Growth April 11, 2020

Shark Tank may blow my business up and I'm worried.

Brett Williams @brettwill1025

Sorry for the click-baity title, but I'm honestly concerned. This week someone related to Shark Tank reached out interested in using my design service (DesignJoy.co) to handle the design work of all existing brands and new brands brought on via the show.

Though this is obviously flattering, I'm a solo operation already handling $12k a month in work via DesignJoy on top of my full time job. I'm in no position to double or triple my clients overnight.

This means that should this go through I would have to onboard a team quickly, but hiring help scares the living day lights out of me. Anyone have any advice getting over the hump of hiring your first employee?

  1. 16

    What are you, crazy? Say yes, give a high price, and onboard a team to scale up. (There's even an episode where Mark Cuban basically turns this into a lesson for an entrepreneur: if someone is offering to give you money, SAY YES.)

    No doubt, it's intense. Take a day off to breathe, acknowledge that this was likely the goal you sought in the first place, consider where this puts your day job, and read up here and on other well-sourced places on hiring the first employee. If you hire a contractor (in US taxation terms, 1099 not W-2), that would be a good place to start.

    Also - if the good people of Shark Tank need an e-commerce analytics guy with billion-dollar experience for all the brands, send them my way because I was an early follower? :D

    In all seriousness - congrats. March fearlessly into victory.

    1. 1

      I'm with @blakerson here - say Yes, worry about the problems after they agree to the high price. In regards to getting over the hump of hiring @brettwill1025, I highly HIGHLY recommend putting any potential employees (realistically start them out as contractors off Upwork) through a paid, 3-Day Trial.

      This will help you assess all their abilities (not just design) to see if they're a good fit long term.

      I've had so many applicants that sounds awesome on paper or in the interview call, only to completely fail in the 3-Day trial where problems just bubble up.

      Do the 3-Day Paid Trial. It will save you a headaches.

      Also, you might have to quit your full-time job if everything pans out in your favor..

      1. 1

        Good point. I've seen this time and time again as well, so really good point. I'm not sure I'm anywhere near hiring actual full time employees though. I would definitely start contract first, and if the business grows and matures to the point where it makes more sense to bring people on full time, then I will.

        Appreciate the advice!

  2. 12

    You can always tell them that you are happy with your solo lifestyle... "And for this reason I'm out" 😂

    1. 2

      Haha, that's honestly kind of where I'm at! I think you might be on to something here!

  3. 3

    You can't handle the requests (obviously). Shark tank has direct relation with big companies that can handle their demand. They will, in no way hire a freelancer to be responsible for their existing brands.

    No offense, but this seems like a marketing trick.

    1. 1

      Haha, I don't blame you for thinking that.

  4. 3

    The best advice I've read on how to handle such a situation

    • quote a significantly higher price, such that if they agree, your life changes and it's totally worth doing it at that price (this path might require you to quit your job and go full time)

    • or walk away if you really don't want to do it. More opportunities shall come if you keep doing good work

  5. 2

    Why are you working a full-time job if you're making $12k a month?

    This sounds like a golden opportunity to quickly go from making $12/mo to $100k/mo+

    It won't just be the shark tank companies, you'll get a tonne of stuff off the back of that as well.

    Hiring designers won't be as difficult as you think because you're a designer and know what to look for. It's much harder for a designer to hire a marketer or sales person.

    You could also consider hiring a manager to do the hiring for you and manage the team, which is probably the most sensible option.

  6. 2

    Wow - say yes and figure it out after!!

  7. 1

    The question you have to answer is what lifestyle do you want your business to provide you?

    Do you enjoy doing the work day in and day out and managing a smaller, more intimate portfolio of clients?

    Or does the lifestyle of owning an agency and focusing on sales while letting your team grind out the work while you make more money personally, appeal more?

    If you genuinely enjoy doing the work yourself and that's what makes you happy then I would think twice about accepting. Don't fix what isn't broken by giving in to the temptation of money. This won't be the only opportunity you'll get - there will be others.

    If you're more about financial freedom and creating wealth for you and your family, quote high, say yes, and deal with the curveballs as they come at you.

    But first and foremost, what do you really want out of your business? And if the answer isn't 'maximum money' don't feel bad or guilty about that and saying no to opportunities like these.

    Good luck! That's a tough one!

  8. 1

    Congrat! A very interesting model for 1 person team and you hadnle it well. Keep crushing it!

  9. 1

    First off, congratulations! Whether you take the deal or not, its a great achievement. In terms of staying solo and not growing Designjoy, is that the long term vision? If it grows naturally and slowly over time, is there never a time when you would quit your full time job and focus solely on Designjoy?

    Because if there is a time frame when you would do that, why not now?

    As for employees, I grew a company from 0 to 26 employees in two years. The best method we had was hiring on for a 30 day contract and deciding to go ahead or not after that. And no matter the position, working together with someone tells you so much more about your working relationship ever will. I would imagine with DesignJoy you could have a bunch of contractors help you out on client projects and then choose the people you work the best with to potentially go full time. And if you like the solo lifestyle, you could likely organize your company to be more like that. Each person you hire takes on certain accounts and you all work independently. Obviously, you'll need to consider your brand and deliver the quality you want. But with the right people, that will just happen naturally and you can scale without needing a lot of management overhead etc.

  10. 1

    Say yes, quote a higher price using the sticking principle in negotations

  11. 1

    Always weigh up the potential benefits and drawbacks. If you can't handle juggling this many clients while doing a full time job, quit your full time job. It can't be paying more than 12k + shark tank money a month, can it?

    If this was any other unknown brand, I would probably say no. But Shark Tank being a well established brands with probably endless funds and contacts under their belt, this is a door that's gonna open a hundred more in the future for you.

  12. 1

    When you have a demand and not enough resources - that is the time to launch a marketplace to extend your resources. Yes, the first time you should hire yourself and check the experience and the quality. But later you can delegate is as well.
    And my congrats, btw

  13. 1

    Why don’t you Use another “all you can eat” design agency?

    Pay $500 a month or whatever it is and pass the work to them.

  14. 1

    As a designer, I can't really imagine how you're handling a successful unlimited design service alongside a full-time job. I mean, you got my full admiration, Brett :)
    In your position, I don't even know if I would consider bringing some external help onboard - finding and managing designers is time-consuming, and delegating means a loss of quality control, at least at the beginning.
    Anyway, if you're considering to expand DesignJoy, I might be interested in partnering up in some way (you can find my email in my IH profile).

  15. 1

    Hey Brett, I absolutely understand your situation. Definitely say yes and figure out the rest Later.But probably partnering up and finding someone else who can help you in building a team and scaling up is your best bet.

    You might have thought about this, But setting up a back office in India or someplace else can help you significantly in building a team, for hiring resources which are necessary for scaling up and can help in reducing your operational cost significantly. If you want to talk, Please shoot me an email.

  16. 1

    Nice problem. Can you take a sabbatical from your day job?

    I’d go for it as this could be a chance to make a lot of money from these gigs and what this leads to.

    This could lead over the years to enough money to retire early and do what you like so think about that too.

  17. 1

    My mind couldn't process how you manage all the work, both on DesignJoy and a full-time job. You must be really designing lightning fast. But even you squeeze all of this into 40 hours/week, maybe with weekends extra and 50+ hours, won't there be any stress, burn out, or psychological effects? Even communication with clients is something. All briefs, presentations, revision rounds... I don't know man, even after 13 years of professional design career, I can't manage this kind of production or life.

    1. 1

      You really make me question everything I'm doing. 🤪 But unfortunately, I don't really know any different. I've been hustling like this for nearly a decade now. God only knows how I haven't gotten burnt out yet.

      I do know that it isn't a positive thing when it comes to family life. That's my #1 conviction. I'm the epitome of a workaholic. Way too driven for my own good.

  18. 1

    This is a great problem to have! I will focus on creating a business platform that can scale. A set of tools and people. Hire great people will be my recommendation.

  19. 1

    I would find a freelancer on this website- avoid upwork and fiverr for real design talent. Or, you could bump up your rate to 1200-1400, and quit your day job.

    1. 1

      I'm with you. I'd never go the upwork or fiverr route. I'd either look here or Dribbble. And good point about pricing. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to bump that up now. Thanks for the suggestion!

  20. 1

    Wow, congrats!

    How are you able to make $12k while holding a full time job though? That is 15-25 projects with unlimited design needs per month. It sounds like 15-25 part time jobs alongside your full time job. How does the math work on this?

    1. 1

      @andreigaspar Although it's a lot of clients and unlimited requests, I only work on one request at a time per client. This still results in an insane workload for one person to handle, though. But thankfully, I can design lightning fast. That's the only way I've been able to make this work.

  21. 1

    I'm very interested to hear what others say on this. I'm not in a position to hire yet but I'm scared to death of it as well because I'm skeptical (realistic) of my hiring/leadership abilities.

    I do have an idea though. I would think if anyone Shark Tank would be understanding of scaling up. I wonder if there's a way to be honest with them about your capacity and build in some controlled growth and achievable deliverables. Whether that's limitations on the number of revisions or the number of design projects at once or something else.

    Also, I read many years ago about a tech company that was having trouble hiring. What the founder ended up doing is asking her existing staff to list the things they hate doing (admin work) and she ended up finding an excellent employee that enjoyed those tasks. Rather than having to find and pay a good developer she was able to find a good admin person and she increased her employee satisfaction by reducing the tasks that they dislike. Moral being, it may be possible to offload the tasks you dislike to early employees rather than having to look for the perfect designer.

    Hope that helps, good luck, and congrats on the win!

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