The transition from freelancer to creative business owner includes many challenges, but one of the struggles we see most frequently is in growing a team and learning to delegate, as opposed to managing it all alone.
As a freelancer, you tend to wear a number of hats, ranging from accountant, to marketing manager, to creative director. But as you scale your business, your focus should be on stepping into the role you play best, and delegating everything else. This is a learning process that takes time, and a fair share of trial and error , but one that will allow you to grow a business that can thrive without you one day (even if it’s just for vacations or an inevitable sick day). Today I’m sharing a few lessons that I’ve learned in hopes of helping you navigate the path from freelancer to business owner as smoothly as possible.
The first block you’ll need to address is around letting go of certain parts of your business. We’re frequently told as business owners to get all the things we don’t enjoy doing off of our plates—which you’ve likely already handed off to a VA—but there comes a time when we’ll also have to let go of the things that we enjoy, or feel like only we can do. After freelancing for some time, you’re likely used to controlling areas beyond your primary role, such as administration and marketing, and may feel like no one else can do it to the standards you do.
You must remember that in order to grow as a creative entrepreneur, you ultimately need to let go of the unrelated responsibilities, like bookkeeping and marketing, that can easily be delegated. Instead of thinking about everything that needs to be done yourself, think about how your team can support you in your new role. This is how you’ll create time for the more essential work of a business owner, like writing proposals to earn new clients, and the creative thinking that is required to serve them better.
Relinquishing control becomes much easier once you can trust that your team is able to support you. This includes knowing how to clearly communicate your vision and creative ideas so that your team can help execute them.
Articulating this can be challenging after so many years of keeping it to yourself, in your head, but that communication is key to building a team that can help you reinforce your values as a business. After you learn to effectively do that, your team will be able to take your vision and run with it on their own.
No one perfects this immediately. I recommend frequent check-ins with your team in the early stages around the work they’re creating, asking how you can communicate to their needs better, and create a space where they feel safe to bring these needs to your attention.
Finally, in order for your team to support you enough to feel comfortable letting go, you must cultivate a creative culture within your business. This is a delicate balance between clearly communicating your own vision, while still allowing your team to exercise their own creativity.
Speaking from experience, creatives tend to be particular, which can lead to a work environment that’s too rigid for your team to be creative in. Clearly communicating with your team, and giving them room to flex their creative muscles will ultimately help them do their best work possible.
It can be challenging, but avoid micromanaging the process or the creative details. Start by communicating the clients overall objectives, your creative vision, and let them bring their own skills to the table with the first round. From there, build a process that allows for collaboration between you and your team to move the project forward. It takes time and patience, but you’ll find this process improves the creative end result of the project, making for a happier team, and client.
Have you encountered any of these in the process of growing your team? How did you learn to adjust? I’d love to hear your story in the comments!