Building an Effective & Scalable Team For Your Publishing Business

Creating an effective & scalable team

Today’s post is all about helping you scale your SEO business using the power of team building.

We’ve got Doug Cunnington on the blog to walk us through us through his expertise in creating and managing a killer team to leverage your time and to position your business for massive growth.

What You’ll Learn:

  • How to know when it's time to go from solo to team
  • Knowing who to hire, and in what order
  • Tips for hiring great contractors
  • How to manage your new team effectively

Meet Doug: SEO and team-building expert

Doug got his start in SEO after diving into the Smart Passive Income podcast and deciding to create passive income streams for himself.

He launched his first site within the first few months, and though his first was a self-proclaimed “flow”, he went on to find massive success with his affiliate sites.

But, like many new business owners, Doug faced overwhelm as his business growth started to overtake his time and energy resources.

As a project manager in the corporate world, he had experience building teams professionally and decided to leverage that skill to grow his own affiliate business.

When should you build out your team?

When getting started, most affiliate businesses start out as a small operation to cut costs in the sandbox period.

Usually, it’s just you as the owner, wearing the many hats needed to launch and grow your sites.

This isn’t a bad thing – in fact, bootstrapping means that you’re learning the various aspects of the business from the inside out, from building the site to creating content, marketing, and backlinking.

But the problem with a solo operation is pretty obvious: your business can only grow according to the time you put in – and there are only so many hours in the day.

(Not to mention your own mental energy!)

Enter the next phase: scaling up with a team.

Investing in your business can feel scary, because you’re throwing money into growth before it’s actually happening.

So how do you know when you’re actually ready to outsource and build out a team?

Doug outlines two main schools of thought as to when to start building your team:

  1. Outsource before you get too busy and overwhelmed, with the intention of growing into your new team. Upside: This can be a great way to grow quickly and avoid some of the slower early periods. The downside for bootstrappers here is obviously cash flow, but outsourcing too soon can also be challenging if your mindset isn’t ready for it.
  2. Hustle on your business and build it up to the point where you absolutely need help and outsourcing is the obvious next step.

These two methods represent different sides of a spectrum – Doug recommends that the ideal time to hire is somewhere between the two.

For many, that sweet spot will be when you’re at around 75% capacity – not completely overloaded and overwhelmed, but starting to feel the pressure and ready to offload some of the work.

Who should I hire, and when?

So you know you’re ready to start outsourcing.

The next question business owners face is how to actually go about that?

Where to start, who to hire, and when?

Outsource content

Doug recommends first outsourcing content creation, as this is one of the most core and potentially time-consuming aspects of your business. Hire a writer and create a Standard Operating Procedure by which to train them in your systems.

Of course, you could always reach out to us too and we'll take care of the whole process for you 🙂



Grow your writing team

With one writer rolling, set your focus on hiring a few more. The process will become smoother each time with your new SOP! This is also a great way to hone your management chops as you go through the hiring and training processes with the writers.

Promote a Content Manager

Once you’ve built out a content team, you’ll eventually want to promote one of the writers to Content Manager. This is a game changer, as now you’re entire content will be systematized so you can focus on the higher level aspects of growing the business.

Bring in specialists as needed

At this point, it may feel appropriate to bring in additional project managers or SEO specialists. But really focus on building out your core content team first and foremost, as this will leverage your site growth to the place where you'll see more clearly who you need to bring on next. 

Order of hiring:

  • Hire your first writer to handle content creation
  • Build out writing team
  • Promote from within to Content Manager
  • Bring in additional managers/specialists as needed

Tips for hiring

Now that you’re equipped with a general plan of who to hire and when, it’s time to face the “jungle”.

Fortunately, Doug’s broken down how to simplify the hiring process, ensuring you connect with qualified candidates and save yourself valuable time and energy.

Hiring tip #1: Create a clear job listing

Spend time writing out a clear, detailed job description so that candidates know exactly what they are applying for.

It’s much better to be descriptive here than wasting time weeding out poor candidates later.

Hiring tip #2: Ask 3 open-ended questions

In your job description, include three open-ended questions that require your candidates to demonstrate their experience, skills, and insights.

The purpose of this is twofold: it shows you who has actually read the job description in its entirety (many people will fail to answer the questions), and it gives you an insight into the person beyond a bulleted list of their experience.

These questions are the place where your candidates will show you their effort, creativity, and even a bit of their personality. And the best part – since it’s a writing job, you’re asking them to essentially provide you a writing sample with their responses.

Hiring tip #3: Use your intuition

Your gut intuition is something that can’t necessarily be defined on a concrete basis, but it’s a huge aspect of the hiring process.

Hearing your intuition about a candidate may take time, but you’ll hone it in as you gain experience in reviewing applications and speaking with different people.

If the words you’re reading sound good, but you have a strange feeling about the person, listen to that.

How to effectively manage your new team

Great, so you’ve hired a few writers and have more content pumping out than you’ve ever had before!

But as a new manager, you may feel overwhelmed by how to actually manage these new people working as a part of your team.

Here are Doug’s tips for effective team management:

Reward with raises

An effective team is built from consistency, and creating a work environment that contractors genuinely want to be a part of. Reward consistently great work with surprise raises to build intrinsic motivation into your team’s work life – it pays off in the long run!

Use style guidelines for consistency

Another item to build consistency is the use of style guidelines and checklists to ensure your content follows similar parameters each time. This not only makes it easier for your writers to do their job well, but it makes it easy to onboard new writers into your existing system.

Promote from within

As your sites grow, you’ll start to need more and more content – and a system for managing and organizing all of that.

A content manager will make your life so much easier, taking all of this on so you can focus on the higher levels of growing the business.

Fortunately, you’ll already have a solid base of writers to choose from who are deeply familiar with your content and systems.

You may have an idea of who would be best to promote, or you can put together a simple application to determine the best fit.

The point is, promoting from within will strengthen your team and build trust, reliability, and save you resources.

Doug’s final parting tips

While it may be tempting to rush into onboarding a team if you have the capital to do so, it’s often wise to take things slow in the beginning.

Become deeply familiar with your own systems and processes first so you can clearly articulate what you need and discern the right kind of writer and team member to bring on.

Also, SOPs and systems will be invaluable to you in the onboarding and outsourcing process!

Create write-ups of your hiring process, style guidelines, and anything else that’s repeated again and again when you bring a new person on.

And don’t rush into bring lots of new people on at once – focus on one at a time until your workflow is proceeding at the pace that works for your business.

Finally, if you'd like more help and a few extra diagrams about growing a team, check out this post here.

What is one personal habit that’s helped you reach success?

Doug is adamant that keeping a persistence mindset and focusing on the end goal is what helped him ride out the roller coaster journey of running his businesses.

There will be ups and downs – sometimes many more downs than ups!

Staying focused, writing things down, and knowing what’s possible – keeping your eyes on the prize – will help turn that vision of success into a reality. 

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