Who to hire first at your digital agency

You started your agency and business in going well. You might even have some partners in the company who (I hope) to have complementary skills to yours, but you are still struggling to deliver projects in time. It’s time to get new people onboard. But who would be able to help you most?

By talking to tens of agency founders, I learned that most of them were working in trenches as employees before starting their own business. In the book E-myth, Michael Gerber also states that 80% of the new business are started by technicians. In the digital agency, this would be people in production like designers and developers. Technicians value their craft and like to practice it above all.

Running a digital agency is a lot more than just practicing an art, unfortunately. In a small business, you are also the accountant, janitor, housekeeper and other stuff that keeps you away from the draft. With more work, there will be more administrative tasks as well as more production work. If you want your agency to grow, you will need to start hiring new people who can either help you with production or who can take care of office administration and other miscellaneous tasks.

Option 1: Hire in production

At first, it makes sense to hire a person you can delegate your production tasks to0. What you have to consider is how easy is to find that person and how good are you delegating. After all, this is a craft for you, a form of art. Are you sure you will be able to truly let go and trust other people to do something that will hold your signature?

One of the greatest advantages of getting help in production is to free your time to work on the business, not in the business. Without having to deal with clients and project, you will have a chance to think about your company future, to optimize finances and focus on sales. I firmly believe founders must first of all focus on sales, not delivery.

On the other hand, you will eventually stop working something you were really good at and something you were passionate about. Not anyone can make this decision.

Option 2: Get administration help

In the early days of my agency business, I thought there is not even remotely enough work for someone to do admin tasks. Looking back I realize how much money I’ve lost just because I did not find the time to send maintenance invoices to my clients, but I did pick up the phone every time they rang. Just billing that time would cover the assistant.

Calculate your hourly rate based on what you charge to your client and think about how much time you waste on non-billable work. Why would you spend your 100$ worth of time on 10$ tasks? Many business owners that I talked with told me about the how did their first nontechnical hire changed their company. (In a good way.)

Conclusion

There is no secret formula. It’s best for you to understand that hiring the first employee is not easy for anyone. You start thinking about if your business can support one more family and how you don’t want to disappoint anyone. Like all things in business, you will learn by doing and failing. The worst thing would be not to do anything and try to sustain with 80 hours work week.


Please let me know what your experiences are with hiring your first employee. Who did you hire and why?

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