How to Scale Your Digital Agency Without Endlessly Training New Employees

Want to scale your agency without having to hire AND train tons of new people?

When your agency gets to the point where you don’t have enough time in each day to handle everything, it’s key that you start putting together a plan of action to pass tasks off to other people in your company.

If you’re still a solo act or have a partner that is overwhelmed with work too, it’s best to look into hiring part to full-time help from virtual assistants, freelance specialists, and even consultants online.

With the advent of the freelance economy over the past 10 years, accessibility to high-quality talent online from all parts of the world has become extremely prevalent and simple.

Instead of being limited to the talent within 30 minutes of where you live, you now have fast access to millions of people from all over the world with different backgrounds, experiences, rates, and more.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into how to scale your digital agency without having to train every single person that you hire.

Onboarding and teaching new tasks can take up a large amount of your time. Best case, you have a new amazing member of your company that can help you grow faster.

But, worst case, you spend hours setting them up, it doesn’t work out, and you’re back to square one.

No one wants to be in that worst case scenario and we’re going to give you to tools in this article to avoid it.

Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll learn by reading through this article:

  • How to pre-vet online talent when hiring
  • What questions you should ask when interviewing online
  • The red flags to look out for when hiring online
  • A simple, yet effective process to onboard new talent that you hire for your agency

With a strong understanding of these 4 topics, you’ll be able to build your own hiring playbook and scale your agency without the need for endless onboarding and set up.

Why Is Pre-Vetting Online Talent Important?

Hiring online is very similar to hiring someone in person…you need to make sure that you know who you want to hire, you’re looking for the right things, and you take it very seriously.

For the past 10 years, entrepreneurs and business owners have been able to find virtual assistants, freelancers, and consultants through sites like Odesk, Elance, Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, Guru, and many others.

It gave business owners the ability to hire people from outside of their direct area and gain access to more specialized talent than what was previously available online or locally.

Over time, these platforms became so popular that they ended up having millions of freelancers available for hire leading to business owners needing to pre-vet talent as they posted jobs they were looking to fill.

What happened? It led to more time spent by the business owner reading through resumes, conducting interviews, and trying to decide who was the best fit for their business.

While millions of business owners still use these freelance platforms where it’s up to them to vet, interview, and find the best freelancer for their business, other types of freelance platforms have also popped up that offer access to a pre-vetted network of remote talent.

You have FreeeUp where they only allow the top 1% of applicants into the platform and specialize within eCommerce, marketing, and design talent. You have TopTal who only allows the top 3% in and specialize within higher-level developers, designers, and finance professionals. And you continue to see other niche platforms pop up offering the same pre-vetting process.

With both types of platforms available in the market now, business owners have even more choice of how they want to handle their online hiring.

Specifically for scaling your agency without having to do extensive onboarding for each hire, a platform that pre-vets the talent beforehand can save you lots of time and give you fast access to the exact person you’re looking for.

What is the Pre-Vetting Process?

While it varies from platform to platform, the pre-vetting process usually boils down into three main factors:

First, freelancers are required to submit an application to join the platform where they provide their resume/CV, online portfolios, past work experiences, specifics about the skill sets that they offer, details about how they freelance, among other questions that each platform decides to ask.

Second, freelancers are put through an interview process where they dive deeper into how they run their freelance business, what services they offer, how they handle their pricing, what experience they have had with clients and platforms in the past, and how they intend to use the marketplace.

Third, freelancers are put through some form of a testing process where they must prove their skill sets and also show that they understand how the marketplace works.

What comes out of the pre-vetting process is a selective list of talent that meets the certain standards set by each platform and that is ready to start working with clients.

As an agency owner, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make in the hiring process is whether you want to go with a pre-vetted platform or with one where you’ll be doing the vetting yourself.

If you choose the latter, use the pre-vetting process explained above to make sure that you are only taking real time with the freelancers that are reliable, have good communication, and have strong experience in their skill sets.

If you choose to go with a pre-vetted platform, be ready to meet freelancers quickly for what you’re looking to hire for and have your interview process prepared.

What Questions You Should Ask When Interviewing
Once you’ve decided on the platform that you want to use for finding talent for your agency, it’s important to put together a core set of questions to ask each freelancer that you’re introduced to.

Here are 12 interview questions that will give you a full picture of the freelancer, their abilities, and their availability to commit to your company.

1. What kind of outside commitments do you have?
This helps you understand if they have the time and energy to commit to your work and company. It could also help you understand if they will be able to grow with you or if they are too busy with other commitments.

2. How do you see this position long term?
This will give you insight into the mindset of the freelancer. Do they value creating long-term relationships with their clients? Or are they just looking to make an extra buck?

3. What time zone are you working in?
This is important if you have a specific time zone that you’d like the person you hire to work on. Make sure to ask them about it once you know where they are living and working.

4. What is your experience in this position?
Get a good background on past clients they’ve worked with, projects they’ve completed, and how their skills relate to the position you’re hiring for within your agency.

5. Rate your skills in these areas from 1-10… and explain your ratings
This will give you an idea of how humble they are with regards to their talents and also where they excel the most. Could be a good way to identify if they are the right fit for the specific work you’re looking to pass off.

6. What would you do in this situation?
Situational questions are always great. “How would you respond if you lost Internet and couldn’t work for the day?” Ask questions that make the applicant think to see how they’ll respond in crisis situations.

7. How much would you like to be paid for this work?
Depending on the platform, sometimes talking about pay directly with the freelancer won’t be allowed, but if it is, it’s good to see what their expectations are. You want to make sure you’re on the same page before moving forward.

8. What is your biggest strength for this role?
This is a good test to see how much the person understands what they’re applying for. If their answer is spot on, it shows they get the task at hand and could be a good asset. If off the mark, it could indicate you should keep looking.

9. When can you get started?
Depending on the urgency of the work you’re hiring for, this question will be important.

10. How did you get into what you’re doing?
Knowing someone’s background and motivation for getting into the work they are offering can help you to understand more about them personally and see if they are a good fit for your company culture.

11. How do you communicate?
When working with people online, communication is the most important factor in a successful relationship. Look for people that have clear methods for updates, meetings, phone calls, etc.

12. What questions do you have for me?
If they’re really interested in the role and working with you, they’ll have questions prepared. Be cautious of someone who doesn’t have any questions and just wants to get started.

With these 12 questions, you’ll quickly learn a LOT about the people that are applying to work with you on building your agency.

While it may seem like a lot of questions to ask, it shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes and it will ensure that who you hire is meeting all of the criteria that you need for your agency.

As you go through the interview process, you also want to keep an eye out for red flags.

We’ll discuss red flags next.

How to Use Red Flags to Avoid Bad Hires

All of the interview questions above are there for a specific purpose…to learn something about the applicant so that you can make an educated decision on if you should hire them or not.

As you ask the interview questions and speak with the applicants, you want to have a number of red flags written down that you can refer to as you hear their answers.

Red flags are clear signs that the relationship is not going to work out. If 1-2+ appear, it’s a good sign that they’re not the best fit and you should keep interviewing.

When you run into red flags quickly, it’s smart to finish the interview early and honestly let them know that it’s just not the right fit.

  • Here’s a few common red flags that you may look out for:
  • Doesn’t have enough experience relevant to the work you’re passing off
  • Their rate for the work is way off from your budget
  • They are located in a different time zone and are unable to work in your time zone
  • Their communication is poor on the interview…slow responses, poor English, etc.
  • They have too much going on outside of this commitment
  • Their answers aren’t well thought out

If you go into interviews with these red flags in mind, you’re going to end up saving yourself time and avoiding any bad hires for your agency.

When you’re looking for a specific applicant with specific attributes, it makes the hiring process much simpler.

How to Onboard New Online Talent

When we started this article, we wanted to address the problem of having to take too much time to onboard new hires to your agency.

As an agency owner, you just don’t have unlimited time to spend onboarding new staff. It’s critical that your time is spent building the business and working on new projects that will increase revenue and profits.

When we started this article, we wanted to address the problem of having to take too much time to onboard new hires to your agency.

As you go through the entire interview process for finding new talent, it’s key to keep that original purpose in mind…to find someone that can easily be incorporated into your business and take over the work with ease.

By utilizing the pre-vetting process, the interview questions, and the red flags method, you have a much better chance of finding someone that meets all your required criteria and that will be able to get started in your agency fast.

Once you’ve found that person, it’s time to onboard them. And here’s how you can do it efficiently so that your time isn’t wasted holding hands and teaching new processes.

Step 1: Set up a meeting to go over the work they’ll be handling

Schedule a 1-hour meeting where you can provide them with the process for the work they’ll be handling. Using a Google doc will make it simple to share directly with your new hire.

Spend the 1-hour meeting going through the tasks they’ll be handling. It can even be useful to use a tool like Zoom to share your screen and actually show them the work being completed.

Towards the end of the meeting, ask them to share their screen and have them go through the work while you give feedback.

By the end of the 1-hour meeting, the new hire should have a good grasp on the work that they’ll be taking onto their plate and off of yous.

With some tasks, it may require more than 1 hour. If that’s the case, extend or schedule another 1-hour meeting to finish the onboarding.

Step 2: Set up a weekly meeting to touch base and stay on the same page

One of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make when hiring is to get the new person set up then push them off without any management.

It’s key to stay in touch to continue to build the relationship and make sure that the new hire is executing the work properly.

Set up a weekly recurring 15-30 minute meeting where you and the new hire check in with each other, share updates, and address any issues that they are having.

This will go a long way in building a trusting relationship with the person that you’ve hired. Plus, it only takes 15-30 minutes of your week.

Step 3: Establish communication methods with the new hire

Another key aspect of working with people remotely is being able to get in touch with one another quickly and efficiently.

Take 5 minutes to set up clear communication channels between you and all new hires.

For example, use Skype or Slack for on-demand and same-time communication. Use email for daily updates on their work. Use text, WhatsApp, or Viber for emergency situations. And use Zoom for video and audio meetings.

By setting up clear communication channels upfront, you avoid the possible issue of miscommunication, losing track of someone’s work, and not being able to get in touch when an emergency arises.

Step 4: Introduce the new hire to other people in your agency

Once you hire someone, you want them to be motivated to be a part of your agency…so much so that they feel inspired to help you grow the company faster.

By introducing new hires to other people in your agency, they gain a greater sense of community and camaraderie around their work.

As you continue to work with the new hire and they get to know others in your agency, it will increase the chances of them wanting to work longer and harder for your business.

Fail to integrate a new hire into your agency and they may feel a lack of motivation, lack of purpose, and they want to explore other opportunities.

Conclusion: Create Your Own Online Hiring Playbook
Scaling your agency without having to extensively train every single person that you hire is 100% achievable, as long as you stick to a strict hiring playbook.

If you know that you want to avoid long training sessions, make sure in the interview to only move forward with candidates that have extensive experience within the work you’re looking to pass off.

If they don’t meet your minimum criteria, simply let them know that it’s not the right fit and move onto the next possible person to hire.

As you go through this process multiple times, you’ll start to put together your own hiring playbook that will work specifically for your agency and for the tasks you’re hiring for.

Once you have that hiring playbook established, hiring and onboarding the right people will become a lot easier and you’ll be able to stay focused on the most important aspects of scaling your agency.

Connor Gillivan   Chief Marketing Officer, FreeeUp
Phone: (518) 396-0987
Skype: Portlight.CGillivan
Address: 2900 E 16th Ave, Denver, CO, 80206

Lee Goff

Hyper focused on serving digital agency owners grow, scale, and enjoy their digital marketing agencies. It is hard to grow a digital agency unless you have the right tools and guidance.
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