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How To Grow Without Actually Growing

I emailed 200 website companies recently.  I won’t bore you with the statistics of their responses but of the responses 3-4 told me they were too busy to take on work at this time.

I find this hard to comprehend.  I understand why.  They have well paying, time consuming projects that are keeping them busy and don’t want to take on any more.

But don’t they want to make more money?  If making more money doesn’t interest you then stop reading but if it does read on.

How I Started Out

When I first started creating websites for customers as a sideline business I was also working a full time job.  I would like to tell you that I slaved into the night working on projects after a long hard day at the office.  OK I did quite often, but after a year or so doing this I realised that I couldn’t sustain this every single day or week of they year.

I also wasn’t in a position to leave my current job.  Ironically nothing did change when I did leave it so it was a mental thing.

Over time even with the part time nature of my website design work I got more and more work which did fuel me leaving a comfortable, very well paying job.  But I had made a critical decision to get help even at that stage.

Someone tuned me into Odesk (now Upwork) to get people to help me.  I primarily needed developers to help me as at  that stage I was creating simple frameworks and delivering basic WordPress sites to clients at modest enough fees.

So if I was flying to the US on a business trip with my day job I couldn’t be working on a website.  Or if I was  out for dinner with clients I couldn’t be tip tapping away on my laptop coding and designing.

Getting The Right People

I am expert on hiring people on Upwork.  I say this because I have hired close to 100 people and spent well lots of money there (some of wasted on morons) over the past 10 years.  In that time I have worked with the same 4 people practically full time, and use about 3-4 part time for specific tasks.  The rest have ranged in quality from awful to mediocre.

Now I don’t pay peanuts to these people.  I pay them a good working rate.  Two of them are in Idnia and I pay them a very decent rate so don’t start ranting about paying crap money to offshore.  I don’t believe in it nor do I subscribe to it.

So I have spent a lot of money making mistakes but correspondingly I have 4 people now who work with me, understand how I write briefs, my development and design approach and work superbly with me.  I do not use the word superb loosely.

But I went through many contractors who either let me down, did poor work or none at all or most importantly for me just disappeared when I needed them.  I now have a fool proof process for getting people on Upwork whcih I will happily chat with you about on Skype if you wish.  To summarise it goes like this.

  • Have a job.  Pick the smallest part of it and outline it in very clear detail that even a monkey would understand.  Usually I use something that i can do blindfolded in under an hour.
  • Make sure it isn’t costing you more than $15-$20 even if the total budget is 100X that.  The job here is to find the right person first.
  • Advertise the task.
  • Get a million responses. Filter through them.
  • Interview (I use Skype) the person.
  • Pick someone to do it.
  • Hire them at a rate that you are happy with.  Always haggle on the rate.  Contractors post a rate they would like to get not one they always get.
  • Get a start time from them.  Again make it 100% sure that hey understand the job.
  • Make sure they start on that time.
  • If they don’t start on the time promised fire them as in end the contract.
  • If they haven’t the job done in the time allocated. Fire them.
  • Believe me this is the only way to go.  Ignore their excuses.
  • Get someone else and repeat this process.

This process proves they can do things then they say they will, that it won’t  take 10X what they said and you won’t leet your end customer down.

Repeat this process 3-4  times till you re 100% happy.  Don’t give anyone a second chance.  Believe me it doesn’t work.  If I had $10 for every gushing “we will do a fabulous job for you apologies for the delay” I would be much richer.  As I have said I have spent thousands of dollars on Upwork this process has worked for me and I have golden contractors.

Too Busy To Take On Projects

As a result of getting the right people I am never too busy to take on new work.  Why?  I have these full time people and also the other contractors who I trust who won’t let me down and deliver quality work.  The other reason I never say No to projects (unless I just don’t want to work with you) is that I work in a  very competitive pricing niche.  I need a certain volume to do OK and a higher volume to do well.  I don’t do 10K projects.  My typical price for a project is in the 1-2K range (more for ecommerce) so I need volume to pay myself and the above contractors too.  Volume isn’t bad by the way.  We do full up great designs, smart development and  I still do a ton of the work to make sure that we deliver super fast (this is our unique selling point delivering amazing designs super fast).

So I encourage you to at least start working on having a backup person to take on overflow.  Don’t sniff at this.  I am not saying pay someone a full time wage and not have work for them.  Use Odesk to search (glad to give you tips) for someone who can do what you do.  Filtering out the dross from the quality is hard.  But get someone.  When you get this person form a solid relationship with them, agree a fair rate and start working with them on projects.  Then when holidays come you don’t have to stop working, when you get a project that you can’t start you can at least get them started.

I don’t know about you but I am not rich and won’t ever be but if it wasn’t for my help from this type of resource I would be pitifully poor.  If I charge 2K for a website design project it is at least 60-80 hours work, project mangement, design, development, deployment, and conversations and meetings with the client.  Having 3 people working on it (me doing the project management and project setup, two others starting design and development) means that the project moves swiftly and in addition I can start 2-3 more as we all are at different stages.

You may say “charge more dude”. But my market place doesn’t support it.  So this model works superbly for me.

Your Design / Development Approach

One of the reasons I hear (other than people not being comfortable with using Upwork) is that contractors haven’t your approach to development or design.  This is bullshit.  Sorry I assume you are working to make money, pay bills, go on vacation, change your car once a decade.

If you follow the process above you will get someone excellent – I promise – and they will help and do work as close to what you do no problem.  I am not saying hire a moron I am say work to get someone excellent.  Case in point.  I can use Photoshop but really at my  core I am a developer/geek.  So when I started out my designs were at best basic.  I found two of the best designers I have ever met on Upwork.

They’re the best for two reasons, they interpret briefs superbly and produce good to great work quickly.  As a result my portfolio of work has improved.  Do I care that I didn’t create the original designs.  No not at all.  I controlled the entire process though, the type of design, the implemented site and the customer conversation so what the customer got is 100% of what I wanted.

Don’t Need A Contractor?

You may not need a contractor now.  you may not have the money or the projects but I strongly recommend that you use the small step approach above to have someone on standby as some day the following will happen.

  • 2-3 small but decent money projects will arrive at the same time in the same time space and you won’t be able to do them.  The backup plan will save your bacon and allow you make some money.
  • You may get sick.  I hope not.
  • You may want to go on a vacation.  I spent 3 weeks in Portugal 3 years ago and kept the business tipping away with 2 hours on the deck every morning with the team.  I didn’t do tons of new business but I kept projects going.  This is part of my dream plan by the way (for yet another post).

I will be glad to chat with you on this if you wish so drop me an email kieran@grangewebdesign.com and I will set up a Skype