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John Jantsch: You wanna scale your business but you’ve got to figure out how to get all the work done. You don’t necessarily want to hire employees, but outsourcing while attractive has its own pitfalls. Let’s talk about it with Mandy McEwen, the founder of Mod Girl Marketing. Check out this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast.
Stuff like payroll and benefits are hard. That’s why I switched to Gusto. To help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive limited time deal. You sign up for their payroll service today. You’ll get three months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to gusto.com/tape.
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Mandy McEwen. She is the founder and CEO of Mod Girl Marketing. We’re going to talk all about ways to grow your business. You guys have heard me talk about this a lot without necessarily adding a bunch of overhead or at least, I think, that’s where we’re going to go. Thanks for joining me, Mandy.
Mandy McEwen: Thanks for having me, John. I’m excited to be on.
John Jantsch: I will tell you at least judging from the emails that I get and the LinkedIn requests that I get, the two hottest professions right now are teaching agencies how to scale and teaching agencies how to generate leads without doing any work.
Mandy McEwen: Yes, indeed.
John Jantsch: What do you suppose is up with that?
Mandy McEwen: That’s a major challenge … two challenges that Mod Girl helps our members in our community with right now, but that’s really two things that agencies and [inaudible 00:01:50] really struggle with is both of those, scaling and doing too much work themselves. Then it goes together because if you’re doing everything yourself, then you don’t have time to get leads, so you’re looking for someone to help you get leads. They go hand in hand.
John Jantsch: One of the challenges I have with this word scaling is that I think we have to define it. I think that it means probably something different for everyone. If we try to package it as the same for everyone, we’d miss in a lot of ways the great opportunity of owning your own business is that you get to decide what scale looks like. I’d love it if … I mean, how do you describe scale? I think, a lot of people immediately think, “I’m going to have this giant organization,” but I think it’s actually something completely different.
Mandy McEwen: No, I’m really glad that you mentioned that John, because it is. It’s completely different. We work with solopreneurs and their consultants. They don’t want to build a big team. They don’t want to have a team of … Even if it’s an outsourced team of freelancers, that’s not what they want to do. They don’t want to provide SEO and social media and web design to all. They don’t want to provide eight different things to their clients. Their definition of scaling is going to be different for someone that they want to provide more than what they are or they’re providing something where they definitely need a whole lot of help. I’m glad you brought that up.
For me, it’s a little different because I started out as an SEO agency and then we mold it into this big, not big, but I mean in terms of service offerings where we provided bigger service offerings and inbound marketing from everything, from web design to social media to blogging to PPC and all of that. No, that’s not really the best way to go about doing things and not what I would recommend to people now, but that’s how I did it. My definition of scaling was, “Ah, I need people to help. I need outsource partners. I need vendors. I need white label agencies. I need an operations manager.”
I just need help, but that’s not necessarily what everyone wants to do and that’s not what I recommend everyone to do. For other people that they want to stick with their craft and what they’re good at, for example, let’s say a LinkedIn marketing consultant, and that’s all they want to do. They have no desire to provide SEO or even outsource SEO to people. Sure they can just refer it off and maybe get a referral fee, but they want to stick with LinkedIn coaching, LinkedIn marketing, LinkedIn consulting. For them, scaling is gonna to be a little different. For them, it would be, “How can I make more revenue while still working the same or working less than I am now?”
In those terms, they’re gonna looking for those higher paying clients, and they’re going to be looking to create packages that they can resell to people without having to spend more time on all of those. There’s different scenarios here because you are exactly right, especially in this age of there are so many people that own a quote agency, and everyone’s definition of agency is different too, right? They might be a one-person agency providing one thing, and they call themselves an agency, and that’s totally fine. It doesn’t matter what exactly you’re doing, but you’re right.
Their definition of scaling, they can’t approach it like how I approached it when I was growing Mod Girl, because they’re doing something completely different. In their case, they would be scaling and working on, “How can I make more revenue without working more?” Well, I need to be targeting clients that need to be repackaging my offering, and still at the same time, I still highly recommend that people at least have a VA, at least one virtual assistant, if not more, because there are certain things in your business that you could certainly get help on. You really shouldn’t be doing all of the things yourself. Does that make sense?
John Jantsch: Well, absolutely. I think, actually the world that we live in today, many of the tactics … I mean obviously, I trained marketing consultants all day long, and many of the tactics that are being done in the name of marketing can be taught to literally anyone. I think that that’s been our approach is don’t go out necessarily and hire a pay per click or Facebook advertising expert because they’re just gonna get more expensive every single day, and rather, figure out your system or package approach to Facebook advertising, and teach it to somebody. That is going to be $25 an hour all day long.
Mandy McEwen: Yes. I completely agree.
John Jantsch: Let me flip that around a little bit. I do also work with agencies and consultancies that do want to get bigger. They want to have people. They wanna have the true idea of scale, but in your experience … I mean, I also run across a lot of them that can’t get it done. In your experience, what holds people back from effectively scaling in maybe that traditional sense?
Mandy McEwen: That’s a great question. I think, a lot of people honestly, John, they skip the fundamental steps and that’s what holds them back. As business owners, as agency owners, as marketing entrepreneurs, we are freaking busy. We are doing so much. Most of the time, we’re doing too much. We’re running around. We’re trying to help our clients or taking care of the business side of things. When it comes down to it, you really have to take a step back and go back to, “What am I trying to accomplish here? What are my goals? What industries am I trying to help? What services offerings do those industries need? What are my clients paying me now? What profit margins do I desire? What is my budget for outsource partners?”
Just taking a step back and really getting clear with yourself on, “What am I trying to do here? Where do I want to be in 90 days? Where do I wanna be in 12 months?” I think people just jump into it, and they’re like, “I need help. I need help now.” Instead of going back and looking why, “Why do I need help? What am I trying to accomplish? What kind of partners do I need? What are the price ranges I need? How much am I gonna sell these things?” I feel like a lot of people just blindly set out on this journey to quote scale by having more people, more hands on deck, but they don’t really have a clear vision of what that looks like.
I feel like that’s number one. That’s a big problem.
John Jantsch: One of my experience is you mentioned everybody should have a VA. I firmly agree with that, but if you don’t know what you want that person to do, it’s gonna be a really bad experience, isn’t it?
Mandy McEwen: Exactly. Yes. I completely agree. That goes back to exactly what I just said. As I said with VAs is you have to give them very specific instructions on exactly what they need to be doing for you. You can’t just be like, “I need help.” Go for it, because it is not gonna work out. The same goes for outsourced partners even though when you’re hiring specialists and agencies, they don’t need as much handholding clearly, but you still have to have a general idea of what you’re trying to accomplish here and what you want your clients to have and all of that.
You’re exactly right, John. You can’t just blindly go out and be like, “I need help. I’m gonna hire a VA.” Okay, go for it. That’s gonna be a disaster.
John Jantsch: We can talk a bunch about that, but let’s just first … Let’s talk about the pros and cons of hiring an employee versus hiring a virtual resource.
Mandy McEwen: Obviously the major differences or con I would say of employees is just the overhead. You hav the payroll. You have the taxes, unemployment and all of that even if they’re a remote employee. That’s the biggest one. It’s just fund because a lot of smaller agencies, they don’t have the funds for that or they end up pulling the trigger too early, and they hire one or two employees and then they can’t afford payroll or they can’t afford to pay themselves. That’s the first thing. How I did it, what I did is I didn’t hire my first full-time employee for years until I worked with them as a freelancer, as a part-time freelancer.
That’s personally how I like doing things and what I recommend. I know everyone is completely different, but I like working with people that are freelancers on a part-time basis, even if it’s a project basis, getting to know them and realizing that they’re a good fit. That’s another thing too when it comes to hiring employees. If you don’t have all your ducks in a row when it comes to the process and weeding out the ones that aren’t a good fit, you might end up taking on an employee that ends up not working out six months down the road, and that’s just way more of a pain to go through that than if they were a freelancer or outsourced partner.
Now on the flip side of that, it’s difficult, especially in the beginning when you’re first starting out to hire freelancers that are committed to helping you grow and that actually care, because freelancers, we’re all entrepreneurs essentially. If you own an agency, you’re an entrepreneur. If you’re a freelancer, you’re technically an entrepreneur. They’re not as committed as you are because it’s not their business, so you have to filter through a lot and realize like, “What am I looking for? What are the personality traits?” I realized that the personality is a big part of this to make sure that our personalities meshed, and the values, the integrity, everything is there even when it comes to freelancers.
I would say that’s the biggest thing. It’s just finding those who have integrity and have your same values and truly believe in what you’re doing with your business and your vision, and aren’t just out for themselves. Even if it’s a short-term future, they see some future with working with you, but I feel like a lot of people don’t have that or they don’t have something that resonates, like their brand, their vision, all that doesn’t really resonate with the people that they’re hiring freelancers. They just don’t really care as much. They’re just trying to get projects out the door and make money.
That’s what I’ve found in that sense, and it took me a while to realize that I made a lot of mistakes when I first started out hiring the wrong people because of that, but I think the more you get clear on your branding, your vision, your passion, and the more you share that with the world and including the people that you hire, the better off you’re going to be because you need to find people that also share that similar vision and love what you’re doing.
John Jantsch: I agree completely. I mean, one of the challenges I think in this Fiverr world is it’s so easy to just go get that, and go get that. One of the things I see is that sometimes, it creates a lack of focus, lack of commitment. If you go out and get a couple of video projects and you hire a videographer and or video journalist or whatever you want to call them internally, first off, I think you’re gonna potentially put out better work, but I think you’re also going to go out and find more work to keep that person busy.
I’m not saying you necessarily put your back against the wall so that you have focus, but I do think that there is something to committing to something keeps you on track, and when it’s so easy to just say, “Oh sure, we’ll go find a PHP programmer to do this one project,” it does have a tendency to scatter you.
Mandy McEwen: I completely agree. I like to treat our remote business and this new digital age we live in is the same as a regular brick and mortar business. You have to have a culture. You have to have a company culture. I don’t care if you’re a one-person show or you’re a 10-person show. You need to define like, “What is your culture here? What are you going after?” Because you’re going to attract people that also believe in that same mantra and have that same culture, and it really does make a huge difference.
If you’re just out there giving off the vibe that, “I’m just trying to make money. I’m just trying to get clients. I don’t really care about standing out or being different,” or really defining what your vision and a company culture, then you’re going to attract those or you’re probably going to go to Fiverr just like you said, and try to make that work, but there are plenty of talented freelancers out there that are looking for something like that. They’re looking for, “Where can I fit in?” I love long-term projects.
If you talk to freelancers and you ask them, “Are you looking for short-term projects or long-term projects,” the majority of them are gonna say long-term projects because it’s reliable income. They wanna work with people and companies that they believe in and that have similar values. If you’re just failing to do that, then I think you’re selling yourself short on really building an outsourced team and just everything in general, but especially when it comes to hiring talented freelancers.
John Jantsch: There was a great book—Jason Fried was on my show when this book came out a couple of years ago called Rework. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that book, but I think he makes a great point because a lot of their hundred plus folks were dispersed or distributed, and he really makes a point about even with freelancers, they need to know what you believe and they need to be part of meetings. They need to understand the culture. I agree with you. I mean, we have a web designer that’s done work for us are probably going on 15 years, who is a freelancer.
We have her on our website. I mean, I think, she feels definitely a part of the team.
Mandy McEwen: Exactly.
John Jantsch: I think you can create that. I completely agree with you that people want that. We have two virtual marketing folks that would tell you they work for an agency. I think both of them would tell you that they are our employees if asked, because we just really live that and preach that as well. Wouldn’t it be great if in your business, all you had to do was the stuff you love, the reason you started the business, and not all that administrative stuff like payroll and benefits? That stuff’s hard especially when you’re a small business?
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Let’s talk about time management. That falls somewhere in this whole outsourcing delegation realm. One of the biggest challenges I think when you go to try to bring in some outsource resources, it’s like a step backwards first, because if you’re not prepared, if you don’t have the systems and documentation in place, you’re gonna have to teach that person how to do everything. That’s more work than just doing it yourself. I mean, how do we get ourselves to the point where we can get out of the business enough to actually do that kind of work on the business?
Mandy McEwen: Yes, that is definitely a challenge loaded question. What I have found and what we do now is we have a very strict vetting process. I recommend this for anyone. Definitely have a vetting process for, let’s just say, just stick with freelancers for now because white label agencies and vendors are a different ballgame here, but when we’re talking about freelancers, you have, first of all, a vetting process of they need to have these qualifications. They need to know these tools. They need to be familiar with this. They need to have experience working with X, Y, Z, whatever that is.
Then you send them this survey/form to fill out that you can look at and all of that. It depends on your time and your processes you have and of course your budget. If you don’t have time and you’d rather pay a little higher price for someone who knows exactly what you’re trying to accomplish, they’re more of a specialist and they don’t require as much training and handholding, then you’re gonna end up spending a little bit more on that freelancer, but there’s still the factor of they’re going to have to learn your ways and your processes.
Someone could be an SEO expert and come to work for a Mod Girl, and they might do things a little bit differently than we do. There’s still some time involved there, but I honestly recommend investing a tiny bit more to get people that do have experience and they aren’t complete newbies, so you do not have to spend as much time training them. With that said, you still need a process. You still need something documented. That’s like, “This is how we go about hiring freelancers,” step one, the onboarding process when you do hire them too because they still need to …
We use base camp and we literally have a base camp project specifically for new hires, and it’s just a template. We just duplicate it for new hires, freelancers included. That would give them, “Read Mod Girl’s about page.” Like, “Here’s our case studies. Here’s our vision.” We literally give … It doesn’t matter what they are, a web designer or a social media consultant, but we give them the same thing, and they have to learn about Mod Girl, what we’re trying to accomplish, our team. Here our teams. These are our teams. Please go to Slack and do this.
It is very, very important to have that, and that’s exactly why I hired an operations manager because that is not my strong suit. I am not an operations person nor processes person at all. I’m the creative ideas and just go out and do them. I don’t take the time to … That’s just not how my brain works. For me, I had to hire someone to make all of those processes because I was just hiring people. Luckily for me, I chose really people in the beginning that ended up working out and I didn’t have to give them the processes I should have that probably would have saved my time, but you need some process.
That’s my recommendation. One is to spend a tad bit more money and invest in someone who knows what they’re doing, and then two, have some process in place for everyone that you bring on board. Then I usually put people on a trial too, freelancers, so trialed, and let them know that they’re on a trial. “This is a paid trial for two weeks. This is what I want you doing, and we’re going to see how it works out. If it works out, awesome, we’ll get you going. If it doesn’t, then we’ll part ways.” That’s how I like doing it.
John Jantsch: I have a little tip that may or may not be fair, but a lot of times when I’m trying to work with somebody to get process, I have basically done what I want done, and maybe I know how I’ve done it and I will dictate the steps. Then I actually ask them to document the process, because I find that they’re going to use it, and there’s nothing like doing it while you’re using it to build a document. It’s amazing. Especially if you give them a structure, it’s amazing the amount of documentation you can get done while people are doing things.
Mandy McEwen: I like that, yes definitely.
John Jantsch: If I’m out there listening and I’m thinking, “I’m drowning. I know I need to get help.” I think one challenge that people struggle with and I’d love your advice on this, “Where do I start? Like, what do I outsource first?” I mean, is there a filter for trying to figure that out?
Mandy McEwen: I would look … What I tell people to do is write down a list of everything you’re doing right now. Take some quiet time and just think of your day to day. Okay, I wake up. I drink coffee. I go workout. I eat breakfast. I come back. I shower. I eat breakfast. Literally going through your day to day, “I check emails. I do this. Here’s what I do for my clients.” Then once you start, it’s eyeopening, especially for people that don’t … They’re just rush, rush, rush all day long. They’re to get as much as they can and they never finish their to do. They always have this giant to do list that never gets done.
When you take a step back and you look at all the little things you should be doing, there’s only a very small percentage of them, 5%, that are actually making your business revenue. They’re actually doing things to grow your business. I would start there. Look at what you’re doing and look at what the things that you’re providing to your clients or even just like admin tasks. Can we go back to talking about virtual assistants? It doesn’t have to be, “I need someone to provide services for my clients.” It could literally be something that you’re spending your time on that is not helping you grow your business, that you could easily hire a virtual assistant to do.
That’s where I like starting. It’s just looking exactly what you … Then I also tell people, “Make a not to do this.” Like, “What the heck should you not be doing?” After you have your, “This is what I do,” look at that list. Circle the things that you need to be doing yourself, and then go create another list and look at all those things, and then make a what not to do list. What you have on that list is what you should start looking for, VAs and freelancers and outsource partners to help you with.
John Jantsch: I would add one more thing to that. There are many things that maybe make you money and maybe are important, but you absolutely hate doing them-
Mandy McEwen: That too. I forgot that part.
John Jantsch: …because it sucks the mental life out of you to have to do it. I think, that’s a pretty good place to look too.
Mandy McEwen: Yes. I totally forgot that. I was just on a coaching call here today, and that’s exactly what I told her. I was like, “Well, what do you like doing? What do you not like doing? Are you providing services to your clients right now that you just completely cannot stand?” She’s like, “Yeah.” I’m like, “Well, there you go. Get someone to help you with that.” Good point, John.
John Jantsch: We worked with so many small business owners, and they just absolutely hate social media. I’m like, “Well then don’t do it because I’m not going to do it for you. And if you’re going to hate it, you’re going to do it poorly. And let’s figure out a place where you’re going to spend the time doing something you do enjoy.” I mean, if they had unlimited resources, you’d say, “Okay, let’s find a way to get Instagram work into what you’re doing.” I think, a lot of times, we waste a lot of mental energy thinking, “Oh, I have to be doing all this stuff and maybe we don’t.”
Mandy McEwen: Exactly. At the end of the day, you started a business because you’re passionate and you want to do something that you can wake up every day and say, “I love what I’m doing.” If you’re spending your day doing things you can’t stand, then what’s the point of being an entrepreneur and having your own business? It defeats the purpose, right?
John Jantsch: Mandy, tell our listeners where they can find out more about you and your services and products.
Mandy McEwen: Definitely. If you are a marketing entrepreneur or agency owner, I highly recommend joining our free Facebook group Mod Agency Insiders. That’s the first thing. You can go to modgirl.social and join our free Facebook group, where I’m active every day, and host Facebook live. We have an awesome community there that’s growing every day. The rest, you can just go to modgirlmarketing.com and pretty much learn everything that we have going on. We have all sorts of products and programs. I have my new membership remote agency society that is awesome for startup and smaller agencies that just are looking and don’t that focus, kind of what you talked about.
Like, “Where do I start?” We have a membership dedicated specifically for people to scale and take it to the next level depending on what your definition of scale is, of course. I go live every week in the Facebook group, and answer questions, and basically give people all of the resources, the knowledge, and what I only wish I had when I started Mod Girl back in 2010, but basically, our free Facebook group is the way to go because they can learn about everything there.
John Jantsch: Awesome. We’ll have links in the show notes to all of that stuff. Mandy, thanks for joining us and hopefully we’ll run into you out there on the road someday.
Mandy McEwen: Alright, thanks so much, John.