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How to Start and Scale a Design Agency (and Build a Design Team that Works)

start and scale a design agency_puzzle going up

There are many elements to developing a full force design agency, but in this article, we’re focusing specifically on building a design team without the usual overhead costs.

At Design Force, we’ve successfully built our own team of designers into an 80-person strong workforce in just 4 years.

To date, we’ve proudly worked with over XXXXX businesses around the world, producing countless pieces of high-quality, on-demand design. 

And since we’ve cracked the code on how to run a well-oiled machine, we’re on a mission to show businesses like yours how to achieve the same success. So that you can consistently respond to design demands and scale your own design agency effectively, and efficiently.

Ready to scale but not sure where to start? Read on…

How to know you’re ready to scale, and start building a design team

As a designer, you’ll know that there are only so many hours in a day, and within that, only so many hours that you can focus on designing (and designing well).

When you come to decide whether or not it’s time to scale, consider these questions: 

  • Are you having to turn down work because you don’t have the time or resources available to complete it to a high standard?
  • Is the skillset of your current team limiting the work you can say yes to?
  • Do you and your team often feel overwhelmed by design work, or feel you’re stretched too thin?

If the answer is yes to any of the above, it’s time to scale your design agency.

It can be a daunting proposition to bring new people into your small design business. It can feel scary to spend money. After all, you’ve worked hard to make money, spending it on tasks you’re capable of yourself can feel counterintuitive or risky. 

But, sometimes you need to spend money to make money. And in this case, spending money on quality design talent can pay you back in more ways than one. 

Here’s why we believe building a strong design team will benefit your business:

  • Scaling your design team allows you to scale your output and in turn, your revenue

If you have more hands on deck, more work can be completed in a shorter timeframe. 

For example, when you’ve completed a brief with client no.1, you can then hand over the brief to your new design team member to get designing. 

While they’re hard at work designing for client no.1, you can begin the briefing stage with client no.2.

You’ve effectively doubled your capacity, and therefore, doubled the revenue in the same timeframe. 

  • Building a design team with a wide range of skills allows you to offer more (and better) services to your clients 

Sometimes, design briefs grow and evolve. 

You may start a project that requires illustration, but then later down the line, the client comes back to you to introduce animation to the illustrations. 

If you’re not proficient in animation yourself, you risk losing the client to a designer elsewhere.

By building a design team with varying design skills (UX design, UI design, social media graphic design, etc.), you can impress your client and streamline the process because you’re able to say yes when new elements of design develop. 

You start to build an agency that can take on bigger, more complex projects, instead of specializing in one area of design alone.

  • Building a remote design team expands your network

When it comes to finding designers to bring on board, we found that hiring remotely is the way to go. We hire designers from all over the world, each with their own unique backgrounds and influences, so we’re able to deliver more diverse styles and approaches to our clients.

Plus, this global model allows us to create a 24-hour design machine. While our US clients sleep, our designers across the globe are working to bring their vision to life, making the turnaround much faster.

On the other hand, surveys by Indeed show that many workers in America are leaving their current roles in favor of opportunities that provide remote working options. 

If you’re unsure how remote working styles can work for you, we wrote an entire ebook on the subject: How to Run a Remote Team Like a Pro.

For us, it’s been the single biggest contributor to our rapid growth.

How to successfully build a design team with minimum risk

To minimize risk and spend when you’re starting to scale, consider onboarding freelancers or on-demand designers instead of hiring a full-time member. 

Hiring a permanent in-house designer can bring many benefits, but when starting out, it can be a costly move when client work goes quiet. 

If that’s not for you, here are two effective options:

  • Hire freelancers

Freelancers can be a great short-term solution when you need to produce additional design work quickly.

Their rates can be very accessible and availability can be highly flexible to suit the ebbs and flows of your business. 

But, freelancers can vary greatly in their abilities and depending on where you source them from, can sometimes fall short of the high-quality benchmark you’ve set for your business. 

If you’re hiring multiple freelancers to work on multiple design projects, be prepared also to have to individually brief each freelancer for each project you take on.

It’s important to do your research and look for reputable sites that share previous work, and consider holding interviews or (paid) design tasks to assess whether the person is the right fit for your needs.

  • On-board a managed creative production team

To get all of the benefits of working with freelancers without the need to spend hours vetting potential hires, a managed creative production service like Design Force is a risk-free way to scale your design team fast. 

By expanding your design team using a subscription-based model like ours, you reduce your overheads from hiring full-time. You can scale up or scale down your design subscription to match your current workload, and only need to deal directly with one person –your dedicated Project Manager– who will deal with multiple designers for you.

With this global team of expert designers (that have already been vetted by a world-class agency) at your fingertips, you can become a full agency in just one day. 

  • As you scale more and more, you can then make full-time hires to suit your needs

In our ebook, we discuss the ways we’ve tried and tested over the years when hiring remote team members.

You’ll find answers on where to search, what to look for, how to conduct effective interviews, how to communicate your need to ensure you find the right match (and more). 

As well as the ways we structure in-house teams for maximum efficiency.

Ready to build your design team?

If you’re ready to scale your design business into a successful agency, Design Force’s expert team can be on hand to support your growth without risk. 

If that sounds good, book a demo with our team today.

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Stay updated on business design trends and receive weekly marketing and design content when you join our community!

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