, this is clearly the direction that the universe wants my business to go in, and I'm just gonna trust that, and I'm gonna trust myself, that I'm gonna be able to figure it out.
[00:17:28] So, I decided to hire someone. So that was when I hired my second contractor, who's now been with me for a year. She was helping me with Fiverr orders and then eventually started helping me with client work outside of Fiverr. By February, I had already needed to hire a second person to help me with the client work.
[00:17:49] And then, by April, I had left that agency I was working with, and so I was just doing full-time social media marketing agency and running that and getting clients on my own. And then, I had my team to help me at this point. I just recently hired my third social media manager, and I also have a copywriter on my team.
[00:18:12] So we are growing, and even with the team members that I have, I am still working more than I would like to be working. And part of that is because it still freaks me out to delegate certain, certain things. I was really scared to... for those of you who are listening and you're like, I don't want to delegate.
[00:18:31] I don't want to outsource. I don't want to give up control. What if people don't have the same quality of work as I do? I had all of those fears. I remember having a conversation with Brendan when I was initially thinking about hiring someone. And telling him my biggest fear, yes, I'm afraid that someone's work quality isn't going to be exactly how I would do things and, so that was a fear, but my other fear was, what if I hire someone and I delegate clients to them?
[00:19:08] And then that person leaves, they're not going to be working with me forever. And then their client workload falls back on me. And then, I have to be overwhelmed and overworking myself again to make sure those clients are good until I find somebody else to fill their position. And then I got to train someone else and whatever.
[00:19:26] That felt so overwhelming to me. And that was part of why I was so resistant to creating a business that required me to grow a team and manage a team. And at this point, here's the thing. I've now been in it and had to go through those things that I was so afraid of. And the thing is, it's really not so scary.
[00:19:48] By two, that was one of my biggest fears. The other one is that, what if I have, you know, somebody else working with one of my clients and... Their, their work quality isn't good, or the client isn't happy with them. And then I lose a client that was, I'd say my, my other biggest fear. Okay. So here's what I would say to my past self.
[00:20:13] And for those of you who are worried about those same things, okay. The work quality is not going to be the same. People aren't going to do things in the same way that you would. And that's okay. Number one, who says that the way you do things is the best way to do them? I have seen some work from my team members that's way better than anything I would have created.
[00:20:35] And that's great. That's amazing. That's what we want. And empowering them to do their best work, what if that actually is more beneficial to your business than you trying to do it all yourself? You might be able to find someone who has better copywriting or better graphic design skills than you, and they can create a beautiful product that is even better than what you would have done on your own, right?
[00:21:09] So, one, it might actually be a good thing that they're not going to do things the same way that you would. But two, even if it's not, even if the quality is less, right, let's say you do something at 100 percent and they get it 70 80 percent of the way there, that's still saving you so much time, even if you have to go in and do some revisions before you send it off to the client, right?
[00:21:33] That's still worth it. It's still a good investment if you're still getting a positive ROI on the time that you are saving by having somebody else do 70 percent of the job. And what I would say to the other fear of losing a client is the only reason why that feels so scary right now; the only reason why that felt so scary to me a couple of years ago was that I only had like five clients, and that was the maximum amount of clients I could take on because I only had so many hours in a day.
[00:22:10] But by growing my team, I've increased my capacity for the amount of clients I can take on. And so, I would rather, you know, have ten clients and potentially lose one of them than have five clients and keep them all, but That's the maximum amount of clients I can have for the rest of my life. Like, I couldn't have possibly taken on more clients than that at one point.
[00:22:36] And so now I'm actually, I've been in the situation where a client has come to me and said they weren't happy with the work quality of the social media manager on my team that they were working with. And that if, you know, we didn't get the situation resolved, that they wouldn't be able to keep working with us.
[00:22:56] And the situation has since been resolved, and it's all good. I have yet to lose a client over the work quality or someone on my team doing something to cause us to lose a client, but even if that client left, like people- when I was dealing with that situation, I literally was in it, and I was like, wow, this was my worst fear not that long ago and it's really not so scary because the worst case scenario is that client leaves, but even if they had, I'm like, this is such a small percentage of what my income is now that for me to lose that client would not even be a big deal.
[00:23:41] It would not. At one point, that would have meant me losing 20 percent of my income, but now, because I'm, I've increased my capacity and I have twice as many clients as I used to, it's not as big of a hit. And we would have been okay if that client left, you know what I mean?
[00:24:00] So, I've been in it. I've faced these fears. All of those things have come true, and they're not nearly as scary as you think they are, and it is so worth it. It is so, so fucking worth it to loosen the reins a little bit and allow others to support you. Allow others to get the work done. You don't have to be the one doing everything in your business.
[00:24:26] In order for you to be delivering high-quality work and having satisfied clients, you really don't. And that's something that's been really hard for me because delegating does not come naturally to me. And I still, at times, have to talk myself through it and be like, okay, why are we still working this much when we have four people on our team who I hired because I didn't want to have to be working as much as I am.
[00:24:58] And there are still certain, certain aspects of the work that I struggle to let go of and to give somebody else control. But it really now is a goal of mine to empower my team to do their best work. And I mean, one, it's important that you're hiring people who you can trust. I looked through all the applications.
[00:25:20] I get work samples from people before I hire them. We do an interview. It's important to me that I'm hiring people that I can trust, but even after that, you could have some type of trial period, maybe the first 30 to 90 days, where they're not working one-on-one with your clients, but you might give them work to do kind of behind the scenes so that you can get a better sense of their work quality before you actually have them working one on one with your clients.
[00:25:49] That has worked really well for me, but you guys, I'm telling you, there's nothing better. I had one client who started working with us in July, I believe. And from the beginning, I just delegated that client to someone on my team. I had nothing to do with any of the work for that client, which...
[00:26:16] Normally, I'm involved at least in the beginning, or I'm the contact person, or I have a general idea of the work that's being done. That was the first client for me that I really was just like the project that they hired us for was something that was really simple, and I was like, I don't need to be involved in this.
[00:26:35] I fully trust this person on my team to be able to work with this client, and I don't need to spend any time on this. She can handle it. And she did, and I've heard back from the client. I checked in with her recently. She's like, I love working with this person on my team.
[00:26:57] They've both had a really good experience. They love working together. Her work quality is clearly good because the client is satisfied. And then, at the end, it was only a two-month project, but at the end of it, she was like, I really want to keep working with you. I really want to keep working with this person on my team because they've built a relationship, and she loves her work.
[00:27:18] And so now I have a long-term client. All thanks to somebody on my team, and I wouldn't have been able to take that client on if I was still trying to do everything myself because I wouldn't have had the time. And so, not only that, but it's like, for me, it's become passive income, where I now have a recurring client on a monthly retainer that's bringing in income for my business and income for my team member, but I'm not even having to do any work or ever even think about that client, I just know that it's being taken care of.
[00:27:51] I get revenue from it every month, so it almost becomes like a passive income stream when you can really get to a point where you have people you can trust, and you can just trust them to work with your clients; it's a beautiful thing. I look forward to getting to that point with all of my clients very soon, but I'm still at a point where a lot of these clients are people who I was working with before I hired a team.
[00:28:19] And so transitioning them over to a new person is a little bit more of a process than having a new client who can come in, and I can just delegate them right away. But yeah, I mean, I'm so looking forward to when I reach a point in this business where my role is just leading, just managing my team.
[00:28:40] Bringing out the best in them, hiring some really good people, and then just being on the backend doing discovery calls, onboarding new clients, and dealing with all kinds of the backend stuff. And it's so funny because I never thought this was what I was; this was the exact opposite of what I thought would be fulfilling to me, but I love it so much. I'm able to help so many more people, I'm able to take on so many more clients, not only that but on the other side of it, I'm like creating jobs for other people who Are looking to get clients and who are, you know, maybe struggling to get clients on their own and I'm able to match them with clients because my business has grown so effortlessly and these clients come to me.
[00:29:27] And so I'm able to eliminate that pain point of marketing for another social media manager who might be struggling to get clients, but they do really good work. And I don't know. It's I just feel like I'm helping my clients. I'm helping my team. I feel so supported. I feel like I'm able to grow. I've been growing. My revenue has grown more quickly this year than at any other point in my business.
[00:29:51] And it's just going to keep growing. I don't see it slowing down anytime soon. There are no signs of it slowing down. And I just love it so much. And I never thought I would love to this isn't the business I pictured at all. And I did sometimes look back and still don't even know how we got here.
[00:30:11] But I'm embracing it all. I'm embracing the challenges. I'm embracing the growth. I know that this is going to mold me into such an incredible leader that I never pictured myself being. And you guys, I'm telling you, nothing is a coincidence. Multiple of my clients are leadership coaches, and so I'm able to also go to them when I am experiencing a challenge within me growing this business and kind of get their advice on how to handle different situations.
[00:30:44] One of my clients helped me to kind of refine my hiring onboarding and training process. The universe will literally just connect you with the right people and opportunities when you are aligned and on the path that you're meant to be on. Everything in my life is pointing me toward growing this agency is what I'm meant to be doing, and I'm finally leaning into it, and everything is falling into place. My business is finally growing in the ways that I always...knew it was possible, but for so long, I struggled with how to get here because I was trying to do what I thought I was supposed to be doing instead of just allowing shit to be easy. Pay attention to what comes effortlessly to you because, yes, you still have to work to get to where you want to be, but it just feels so much more natural and organic and effortless, just allowing my business to grow And trusting myself to grow along with it and, and overcome the challenges that come along with that, instead of just trying to resist it all. So, going back to what I would recommend and what I might do differently if you're trying to grow, I would have started off with higher prices to create enough of a buffer so that when I do need to start hiring and outsourcing to contractors, I have a profit margin. And I would say okay if my business hadn't taken off so quickly and it had been six months, at the six-month mark, when I needed to hire someone, it might have been reasonable for me to increase my rates at that point rather than just hiring someone right away.
[00:32:36] Could that have meant a couple of clients would have maybe dropped? Yes, but then, you know, it would be offset by the clients who've stayed, and I would be making more money and having the same or lower workload. I probably would have done that instead of just hiring someone. But again, I was only like 3 months in, and I just didn't feel like I could justify raising my prices, but if it had been longer and if I had already gotten proven results and an ROI for my clients, raising my prices might have been a more reasonable option at that point before hiring someone. So, that's probably what I would recommend. If you can raise your prices first, but if you reach a point where you have more work than you can handle on your own and raising your prices isn't an option, then it's time to outsource, and that might be fucking scary, but It's worth it.
[00:33:31] It's so worth it. Another thing I should say, this is unhinged, and I probably shouldn't admit this to the internet, but honestly, I kind of love it. And it's like girl math as a business owner. And here's the thing: there is no logic to how I set my prices. My pricing is based purely on vibes and vibes only.
[00:33:52] And when I raise my pricing is based purely on vibes and vibes only. Okay, at this point, yes, I have to factor in my profit margins and stuff, so there's some logic to it. But how I typically raise my prices is I will literally be about to get on a discovery call with a potential client, and I'm just like...
[00:34:18] My pricing is too low. I need to raise that. This doesn't feel good for me. If I were to get this client at this price, I would feel like I'm undercharging. And so I'll just raise my rate by ten an hour before getting on the call and see what happens. And literally every time I've done that, the client has said yes.
[00:34:37] So then that becomes my new rate. So. That is all I have for you guys today. Thank you for coming on this journey with me and reliving how I accidentally created a digital marketing agency. If you have any more questions about scaling, outsourcing, putting together packages, or anything, because this is the unhinged season, and I do still want to do a separate unhinged Q&A episode that may or may not be business related.
[00:35:08] So feel free to slide into my DMs and ask me your questions if you're not following me on socials. I am @lindsaymhanson on Instagram and TikTok, and I hope to see you guys there. So I feel like this was a nice little break before next week's episode, which is gonna be severely unhinged.
[00:35:30] So stay tuned for that. Thank you guys for listening. I love you. I appreciate you. I am here for you always. And I will talk to you in the next episode.