The great thing about hiring is that it’s super easy, fast, fun and it doesn’t take much work to build your remote team, right? Wrong. It’s hard work, it can take a while, it can be super stressful and impactful (in a good or bad way) to your business and it can actually be extremely costly if not done well.
To help those of you who are scaling your business and hiring designers, freelancers or full-time team members, I’ve brought in a seasoned pro, Avani Miriyala, Founder and CEO of amsd.co and host of The 6-Figure Freelancer Podcast, to share her experience with hiring amazing remote team members for her UX design agency.
Through this interview, you’ll learn how to effectively find talent and good fits for your team, how to create and implement a smooth hiring process, how to set contestants so you can actually hire AND work on your business and how to speed up the training process when bringing someone on.
P.S. Look for Avani back on the podcast very soon for a round 2 to discuss systems for scaling your business!
In this episode:
03:59 – Welcome to Avani
09:00 – Going with the flow
12:21 – New kind of “agency”
16:25 – Building the team
19:48 – Good people refer
23:38 – She’s here to grow
26:31 – Have to be scrappy
32:05 – Culture fit
38:01 – Design playbook
42:03 – Firing experience
49:11 – Vibe attracts tribe
51:12 – Self aware
53:37 – Growth foundation
You can also view the full transcription of this episode below.
Connect with Avani:
Featured links mentioned:
Hey, friends, welcome into Episode 84. This is the first episode of 2021. And we’re gonna kick off the year with a really great episode and an awesome interview with an even more awesome guest. This is of Avani Miriyala, and she is the founder and CEO of a product UX designer agency with a growing team. She’s also the host of the Six Figure Freelancer podcast, which I highly recommend you check out. I was actually a guest recently on her podcast, and we podcast swapped, it was a guest on her show. And I wanted to have her on my show to talk about in this case, we’re going to talk about hiring and what she’s learned in hiring a remote team. It’s funny, we were actually going to talk about systems for scaling. And hiring was a part of that. But we ended up basically doing a full episode on just hiring. So I do plan on having her back very soon to do kind of a 2.0 on this with hearing about how she’s scaled her business. And in fact, she’s thinking about starting the seven figure Freelancer podcast because her goal for 2021 is to scale her business to seven figures, which you’ll hear about. But in this one, we talk all about hiring, which is super, super timely for those of you who are wanting to grow your agency this year, in particular, and you want to figure out what’s the best way to hire what’s the best way to attract the right talent for you and your team, what’s the best way to actually manage and run your team, there’s so many gold nuggets in this conversation that have Avani talked about in a lot of detail. So she was very real, very transparent, I had a blast talking with her. And I’m excited to have her back pretty soon. So really excited. For those of you who are interested in scaling, even if you just want to scale on a very small level, maybe it’s just you, but you’re feeling overwhelmed. And you want to just scale a little bit, maybe you just want to have one designer to turn to or just have a small team of subcontractors. They don’t have to be full time employees, it can be a mix. That’s the beauty about web design, you can keep it small, you can keep it yourself or you could build a small team to a really large team, it’s totally up to you and you’re going to hear how to do that in this interview. So I’m super pumped for you. This one now, here’s the thing, if you are growing a team, one thing I’ve realized with my courses is that I have more and more agencies coming to me sending their team through my courses, it’s not something I really thought about. But recently, I realized, well, there’s actually a lot of potential to kind of market my courses for agencies who have a team, but they don’t know how to train them, or they don’t want to have to train in themselves. And they want to borrow the principles and practices that I’ve used in my career and that we use for my agency. So that is a very confusing and long winded way of saying if you are growing a team, and you would like to send them through my courses, you can do that. And the best way to do that is through my web design course bundle, I have all of my courses wrapped up and discounted in a bundle. And you can have them go through my Divi beginners course, my process course my design course, my SEO course, my CSS course and even in the business side of things if you’d like and it’s going to save you so much time, it’s going to save you so much cost in the long run with training them training them one on one, and you can just have them go through all my courses. So check out the bundle. I’ll have it linked below in the show notes. And if you have any questions, just let me know. And without further ado, enjoy my first interview of the new year, which was a blast, I also encourage you to check out of Avani’s proposal builder, which I will link to in the show notes. She has a proposal builder that’s super, super cool, and can help you out with doing kick ass proposals. So all right. Without further ado, let’s dive into it.
Avani welcome to the show. So great to have you on.
Thank you, Josh. It’s so great to have you here. So great to be here. I’m too used to having my own podcast apparently.
I was gonna say you’re interviewing me in a couple of days. So I totally I totally understand.
I’m excited to be here.
There it is. We got it. We got it. So yeah, I’m really stoked to talk with you. a mutual friend of ours introduced us Chris Misterek who I had on the podcast recently. And I really liked your episode with him. I like your style. And what’s been interesting, just getting to know you just a little bit. I figured I’d kind of save most of it to be able to talk with it to really get to know what you’ve done. But you’re big on systems big on scaling big on productivity, but it looks like staying balanced is huge. To which I think when it comes to scaling a business. The biggest fear for myself and a lot of freelancers is am I going to grow a Frankenstein or something that’s going to get out of control. So I’m really excited to talk systems and talk like some practical ways we can scale effectively still maintain a good balance in life. So really excited about that. Before we dive into it, though, would you like to let my audience know where you’re based out of and what you do? Exactly?
Yeah, I’d love to. So I’m in Austin, Texas. I’ve been here for some time. Now, I actually started my career here. And we just love it so much. So running my business here is a great place to run a business. I started in the tech industry as a UX designer. And I loved my job. Honestly, I’ve worked at some amazing startups here in Austin, learned from really talented individuals. But then there was a point in time where I was just feeling stuck. I got a job, worked there for a couple years, got another job worked there for a couple years. And I was like, Well, now what I do the same thing again, maybe yes. And at that time, I was like, well, I could try something different. I’ve always wanted to feel like my days were my own. I’ve always wanted to be creative in the ways I want to feel creative. Sometimes when even though you might be a designer, you are working in industry, and you’re doing it as a job the spark could leave. And that was what was something I was experiencing is I didn’t feel creative anymore. Because of maybe constraints from the company, or just things of that reality. I was missing that feeling. So I was like, Well, what if I get a couple of freelance gigs work at work with some really cool companies and have the rest of my day to make whatever I want. So that was the initial idea of me, leaving my job, I left in 2017, I started freelancing, and then it kind of just took a life of its own, I started getting really great clients, I maxed my own hours out, and I was like, Okay, do I just keep doing this, or do a grow team decided to start adding team members. And so it was so cool to unlock the ability to have a team and get help, which is something we can talk about later. And then from there, it just grew into an agency, I’m just really grateful, I realized I found the creativity I was looking for in being able to build a business and have resources for other designers like you do as well and helping people do what I’ve done in the past.
That’s awesome. Now I want to get right into talking about scaling. But before that, I would love to know when you went freelance what services were you providing? Exactly? Because when it comes to digital strategy, that can be a very broad term. Were you building websites? were you doing digital marketing? What type of work were you actually doing for your clients when you went freelance?
At that time, I had a much wider offering set. And at that time I was doing, I was doing website design, graphic design, I was doing branding, I was doing user experience design and product design. The last one UX design, product design is what I had done in house as a designer. And over time, we’ve just kind of started to niche down in that area, because that’s what we’re really, really great at. So to start off, I did a lot of things in design and those areas that I just described and started to narrow down over time.
Gotcha. And that’s very common, I did the same thing. I basically did the whole gamut of print design, graphic design. The big joke with me is that I knew so little about business that I had drum lessons on my business card. At first, I had no good idea about how to really pack my services. So I was literally all over the place until I finally solidified website design, maintenance and SEO. But that’s all right. It’s good to kind of test the waters with a lot of different services, and then you can nail down from there. So my first question for you is, did you know right from the get go when you went freelance that you wanted to scale and you wanted to build something bigger than just you? Or did you come to like a breaking point where you realize I’ve got to get help? What did that look like?
It was me just going with the flow at that time. So I didn’t actually didn’t want to have an agency. For me, the word agency had a lot of preconceived ideas that came with it. Because in my experience as an in house designer, all the agencies I had worked with were felt really big and slow and didn’t they didn’t really understand the company. They didn’t understand me the in-house designer or what like subject matter expert that I had become and it felt like they were just glance it like coming in swooping in doing something and swooping out and they didn’t really get our customer or our product or what we did on a day to day. So for me, that’s what agency meant. And so initially I didn’t want an agency I wanted to be a freelancer. I hit my limit. I was like I need to get help. And over time we figured out a way to be an agency that feels like In house design team, and that’s actually one of the special things that we were able to give to our clients that not a lot of other agencies that operate at the level we do offer. And, yeah, it’s been, it’s been great because it just kind of just happened. I knew I couldn’t do it by myself after a certain point. And I didn’t want to have a ceiling to my income either.
Well, and pretty soon, it seems like I mean, we’re recording this at the end of 2020. But you just went freelance three years ago, I was a solopreneur. For almost seven years before I started scaling, I had got some subcontract help but it wasn’t until that point where I really took it to like a small team level. So yeah, it sounds like it expedited pretty pretty quickly for you. But I was gonna say one thing I love about what you just said is the front page on your website, your tagline really kind of articulates what you just said, because your website amst.co, it says “Get the feel of an in house product UX designer with the firepower of an agency team.” And I love that because that is the problem. And I know when I started scaling, one big thing that I wanted to avoid was the term agency, because that was a scary term for a lot of clients. And a lot of clients tend to feel like a number on a spreadsheet while working with an agency like you probably saw, because you were on the inside of that. I never worked for an agency myself. So I couldn’t really say what that looked like. But just about what you just said, it sounds like it’s exactly how it goes. If you’re worried about team members and profits and all that can be involved with an agency. Whereas when you’re a freelancer or a solopreneur. With a with a small team, you can really focus on your clients. So I love that you guys have that approach in it. I imagine from the start, you wanted to avoid the term agency, right? Is that do you do you say like small team, do you say me and some some team members? How do you tell your clients that? Or do you say agency, but you know, how do you tell your clients that you’re a small team?
Well, I use the word agency now. It took me a long time to a couple years to get to the point where I was comfortable with saying that once I was able to say what you see on the front page of our website, that we are different from other agencies, we operate very differently. And we do our best if you look under the hood at our team, who we are, how we go on go about and day to day how we collaborate we are very different from a traditional design agency. And as soon as I was able to realize that we were like a new kind of agency, I was okay with using that word.
I like that though. New kind of agency. That’s a good that’s a good little tagline in itself there. So yeah, you heard it here first. So, so how big is your team right now?
So we are? Oh, that’s a good question. Because I think we were about seven or eight people.
Okay. I was curious.
It just varies sometimes.
Yeah, I was gonna say cuz I mean, again, you started as a freelancer just a few years ago. So I it looks like it’s grown pretty quickly. What how far were you as a freelancer before you started scaling? Did you scale like, about a year in? Or was it you know, a couple years in? or How long did you go just by yourself before you realize, okay, I’ve got to get some help.
Yeah. Well, in the first year, I had to get help on development, because I’m have no idea on how to develop things.
Well, I have put together words a WordPress website before and one of my websites is a WordPress website. But I struggled significantly. So very quickly, I was like, I cannot do this by myself. I’m going to hire a developer. So that was the first person I started working with, and he actually still works with me, we give him a lot more work these days than I did back then. So we’ve just scaled up the time he, he works with us based on our needs. And then I hired my first designer. The second year in business, like probably about one, one whole year, like 12 months after I started my business. So Okay, the next summer I hired a designer, by first designer, I was experimenting with hiring a designer. It didn’t go well, the first time it went really poorly, which I think everyone’s scared about it is what if they just fall off the face of face of the Earth? What if they mess it up? And they might, it probably will happen to you at some point. But your skills like you are good at what you do. There’s a reason you had enough confidence. You’ve had some success. You’re here people think you’re good at what you do. You’re going to be able to pick up the pieces and make it work. Like I remember one time I was hiring, played around with hiring a designer and she literally went dark right before I had a meeting with a client. Oh, no. I had to for within two hours before the meeting. I had to do the entire thing that she said she would do.
So it happens. Yeah. But you keep trying and you get better and better and recognizing who the right people are.
Well, yeah, I’m sure we’ll talk about hiring here because Underneath the term scaling, it’s kind of an umbrella term. And there’s hiring, project management, personality types. There’s all these little things that are under the word scaling, that I’d love to unpack here. But I think you hit on something really important, which was, you seem to have a very business centric mind. And I found that in the web design world, a lot of web designers are really good at WordPress and web design and design and graphics. And we tend to just do it ourselves. We try to do everything ourselves, because we can figure out the tech, I think it’s a lot easier, and people who are more entrepreneurial and more business minded from the outset, tend to scale faster, or delegate better because they realize I don’t want to figure out WordPress, I can’t code for the life of me, I’m gonna hire this out. Whereas those of us who figured out code and WordPress, we’re like, well, we can do the sales, and I can sell us because I’m doing the work. So I think that’s an interesting difference between web designers and a lot of different industries. Because we tend to scale slower, which I’m not a big proponent of if you want to stay small and stayed a solopreneur for as long as you want. Awesome. I did it and was very content. But you do get to a point where you’re going to have to you don’t have to scale a big agency, but you’re going to have to surround yourself with people who can offload some of the work. So yeah, when you got to that point, how did you start finding your first few hires was that people you knew in the agency world did you put out an offer on Indeed, what did that look like for you, because hiring is fascinating to me.
So it was a bunch of different ways that I found my first few designers to work with, I started just putting out the word to my friends in the design industry in Austin. I think one of the few months I worked with someone that I had worked with at a previous job, which was really fun. And then he eventually ended up getting getting another really good job, and he ended up working there. But then I just started posting places. I think somehow my post ended up in some kind of job board somewhere. And I, my designer that I ended up working with, she saw that post, and then she started working with me, I worked with her for probably a year. But through her I met someone else and she is her name is Alison, she’s on my team now. And she’s absolutely amazing. She knows our business, like the back of her hand. And I found her in this like roundabout way through someone else, you know. So what I’ve noticed is that good people know they’re good people. So always asking for referrals and recommendations is my number one goal to finding designers to work with. But I also realize that there are lots and lots of great designers out there, I might not be connected to all them, probably not. And so I will always put feelers out. Like I use Angel List. And I use there’s a lot of great slack groups for designers I’m sure a lot of people listening in are part of those slack groups. It’s worth putting out notes on their messages on there. But my recommendation is write a job description first. So you’re clear on who you want to work with? How many hours per week do you want to work with them. So you know your investment, and be just really upfront and transparent about what it is you are looking for, for yourself. And then I like to create a little form that they have to submit. It’s almost like a filter, because I’m not I cannot talk to I can’t even talk to 10 people to do interviews, like I need to only talk to three people and then make my decision. So I make a form as a filter for things like rate hours, ask them about themselves, their website. How did they hear about me website is for designers, in my opinion, and web designers, the most important thing? If you don’t have a website, I’m unfortunately not going to look at your portfolio.
Do you care about a degree?
I don’t care about a degree I care about your website.
So many designers, particular graphic designers were always worried about a degree and like, listen, your website is the most important thing. – Josh
Yes, I love it. I’m so that’s the right answer. I love that because I feel like so many designers are, or at least maybe it’s different now. But so many designers, particular graphic designers were always worried about a degree and like, Listen, your website is the most important thing. Even if you don’t have a bunch of clients, I want to see what you can do. And I want to see if you can solve problems. And if you’re a good person to work with and you can show up on time and not ghost on a meeting that you should be doing with a client call like you talked about.
Yeah, it it doesn’t though degree doesn’t matter. I mean, I have a degree in Industrial Design, nothing to do with what I did today. It was a great background and got me to where I am and I’m so grateful for it. But I and it is a design degree technically. So it was really helpful. But I could have not had that because everything I learned was on the job too.
Well, and you said something interesting there. So you said good people, no good people. That is what a great line and it’s so true. Like if you even if you know somebody who you’re not going to hire, chances are they might know somebody who’s similar up and coming that is such a great mindset to have Have we so you’re in Austin. So I’m in Columbus, Ohio, where I’ve never been Austin. But I here Columbus is very similar. I think we’re just a little bit smaller. Because we’re a very tech centric town. We’ve got Ohio State University, it’s very college type of town. But we also have a lot of startups and tech companies here now as well. Did you intentionally want to find people in Austin? Or were you open to remote workers? And I guess a follow up to that is, do you guys have people overseas in different time zones? Or have you tried to keep it stateside?
Actually, the location doesn’t matter to me too much. We have four people, four people in the US one person in Canada, one person in Serbia, and one person in the Ukraine. So we are all over the place. And thing, I don’t know if that adds up. But we’re all over the place, which is really cool. And I love not having the constraint of you have to be in Austin, because I would love to work with the best people. And that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all going to be in my city. Because there’s good people all over the world. And we have the ability to do that today. Why not take advantage of it?
Yeah, and there’s no better time to do that, particularly with COVID. We’ve seen that, you can pretty much do anything working from home and web design this year was not different for us. Like it was funny. I’ve been talking in the podcasts a lot about how different industries and businesses were rocked, and they were getting so used to doing things online. And for most of us, it wasn’t any different at all, like Well, welcome to our world working, you know, and sweat pants and jumping on zoom meetings all the time. Like it really wasn’t that different. And I definitely think there’s no better time than now to be able to work remotely, which is really cool. It’s super empowering. It should be empowering for folks who are in different countries who want to work with US based agencies and stuff, which is really cool as well. So you said something a little bit ago that I want to hit on, which was the amount of time it would take to weed out people in hire, because that’s the catch 22 here is you want to get help when you’re overloaded with work. But anyone who’s going to scale, you have to realize there’s going to be a process in order to get somebody to help you out like it’s, it’s not going to save time immediately. It will save time eventually. But it’s like creating any sort of system or process or anything. The initial time to do that is pretty time consuming. So yeah. How did you balance that? Did you like set a certain like practically, did you set a certain amount of hours per day to do that? Did you have like a standard operating procedure in place with your processes? What did that look like when you just started hiring?
So I am always hiring, I always have people that I have in a in a place and a folder. It’s actually on my project management system. But I always have a list of people who I can reach out to you at any point in time. Because I tomorrow, I might have five big projects that we say yes to because we are scaling right now. So I need to be ready to reach out to someone. So I’m, I always see our team is hiring all the time. And that means that I’m constantly on the lookout for good people. I’m constantly looking for recommendations, introductions, people that I know that I respect. And always, if they say like, hey, do you? Do you know, are you guys looking for anyone, I was like, let me talk to them, I would love to talk to them. Because what I’ve noticed, and this is i’m i’m here to scale. So that’s what I’m doing. And that’s why I think this way. So especially like we have we have a goal, you probably heard this when in the podcast that you listen to that I was on where I’m growing our team to be a million dollar business in 2021. So in order to do that, I need to have people that I’m ready to hire and we are going to be hiring in 2021, which is exciting. So I’m have a form that I have set up. And I use ClickUp as my project management system in the form that is in clickup. So right now we have an angel list posting that has a form at the bottom of that job description. If you are able to click on it and read through the job description and get to the bottom you will see that form. So that’s my first filter. You don’t read through it you don’t get to the bottom. And you just like apply through Angel list. Well not gonna look at your your application. So that’s the first filter and when you click on that link, it takes you to a click up form but click a form is like six or seven questions, email address. I asked them a question about themselves about what makes them different, which I often read if I have a question between two people and I look at their portfolio and they’re very similar and Then in addition to that, I will ask them about their rate rate of range without a contract I will there. So I don’t want to talk to a $200 designer, if my budget is something else. So that’s it’s just not saying that I, I want to not pay them that right? It’s not about that it’s about like, what are their expectations because I don’t want to talk to someone and give them a misleading idea that I am going to pay them $200 if I don’t have that budget, so that’s, that’s the second piece. So I have all these questions I asked them to, I think, I asked them to put their resume in there, because I like to see where they worked in the past. And then or I just looked them up on LinkedIn, it’s not, not that hard to find out these days. And then I asked them to put a link to their portfolio. Very, very important, like the number one thing for me, because if you don’t have a website, if you send me and I’m like, I’m a stickler about this, if you send me a link to a Dropbox, if you send me a link to a PDF, if you send me a link, even to a behance, or a dribble account, you’re automatically removed from the running for this position for any designer position at MSD. Because I believe that if you’re a designer and technology, you must have figured out how to make your own website that’s really important to me, I need you to be scrappy, because we’re a scrappy team. We wear a lot of hats sometimes. And if you figure things out, I don’t want you to ask me questions when you could have googled it. So to me, that’s really, really, really important. So I want them to have that link in there. As soon as they get like, I see that I’ll click on it. And then I’ll review their portfolio. But I’ll pause there and go on. But I’ll pause there first to see what are your thoughts.
I like the term scrappy, because that is so important. The next question I was gonna ask you is like what are the most important traits that you look for? Because Yeah, you can look at, you know, work and everything. But I’ve found the team members I’ve worked with, I’ve never had anyone full time. But I’ve worked with subcontractors and subcontractors who have been basically full time designers. For me, the most important thing that I’ve found is problem solving, and a willingness to learn stuff. And in web design, you have to have that because stuff is changing constantly. And like you said it is no matter what setup you have in any sort of digital business or marketing, you have to be scrappy, because tools, tools are changing, upgrading, you can’t get locked into one way of doing things all the time. So I’ve found that being able to be really, I guess, adverse, or just open to change and open to different things. And honestly, just being a master Googler that’s like, that’s free University right there. Just know how to Google stuff and find stuff quickly. That’s it. Like, are those some of the things that you look for that maybe trump other years of experience? I guess that’s the question. Yeah. What do you look for? That’s outside of a typical thing you’d see on a resume?
Yeah, I think you and I probably look for similar things. Josh, I care a lot about these characteristics, some of them that you’ve outlined, being able to go look for a solution before you ask me that, that matters to me a lot. Because if I first of all, I probably don’t know the answer. Like, I don’t know how envision updated their thing. And now they have prototypes this way, I have no idea. I don’t make vision prototypes these days, because I have an amazing person on my team who does that. So I don’t know the answer. So if you’re asking me, I’m gonna Google it, and send you a link, and you’re gonna have to research it anyway. So Couldn’t you have just googled it. And so that whole process I would like to avoid, I want to work with the team member that first takes time to figure it out on their own. If they hit roadblocks and aren’t able to figure it out. If they, they can ask me they can ask Allison, our team member, they can ask other people on our team, and we would love to help them. But taking that first step and that initiative, being a self starter, I think that’s what it is, is like you take initiative to figure it out first. And being scrappy, that means if there isn’t, I don’t know, a wireframe that you can find that works for the thing that you’re working on. You figure out how to make one on your own or you go on to like figma communities and put it together. There’s so many resources out there like 2020 you have no excuse. Like, I don’t know how to do this, go find a YouTube video, you can figure it out. That’s what I do. I just Google things every day. I don’t know I never knew how to make a gif before and then I Googled it when they figured it out. So things like that. So scrappiness matters being a self starter communication is super simple. it. Because we are a team on different time zones, we’re in different places of the world. Being able to communicate is top priority. And I tell them in the initial interview right away, that communication matters a lot to us. If something happens in your world, and you’re not able to finish or work on the things that you could have you were going to work on, let us know, we are a team, we’re here to help each other out. You’re not going to be in trouble if like life happens, because life happens to all of us. And we want to help help you because you’re going to help us one day like it’s a team here. So those are, I would say, top things that I looking for. Integrity, integrity, yes. Like all of those things, integrity, and just being able to be an honest person that matters. But to me, that’s just a baseline. You must come with that. If you’re, if I’m going to work with you. Yeah, I guess I guess that the list.
So when you interview you said like up to three people for something on average, do you feel like you can tell pretty quickly, like how a person is, because I feel like I’ve always followed my gut. And I’m a pretty quick and good judge of character. Anybody that I’ve worked with or brought in, I’ve always been right about even if I gave somebody a chance, and I was thinking maybe maybe they’ll do good, but man, I kind of have a couple red flags. Anytime I’ve done that it’s always shown it to be true that Yeah, the red flags I thought definitely came up right away. I always followed my gut. And I did the same thing. I sold my web design agency earlier this year. And I did the same thing with my CEO who took over the business, I trusted my gut with him. I just felt like he was a good fit. And it turned out to be amazing. So do you follow the same idea? Like just trusting your gut and getting a good feel for a personality type? Or? I mean, I imagine you can work through and see any bullshit, right? If you feel like they’re saying something that maybe they’re just saying that to? To try to land this job, you feel like you have to have a good sense of just trusting your gut with hiring people.
Yeah, I think trusting your gut is a huge part of it. Because for me, a culture fit matters as well, because we are a certain type of team, we. We work with each other a lot. We’re talking to each other a lot. So I often in a, my interviews are sometimes really short, they’re like 15 minutes long, because I can quickly tell like, Hey, I like you, you seem to be able to figure things out. And I think you’re going to work well with the other people on our team. And I do a test set of either like two to four weeks of a test. collaboration. I’ve always test out the designers that I work with a is just what’s worked for me. Where we do a test engagement before I’m bringing them on to maybe a three month or six month contract. And for me that makes the whole process a low barrier. I don’t have not making this like one decision that’s going to be locked locking me in for a year in after that 15 minute conversation. I just want to move fast. Like I want to start getting them in in a project let them see Do they like our process? Do they like me? Do they like our team? Do we like them? So for me that like that’s like our interview process is that 15 minute conversation. Are you going to work well with our team? Do you have the personality or the characteristics because I can train someone to design I’m going to be training them anyway to design within our process. And I can train someone to improve as a designer, I cannot train someone on their values, their like underlying values that they come in with. So that’s really like the read I’m taking the first time I talked to them. Yeah, there is like a general concept of I want to beginner I want to mid level person I want to senior person, but within those bands, you can train someone really.
I’ve heard that easily. Yeah, I’ve heard that over and over where it’s, you know, you can train the technical stuff. What’s either impossible or really hard to train is communication. And just being a good person, like a person is like their their mission and their heart. Like that’s that’s stuff that that’s really tough. So that I feel like that’s much more important than the tech stuff. And as long as you can figure stuff out, honestly, for anyone listening who wants to be a designer or in a position to get hired by an agency. Just put, I figure stuff out on your website, that will be like the best grabbing a like attention tinting kind of grabber because that’s what I look for, like, I just want somebody who can figure stuff out. And like you said, I don’t want to be the middleman to be able to have to look for answers. I want team members to kind of tell me like, Hey, I figured this out. I want to show you what I figured out and I’ve surrounded myself with that kind of network. And honestly, that’s one. I don’t want to skim over this because I think it’s a really important thing to do when you’re coming up is the people you meet whether it’s in person, there’s less of that now through the COVID stuff. So you’re going to be in Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups, all kinds of different digital spaces and meetups, keep a spreadsheet of people, you know, like and trust that are in and around your industry. I did that since I think about 2015. I started just I kept, I still have it, I have a spreadsheet on my browser that’s just like people in my referral network. And those would be people, like you said that I’m ready to talk to at a moment’s notice. If I’m like, you know what, I don’t do social media. But I have a couple people who I know, here’s their info. I did that for years. And it was super beneficial. And it helped me because I wasn’t like crap. What was that guy’s name john, or Jimmy or something three years ago, you know, like you have it. And you’re like, here’s john, this is what he does. This is where I met him. This is his hourly rate. Last I know. So I would definitely encourage anyone listening to do that have like a spreadsheet of people you run across. And you know, like and trust and maybe even like, I have a Facebook group for web designers who use did the Divi Theme by Elegant Themes. That’s what I use. And I, we have like a whole group of people in and around that have people that I have seen being really helpful in the group. And I recently launched my web design Club, which is my membership of a lot of my students. For me that’s kind of been like that. There it is, like, there’s the people I’m going to start working with more and more moving forward and refer out. But for anyone who joins that, that’s also an instant network. So I say that to say, whether it’s my web design club or any group, you’re a part of keeping an intentional eye out for members and, or for colleagues and people you can network with, because that will be really empowering. Because if you can’t figure something out, you can say I am a part of a network where we could get it figured out. That was the big thing for me is when I just started out, I may not have been able to figure out something with PHP and some really advanced code, but by golly, I could hire it out, or I found somebody who could do it. So I think that’s, that’s really crucial. And I like that you kind of look out for the same stuff. I did that and intuitiveness to just figure it out, just be good Googler.
So one of the questions I know you only have about 25 minutes or so or so. So I think we’ll just keep this to more hiring. Maybe we’ll have to do a follow up episode. Yeah. On the systems for scaling, like the clients. But this is good. I’m glad that we’re focusing on people on hiring. Because the next question I have for you is, so this is all great. You talked about where you find people, you talk about putting a job description in place so you know what role it is you talk about what you’re looking for, what kind of things are gonna go over? Well, when you’re weeding people out, you talked about your forums and your process for that. But when you onboard somebody, are you taking them through your internal processes first, while simultaneously training them? Do you just kind of give them an easy project just to get their feet wet? Or do you throw them right in? What does that look like when they’re like they’re, they’re actually moving forward with you?
Yeah, so we’re upgrading this right now. So what we have currently is, someone comes onto the team and we have a set of onboarding videos that they watch. So we use loom and we just have a folder right now those videos, but we’re planning on moving them into a design playbook that I’m currently building out. So the idea is that this playbook is something that can be broken out into chapters. And depending on if that new person is doing a test project, I can say like, this is the chapter you need to read, to know everything you need to know. And then you can get started on this project. So right now it’s a link with a bunch of great videos, which is just me with a screen recording talking like, here’s how you, here’s how we use slack here is what you need to do and where you need to communicate in this channel. This is how you use clickup clickup as our project management system, it is very, very important for the way we operate. And they need to know that how that works, because I want them to get a specially when this is a new person I’m testing I want to get let them have a full view into the process. So how we use slack how we use click up how we use toggle the tracker time how we use you know, what else do we use figma to make the design so I want them to get a little slice of that entire cake basically, and not just one tiny piece.
It’s almost like an AMSD business course, right? Like you’re kind of taking them through a training on how things work. Because that’s a big thing, too. If you just put somebody on a project, they may do really good on the design, but they don’t know how you work. They could really mess. They could mess it up. If they’re like, yeah, they’re talking to the client before they should or if they’re not following the right standard processes and stuff like that.
Yeah. And so Exactly. I want them to get a little training. It’s not a long time, it takes people maybe 45 minutes. It’s not long. The videos, I made like a
Like a month training kind of thing.
No, no, because also, I don’t know if I’m gonna work with them for a long, long time yet, so I want them to get this snippet of this is what you need to know because I’ve already identified what project I might want them to work on. And usually for me, it’s a subset of a larger project. It is very well defined. So then I get them on onboard in those tools that I just described. And I will actually assign, bring them as a guest into our project management system. And I’ll assign them a task. And they in the task, we have a very, this is probably more of like a systems thing. But we have a very clear way how we organize our task cards and how they’re nested. We have formats we have templates that we use. So every time they open a task that’s assigned to them for a specific day, they’re never wondering, wait, where do I begin? Because there’s a video, there’s a set of specifications, here’s the link to the file and the project. And all those things are associated with that. And designers are often visual learners Go figure. So I found that making video recordings is extremely effective. I don’t have to rely on them having taken notes in my zoom call, they can rewatch that video as many times as they want, they can pause it, they can look at it, they can hear it. If you find someone that reads better, you can type things out for them. But luckily for me, we have a team that is a visual learning team. So.
Yeah, that’s huge. Just document your stuff like document, it’s easier said than done, for sure, because it’s very
But all you have to do is record yourself doing something. I mean, you want to try to be thrifty and concise with it. So your videos aren’t hours long. But you can absolutely do that. Like I hired a VA for this podcast. And she does the distributing and the outline of the transcription stuff. And I just basically set up a workflow. And then I just recorded each piece of me doing it that way, she can always refer back to it. So it’s the same idea. I mean, there’s definitely levels of complexity with that with certain things. But at the core, that’s that’s what you should do at least document if you think you’re gonna scale document your stuff for sure. I wanted to ask you real quick, because we’ve talked about a lot of cool things and uplifting things with hiring and growing. But let’s talk about firing. Because if you’re hiring a lot of people, I imagine you’ve talked about firing and I just saw you get you light it up. So that’s that’s cool. I want to hear
It’s like a funny thing to light up about. But I’ll tell you why I lit up about it.
That’s what I want to hear. Why did you I can’t imagine you love firing people. But it looks like you’ve probably learned some stuff when it comes to firing. What did that look like?
What isn’t for me, or is no longer serving me falls away quietly. – Avani
Yeah, so I have a if you listen to my podcast, six figure freelancer, which Josh will be on very soon. If you listen to the podcast, you’ll notice I talk a lot about mindset, a lot about what what’s in here, what’s between between your ears, because I think everything starts in your mind. Everything starts with the mentality that you’re moving into, into a new business with a new venture, whatever. So I think that’s very important. And for me, one of the affirmations that I have is, what isn’t for me, or is no longer serving me falls away quietly. And that, to me, applies for team members as well. I’ve seen this happen so many times. It’s just amazing. And I’ll just I’ll explain what I mean.
So that quote again?
yes. What isn’t for me, or is no longer serving me falls away quietly.
This can mean anything, this can mean a job that you really, really hate. And you’re like, I don’t want to quit, and you get like, oh, and maybe that’s a good thing for you. This could mean a relationship, a friendship that you have been feeling is really sticky and draining. Maybe they just stop talking to you and you just stop talking to them and you grow apart. And maybe that’s a good thing. This could mean a team member on your team. This has happened to me twice in like for people who I’ve worked with for a long time. And basically, we had a really great great relationship. Things started out really wonderfully. But over time, I was noticing the performance wasn’t there like oh, all of a sudden in a few weeks I realized like they weren’t performing at the level that they used to something was wrong and I would be checking in with them and they would just say like I had a bad week or or I’m I’m tired and we do have bad weeks I’m not saying like bad weeks mean you’re fired. But when you see that consistently week after week and you’re realizing like and these designers I was paying them a pretty good price. So I expect if I’m paying someone I’m not you’re not here to like we’re not doing this for fun.
It’s not charity it’s …
Yeah, so so I am I am running a business. So there’s a lot of things that are in play here. If If this was for fun, that would be a different story, but I’m paying you a premium price. I do expect high quality work and I will check in I we have Weekly one on ones with every team, I have weekly one on ones with every team member, I want to know, I want to know how they’re doing, I really care about them. I want AMSD to be the best place they’ve ever worked ever. And I’m on a mission to make that happen in the next year. So in the case where something’s not right, they’re not performing. And I’m just noticing I’m asking them what’s going on. And they’re like, Oh, I’m having a tough time. They’re saying, like, I don’t know, I just haven’t been in it. I haven’t been feeling like, the ideas aren’t coming to me. And so I, I kept an eye on it. And then at some point, I was like, I don’t think this is gonna work. I think like, we’re gonna have to end our engagement and our contract. And it’s hilarious, because the both times that I’ve had to do that. The next week in our one on one, they decided they told me that they were resigning.
Oh, oh, you’re good. You could tell right? Something was up.
Yeah, yeah. And I could tell something was up. I mean, there have been times where I’ve had to sever the relationship. Like, I’ve had to do that. And I’ve had to initiate it. And it’s not easy. And it’s not because they’re a bad person, or that I don’t like them as a person that is not personal. It’s not, it just means when when something is off, when you’re feeling something’s off, and you’re noticing it come up again. And again, it means this isn’t the right fit. for someone to continue being in a wrong fit for a long period of time is not serving them, and it’s not serving you. And it’s not serving my team. I cannot do that to the other people on my team.
Yeah, it’s also not serving your clients. Like it all filters down to your client, you know? Yeah, yeah, it’s like everything. It’s like a ripple effect. Anything that happens in the team just trickles down to your clients, and then it affects their work like it really, it can be a cancer, if if you know something happens like that, have you ever had somebody that you had to let go or fire because of any sort of personality kind of thing, even if it was maybe their, their work was good, but they were just kind of a, you know, a tough personality. I know, I talked about this in a recent podcast, because I had one similar talking about a gentleman who scaled his business. And I told him, I used to be in a band, and we got a new bass player one time. And our previous bass player was awesome, nicest guy in the world. But his competence was lacking, he would just show up to practice or a show and not have his bass, like where’s your bass guitar. But he was a great person who was great to be around. And when we let him go, we got this other guy in who was really professional, really technical. But a couple months in, we found out that his personality, like his negativity was kind of hidden until he got comfortable with us. And it was like a cancer, like everybody was moody and angry all the time. And we realized we had to let him go. And it was really difficult. And I think that’s really common in business to where somebody might get through the filters. But then you find out Oh, this person’s actually kind of a cancer to our business. Have you ever had an experience like that?
I haven’t, I mean, been in business for three years. So there’s a lot of chance for new experiences. However, I’m very confident in our process. That is, again, why we do a test set of weeks, two to four weeks, because I can quickly and easily identify someone that’s like that, that’s not going to work well with us. And I will make a point, anyone in a test test set of weeks or test month, they are not client facing, everyone on my team basically earned the ability to be client facing Okay, and that happens after months and months in. So it’s almost like they’re in a safety net for us and for them as we’re testing out the relationship. So I would be able to quickly identify if that person is like that very quickly identify it and I’m also just have a have an affirmation that we attract the best people we attract really great team members that are hungry and excited to work with us and share our values. So I’ve just personally, we’re not energetically available for someone that doesn’t match where we are in energy and energy levels.
Well, my my one of my favorite takeaway quotes from 2020 was your vibe attracts your tribe. And that seems like it’s very true with you like you’re gonna attract the people who are a good fit and I I found that with my web design club, like the members in there, it’s already become like the most encouraging amazing, supportive little corner of the internet, because they’re all like minded. They may not believe the same things or be the exact same but we all have a similar core belief and like bettering each other, building each other up and growing our businesses and being eager to support each other and that’s huge. And I definitely see that in you with your team. Your vibe attracts your tribe, you’re getting people who maybe they don’t have to be the exact same energy but they still you know, they got to fit into the mold a little bit I’m, I’m sure it is good to get some counterparts and some people who are a little different. I actually was gonna ask you that too. Do you try to surround yourself with people who compliment your strengths are who might challenge you a little bit to think differently. Even just from a business perspective,
I would say that it needs to be someone who complements my strengths, or who challenges me, I want to work with people who call me out when I’m wrong, or I forget something, because I often do. So. And I am. I’m not a detail oriented person. So I have some team members that are detail oriented. Some team members that think a little bit differently than I do that, ask different kinds of questions that kind of fill in my weaknesses. So and I tend to move really quickly and ask, I asked certain kinds of kinds of questions, but I forget to ask other questions. So some of my team members are a little bit more patient and a little bit more thoughtful. And you can see that in the way they interact with our clients. And not saying that I’m impatient or not thoughtful. But I, you can see by my energy and the way that I talk, like I want to move fast, I want to break things I want to do it today. So that’s not always the best.
Well, and you’re hitting on the big point, which is being self aware, I think any leader has got to be self aware, the worst leaders are the ones who are not self aware about their faults, because we all have faults, nobody’s perfect. And I’ve had to realize that I think I’m pretty similar to you, and that the detail type of stuff is not my cup of tea, I’m really good at creating processes and creating a checklist, but then I never want to follow it again, like I want to hand it off to have somebody who likes that. But I can create it and I can inspire people and I love you know, I’m the kind of the same way, I like to do stuff pretty quick. And if we break it, we’ll fix it or, you know, I’m learning to kind of have people it’s one reason I wanted to have help with the podcast, because I want a detailed person to go through that the kind of stuff that I don’t want to follow the checklist every time. So I think being self aware is super important in any sort of leadership role. And it sounds like you guys really create a pretty welcoming environment or open environment. Would you say that to where people can express like, I’m good at this? Or because you want to get that constructive criticism? Do you do that on your one on ones? Do you just keep it personal and keep it open like that to make them feel comfortable with sharing? Like, you know how they’re feeling?
Yeah, absolutely. The modern ones, for me aren’t really about the business as much as it is about how they’re doing and how they’re feeling. So my goal is just to check in with them. I want to know, we talk about their lives. Sometimes we talk about what’s happening in the background, how they were feeling last week. are they feeling overloaded or not? Or how are they? What are they, I often ask, what is the favorite project that you’ve been working on? What’s the least favorite project you’ve been working on? That gives me a really good insight into what’s going on in their head. So I want to be able to know that and understand. I might pick up pick apart myself like later on and analyze why they didn’t like that project or why they did like that project, because that can tell me about their strengths and where they might need to grow as well. So it’s just about them. That time is important to me. And it’s all about them. And I need to know, I want to know.
Well, this is awesome. I know. We’re getting close on time. I have one more question for you, which is so you have big vague aspirations of getting to a seven figure mark for 2021. I don’t think you’re going to be able to do one on one calls every week if your team’s growing pretty exponentially. I mean, maybe you will. But what’s your strategy for for hiring? Like? What are you going to have to do differently on your end? To be able to hire effectively to keep up with that? Are you going to do group calls? Are you going to be much more strict with your schedule? What’s Well, I’m just kind of curious, what’s that gonna look like for you? Do you think have you planned that out?
Yeah, great question. And I know that you’ve been down this route on your own as well. So really good question. I am planning on actually empowering other team members to help me do those one on one calls, there are some people that I like really trust, and I know they’re, they’re really good at their job. They’re better than I am and a lot of things so. And I’m planning on empowering them to do one on ones with some of the other team members that I can’t especially some of the newer team members are some of the more junior team members. And I will be doing that more infrequently. So it might be a once a month or once every couple months type of thing where I check in with them. And then the conversation definitely changes because often in our one on ones, they asked me questions about like what’s coming up that week. And I don’t need to be the person who answers those questions all the time because other people know what’s coming up that week, and I can train someone on how I operate on my one on as well, because it’s not just me that can care about our team members, there are other people that already care about our team members. So I’m planning on really already started trusting my team more leaning into their skills. Because it’s not about me, this is a recent realization I’ve had, it’s not about me holding all of this together anymore. It’s not that anymore. It’s about the team and letting them shine and letting them take the stage. And they’re the ones who are the glue of AMSD. It’s not me anymore.
That’s great. Yeah, I mean, the idea of being a guide for your clients is, is really popular with story brand. And a lot of these other marketing ideas now, where you’re the guide, your your clients are the hero. And I feel like it looks like you’re taking that role with your business. Like you’re now the guide to your team. And they’re the heroes, you’re kind of elevating them to really do it and get it done. It’s super cool. That’s awesome. Yeah, it sounds like what sounds like you’ve got a really good foundation here. For for, you know, doing good things in 2021. I definitely think we’re gonna have to have like a part two of this to talk about the systems.
But this has been great. I really enjoy. I’m really, I’ve really enjoyed picking your brain with the hiring aspects. So I’ll probably just title this episode a little differently. But yeah, let’s maybe do a part two on that. Where can my audience find more about you? And where would you like them to go to check out your website?
Yeah, I will, they can check out AMSD. co if they want to see our agency site. And they can also click over I think there’s a link on it. I can’t remember now, but have any mariela.com Avanimiryala com. And I do need to send you those links. Josh, I’ll do that today. That is the website where I have a lot of my content, you’ll see blog posts, podcasts, and a lot of great stuff over there. As well as my proposal builders, which which is a really great tool are free to use. If you’re a freelancer, which I think a lot of people here are. And I’m on Instagram at AvaniMariela, I’m on there every day, catch me on my stories, DM me, so we can be friends because I love cheering people on as they grow their own freelance practices and businesses. It’s one of my favorite things to do.
Oh, that’s awesome. Well, thanks. So thanks so much for coming on and being transparent with what you’ve learned so far. Definitely don’t think this will be the last time I think maybe pretty soon we’ll have to have a round two and yeah, send me those links. I’ll link it all in the show notes. And until next time, thanks so much for coming on. I’ll talk to you soon.