Putting together your first Web Team

When I first started freelancing, developer friends of mine would have some fun by sending each other job postings with unrealistic skill requirements. Things like, “Expert skills required: .Net, ASP, IIS, SQL Server, Exchange Server, Apache, Unix, PHP, Ruby, Python, JQuery, Action Script, Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator, Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, XHTML, CSS, Front Page, Dreamweaver, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Netscape. We used to say, “When you find that guy, let me know, I want to meet him!” We would always joke with each other about it, but in reality, it was sad, because the person posting the job had no idea what they wanted. In fact, to anyone that was remotely qualified, they saw that job posting as a red flag. The employer’s expectations weren’t realistic, so taking that job would be the quickest way out of a job.

In my last article, Prestige Conference 2015 Review: A Small Business Perspective, I wrote about Brad Williams, CEO and Founder of WebDevStudios, talk, “Hiring Employee Number One: From Freelancer to Agency.” It turns out, this is one of the hardest things to do when getting your business off the ground, but it may not be for the reasons you think. There is an old saying that’s summarized like this, “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it.” We actually hear that from clients quite a bit. That’s a difficult response, because we struggle with understanding how to help them. They’re not giving us enough information so we have to spend extra time, and a little trial and error, digging deeper to find the best solution. All in all, it’s a frustrating experience. When you hire an employee and you don’t have their job duties defined, haven’t established a direction for your business and are disorganized, you are essentially doing the same thing as the client did to you. At about that time the new employee is thinking, “What did I get myself into?” Then when that employee doesn’t work out, you wonder, “Why is it so hard to find employee’s that want to work?” The truth is, hiring your first Web Team is hard for many reasons, but we also make it hard on ourselves. Taking a step back and creating a little structure will go a long way.

5 things to consider when hiring your first Web Team

  1. Write out your mission/goals. Besides the fact that you will want to tell clients what you do, you will also want to get buy in from your future employees. Money isn’t the only motivator. Future employees want a reason to be a part of your vision. Give it to them and then tell them how they fit into that vision.

  2. Establish your role first. You definitely want some overlap, but get someone that accelerates you to your goals faster. If your specialty is sales, then get people to help you run other parts of your business that you don’t want or have time to do.

  3. A Bookkeeper should be your first or second hire. One of the most challenging and most important tasks for a new business is invoicing. The best thing I did was hire a bookkeeper. It forced me to set aside a time each week to manage my books and invoice my clients. Cash flow can bring down any business. Having someone come in part time to do your books, is essential.

  4. Create job descriptions. Everyone needs to know what their responsibilities are. Whether you have an employee or contractor, you have to let them know what you expect. Evaluating someone for what you think they should know or do is unfair and will lead to disappointment. Creating job descriptions for roles in your business also helps you make sure that every part of your business is being taken care of. It’s a great way to figure out what isn’t being done.

  5. Make sure you can afford it. I’ve seen many businesses ramp up and hire a lot of people only to lay them all off a short time later, because they ran out of money. When you expand your team, do it for the right reasons. If you have funding and are moving quickly, that is one reason, but if you are hiring a lot of people in hopes of getting money down the line to pay them, really evaluate the situation, before you put you and their careers in jeopardy.

Remember a business is fluid and nothing is set in stone. You can and will, update your mission/goals, job descriptions and employees as your business grows. The trick is to keep your structure maturing as well. It’s a maintainable part of your business that should be evaluated every 3 to 6 months.

Creating, running and growing a business is hard work. You need good honest advice from a person who's been there before and can help you organize your ideas into action.
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