Module 13 – Staff


In this module I want to talk about staff, hiring staff, the processes of finding good people, team members that you absolutely must have. I’ll give you some insights into my staffing structure and just share my thoughts with you in a general sense about managing staff and everything else.

Firstly, as I said earlier, you don’t need a huge team of people. Of course, if you want to go the agency route then things are going to be a little bit different for you, or if you already have an agency for that matter. You might already have thirty or forty staff. You can still do good numbers if you intend on running a small operation from home like I am with three to four staff. In fact, when I first got started I was still doing a quarter of a million dollars with two virtual staff. You definitely don’t need a huge team to do good numbers.

Must have staff. These are two people that you just have to have working for you if you intend on replicating what I’ve managed to do in my business. First guy on the left… it’s just a representation, but let’s just say, for example the guy on the left is my web guy. This guy is going to handle all of your web bills and all of your small web related tasks.

I don’t have physical staff that come in and work and sit here in my office, they’re just virtual staff. In any case, you’ve got to have a web guy, this is super important. Especially when you start pulling in web jobs, landing web jobs, where you intend on throwing out big numbers, $6,500 or $8.000 dollars or whatever it might be.

You’ve got to have someone around that can tackle that for you. Remember, you don’t want to be sitting there, building websites. That’s super important.
On the right is my contact girl, just is for example’s sake. This should be someone that helps you with all of your content. If you’re going to be providing a quality service, you should be doing a shit load of content, as I do within my business.

I have to staff members, dedicated just for content alone. Chances are you might, when you first start, especially if you’re a soloist, you might have to sit there and bang away a content. But I certainly don’t wanna be sitting there, doing content for hours on end. And I can tell you right now; once you get these two people in place, you can do a lot of damage, in terms of the amount of money that you can make.

But these are certainly two staff members that you’ve got to have in place. You’ve gotta have a web developer in place, that can handle all of your web builds and you’ve gotta have a content writer. That, tied in with your efforts can definitely be enough to bring in some good profits.

Here is a simple diagram that I threw together that shows a quick overview of my existing team, and how it’s structured. Of course I’ve got myself at the top. I have learned… I guess it’s just a saying of business; just focus on what you’re good at, and if there’s anyone else in your business that can do something just as well as you, then get them to do it. There’s a lot of things in my business that I don’t enjoy, like I’m not interested in sitting there, grinding out content. I’m not interested in building websites, not interested in the admin and data entry and stuff like that, so I get my team to take care of it.

I focus on the stuff that I know that I need to take care of, the high end SEO, the technical stuff of the sales. And as you can see here in the diagram, I got campaign management, so at a higher level, I’m just project managing my team. I do tackle the high end SEO which I’ve got there, because there are aspects of SEO that just come through years of experience that I couldn’t ask my web guy to handle it or certainly couldn’t ask Casey or call Anne to do it for me cause they just won’t be able to do it. So the high end SEO stuff, that stays with me, I don’t have a problem doing that. Campaign management or project management, that’s where I’m delegating tasks, I’m ensuring that deadlines are met and the work’s getting done, that’s all for me to take care of.

Sales… it’s kind of funny, I’ve never considered myself a sales person but I’ve built out a really solid on-boarding process, and like I said earlier, I nail every single inquiry that I get. I have to be honest, I’ve taken hundreds and hundreds of inquiries, but for the inquiries that I get, my client rates are pretty much 100%. So I handle sales because it just comes naturally to me and I do it quite well. Of course, in client interaction and reporting, I want to be working directly with my clients, so that I have a good sense that everything’s okay.

I know that the campaign is under control, I know that the client’s happy. If there are any issues that need to be sorted out, then I’m gonna know about it fast so that I can sort out, take care of it. And of course reporting. It’s not sexy but definitely needs to be done. Preparing word summary sheets, key word performance reports and conversion, the big analytic stuff. So my team members, under there I’ve got Casey and Harriet, both taking care of content.

When it comes to content, I like to have some redundancy in place that I’m doing a lot. As I said, I do a lot of content for clients, I couldn’t just handle the amount of content that I do with one girl, so I spread that around and sometimes it might have a staff member that’s sick or that need to go away for a couple of weeks. You can’t have one person handling a shit load of content. And I guess the same could be said for my web guy.

He’s usually pretty reliable and you should always have some level of redundancy in place, especially once you start getting busy because it could be a nightmare if you have some big jobs that are closing to a deadline and you don’t have that staff member in place. It can get really stressful.

So I like to have a two pronged approach for content because I do a lot of it and I can spread it around. I’m not overwhelming one of my girls with a shit load of content. I can split it up. Sometimes they discuss it amongst themselves, “okay I’ll do this, you’ll do that”. I have some areas of content that one of my girls doesn’t enjoy so much, so I give it to the other one. And on the far left, I’ve got Casey, who just helps out. She’s actually my partner.

She just helps out every now and then, when I get really busy. She’s quite good at general admin, data entry, reconciling stuff in Xero. She’s really good at that sort of stuff, the stuff that I just don’t enjoy. So she helps out every now and then. I don’t really consider her a staff member but it’s a bit of extra money for her and she helps me out.

Where I’ve been able to find good help, and of course I’m talking about staff members here, finding the right people to help out within my business. There’s a couple of key areas that I look. Fist of all I start with the bottom right there, with Google. Every now and then, if I’m looking for a local web developer, someone that lives closely to me, I’ll perform a search in Google and look for freelance web developer, Central Coast Ettalong Beach, or something like that. Someone I can go and actually sit down and have a coffee with and say, “okay, what are you good at, what are your skills sets, are you interested in working with me?”. That can kind of be hit and miss. One thing I will say; once you find good people, do everything you can to hang on to them because they’re really hard to find.

In terms of content writers – that’s always a challenge in itself. But Linkedin is often good. Every now and then, I will search through Linkedin, and I look for editors. But I’ll reach out to editors and it’s easy to find editors or professional writers that write for news, news organisations or other agencies where that’s their full-time job.

That’s what they do for a living. But in terms of where I’ve had great success, and this has more to do with finding really good writers, and I should mention also, in terms of finding good web people, reach out to other SEO agencies. I found an excellent web developer that I’ve worked with for about six years. I found him through another SEO agency. Other SEO agencies are usually more than happy to send you referrals for other web developers because it’s probably not a key part of their business. So don’t be afraid to use that option.

But where I’ve had really good success, finding great writers, and this might sound unusual, is stay-at-home-moms groups on Facebook. It’s just amazing how many stay-at-home-moms there are, who either just had a baby, they wanna make some money, they don’t work in full time, they need an extra few dollars, they’re looking for something that they can do from home. I’ve found an enormous amount of great writers doing this. And usually you find that stay at home moms, they’re so dedicated and so thankful for having the work and the additional income.

Okay, hiring. I’ve never had any luck with freelancing sites and this is why I work outside of the norm. I look on groups within Facebook and so forth. But freelancing sites for me have always been a horrible experience. You end up hiring someone, you’re stuck with them and then you gotta make payments through the site and you can’t get out of it. It’s just a nightmare. But in terms of the hiring process, it’s usually always best to get the person on a call, have a chat with them and go from there. If I do use a freelancing site, then I usually put in a simple one-liner, put colly wobble or something silly in the subject reply so that I know you’ve actually read everything. But I’ve had much better luck using Facebook groups than anything else.

When it comes to training, there’s a great saying: “Staff, me, us, you”. To begin with, chances are, you’ll be doing the work, and then, once you understand exactly what needs to be done, then it becomes us, so it’ll be you and your staff member. And once they’ve got the hang of it, they’re on their own. So it’ll be a lot of “me, us, you”. If you’re really lucky, you can find great people. Our staff members are actually training new staff or bringing new stuff on board. That can save you a little mocking around.

Something that matters, is that you don’t just sign them up and you throw them straight into an assignment right away. Generally speaking, once you get a web guy, you say, “you need to do this, this and this. You got a set number of tasks” you get them to do that and then you base the performance of their work with the quality of their work, as to whether or not you wanna keep them on full-time. Or if they do well, great, let’s put you on a one month trial basis, and the same applies for people who are helping me out with content.

I usually always work with them within Slack first or via email, whatever it might be, until I’m comfortable that they’re producing the sort of quality work that I need.

And then once I’m happy with that, then I push them into an assignment and I start to delegating tasks. But I never ever just hire someone new and dump them straight in the deep and say “go”. I always make it clear, “look, this is a trial, I’m gonna put you on a two week trial or a one month trial and we’re gonna work from there. That way it’s not an uncomfortable conversation when you tell them after two weeks, “it’s not working out, I’m gonna have to let you go”. They know what they’re in for, they know it’s a month, it’s a trial period, and it just says that all good conversation lie if it doesn’t work out.

Next slide, and this is something that is really important because it’s an absolute nuisance, not a great experience having to go through the hiring process, it can take up an enormous amount of time, it’s a lot of fucking around, especially when you gotta hire new writers and you gotta proofread their work and you’ve gotta go through the training and everything else.

Once I get the right people in place, I look after them. I got a web guy, every now and then I’ll say, “here’s an extra hundred bucks, take your girlfriend out for dinner, buy your kids something, do something”. The same goes for my content girls. All of my staff at the end of the year like, “Here is 250 bucks, thanks for your help through the year”. I look after them and I also keep in constant communication with my staff. “How are you going, is everything okay, do you need help? Is there anything I can do to make things easier for you?”

I do that because I really depend on my staff. Not only that, but making sure you pay them on time. Rule number one within my business, I get an invoice from a staff member, bam, that gets paid right away. Because I want them to stick around. I know that, if I’m having to do the work myself, or I’m having to go through the hiring process again, it’s gonna be absolute drag. So I make sure I look after my staff.

Redundancy. This is something I spoke about just a moment ago, about having some redundancy in place, because if your web guy goes overseas for a month and you’ve got no one there, you’re gonna be at a bit of a pickle. And the same goes for stuff you’ve got handling other things. If they’re sick or they break their arm or they’ve got no internet or something like that happens, you have to have a level of redundancy in place, so that you can bridge those gaps.

This rule is something that I said just a moment ago about paying staff. Make sure you pay them on time, you don’t mock them around. If you get the right people, you only gonna be shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t pay them. I make sure that I pay them right away.

And quality control, this is something that especially with new staff you gonna have to stay on top of. Make sure, the quality of work is staying where it needs to be, people don’t start getting lazy or taking shortcuts. With a lot of my content staff, my girls that produce the content formula, help me with the content that goes through Casey, who then proofs when she publishes, she’s looking to make sure that the quality is there.

And also with the web staff, that stuff is pretty straight forward. I usually give it one-saver, make sure everything is operational and works on eye-ball, works on desktop, constantly reviewing the quality of the work. Because if you have a client and they’re paying you 2.000 or 2.500 dollars a month and the quality start dropping off, then you gonna be in all sorts of trouble. So you’ve gotta stay on top of quality. And if you’re project-managing that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Hiring versus outsourcing. This is an interesting one because sometime ago, before I hired my own stuff, I was outsourcing. I was working with a content writing company and I used to outsource my work to them. Something really interesting happened. I started getting shit content. And I was like, “what on earth is this?”. I started getting complaints from my clients. “John, I’m not happy with the quality of content. John, there’s spelling mistakes. John, I can’t accept this.” I thought, “What the fuck is going on?” And I started looking closer at the content and I was finding all sorts of problems. I went back to that particular business and I said, “Look, I’m not happy with this”. I took back a dozen different articles and I said, “this stuff needs to be fixed”, and they came back to me and said, “if you want it to be re-written, you have to pay us again”.

And that was a big time learning experience and it proved, there is a massive difference between hiring and outsourcing.

The simple difference is this; When you’re outsourcing work, you’re generally working with another company. And that company can say “Fuck you, if you want us to fix this or make changes, you gotta pay us”, and that’s exactly what happened to me. Whereas with hiring, you got someone that’s working for you. So if you’re not happy with something, you go back and say, “Listen, this is gotta be fixed”. And guess what, they say, “oh shit, sorry, I’ll get that done”. Because they know, if they don’t, then they’re out of a job.

So I would always aim for hiring your own staff, because you want control. You start outsourcing to other businesses, you don’t have that level of control that you do when you have your own staff.