Build Your Team

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You’re reading an excerpt from Art For Money, by Michael Ardelean. This small but powerful book helps every creative freelancer know their value and scale their business. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

Build Your Team

I will not reason and compare; my business is to create.William Blake

The purpose of this book has been to nudge you into a transition from talented creative to successful freelancer. Your confidence and finesse now match the level of your creative skills. You are cash flow positive and you’re not afraid of the future.

This is a nice place to be. Where you go next is completely up to you. The “be your own boss” spectrum is a big one: it ranges from one person cranking out goods and services to, well, Jeff Bezos I guess. Choosing where you’d like to sit on that spectrum (and changing your mind as often as you’d like) is a right that you’ve granted yourself.

Back in 2018, Jeff Staple interviewed the designer and musician Hiroshi Fujiwara about his life and career. In that interview Hiroshi revealed some fascinating stuff. One example: Hiroshi is actually unaware of his net worth. He wants to create, collaborate, and collect the design objects he’s passionate about, and that’s it. If he’s, say, attending an auction and ready to place a $175K bid on a rare timepiece, he calls his business manager and asks if he can afford it. He gets a yes or no answer and proceeds accordingly.

Hiroshi has earned the ability to not concern himself with money. He can expand his company, fragment design, into a giant agency. Or not. In the introduction to the Fujiwara interview, Staple writes, “How many people does it take to run a successful company? Well, according to fragment design founder Hiroshi Fujiwara, the answer is just three. But a dizzying network of friends and connections to myriad industries help, too.”

Three takeaways here:

  1. The purpose of upping your freelance game is to assert more control over your own life. With money in the bank you can sleep deeply at night and spend your time how you want, with whom you want.

  2. If Hiroshi can operate a studio as productive and influential as fragment design with only two employees, what might be possible for you?

  3. However large or small you decide to make your team, I recommend that you espouse the “we” mentality.

Even if your employee count is zero, your “team” is generally comprised of four groups:

  • Group 1: The bookkeeper, CPA, and lawyer that we know you will inevitably need.

  • Group 2: Designers. Websites, presentations, and brand identities all need professional attention and unless that professional is you, then you need these people at your fingertips.

  • Group 3: Assistants. You might need a virtual assistant in India. You might need an IRL assistant, three hours per week. You might need a team of runners crisscrossing town making pickups and deliveries. I used to use TaskRabbit until I came across a couple of dependable people that I’m happy to just text when I need them.

These first three groups of people can be contracted on an as-needed basis to keep your payroll and fixed costs at an absolute minimum. The fourth group is free.

  • Group 4: Your personal BOD (board of directors).

Some of them might be mentors; some might just be peers whose opinions you trust because lives they’ve built are reflections of good decision making. The single best move you can make as a professional freelancer is to improve the quality of your inner circle—don’t be afraid to punch above your weight class. If you follow the steps outlined in Network Like Hell, these types of people will start appearing in your life.

If you want to be effective without being exhausted and miserable, you need good people around you. Like Hiroshi demonstrates, it’s possible to have heavy hitters at your disposal without being responsible for an excess of employees. Many wise people have said “outsource everything but your genius.” Your genius is your art.

The Last Word

Success is not to be pursued; it is to be attracted by the person you become.Jim Rohn

I suspect that I haven’t told you anything new in these chapters. If you’re anything like the former me, you were intuitively aware that a certain amount of professionalism, process knowledge, and awareness of human nature are vital to making money as a freelancer.

For me, the surprise was not that these things were necessary; it was that they can be learned. They’re not inherent skills that one must be born with. I certainly wasn’t.

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