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Profit & Growth Tips for Digital Agencies

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4 Signs Your Digital Agency Needs to Start Hiring

Posted by Nicolas Jacobeus on Jun 9, 2016

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Hiring new team members for your digital agency is one of the most difficult decisions to make. You need to be sure you’ve got the work and cashflow to support this new hire in the long-term, and you need to have a clear understanding of the skills you’re hiring for.

In the early days of running a digital agency it’s not unusual to experience peaks and troughs in your workload. To successfully grow your digital agency, you need to be able to identify whether a peak in your workload is a long-term problem which needs a new team member, or just a short-term challenge that could be handled by working with a freelancer.

Today I’m looking at 4 signs that indicate your digital agency is experiencing a long-term capacity problem that means it’s time to start hiring.

1) Needing to Turn Down Work

Occasionally you may be asked to work on a project that you simply don’t have time to take on, so you have to turn it down. If this situation is unusual then you’re probably just going through a short-term busy period, and your workload will even out in a few weeks.

However, if you find that you’re regularly turning down work because your team are too busy to take on more, then it suggests that you would benefit from hiring another member of staff.

2) Employees Constantly Working at Capacity

When your employees are overworked, they’ll be juggling four or five projects at once, and as a result the quality of their work will slip and they’ll start missing deadlines. This can damage your relationship with your clients and result in more changes and revisions required, which means more work for your already-busy employees. This will impact the timings of your next projects, creating a cycle of ever worsening delays.

You should identify how much of their time your employees spend working on billable projects. If they’re regularly spending 100% of their workday on billable projects, then they’re overworked and at risk of burn-out. In this case, hiring a new member of the team will help to ease the workload of your existing team members, and improve the quality of your deliverable work.

A resource management tool (like Scale) can provide you with an overview of your team’s current projects so you can gain insight into your employees’ utilisation rate. A resource management tool can also help with capacity forecasting and planning, to act as an advanced warning system to identify busy periods coming up, so you can hire staff before it becomes a problem.

3) Being Unable to Manage Work Pipelines

If your team are spending all their time working on billable projects for your existing clients, that means that no time is being spent pitching for new projects or following up with leads to attract new business. This means that when your current projects come to an end you’ll have an agency team who suddenly find themselves with no billable work on.

This can be the leading cause of instability in your agency’s workload, as your team is constantly moving back and forth between doing billable work and looking for billable work. Being unable to manage your work pipeline is a clear sign that your agency needs to hire someone on the sales side to bring in new business.

4) Identifying Skills Shortages

You may find that you’re increasingly getting requests for work that, within your existing team, you don’t have the necessary skills to take on. For example, your developers may be great at developing for iOS, but over a period of a few months you notice that you’re receiving hardly any requests for iOS development and lots of requests for Android applications.

Once you’ve identified a skills gap within your team you will need to assess whether it will be best addressed by upskilling an existing team member, or whether you would benefit more from hiring a new employee: someone able to take on that type of work more quickly, without requiring time to develop their skills.

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