Being a one-man band has huge advantages--you can test the waters, set your own schedule, and create your own destiny without having to deal with the hassles of hiring or management. But while this approach offers maximum independence and is ideal for some, it doesn't offer the ability to scale.
If you want to win big, you have to grow, but when is the right time? Just having more tasks to complete than you have hours in the day probably isn't a good indicator. With to-do list items seemingly able to expand to fill whatever time you allot for work, that is the perpetual fate of the entrepreneur. Longing for another set of hands isn't necessarily an indicator either--just about every freelancer pines for someone to take care of that one annoying thing she or he hates to do.
It's a difficult and personal call, but the blog Bplans thinks it can help. A recent piece by Lisa Furgison rounded up advice on the question, including a list of advantages and disadvantages of hiring and various experts' takes on the matter. Among the useful advice rounded up in the post were a number of questions that you can ask yourself to ascertain whether you're on the edge of needing another set of hands. Here they are:
Are you turning down work?
Obviously, you shouldn't hire until you have adequate work for another person to handle. How do you know when you've likely reached that point? When you're turning projects or customers away, answers Furgison. If a quick review of your situation reveals that you're turning down work regularly, you also need to consider whether, for personal reasons, you wish to keep the company small as well as whether you're able to regularly pay for extra help.
"An employee can help your business grow, but before making any staff additions, you'll want to make sure you have the revenue available to pay him or her," writes Furgison sensibly.
Have you identified a possible new revenue stream?
The second question is a possibility you might not have considered. Sure, you can hire someone to take some of your existing workflow off your hands, but you can also hire to take advantage of whole new types of work that you can't handle on your own--for instance, you can build an ace website but discover you could land more and larger clients if you offered a combined graphic/logo design and site-creation service.
"Sometimes you will come up with great business ideas that you are just not personally equipped to execute on," serial entrepreneur Kurt Johnson tells Furgison. "This is a great problem to have and the right employee can truly make the difference in taking your business to the next level."
Are you receiving complaints?
You probably think of complaints as a bad thing (as well as an opportunity to learn and improve), but they can also be a sign that you're ready to scale up. Listen to your customers and halt bad word-of-mouth in its tracks by hiring the extra help you need. "If customers start complaining about your work or about your timeliness, it's a sign that you're spread too thin," writes Furgison. "Even if you are just bringing someone in to answer your phones, field emails, or tackle your accounting practices, you will get those hours back to commit to clients."
Are you planning on hiring eventually or are you content to stay a one-man band?