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Executing vs. managing: How to make the shift

There comes a time in every freelancer’s career when the need to shift from a role of executing to the role of manager becomes too strong to ignore.

Working as a solo freelancer means you’re used to doing everything yourself and having control over the entire process: getting projects done, communicating with clients, and running the business side of things. But as you start to work with bigger clients, take on more projects, and increase your pricing, you may find that you’ll need to bring on people to help out.

When you get to this point in your business, you’ll have to swap your freelancer hat for your manager one. 

Here are a few steps to follow if you’re ready to make the shift from executing to managing.

Start small with outsourcing

As a freelancer, there’s a chance that you haven’t managed people before — or at the very least, your managing skills may be a little rusty after working solo for a while. 

A good way to put your managing skills into practice without hiring a full team is to hire a virtual assistant (VA) or similar role. Basically, someone who can take some of your workload off your plate or support parts of the business that you don’t want to spend your time on.

Many freelancers have found success when bringing on a VA to help with parts of their business. “I hired a VA about four months into my business because there was one specific aspect of my business I hated,” says social media agency founder Jordan Crump. “I love utilizing her and her talents, it’s made my job easier.”

For coach and writer Jasmine Williams, hiring a VA and maximizing apps and software to automate things have helped her achieve more success and serve as an important reminder: “You’re not just a creative; you’re also a business owner,” she says.

Refine your processes

When you work independently, your processes may not be defined. Or if they are, they’re usually intuitive and not something you’re used to sharing with others. 

But the more people you bring into the fold, the more you’ll have to explain your processes or systems. This is why it’s essential to streamline your systems and define your processes *before* you build your team.

Having clearly defined processes in place helps ensure everyone you work with is on the same page, whether they’re working on a client project or supporting other elements of your business.

Practice providing constructive feedback

When you have a solo freelancer mindset, your default response to your to-do list or things that need to be fixed is usually, “It’s just easier and faster if I do it myself.” 

But once you have a team, if you want to take your business to the next level, then you have to let go of the reigns a bit and learn how to help others get the work done instead of doing it yourself. 

To help you switch to the manager mindset, practice providing constructive feedback. Providing helpful and actionable feedback to a teammate helps them understand what you’re looking for and helps you work on your people management skills. A win-win.