What do creative entrepreneurs struggle with most?
When it’s time to grow and scale, their #1 pain point is…
Building a team from scratch.
They have NO idea how to do it. But this is what separates the freelancer/entrepreneur from the business owner. (Download my Serious Business Owner Map for the actual picture on this.) But if you don’t know how to build a new team sustainably, you’ll never level reach this level.
Building a great team is hard, folks.
Take, for instance, one creative entrepreneur who recently told me that as soon as she hired a copywriter to help with the workload… that person stole one of her clients.
Now she’s afraid to hire again, not to mention scared she’ll never climb to the next level in her freelance career.
But truth time…
Without help, she can’t.
If you want to scale, if you want to build a business, you must build a team. You need to delegate. According to new research from The Tilt, most content entrepreneurs spend just 30-40% of their time actually creating content. The remainder of that time, the majority, is spent running their business, including managing people. And most of them hired help just 18 months after starting.
Building an effective team is integral to scaling. You can’t shift your attention to running your business until you have help with the workload.
Here’s the thing… it took me nine years to learn this skill. In those nine years, I hired and fired tens of thousands of people – no joke – to manage and run the 40,000 projects we did for over 5,000 clients. We cultivated a core team of 100 people that worked completely from home and were very successful.
At Content Hacker, I’m growing a team of no more than nine to ten people to run my business with me. I’m banking on scrappy, intelligent, 10x-ers who are all in this with me.
Here’s how I do it. Buckle in. These are the key lessons I learned from building my team from scratch. What to do, what NOT to do, and how to avoid the people who will stall your progress versus accelerate it.
By the way, you don’t need a LOT of people. You only need to build a team of the RIGHT people.
Why Building a Team from Scratch Is So Hard to Get Right
Why is building a team from the ground up so hard?
Why does it take an average of 18 months to find a single hire, and 26 months to build a sustainable income?
Source: The Tilt
Because it isn’t just about hiring.
It’s also about solid communication. Defining and matching up goals. Putting processes in place. Not settling. Patience as you mentor and train the people you find.
I know this deeply because it took me nine years to figure it all out. 🙈
For the first handful of years I was in business, it was incredibly difficult to hire and keep the right people. Instead, the wrong people ended up on my team, and I got scammed, as in tens of thousands of dollars stolen. (The full story is inside my memoir, Woman Rising. Get it here.)
My profit margins were also slimmer than slim.
These things are all intertwined.
Building a strong team culture is not just about people – it’s also about your processes and your profit margins. I call these the three Ps. And all great businesses have them down pat.
Without them, you’ll never attract the right hires. And you’ll never earn enough revenue to grow. You may even end up with a horror story that includes stolen clients or stolen money. 😱
Needless to say, this topic is HUGE to understand and implement.
Once I figured it all out, I was able to grow and build a team (100 people strong!) at my former agency, Express Writers, which I recently sold for $1M.
Right now, I’m building my next million-dollar business/idea with a team of eight. And all of them have been 100% slam dunks. 🏀
It’s all about those three Ps. Let’s discuss them in detail.
🎧 Want to listen to the podcast version of this blog, where I share strategies and lessons on how to build a team from scratch? Listen to Episode #12 – Tips on How to Build Your Own Scrappy, Lean Team on Spotify, iTunes, or on our site.
3 Keys to Building Your Remote Team from Scratch
I learned these lessons the hard way, from nine years of building a business. Remember, it’s about people, processes, and profit margins if you plan on building a team from scratch successfully.
And you CAN find people in a matter of weeks and months, if you have these three keys in place.
1. Learn to Set (and Stick to) Profit Margins
During my first four years in business, I didn’t understand why we were only taking home about 12% of our total revenue.
The answer: razor-thin profit margins.
Now, you might be asking: “What exactly do profit margins have to do with building a team?”
Everything. You have to be able to afford your team and maintain your income, simultaneously. Without smart profit margins, you’ll struggle in every sense of the word.
First, a few definitions.
- Your revenue (also called “gross profit” or “gross income”) is the total income from your business through the sale of products and/or services.
- Your net profit is your revenue minus any business expenses (office supplies, travel, etc.).
- Your profit margin is the percentage of money you actually take home.
Here’s the formula for finding your profit margin:
Net profit / Revenue = Net profit margin
So what if your revenue was $300,000 and your net profit was $150,000? Your profit margin formula would look like this:
$150k / $300k = 0.5 or 50% profit margin
Naturally, your profit margin (PM) depends on how you price your products/services, but it also depends on how you pay your hires.
Set this up at the beginning, before you hire anyone. Sticking to it will help you stay on track.
2. Have Patience, Don’t Settle
What if you find a hire who looks exceptional on paper, but they have rates that will eat into your PM?
Some experts will tell you that you need to hire these expensive contractors to supercharge your business growth, but this isn’t true… Nor does it make sense.
You may be tempted to throw money at an “in-demand” potential hire with an impressive portfolio because you want the best people on your team…
But this will put you at a disadvantage, earnings-wise. If you think of your PM like a budget, a set limit you need to stick to so you keep pulling in a decent income, then hiring an expensive contractor will blow that sky-high. 💥
Hiring this person may be tempting… but it will blow your profit margins.
Even more importantly…
The most “skilled” people aren’t necessarily the “best” people for your business. 🤯
What matters more than skills?
Integrity. Motivation. Passion. Potential.
The right people will align with your goals and mission for your business. They’ll grow into their roles because they’re open to learning. They don’t have to BE the best… because they have the potential to BECOME the best!
The question is, how do you find these people?
Here’s a tip: Ask potential hires for a test sample of their work (have keywords and a topic at-the-ready). 150-200 words should do the trick. It’s enough for you to see their skill, and you’ll also get a lot of information from their response to the request.
- If they’re happy to write up a sample and eager to show what they can do, that’s a great sign. If they respond within the agreed-upon time frame with a GREAT sample, they could be a fantastic new member of your team.
- If they refuse and say something like, “I don’t work for free,” you know you should probably look elsewhere. This person’s motivation is “ME.” It’s questionable whether they’ll be a true team player, and that’s just not a risk you should take when you’re building your team from nothing.
- If your potential hire is open to writing a sample, but something else feels off (they’re late getting the sample back to you, or the sample is iffy) – don’t settle for this person, either. Keep looking, and have patience!
The right person will not magically appear out of thin air. You’ll need to do some weeding… 🌾 and some waiting. On average, it takes me two weeks of sifting through hundreds of applications to find my one great hire.
Speaking of your application, if you make it strategic, the weeding will be a lot easier. That brings me to my next point.
3. Post a Hardworking Job Ad to Build a Team from Scratch
The job ad you post needs to draw in the people you’re looking for. You want them to see your ad, stop, click it, read it, and apply A.S.A.P.
This means you should post a strategic application to multiple job platforms (think Glassdoor, LinkedIn Recruiter, Indeed, etc.).
What do I mean by strategic? Precisely this:
Be Clear and Direct
So many job ads beat around the bush. They launch into wordy explanations of what their company is about for paragraphs before they even mention what kind of qualifications they desire. Don’t do this.
Instead, state the title of the role you’re trying to fill. Then, immediately describe the job in clear terms and what you’re looking for.
At the end, you can include a few sentences that describe your company. Include your mission/vision for your business/team, because you definitely want to attract people who will align with it.
Describe the Exact Qualities You’re Looking For
Now is not the time to be general. Get into the nitty-gritty.
- What activities will the person in the role perform? Be specific.
- What skills do they need to successfully carry out the role?
- What will you expect of the person in the role? Flexibility, adherence to deadlines, immaculate grammar, a love for writing? Be specific.
Offer Breadcrumbs of a Future Working with You
Finally, it’s important to give applicants a taste of what they can expect if they work for you long-term. Where could they end up if they get the job? Where will they be in six months?
Mention opportunities for growth and advancement, if you know you’ll be able to provide those. If you’re an expert, you can also position your open role as a mentorship opportunity, since whoever you hire will be working closely with you.
Lean into describing growth opportunities for your potential hires – it’s how you attract people with the right mindset, as well as people who will accept lower pay in exchange for intangible pluses in a job that will help them advance in their career.
Building a Team from Scratch? You’ve Got This
Building a new team for your business is next to impossible…
Until you have the tools and techniques down that will make it easier. 🙏
Start with firm profit margins, have patience, and make sure your job ad is strategic.
You’ll find those diamonds in the rough, and your team will grow solid.
Of course, there’s also a lot more to erecting a self-sustaining business besides team-building (though that’s a giant piece!)
There’s also marketing to think about, as well as your business structure, strategy, and systems.
If you’re tired of the ups-and-downs of trying to be successful, and you’re ready to build a sustainable online business the long-term, strategic way…
Consider applying to my transformative coaching program, The Content Transformation System, where I’ll teach you how to set up your business, systems, and marketing, in 90 days or less—and reach the income and impact you crave. We spend an entire module & multiple weeks on the Growth stage, Phase 3, where you’ll learn simple systems for delegating, automating and hiring. It’ll change your life. Guaranteed.
Watch my free 30-minute class to get instant access today!