Since I am often very busy and booked fairly far in advance, I get the inevitable question “why don’t you hire more people?”. I’ve been asked this for 10+ years, and my answers have always stayed the same… I figured I’d share them here.
My current role is doing everything, although I try to keep sales, managing, administration and supervising to an absolute minimum. Since I’d rather be doing things like designing and programming, I can more easily focus on those two things because my company is just me. I do hire sub-contractors sometimes for brand development and illustration, but I only hire people I trust and don’t need to oversee or even check in with them. I have been the creative director of a larger team/staff before and while there are some folks who excel at managing others, I know that’s not a strength or interest of mine. I’d rather be a doer than a supervisor, so I stick with that.
My goal has never been to have the most clients, or even to make the most money. I like being focused on just a couple of clients at a time, and a few interesting projects a year. Growth would go against my core reason for doing what I do. My measure of success is doing good work for interesting people. The amount of projects or size of budgets isn’t a factor.
For me, this is huge — and something I’ve struggled with since I started my company over a decade ago. The risk of burnout and stress can definitely increase with more responsibility. Knowing you are responsible for the pay cheque of others, or many more clients/projects at the same time, or clients with much larger budgets on the table. I like my work because I can (for the most part) tuck it away and leave it when I need to. I don’t work weekends (too often), I take days off during the week when schedules allow (and I make sure they do most of the time), and typically take at least 10 weeks off a year (which I think is more than average in North America for solopreneurs). If I didn’t carve time away from work, I wouldn’t be as effective in my work. If I had more moving pieces to deal with, in a larger team, I might not be able to balance the lifestyle I want with the work I’d have to do and the responsibilities I’d have.
As I mentioned above, making the most money has never been the main focus or goal. But, obviously making money is extremely important. Thankfully (very thankfully) I’m at a place where I can set a rate I want and have clients that are more than willing to pay it. If I had a team, I’d have to build in the cost of managing, supervision and extended business services (like bookkeeping, accounting, admin, legal, etc). So, to make the same amount I’d have to charge much more, which I might not be able to do, while keeping my own salary where it’s at.
I’m in no way an advocate of “smaller is better” nor am I anti-big business. I just know for me personally, this is why I have never been interested in growing my company past just being me.