When it comes to “scaling” a web design business, I’ve found that it generally happens when:

  1. You planned to be a true business owner so you’re fast to delegate and hire
  2. You get to a point in your web design career where you don’t want to do “all the things” anymore
  3. Or you’re so slammed with projects that you can possibly get it all done without working 90 hour weeks

My scaling journey was a mix of 2 & 3. But it was being stacked with 23 projects at once that was the official last straw.

I never wanted a big agency with overhead and payroll so I avoided scaling like the plague and as you can imagine, was super nervous to hire out consistently. 

But once I officially started delegating and scaling, I never looked back.

The time freedom it gave back to me, the feeling of not being alone in my business and being able to focus on the work I WANTED to work on was invaluable.

But I experienced growing pains through each stage of my messy scaling journey which is why I’m so excited to bring onto the podcast Jessica Lackey, a business consultant who has a knack for making growing your way…easy. And how to do it one small step at a time.

In this one, we cover:

  • What to prioritize in your business for scaling
  • How to scale small
  • What to focus on in each growth stage
  • Making scaling less daunting
  • The steps to take to avoid a messy scaling experience

Enjoy!

P.S. Did you know I have a FREE Scaling Masterclass Video Training that you can access now?

In this episode:

0:00 – Navigating Growth Stages in Your Business
3:52 – Choosing the Path to Business Growth
17:53 – Accounting and Scaling Tips for Business
26:11 – Scale a Business Effectively
39:51 – Nature Reconnection, Scaling Back Expenses
44:44 – Strategies for Sustainable Business Scaling
49:49 – Web Designers’ Scaling and Marketing Strategies

Take Jessica’s Free Radical and Rooted Business Lifecycle Assessment


Connect with Jessica:

Featured links mentioned:

Episode #278 Full Transcription

Jessica: 

Scaling when you’re not already making enough money means that you’re likely going to be unprofitable as you scale. So you’re going to get into that that I’m selling more projects to pay my team for the projects I’ve already built. We want to make sure that you’re reasonably profitable as a soloist before you start to scale, because otherwise your pricing and positioning is off.

Josh: 

Great point, yeah, there’s. It’s a fine line, isn’t it, between, like, when to scale.

Josh: 

Hello friends, great to have you here in this episode, so excited to have a deep dive conversation into growing pains and how to scale your business. No matter what size you want to scale, even if you want to remain a soloist, a solopreneur, but you don’t want to do absolutely everything in your business. You’d like to delegate something off of your plate, which I recommend. That’s what we’re going to dive into. We’re going to talk about the different growth stages in your business, with what works for you and how to get through those, because every time your business grows as exciting as that is and as exciting as it is to make a lot of sales, that means you’re going to have to grow in some way or you’re going to have to work more or delegate more.

So to help us with this, I’m so excited to bring on Jessica Lackey, who is a consultant for all sorts of businesses and has a lot of skill set and a lot of really, really good advice with how to handle growing pains. And really what we dive into here, too, is how to figure out what to focus on in each stage of growth, which I found invaluable. Actually, I think you’ll notice like halfway through this conversation, this really became a coaching call for me, because everything that we dove into with Jessica here is so what I’m going through. So, if you are just starting to get overwhelmed and you’re very, very busy and you’re trying to figure out what to do next, where to take your business, you don’t want to have a big agency and a lot of overhead, but you know you just cannot do everything on your own.

I really think this conversation is going to help you a lot and we’re going to briefly dive into this lovely word that she has on her homepage at Jessica Lackeycom about how to avoid toxic productivity. I love that term because I do not love hearing all about productivity. I feel like priority is way more important than productivity. So, yeah, we’re very aligned here and I think it’s going to help you a lot. Jessica Lackeycom she has some free stuff for you too at Jessica Lackeycom slash welcome, so we’ll bring that up here once we dive in, and I’m very excited to announce to that Jessica is going to be coming into Web Designer Pro at the end of this year, in 2023, to do a guest expert training on scaling, so we’ll take a more visual approach at this talk later on in the year. All right, for now, here is Jessica.

Let’s dive into where the heck to focus your attention in different growth stages of your business and I enjoyed this one. I hope you do too. Jessica, great to have you on the show. I’m so excited to talk focus and attention shop today. That sounds good. Sounds great to me. So we’re just chatting before I hit record. My ideal customer in my business is a web designer who is growing and they’re in the growth stage period of, like, growing pains. Some of them are wanting to stay a stull opener for as long as they can, like I did. Some are forced to scale, like I did, and then some actually have intention of scaling. So I think there’s a lot of challenges in this area that I’m really excited to get your expertise on, if that sounds good for this conversation.

Jessica: 

Sounds great. I’m excited to talk about it.

Josh: 

And what do you? When people ask you what you do? What is the quick answer? Do you have an answer for? Like your neighbor or your grandma versus an entrepreneur? What’s your answer to that question?

Jessica: 

I don’t really talk to neighbors and grandmas, they just know I’m a consultant. But for your audience I’m a business strategist and operations advisor, helping guide businesses through various trajectories of their business, because it’s really important to find the right business model in size for you and that’s different for everyone. And that’s what’s really important about these phases of growth and phases of scale. Not every business owner wants the same thing, even though we’re marketed something different.

Josh: 

Great point. Yeah, I mean, I struggled with that mightily when I was building my business because I saw some competitors and some local friends who had like agencies and I felt pressured like I should do that, but in my core I just didn’t want to do it and I’m glad I ended up kind of listening to myself and not getting to that point. But I do see a lot of people who go that route because they just feel like they should. I’m personally really, really excited about the idea of lifestyle freedom over anything else right now, particularly in the way of like as an entrepreneur. Have you seen a shift in the landscape maybe in the last few years with that idea that people are less interested in growing the biggest business possible and people are really focusing on more life balance and lifestyle as a whole now?

Jessica: 

I have really seen that, but it’s interesting. I’ve seen it in two camps. There’s the camp that says stay small and flexible so that you can retain that lifestyle design, and then the camp that says scale to build a team so that you don’t do the delivery, so that you can have that flexible design. So there’s this. You know you can get that flexibility in multiple ways. Or then there’s the other path, which has become a monetized course creator that talks about web design, and then you can create freedom that way. So everyone wants the freedom, but there’s multiple paths to do it that all require creating a slightly different business than a business model.

Josh: 

That’s well said. I have found that for sure. What I came to more recently was in the web design, there’s really a few different types of web designers. There’s freelancers, who are just doing all the work getting clients themselves. There’s solopreneurs who are doing all that, but they’re also very business focused and working on the business. And in the business owners, like you said, who are scaling and who are solely working on the business and hiring things out. Neither path, though I’ve said, is right or wrong. So I guess, do you have any tips right off the bat on how we choose what path we want for, like, what season of life we want, because it can change. It’s changed, for me for sure, over the years.

Jessica: 

Yeah, I would love to make sure that all of our freelancers who in our solopreneurs kind of merge, and that every one of our soloists I call them the craftsmen they are all business oriented and savvy, because I think that’s how we go from being a vendor to a trusted partner. But I think there’s the transitioning from that soloist model to the agency model. There’s a shift in do you want to lead people and do you have enough marketing pipeline to generate the business flow that will sustain a team? And some people are like nope, I just want to do my projects and I’ll deal with the lumpiness on my end. And some people are like I want to scale a business, but then it shifts the work from doing the design to leading a team and that’s a personal preference.

Josh: 

Yeah, good point and I should say, with the idea of a freelancer that’s at least in web design, that’s the common starting point. Right, most all freelancers. To your point, yeah, they do become a solopreneur to where at some point they get to work and on the business, you have to at some point. But it is a great place to start because you can start working with clients and make partnerships and work for other agencies. But there is this shift where you do get business focused. I’m kind of curious, before we dive further into like, how to figure out each growth stage, did you have intention of being an entrepreneur, jessica, or did you kind of fall into it? Are you an accidental entrepreneur?

Jessica: 

I’m an accidental entrepreneur. I worked in big corporate. I worked for a consulting firm McKinsey and company. I worked for Nike in supply chain and operations and I thought I was going to be the consummate corporate executive someday. Until I realized that that wasn’t the life I wanted, like I didn’t want that version of success. So I thought I was going to become a coach. And now I’m falling into being a strategic consultant, kind of blending that corporate background with the coaching and entrepreneurial neural bent. But I never thought I was going to be. I thought I was going to be a corporate executive with those golden handcuffs leapt out during COVID when I realized that I didn’t again, that I didn’t want that version of success. I didn’t want to be trying to work that hard to make that much money and like see my life kind of pass before my eyes. So I decided to take what I learned and serve a different population with different priorities in life.

Josh: 

Every common story. Do you feel like 2020 is when the idea of a fulfilling career Kind of morphed into a fulfilling lifestyle with business? That’s that’s my take on it personally is I, I’ve just known so many people my mom included one time sets she always wanted a career, but I don’t know too many people now who are looking for a career. It is much more lifestyle. I wonder if that’s when the shift happened big time.

Jessica: 

I think it happened big time because I think that’s the there’s always the crucible moment. That happens a lot of times. It happens for people in their mid 30s to early 40s where you, you look around, you say, okay, I’ve been plugging along on the default path for a pretty long time. I look around and I it’s usually predicated by some kind of like health concern or financial concern or relationship, or, you know, I’ve had children. But 2020 was a collective crucible moment where everyone had to pause and take stock of their life, and we don’t, aren’t we not? I’m not incentivized to do that on a regular basis. So to have that collective Normalization of, oh, we need to think differently about our lives, I think, really put into, to place some of the underlying tension that had been bubbling up in the fulfilling career philosophy.

Josh: 

Yeah, I agree with that. It definitely seems like it was the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came like okay, I definitely don’t need this and there’s got to be a better way. We were just talking before went live. My wife has helped train my kids not to Head to my door when I have calls. But my golden retriever did not get that memo. So let me let her in real quick. I’m gonna let her hang in the office, hold on one sec. All right, I have a couch on the other side here. So I say, two golden retrievers who are are in the office with me most days when I work here in the office. So got a couple, a couple of spies listening to this combo. But I love this idea, jessica, because I think it sets the foundation for Basically like how and when to scale. I mean that really changes everything as far as your goals. So do you have any more thoughts on that before we move forward, like how to figure out what you want, I guess? I guess that’s kind of the question.

Jessica: 

Yeah, I think that’s. I have a framework. I talk about the deeper business framework. I’m rolling it out as we speak and the foundation of the deeper business is always like your mission, and I say the mission from who do you want to impact? How much money do you need to make, what’s the scale you want and I think we’re you know and what’s the role you want to play in your business. Do you want to Be the front end and marketing and sales and operations for a web design agency or do you want to do the design? And I think there’s this myth that you can’t make a lot of money doing design and I’m like, well, that’s a think, that’s a myth. I think you can, as a, be a very profitable soloist. You can also be a somewhat unprofitable agency owner. So I think there is a decision to be made of of how much money do you need? What is your quote-unquote enough number? And Again, what do you? Do you want to lead people? Do you want to be focused on Lots of marketing, because that’s what’s required to scale the agency, or do you kind of want to just take projects when they come? Money is not the primary concern. Those are things that have to be decided in the mission, part of your Business framework.

Josh: 

I love it. You said that. It reminds me there was a one point. There was a fellow like agency owner locally who I think was doing seven figures so they were a million plus design agency and I was at like their quarter million range and I was personally taking more money home than he was with that seven figure business and I feel like that’s very, very common. It looks cool to say like we’re a seven figure agency, but it does come down to like what? Yeah, what are the goals? What do you need? What’s realistic? What seat do you want to be in your business? So I love some of these ideas because I feel like this is generally Something that happens accidentally, like when you’re fumbling your way through it. So I hope this is a really good time to make everyone listen in watching right now, just to pause, really, think about your business and where you want it to go yeah, what you want it to be. So I appreciate you saying that because I think it’s a really, really important time when we get to this juncture.

Jessica: 

Exactly. And then as we grow and scale, you know there’s the preparation phase. It’s like climbing a mountain. The preparation phase where you’re observing, you’re watching, you’re crafting your skills, maybe as the freelancer. There’s the ascent phase where you’re building your pipeline, your book of business, you’re building your portfolio, and too often business owners want to just keep on scaling and we forget that there’s a phase in the middle, like a climatization, where if you keep just pushing, you’re going to outstrip your Systems and support. You’re gonna outstrip your marketing, you’re gonna outstrip your team workflows and processes, and Too many people want to push through that and just keep growing, growing, growing, and not enough people want to slow down At the point in time where they’re about ready to hire some people and then start building processes, maybe with some freelancers, that are just based built, based on projects. Start building those rhythms and operations, processes, that marketing process, that sales process, to say, am I really ready to bring on people and have I? Have I gotten my back of house in order enough to be able to Make the next, next push?

Josh: 

So that would be step one, then right, to basically organize your systems, basic SOPs, something to allow you to to scale effectively. Otherwise, yeah, team building is a nightmare if it’s all on you, because that could be a full-time job just training somebody exactly.

Jessica: 

You had a podcast on recently about how to generate 16 leads a month and that one has a very Regular, robust marketing cadence. But you probably didn’t need that as a soloist. But you certainly need those marketing systems as a agency and you know, most the time we’re too busy building on in the business to work on the business. Those are the types of systems you want to have in place and running well before Thinking about expanding beyond occasional subcontractors.

Josh: 

And most people don’t think about this. It came to me more recently. I actually had Mike McCallowits on and he said something that has just stuck with me like a I don’t know anything, anything, it’s sticky, it is stuck with me and that is that sales can actually be a very bad thing if your system isn’t prepared for it. So you can, oh, like, how common is this? This is what caused me to scale, as I had 23 projects on my plate. It was just one of those seasons where they all came on, which sounds amazing. Like I could have been like, yeah, I’m a web designer, I got 23 projects, but I was like, how am I going to fulfill this? How, like I’m, I don’t want to work 100 hours a week. How am I going to do all these? So I was kind of forced to scale and it was just that mindset of like I had sold too much. I like sold over what I could fulfill.

Jessica: 

Basically, yeah, and Mike also talks about the fact that those projects you might be selling might be unprofitable by the time you add those people, and so you have to then sell more in order to bring in the cash to fulfill and pay your contractors, which means you need. It’s the never ending cycle If you don’t take a moment to step back and say am I actually making money on all the stuff I’m selling? Am I working with the right people or am I just selling to bring in the cash to pay my other obligations?

Josh: 

Good point. So I would imagine starting small I mean, that’s what I recommend Is that kind of where you would start when it comes to creating systems and then bringing someone on what is? Do you agree with the start small approach and if so, what does that look like for you? What have you seen work?

Jessica: 

Yeah, I’ve seen bringing on people that are not permanent members of your team, but bringing on subcontractors and freelancers that are truly project based. But also, this is when you’re going to want to make sure you bring on your accounting team, if you don’t have one, and make sure your books are in order. This is where you’re going to make sure that you have someone on your team, either part time or full time, that’s dedicated to project management, because I’m pretty sure if you’re super creative at web design, you may not be as detail oriented on the project side, and I think there’s this myth that we have to bring on someone full time to do that, but there’s a lot of part time administrative support that can help manage you while you manage your team. So I think starting small with like a couple of go to freelancers, versus thinking how am I going to bring an entire team from zero to 100?

Josh: 

Yeah, great point. What are your tips for accounting for the extra cost in those projects? Because this is one of the questions I get often from folks who are scaling, which is they’re really excited to delegate. But then the question is well, that’s going to eat a huge chunk into the profit I would normally take. Now I always say the thing is, once you get going on, that you’ll be able to take on more projects if you want to, and of course, you can increase your rates. But what are your tips for that? Anyone who’s hesitant to share the wealth?

Jessica: 

basically, Well, I always say that look at your total revenue minus the thing you’re what you think you’re going to pay your contractors for the work and what’s left over is your profit. If you are going to spend and then think about the number of hours that you’re going to spend delivering the work, if what’s left is lower than your hourly gross hourly rate for the amount of hours, then that’s not a profitable project for you. You’re actually going to make more money not taking on that work with the subcontractor because too much of your time is in it, or you’re paying your subcontractor too much money. Now that’s not an excuse to like cheap out on paying your people. That means that we need to raise the prices or streamline the work so that there’s less of your time involved.

Josh: 

I love that you said that, because that’s the first thing that most people have a hesitancy towards. It’s like well, I’m not going to raise my rates, so I just have to do it on myself. But what I’ve found is that clients, particularly in web design I think this is probably true for every industry clients are not going to pay more just because a project takes longer. They’ll actually pay more of it gets done faster. And this is where the true power of this idea of scaling effectively comes in, because if you can have somebody that helps you, yes, they’ll take a bigger chunk, especially if they’re a quality freelancer, but you might get the job done in 30 days rather than 60 days. That it was just yourself, because you’re managing everything else, and the client is going to be thrilled about that and they’ll likely pay a lot more. I would like I’d rather when we got a fence done. I didn’t want to pay less for a two week job. I paid more for a two day job and it was worth every penny.

Jessica: 

Yeah, and I think, right at the get go of starting to bring on people is when it sounds so. It sounds so tedious. But it’s really important is tracking your hours per project to really know how many hours am I spending on this and one, does my hourly rate support that to? How can I get things done more efficiently faster? Because it’s like you said, that’s going to be better for my time, but it’s also going to be better for my clients. There’s less revisions, there’s less back and forth, there’s less chasing them down when the projects stay on schedule and that’s more more profit for you and quicker value for them.

Josh: 

Yeah, good point. So if I further into the scaling model for those interested in that route, I am curious, though, for those who want to be a solopreneur for as long as humanly possible. First, maybe a two part question Do you think that’s even possible? And I guess part two, how far? What like? What does that model look like for somebody who’s truly a soloist, a craftsman who’s doing everything themselves and what they need, what would they need to do to make that profitable and sustainable?

Jessica: 

I think there’s everything. The soloist model it’s soloist plus. It’s soloist plus a administrative support. It’s soloist plus bookkeeping. It’s potentially soloist plus some marketing help. So you’re retaining all the design but starting to think about, like the back office tasks, the ones that keep the business running, those bring on specialists, not generalists, because bring on people who are specialized in their function, versus you having to teach and train. So that’s one way to stay as profitable as possible. And the second is there’s lots of shiny objects out there about how to grow your business and lots of ways you can spend money on exquisite branding and coaches and consultants. Be really thoughtful, because that money could go into your pocket, it could also grow into your business, but I see too much paying for knowledge that we’re not going to do anything with yet because we’re a soloist, and I think a lot of that money could go back into your pocket as the owner.

Josh: 

Oh well, you said you listened to that episode with Eric and about the leads and he even said it on. There is like web designers in particular tend to be course hoarders. So, and I advise against, as a course creator, I’m like I don’t want you to just buy my course and sit on, I want you to get a result. That’s why I do what I do. So that’s a really, really good point. Especially, I think it’s worth saying that you should have a plan, an action plan when you go through any sort of training. Like I always advise, make it a project. That way you get something out of it. It’s funny you mentioned Jay Klaus before. Went live a local colleague of mine. He just released a little masterclass on creating a newsletter which I’m doing here soon and I purchased it but I haven’t taken it yet because I’m not ready to fulfill my action plan with it Right Now. When I go through that, it’ll be a dedicated, deep work segment. I’m literally going to build mine as I go through it and then we’re ready to go. But I’ve also not perfected taking courses, but I’ve learned to effectively take courses over the years and get the most out of them.

Jessica: 

Exactly, but I think the thing that I forgot to say that you were brought up is pick a marketing strategy maybe two, and do them, but don’t flip from reels on social media to local networking, to guesting on podcasts, to email newsletters, to hosting your own podcast, because of course, every one of those requires some startup cost. Pick one or two social media platforms. Pick one way to stay in touch with people. That could be email, that could be just good old fashioned CRM and customer relationship management tool, or you just follow people. I think we you know local networking and just communicating with people on a regular basis and an old school networking is the best way for soloists to stay profitable by nurturing those referral partners and not getting caught up in the hype of how to grow an audience. Because if you’re, if you charge $10,000 a project I don’t know what you know web design ranges these days are but if you sell $10,000 a project, you sell 10 projects. That’s $100,000. And you could probably find all 10 of those just in your network or your network’s network.

Josh: 

Yeah, great point. Really needed to hear that because it’s 100% true and a lot, of, a lot of people listening are probably charging 2000 and they could have charged 10 and they probably should have charged 10. Yeah, ranges are typically right now US based under 2,500s, like starter range. 25 to 5,000 or so is kind of mid 5 to 10. It’s kind of the next level up and then generally like 15 to 20, is more like enterprise style. But you’re right, when it comes to scaling, like you’re probably, I guess the mindset has to be shifted from again the, the, the quantity you can take on and the quality and the speeds that you can do it in. And again, I think when you scale I learned to feel much more confident charging $10,000 rather than I was a solo, a soloist like you said. Have you seen that too? With people you help scale, do you find that their confidence and their mentality shifts, because it’s not just them, it’s like a we instead of me.

Jessica: 

I think it’s the we instead of me, but it’s also the fact that in order to scale again, you’ve got to have rock solid systems in place, because otherwise you’re going to get dragged into all the minutia. So you’ve got to have a very clear point of view, a very clear process in order to make scale happen. And so, by having that clear crystal process, by having to expand your presence enough to generate the kind of volume that required, that scaling requires, you have to be really clear on your messaging, you have to be really clear on your process, really clear on your promises and outcomes, and by the time you scale, you have a track record of doing that for people and you’ve got beloved clients who love you and are going to stay on your maintenance plans and talk about you. And so I think it’s a scaling requires confidence. But scaling gives you the confidence because in order to do it, you have to be pretty buttoned up in the foundational aspects of your business that will allow you to do that without grinding yourself to a crisp.

Josh: 

So probably not a shocker of a question, but how do we know when the right time to scale is? Is that a personal thing? Is it like? I mean again, like me? I was kind of forced to. I was like I literally cannot do all this myself. What have you seen as a good metric to know when it’s time to scale?

Jessica: 

I think it’s time to scale when you’re consistently oversubscribed and you’ve managed to put. You’ve gotten a couple of, you’ve gotten some really good relationships with some freelancers where you’ve had good success engaging them on one off projects, because that’s when you know your, your, your marketing is working, that’s when you know you’re consistently, that’s when you know you’re onboarding, the communication processes with your team are consistent. Um, I would say that you, you want to be oversubscribed, but oversubscribed in a a way where you know, let’s say, we wouldn’t want you to bring all all 23 projects at once, like, how do you have a waitlist? How do you have people saying when can I next work with you? And you’re saying, yeah, I’ve got two, two months out as my next opening, consistently for a couple of months, and that at that point you were making enough money take home to take on more projects. Because if not, then we know that scaling when you’re not already making enough money means that you’re likely going to be unprofitable as you scale. So you’re gonna get into that that I’m selling more projects to pay my team for the projects I’ve already built. We wanna make sure that you’re reasonably profitable as a soloist before you start to scale, because otherwise your pricing and positioning is off.

Josh: 

Great point. Yeah, it’s a fine line, isn’t it? Between, like, when to scale, because you could scale too soon and be unprofitable. But if you wait too long, you get into my type of situation where it’s like, oh, I should have scaled a little while ago. Yeah, I don’t know, maybe that corresponds with that timing, but I do feel like that’s a kind of a tight rope to walk there.

Jessica: 

I’d rather have you. I’m always on scaling. I would err on too late than too early, because I do think that there I know no one wants to say no to projects. But you wanna be able to say pick and choose your clients, be able to say, yes, I wanna work with you. No, you’re not a fit. If we’re taking every piece of work that comes to us without and we’re getting, you know, 85 to 100% yeses on our discovery calls, we’re taking on too much work and we’re not appropriately priced to really recognize the value of the work we’re doing. We haven’t reflected our, we haven’t changed our value to proposition and reflected that in our pricing yet. So we don’t wanna be forced to take on work once we’ve scaled, so like once you’ve scaled and brought on more people. If you’re then gonna be like I have to take everything that comes to me in order to, you know, keep my team. We don’t want that to happen. I’d rather you err on the side of slower, more deliberate, which sounds so painful, but it, in the long run, means that there’s gonna be pent up demand to work with you and you’re gonna be seen as a hot commodity.

Josh: 

I love what you said there, jessica, that approach of being either booked out or in a place where you can pick and choose projects. I think that’s a great metric as far as knowing when to scale, because, yeah, if you’re saying yes to everything and you’re desperate for projects, it is not. It is not time to scale for sure. So I think it’s a great place to be in as far as a not a red flag, but like a marker to say, okay, maybe this is kind of the next step. It is kind of funny. I see a lot of a lot of my students get to a point where they get to a point where they know it’s up ahead, but they’re either hesitant or they’re not sure how long it should take. I mean, I think a lot of what we laid through groundwork here is gonna help with that. But how long should that window be? Or is it like, if you feel like it’s time to scale, do you feel like that’s it’s? You know it’s time right now? Do you have any thoughts on that?

Jessica: 

Yeah, I think the scaling process really takes six months and to go from I think I’m gonna need to scale to I feel like I’ve in a place because we wanna spend the the three months when you’re like scale is on the horizon, making sure your processes are on lock, making sure that you know you’re you’re ready to bring on people, documenting those SOPs and I’m pretty sure that you didn’t do that when you were soloist right, getting the business ready. And then you need to hire and bring on the right people. You may have relationships with them already or you may need to look for new people. And then during the first especially if you’re working with new people to your organization the first two to three months of anyone working with you, you’re gonna be training, you’re gonna be reviewing, you’re gonna be much more hands on with their design work than you would be otherwise. And so we gotta think about the time to prepare your business and then the time to bring on and ramp up a team. And so this is a. This would be a project for a year to say, yeah, do you need to do that one person? No, you need to do that when you’re bringing on a project manager and a design assistant and maybe somebody else on your team. That would require some you know a multi-month project to get you ready and to bring them on.

Josh: 

Yeah, well said. That’s a great point about if you’re feeling that like that’s the time to do the processes and systems. Because, yeah, that really is that’s the sign. And you’re right, no one working for themselves as a soloist is likely I mean, maybe the one out of a hundred person who’s just on it, but most of us, if we’re doing everything ourselves, it’s just in our head Like, why am I gonna spend half a day to write that down? I know how to do it. But, yes, I can’t agree more. If you get that feeling, if you get that urge, you’d be like I think scaling is in some way is gonna be next. Yeah, get it out, start those processes. I love that reminder.

Jessica: 

I’m a process person. I mean I’m an operation strategist. That’s what I do and I’m bringing I brought on a team a operational support for me and I’m having to change proposal processes because the proposal process I use I was like I hate it, but it’s what I know and I’m just gonna do it right. But then I have to slow down. I have to make sure that getting them my brand kit, getting them set up in a task manager so we can share information, even like sharing passwords, that takes time to like work through what is all the information they’re gonna need, and it’s not something that can be done quickly, because until you do projects you’re not gonna know what steps are missing. So you know the first 90 days of bringing anyone on is as much you training and learning how to be a manager as it is in a leader, as it is doing the work. So I always say, if you can take it during, take on scale projects when you’ve got some cash buffer and when it’s potentially a slower time in your business to start putting those processes together, then you’ll know whether or not you’re ready to bring on team members, because as you start documenting and looking at what it would look like for an outsider to be part of this, you’re gonna learn a lot.

Josh: 

Oh, that’s great. Now we’ve covered a lot about the focus and attention when we’re preparing and getting ready to scale and starting to scale. But the next level back here, jessica, like once you’re scaling and once you actually have some time freed up and you’re kind of in a new role in your business, you do kind of get to this point where then the next decision happens, which is what do I wanna do now, like, am I gonna? And you kind of mentioned earlier the marketing channels. It’s really easy just to market more and stretch yourself in that way. What’s your advice for that next step? Once things are cooking? But now it’s like, yeah, do you have to choose your role? Do you have to decide on what you’re gonna do in the business versus on the business? Is it a matter of taking scale to the next level? What’s the next step?

Jessica: 

This is where it gets. It’s a little choose your own adventure. The first thing that has to shift is that your value is not hands on keyboard time, and we’re so used to being trapped at our desks for 40 hours a week or more that having white space on your calendar is scary for so many people. And this is the time where you say where do I want to spend my time? What’s the legacy? I wanna start to leave. Who do I need to be in community with to make everything else easier? What kind of message do my clients need to hear? Do like for you. Do you wanna change and add parts of your business? So maybe you go from a web designer to a web design business, or how to be a web designer, or DIY web design courses. I don’t think these are the options, but I think that’s where having the white space to simply not work or strategize and make partnerships and dream bigger that’s what happens. What I see too often is that’s scary for a lot of people, and so what they do is they start micromanaging their team.

Josh: 

Gotcha.

Jessica: 

And they start getting back in the weeds and start because that’s safe, it’s comfortable and they can exercise control there. But by being the doer you never shift to the leader, and that’s where scale goes sideways.

Josh: 

I love that you brought that up Really really common. I’ve seen that as well. Where it’s so easy and I’ve done this myself it’s easy to revert back to the soloist when it’s like, once you get to that point, I found it so crucial to say this is my job. Even though I could do this in three minutes, I have to let my team know to do this because that is not my job anymore. I love that reminder. I feel like that’s and inevitably it happens, especially in web design. What a great reminder to like stick to your role, and I guess what don’t go backwards Is that. Or don’t micromanage, don’t dip into where you were Is that kind of the motto?

Jessica: 

Yeah, this is where you then shift into team management leadership to say, okay, if you’re seeing these pockets, something’s not right in the process. What do you need to document? Where do you need to train? Where do you need to teach? Where do you need to set up processes? So that you have years of experience and maybe you’re working with someone who doesn’t have that so you see things that they can’t. Your job shifts from fixing it to being their mentor, their coach, their leader and making sure your processes are set up so that you can see those things in advance, with enough lead time, so you’re not having to make revisions two hours before a client handover.

Josh: 

Good point. Yeah, that is usually what happens, and I know there’s the rare occasion where it’s like, okay, this has got to be done. But it is those times where it’s like, ah, I know I shouldn’t do this, I’m going to do it anyway. That’s where I’ve had to catch myself with those little tasks, cause for number one, they eat up in time, but then it does. Just those are the things that just keep you back from from being the next version of you as a business owner.

Jessica: 

I found Yep, but that’s the scary part. That’s the one that’s going from web designer to agency, business owner and thinking about you know the next service portfolio. How do you streamline your services? How do you productized even further potentially? Or how do you create the next level of the spoke web design services? Or going on the speaker circuit? I don’t know. It’s so dependent on what everybody wants to do. But we never get there if we stay tethered to what’s safe and easy.

Josh: 

What about vision? I found that once you get to that position as a business owner or as somebody who started to scale and it’s in its cooking it’s going along well. Vision casting is one of the struggles that I’ve had to where, like I’ve, I’ve always just kind of just gone, like I’ve had a little bit of a roadmap, a little bit of vision, but not a grandiose vision, and I’ve realized more recently, I think that’s held me back in some ways, because once I get to a point where I’m scaling, then I kind of know what to do and I don’t I’m not sure what like role to take on or where to put my attention. You have any tips for like vision casting? I don’t know if that’s out of of this context.

Jessica: 

Oh no, it’s completely because, again, that goes back to the foundation of like, now that your business is foundationally solid, who are you as a human being and where do you want to go as a business owner? And I think this is where surrounding yourself with non web design resources, getting into other communities that are maybe entrepreneurial but maybe not entrepreneurial. I listened to this podcast called to be magnetic, and it’s all about manifestation and they talk about having expanders. You know, traveling, being with people that have bigger, different visions than you, and spending some really, some really time out of the day to day and letting your mind wander. What resonates, what is compelling for you? What of your personal hobbies have you neglected in the scaling process? A lot of times this is not a prescription, but a lot of times you get to the scaling and you’re like oh I, my health is a little out of whack here and you know I’m going to pull a Zuckerberg and like go, take CrossFit and get super ripped. But I think this is like vision casting it’s, it’s, but I think vision casting is only as good as the expansion that you’re around. You know some people really want to give back in nonprofits and build. They want their agencies to create legacy and community wealth and generational wealth. And others say that it’s so I can build a second home or a cabin in the woods. I can go back and be a soloist one day. It’s so dependent on personal, but I think getting outside of your comfort zone and getting outside of the people you spend time with regularly and your common networks is the way to expand your horizon and what’s possible so you can do that vision casting.

Josh: 

Gotcha. Yeah, that’s great. That makes a lot of sense. That definitely gives me some clarity for, yeah, like, how to go about just yeah, basic vision casting.

Jessica: 

I would say get out, get into nature, reconnect to. You know you’re never going to create your vision sitting at your desk. Your desk is so context dependent. Your desk is where the your desk is where the work happens. And you know, go travel, go be somewhere else, go be out in, you know, in nature. I say nature because that’s really what can fuel us. You know. I think you know this and you’re. None of your best creative work happens when you’re sitting like at the keyword, being like I need to be creative now.

Josh: 

Yeah, this is my creative block Big idea. Come to me. Never happens. No, it’s always in the shower, or you’re on a drive, or you’re aware somewhere where, like, I shouldn’t be on my phone, but I got to write this down or I’m going to forget it.

Jessica: 

Yeah, but take us, you know, in the protecting that white space is so important. Because when I was in corporate, I had a vision for what I wanted and my vision was like constrained by what I saw and who I talked to, and I talked to the same like 10 people every day in my literally the same box every day, and it was only when I started freed myself from that box that I could then start to follow the rabbit holes and follow what was curious and resonant for me and that took me down so many different paths that led me to where I am today. But you can’t do it when you’re I’m going to vision for like two hours on a Friday morning, Like no, you can’t. You got to create much more space in that, which is why it’s so important that you don’t get sucked in and trapped into the day to day If you’re really going to scale. You got to make it so that you don’t have to check in all the time.

Josh: 

Love that. I feel like you’re coaching me, so I want to take the remainder of this conversation for some free coaching with you. What about when you get to the point where you almost need to scale back a little bit with expenses and contractors? I asked that because I’m kind of in this place now where I have just being transparent, my numbers aren’t what they were last year. So I’m like and a lot of that is it’s not a surprise I haven’t done as many launches or pushes or have seasons of hustled like I did over the past couple of years, and I’m going to do that moving forward. But I have realized like I’m probably overspending in some areas that just aren’t quite paying off, and I’m realizing it now as I’m looking at the numbers. So my plan is just to scale back on some stuff with some social media strategies and marketing and even some internal things that just like we’re doing some stuff with the video version of the podcast which I just don’t my editor is about double the time we really don’t need to be doing that. It’s not really paying off. So what about this stage that? My my goal was just to scale that back a little bit, not not work with anybody, but just scale back those tasks to be able to kind of realign things. Do you have any thoughts about my type of situation? Cause I’m sure it’s common when you’re scaling and things are cooking, but then at some point maybe it, you know, it starts to backtrack a little bit.

Jessica: 

That’s the as you climb the mountain, you hit this, you hit a summit, and then there’s the controlled descent and you have to make sure that you, as you walk down, you don’t fall down the mountain, as I have actually physically done. But this is the point where I think having a really solid forecast, cash forecast, is really important. What is your project pipeline look like? What does it need to look like? What’s the health of your marketing channels? And so, creating that forward looking financial forecast, what is your team expenditures? And then really starting to pair back what activities are you doing that result in bleeds? What activities are you doing? Which projects are the most profitable? What marketing activities and sales activities result in the most leads? And really starting to say, yeah, I’ll sacrifice the one or two leads from this channel because every one of my other channels is where I’m getting. I’m getting the biggest bang for the buck. So it’s Pareto principle 80% of the impact comes from 20% of the tasks. So how can you start killing off the zombie projects and the channels and the expenditures that are just not giving you any return? And that’s why tracking metrics and again, as you scale, where do your clients come from? What are your channels? What are your input metrics, leading metrics, so that you can then make better choices about and know okay, if I cut this, what kind of impact do I think it’s going to have on my future forecast? And then, what does my team need to look like to support that?

Josh: 

This is a great reminder for me. I’m sure everybody to ask your clients how did you hear about this? How did you get here? That is such an enlightening question. When you have a chance to do that, yeah, because that I mean nothing tells the data. Like somebody who was actually like oh yeah, I fell in the ground on YouTube, got on your podcast and blah, blah, blah.

Jessica: 

And we want to look at the expenditures of our clients. Which projects take the most time? Which clients do we like to work with the best? Because you get to start again like get that pick and choose when you’re kind of descending quickly what you don’t. That one is where you’re going to want to make sure you don’t immediately slash your whole team and slash all your expenses. And I think there’s a control descent which we want. There’s the uncontrolled consent where your pipeline dried up and now you just have to like slash and burn. We want to be avoiding that. So when you’re at that, that scale point, you need to be keeping an eye on the forward looking outlook at our regular basis so that you don’t have to you get to choose versus being forced into making some harder choices than you would otherwise want.

Josh: 

I love this idea of a controlled descent. I needed to hear this because that’s kind of where I’m at right now. I’m like forecast wise, I have some very big things up ahead and I’m very confident about, but at the same time, because I’ve had a few leaner months than usual, it has maybe you think like yeah, like I almost wasn’t in a position where I needed to look at this stuff, but it reminds me that even when things are going really good, you still have to look at the data and see what’s working. So what a great reminder. I’m sure I’m not alone. You are anyone scaling.

Jessica: 

You are not alone the amount of. I come from the. You know a little bit the entrepreneurial online business world and, like cohort based courses aren’t selling late they used to be and B2B sales there’s a longer sales cycle. So knowing what the activities are that generate those results and being able to double down on those and being laser focused on this is the bloat that I picked up over the past over a while of scaling, and it’s time to Become a little leaner in the business. But it’s all about you know again not making Hip you know, check from the hip decisions. It’s about being thoughtful and deliberate to say, yeah, if I make this, am I gonna like cause reputable harm? If so, like, maybe, like, if this, is this a reversible decision? You know we want to try to limit the amount of irreversible decisions we make.

Josh: 

Mmm, that’s good, that’s really good. Yeah, and I’ll just be frank. Oh, for me, a lot of it is like my Instagram. I’m not sure. I think Instagram is a great Relationship builder. I’m not finding that people are finding me. Oh, on Instagram terrible nurture these days. Yeah, yeah, for discoverability, it’s not something, and that’s where, like, it’s a big channel, and by Instagram I kind of mean Facebook too. It’s kind of kind of both comparable for me because we use meta to distribute to both. But I am finding a lot of time with the team is going into like resources there, but I’m like it just doesn’t seem to be worth it right now with the amount of repurposing we’re doing. So I’m thinking about stripping down like some of the podcast promotion. Essentially, that’s like one area that I’m personally looking at and just just doing like one post a week rather than several following up on it.

Jessica: 

Yeah, instagram has shifted from discovery to nurture, and so the question would be, depending on your audience, where else are they spending time with this? That’s more of a discovery engine. So, you know, is it time to like think about LinkedIn? Is it, is it time to like double down on the YouTube, because that does have more of a discovery element to it? Then, that done, does the Instagram nailed it.

Josh: 

That’s what I’m doing.

Jessica: 

Oh good, yay, yeah. And so I think these platforms, especially when we’re doing social, especially if you’re gonna think about doing email, then you know what’s your one or two discovery engines and then what’s your one or two nurture, and I see too many people have a community and an Instagram and a LinkedIn and a Podcast and an email and I’m like, okay, I don’t think you need it, and then they don’t have any attract discovery platforms and I’m like, all right, well, you’re spending all this time doing nurture and Very little time doing new discovery.

Josh: 

Good point. Yeah, yeah, how timely. I literally just today, at the time of recording this, I launched an episode on what channels to market, just because it was kind of like a brain dump for me on something I’m going through right now like how to market, where to market, and I heard this analogy that really have clarified this for me, which is to choose, kind of like in academia you would choose a major and have a minor or two and then have electives, and I love that idea of Any sort of marketing channel could be for both discoverability or Nurturing, and that is to, yeah, have a major, one or two main channels. Then you’ll have the, the ones below that that get less priority, less attention and different functions too. It’s also a great time to remind everyone that there is a difference between discoverability channels and nurture channels. Youtube discoverability podcast actually for me it’s kind of 50-50. It’s been interesting. I did not think people were finding me from the podcast. With the amount of people in my membership who have said I search web design and podcast and found you, I’m like, oh, interesting. So this for me kind of blurs the middle. But then newsletter, 100% nurture. So that’s kind of where I’m personally heading.

Jessica: 

Is those three Exactly and I would say that the part that’s usually missing for a lot of marketing is actually inviting people to have an experience with you that we we tend to market push, push, push, but we don’t actually say I have two spots available, I have one in September and one in October. Would you like the spots? And like doing personal reachouts to past clients and people who had a sales call but maybe weren’t ready, or the people that always click on the emails in the links in your emails. Sometimes people just need to hear oh, they have a spot. It’s not scarcity for scarcity sake. It’s like you’re an oversubscribed in-demand web designer. So how can we make it clear and obvious that You’re taking clients now and how many spots do you have? Because that’s how I’ve joined a couple of different. I’ve had a coach that said, oh, I have two spots available for this working with me in this program. I’m like I want one. It’s, you’ve been on my mind and I know if I don’t get it now, I won’t get it for another two to three months.

Josh: 

Gotcha Interesting. I love that idea. Yeah, to your point earlier about the courses and cohort programs kind of being a little bit different now yeah, I’ve heard that across the board and I do think there is, from what I’ve seen in this part of the sector of the industry, there’s more work that is going into Getting somebody to kind of cross the the finish line into a program or into a course. So this idea of opening up call slots or connection times even I didn’t really think about that. But that little concept of looking at the links that are clicked in emails If it’s the same person over and over, what a perfect opportunity to send them a personal loom video and just say hey, you know, I, I know you’ve been engaged with some stuff recently. I’ve got some slots open to answer any questions. You have to see what would be a good fit if you’d like to lock one, and I love that idea. I think I’m gonna take that.

Jessica: 

Yeah, I think it’s all about how can you be I picked this up from a different podcast, but how can you gather and gather with your people, and so I’ve been seeing a lot of creator roundtables lately where you kind of open up, like get a web designer’s Q&A and people come over and over and sometimes they just come for the free advice and then you’re like that’s great, like I’m glad you could do it on your own. But for those of you who want to move faster or Move with more confidence, or just you don’t have time to do it because you’re scaling and you want to outsource what you’re you’re doing, people want to be able to to, especially with web design. They want to know you, I think. I think they want to know that you’re like you have said before, that you’re not gonna ghost them like their last web designer did.

Josh: 

Yeah, Absolutely all these strategies, absolute goal for being able to, to find the right marketing channel that’s either discoverable or nurturing. Follow up with them. Yeah, I mean web design in particular is such a personal type service. I mean there’s this resurgence in this term webmaster, even though people aren’t saying it really is like companies and businesses want somebody that they can rely on and trust on To be their online person. So there’s so much opportunity for that. So I would say, yeah, get as personal as you can like. Go go ham on the personal videos and personal touches where you know, maybe a couple years ago didn’t do it as much, but it’s great reminder. Yeah.

Jessica: 

Well, I’m wishing you the best on as you, as your control descents. But it is challenging to Like back away from the status tax that comes with the vanity metrics. But you know this is especially if you’re in going into a season with other big investments and big shifts.

Josh: 

Kind of scaling back to then Regrow in a stronger, different way is really powerful and not a decision that as many people take Consciously, as as much as they’re thrust into it you said it right there regrow and my YouTube channel was the first thing they came to mind, because that’s how I built my brand and I just kind of I just have not been able to keep up with it in the way of tutorials and videos. But I’ve realized more recently, like that is the number one discoverability channel for me and I’ve got to take that way more seriously, way more seriously than playing around with threads, which is fun and nice, but with like a few hundred people follow me on threads versus 30 plus thousand on YouTube, I think I should probably focus on YouTube if I were coaching myself.

Jessica: 

I think you should focus on YouTube too, and I don’t even know web design, but I’m totally gonna follow along and subscribe to your YouTube channel.

Josh: 

Well, you’ll see this interview because we do post these on the YouTube. These go on YouTube. I just, yeah, the strategy for like the, the tips and tricks and things like that are coming back. So that term regrow, though that’s. That’s literally what I’m doing right now, and I’m I’m speaking openly about this because I hope this helps give some context on what to do in this type of situation. I hope this is kind of a good case study, because this is literally what I’m working through right now. I mean, honestly, jessica, we laid out a really good game plan here with preparing, starting to to scale and know where to focus and what to do initially, when the time is right to begin to hire and delegate what to do once you get past that point when it comes to vision and what your role is going to be, and then up to this point where there’s a lot going on with the scaling, and then sometimes you have to reel it back and pivot a little bit or regrow certain channels and figure out when to market. So this has been awesome. This has been a really, really well-rounded conversation, with this idea of figuring out what to do in each one of these growth stages. I’ll leave it to you for a final thought. I don’t know if maybe you would have an encouragement for somebody in either one of these stages, but actually let me ask you this what is your favorite stage? Starting to scale, scaling and then vision casting, go to the next level or, you know, being a little more advanced in scaling and then figure out what to do after that?

Jessica: 

I think my, my personal favorite stage is Sometimes like the beginning stage, because then you don’t know what you don’t know yet. Because that’s the stage where it’s it’s. It’s a little, it feels a little easier because you’re still in dreamland. That’s like like favorite, like who doesn’t love to like dream other. I mean, I have dreamed of my future YouTube channel, my podcast. You know, I’ve kind of, but I’ve kind of limited myself. I’m like I can’t do all those things at once. But I think the stage that I think is underappreciated is this like acclimation stage, which is you’re getting ready to scale but you need to park it at altitude for a little bit To start getting your processes dialed to really make your marketing pipeline robust. That’s the scale that no one like. The part where you’re like I could scale but you don’t, and you prepare for the next stage, like that’s the stage that doesn’t get any love because everyone’s to focus on scaling and I’m like no, no, no, no. Like make more money, get a cash buffer, bank some cash in your business by being a soloist, get be oversubscribed, build that waitlist, get your processes ready and then You’re able to scale like you know, like please, please, please, don’t try to scale. If you don’t have, you know, three months of cash buffer for your expenses in the bank account, like just don’t do it, like that’s just bad news bears all around.

Josh: 

What a great point to end off on that little framework right. There was like the perfect little Condensed version of this conversation. So, jessica, thank you so much for your expertise and your insight on this today. I love talking, scaling it’s. It’s different for everybody and it seems like every time I talk with a business consultant of sorts, there’s always something unique in and each way to go about this. So it’s been really cool hearing you know you’re, your experience with this and your side of things. Where would like you would like people to go to to connect with you If they would like to see what you’re up to or connect with you.

Jessica: 

Yeah, if you want to learn more, you can go to my website. Jessica lackeycom backslash welcome. That has links to some free resources and you can follow me on all the socials.

Josh: 

Awesome, and I can’t believe I didn’t mention this because I meant to, but I have to say my favorite aspect of your website is the term toxic productivity. Oh yeah, that is my favorite because I’m such a proponent of priority being so much more important than productivity. So I just wanted to say I don’t know if you came up with that copy or somebody else, but well done, that’s a great way to phrase that.

Jessica: 

I came up with that because I lived it for the first half my professional career.

Josh: 

Toxic productivity. That’s gonna have to be round two because I’m curious about that. So That’ll be a great podcast for the next one. Toxic productivity, awesome. Well, jessica, thank you so much for the time. Looking forward to round two again sometime. Looking forward around to. Well, I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Jessica lackey. Look, growth is funny because, as I’ve talked to a lot of people who are growing their businesses at any level, there’s always discomfort and it makes sense you could get as practical as you want, like when you are growing. I’ve got little kiddos, they’re all growing and there’s always some growing pains. Literally growing pains and the growing pains of business are literal. They can be painful. So Good, jessica was a great guide in this conversation. She has more resources for you if you check out her website, jessica lackeycom and again, be sure to go to Jessica lackeycom, welcome where she’s got some free stuff for you and I mentioned this before went live, but she is going to be doing a guest training. Every month in my community web designer pro, we have a guest speaker, a guest training for a certain subject. Jessica is going to be in later this year in December doing a training on scaling and really taking a more visual, kind of in-depth look into this topic, and it’ll be followed by a live Q&A too. So if you’ve yet to join web designer pro, that’s just another benefit of joining pro. You get all my courses, the incredible community coaching with me and this hidden Jim gold of a training library that is now 29 trainings deep at the time of recording this. Each one of those is like a master class that we could probably charge a thousand bucks for. That you get just by joining pro. So join us over there. Josh Hall, co slash pro. And until the next episode, friends, I hope you enjoyed this one. Let me know if you enjoyed it. I’m still pretty active on Instagram or Facebook. Share it there if you would tag me at Josh Hall, co. Tag me. If you’ve been enjoying the episode, share it out. I do see all those. I would love to connect with you as there as well. Thank you for being a listener. Thank you for subscribing. If you haven’t subscribed, there’s your call to action and I’m actually looking forward to seeing on the next episode because, man, we have some more awesome ones coming. So get ready because we’re halfway through the year. We’re well over halfway through the year, but there’s some good ones coming up. All right, friends, see you on the next one.

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