Building an Upwork agency can be complex. How do you keep your pipeline full—with a busy and satisfied team—while simultaneously keeping your team available enough to take on the next exciting project?
The more you establish a reputation for outstanding work, the more potential clients are likely to notice and come to you. Luckily, that same reputation can make your agency more appealing to top freelancers.
Here are five ideas to help your agency be ready for growth.
1. Prepare your agency to adapt
Here is where the differences between life as an agency owner and that of a freelancer become noticeable. For example:
- Requirements for client and project management will be amplified as you take on more clients and bigger projects.
- Whether you hire employees or partner with freelancers, coordinating with a group of people will be part of your day-to-day.
- Your agency should be able to scale up or down to accommodate a variable workload.
As the agency’s leader, it’s up to you to put processes in place to help the business adapt and keep up with client expectations.
2. Build a winning team
As the agency owner, it’s up to you to decide how you’ll source talent, identify people to play key roles, and find workers for each project your agency takes on. Many agencies are a geographically distributed team, while others are co-located in the same office. Whatever your approach, finding and retaining great talent can be a challenge—but it’s essential to success.
Maxim Kalin of Golden Team, a Ukraine-based web and mobile app development agency, says it’s important to ask: Why would an individual freelancer want to join a team—and why your team? “Working with a team is powerful,” he says. “The power comes not just from what each person can contribute but what you can achieve as a group.”
While a solo freelancer is typically responsible for every aspect of their business, being part of an agency lets freelancers focus on their strengths and pursue projects they may not have been able to land on their own. “Working as part of an agency gives team members the opportunity to learn from each other, grow professionally, get valuable feedback, and enhance their reputations because of what you’re able to accomplish together.”
Here are a few tips successful agency owners have shared:
- Define the skills and level of expertise your agency needs by looking at your niche, ideal projects, and number of clients.
- Help attract talent by proactively promoting your agency within your network, including social media and offline networking groups. You never know who might know the perfect addition to your agency.
- As you establish business policies and best practices, factor in activities such as recruitment and referrals, if relevant to your business model.
- Consider a paid freelancer test project when evaluating new freelancers to collaborate with.
- Set clear expectations for your staff.
- Foster a positive and collaborative environment by highlighting the value of the work that’s being done.
Define your agency culture
Victor C. of the Lviv, Ukraine-based software development agency Sombra, emphasizes the importance of setting the culture of your agency from day one: “Common values lead to better results. Developing your team culture is an ongoing process; discuss it regularly with the full team and include every new person that joins your team.”
An agency’s culture can impact productivity, collaboration, and interaction. A results-driven culture, for example, can drive your agency to get more done by also embracing the flexibility many workers look for.
Culture can also become a cornerstone of your brand. Uruguay-based mobile development agency Codigo Del Sur became a leading mobile development agency with a strong internal culture by focusing on its strengths, prioritizing quality work as much as fun, and building their brand within local networks.
3. Expand your client base
Keeping the momentum going for business development is critical. Luckily, there are lots of ways to help keep your agency’s sales pipeline full.
Build genuine relationships
Great relationships with clients are the basis for every successful business—and they can be critical for growing your talent network.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your clients about future work. Taking on new projects from clients you already know helps shorten the learning curve, and forging long-term relationships increases the lifetime value of the client.
At the same time, avoid being overly dependent on one or two major clients. Diversification reduces risk and creates a buffer if one client’s situation changes.
Bring your own clients to Upwork
In addition to finding new clients on Upwork, you may want to move existing clients onto the site. Doing so can make it easier for your agency to:
- Control expenses and set spending limits for each member
- Set up agreements and add/remove project team members
- Offer a high level of protection, including NDA and results ownership
- Automate billing, including a protection period for any disputes that might arise
- Pause work if needed
4. Evaluate and track projects and goals
As a Top Rated freelancer, you may already be familiar with the information available through the “My Stats” page. As an agency on Upwork, your “My Stats” page will provide insights into any exclusive agency freelancers on your team.
This information can help identify areas for improvement and enable you to track progress toward sales and service goals you set for your agency. These details include:
- Marketing effectiveness: Stats on how many people view your exclusive agency members’ profiles
- Application style and results: See how often exclusive agency members win projects compared to the total number of proposals submitted
- Communication effectiveness: Track how responsive exclusive agency members are when responding to job invitations from potential clients
5. Get to know programs and perks for your agency
Ready to scale your agency business?
Launching and growing an agency comes with unique challenges each step of the way, from defining your niche to establishing a great reputation, to learning how to create and foster the type of culture you envision. Anticipating questions and hurdles you might run into can help your agency grow more smoothly into the thriving business you’re aiming for.