Congratulations, you’ve started your own agency on Upwork! The move from freelancer to agency can be a big one, amplifying the business development you did when working on your own while adding new responsibilities to your day-to-day activities.
As you get your agency up and running, here are three processes you’ll likely want to cycle through on a regular basis:
- Filling the business development pipeline with new projects
- Communicating effectively within the team, contractors, and clients
- Managing the agency’s finances
1. Find projects to work on
As the agency’s owner, you may or may not be the business manager. An agency’s business manager is typically responsible for finding new projects for the agency to work on. They may also serve as the key account manager, handling existing client contracts and negotiating the terms before projects start.
Any agency member can submit proposals on the agency’s behalf, but the business manager is often the one to lead this process since the agency is responsible for all work. (All proposals—regardless of who submits them—will draw from the agency’s collective Connects balance.)
With an agency account, the person in the business manager role can also:
- Respond to incoming requests
- Edit the terms of all agency contracts
- End agency contracts as appropriate
- Withdraw agency proposals
- Accept or decline offers
For fixed-price contracts, both agency members working on the project and business managers can submit milestones.
Each project on Upwork is structured as either fixed price or hourly.
- For hourly contracts, each freelancer working on the project needs to have their own profile. This is both because their individual profiles will be submitted to the client and because it enables them to track their own time.
- For fixed-price contracts, proposals can be submitted with the business manager’s profile then the agency can assign work to specific freelancers who will contribute to the project.
2. Collaborate and communicate
When the contract starts, it is a “green light” for the agency to start work. Consider getting everyone involved in the agency’s projects, whether they’re actively working on them or not: This can help with continuity and add new perspective to challenges that may come up.
Usually, communication with clients is handled by the business manager, although clients can also contact the agency freelancers they work with directly. Messages sent through the Upwork platform are visible to agency members, business managers, and the agency owner—a record of communication with each client that each team member can reference.
3. Figure out how best to pay members
Funds are released and transferred to the agency when a client accepts the completed work for a fixed-price project or when time is invoiced for hourly projects according to Upwork’s weekly billing cycle. All contracts with an agency are paid to the agency’s account, even if the contract is between the client and one of the individual agency members, since the agency is responsible for all work. It’s then up to the agency to pay its members.
The agency’s payments to team members are done privately, outside of Upwork. The agency’s balance will be sent to you on a schedule, which you can use to plan payments to your team members. Once transferred to your agency account, these funds can be accessed at any time—there’s no additional waiting period.
How you manage your agency’s earnings from there is up to you. Here are a few important points to consider from the Upwork User Agreement:
- Your agency (not Upwork) is responsible for paying agency members for completed work. These payments are not protected or facilitated by Upwork.
- How much agency members are paid is determined by the agency and its members. It may or may not bear any relation to payments made by the client.
- Agencies are responsible for maintaining proper tax records and worker classification. Agency members may be classified as either employees or independent contractors of their agency.
Ready to get out there and find new clients?
Getting core business processes in place while your agency is still young will make things easier down the road as you bring on more clients, different collaborators, and new opportunities. These processes, in particular, can set a solid foundation to help your agency grow as you build a sales pipeline and bring more clients on board.