Should You DIY or Hire?

Welcome to episode 449. I am your host, The Stacey Harris, social media strategist, and trainer. Also, the CEO of a digital marketing agency, Uncommonly More. Today I’m going to talk a little bit about Uncommonly More, in fact. I want to talk about a question I’ve been getting pretty regularly since we launched the agency earlier this year, the pros and cons of getting agency support or DIYing stuff. I want to start this by saying there are so many choices in the middle. This is not black or white. There is a gray area here. Also, setting expectations for what an agency looks like and what agency support can be, and what DIY can be, and what’s possible with both. We’re going to dig into this.

Before we get started, I want to give you some backstory.

I launched my very first business which was a virtual assistant set up. I was going to say agency, but it was for sure not. It was me freelancing under a company name was basically what it was, in 2011. About a year into that, I realized I loved social.

I got excited when Facebook made changes and when there were new things to figure out and navigate. I also figured out that that was weird and I was unique because I got excited about those things. I evolved that brand which really meant I closed on-demand and opened up a business called Hit the Mic Marketing. Hit the Mic Marketing, which name sounds familiar because this podcast was birthed at the same time, was a social media management business. Again, really a business name on a freelancer. I was doing the work.

I had a little support through VAs and stuff here and there, but it was me. I was in the trenches. I then realized I really, really, really excelled at the strategic thinking and the guidance of a plan. I pulled myself out of the agency, or out of the doing, and I then looked at rebranding again to a personal brand, thus The Stacey Harris was born. After years of doing strategies and trainings, I realized that in doing my strategies and then leaving my clients to fend for themselves, I was leaving a lot of clients in a place where they weren’t any better off than they had been before even though they had a strategy now.

Because they didn’t have the desire to execute and/or manage a team executing it. We, by we I mean me, at the end of last year, the middle of last year, about this time last year I think started noodling on the idea of expanding agency services again. Fast-forward to January 2019, we officially opened the doors of Uncommonly More, which is an actual full-fledged agency. I do the strategy work. My team then does the execution. It’s something I’ve mentioned here and there on the podcast, but I’ve never really dived into how to figure out where you fit, and how to get support along the way.

We talked about this briefly in an episode I had one of our agency clients on, Tara Newman. I’ll link to that episode over in the show notes. We had a great conversation about how her and I partnered over the years throughout her business, and got her to a point where she wanted to do the agency stuff. She was actually our official number one, like the first client to sign with Uncommonly More. She signed with Uncommonly More before it technically, legally existed, which was really cool. Check out that conversation.

Then the next step I want to take is having this conversation around what is the difference between DIYing and having an agency do it for you. Although I run an agency, I am not someone who says no one should be doing their social, or no one should be doing their emails, or no one should be creating their content on their own. I think that there is a season in your business where DIY and being in the trenches with it, being in the moment to moment of it is actually incredibly helpful, is actually really, really empowering, and is also super-educational.

Let’s start by defining DIY.

When I’m talking about DIY, I’m talking about you are leading the way, and handling the execution. You are scheduling your social. You’re thinking about your editorial calendar. You’re creating the content. You’re doing all of the production, whether that’s writing or video or podcasts. You’re doing all of that work, and you’re putting that content out all on your own.

Your social media posts, your emails, your content, all of that is just you. From strategy to analytics, or wherever there may be holes in there, because sometimes there are, but you’re on your own. Now, the obvious con here is it’s a lot to do. There is a reason that whole agencies exist to help. There are reasons this is an entire service inside of some VAs offerings. There are reasons why a lot of people as they move through their business decide to hand all or parts of it off.

With that said, in the beginning we have more time than we have money. Also, getting in conversation with our audience no matter how small that audience is, is so, so informative. That data early on is invaluable, because it’s going to help you make decisions. Because the reality is for those first couple of years you’re not making decisions 24 months in advance. There were definitely seasons where I wasn’t making decisions 24 days in advance. I was sometimes making marketing choices 24 minutes before it had to happen, and so I want you to acknowledge that you’re getting a ton of great data. That’s a big pro.

You also can make changes really, really quickly, because you’re really, really lean. You don’t have to get anyone else not just on board like they have to buy in, but to do the work, to make the change, to make the shift. You can try things. You can test things. You can play with things because you have an agility that is less available as you get bigger and as you build out support. If you’re somebody who’s still DIYing, don’t toss it out as, “Well, I just have to get there.”

Sit and look at where the value is in what you’re doing. Again, though, going to the cons, it’s hard to see what’s happening from inside of it. Even I spend a fair amount of time asking my mastermind, asking my business friends, asking my team how and what I should do. How should I do something? What should I say to promote this? Because it’s really hard to get a high level view of our own stuff, because we’re so ingrained in the day-to-day minutiae of it.

If you’re somebody who’s still DIYing, I would suggest looking at ways you can get support through brainstorming sessions with business besties, one-off sessions with coaches or strategists you admire. I have them. Lots of people have them. Some people mark them as like a buy me coffee kind of conversation. Some people just call it a consulting hour. Some people call them ask me anything hours, whatever, but get out of your own way a little bit.

This is something we do in Backstage through our profile reviews. You can go into the forum and you can request a profile review, and I can go in and I can look at what’s happening. This is something we do with our BAM clients, which is our high-level Backstage clients, where they have private forum access to me, and they can run things by me absolutely anytime. This is something that we do through one-on-one calls. This is something we do through our VIP day clients who have 30 days of email access to us afterwards.

Obviously our retainer clients through Uncommonly More pop in and ask questions and get guidance all the time. There are a lot of ways at different levels this is accessible. Even though you’re DIYing, doesn’t mean you have to DIY alone. DIY with a buddy. Find someone who can literally just sit there and ask you questions. That’s a great way to build out a content calendar, by the way.

Sometimes somebody who will just sit there and say, “What else? What else? What else?” My friend Brandy Lawson over at FieryFX who if you’re not following, fix that immediately, she’s great. She and I do that a lot for each other. We just sit there and go, “What else?” The more we protest and say, “There couldn’t possibly be anything else I have to say on this.” We go, “What else?” I love doing it to her, and I hate when she does it to me. I’m pretty sure the feeling is the same for her. Because it’s tough, but it’s easier to do when you have somebody who’s lovingly nudging you towards continuing your exploration.

If you’re DIYing, look at where you can DIY with a buddy. Hire a strategist for an hour. Pull in a business buddy. If you have a peer mastermind, or you’re paying a coach and you’re part of a mastermind, ask the people in that community to partner up and just talk through some things. Again, this can look a lot of ways.

DIY + Some Help

Now, moving forward a little bit, maybe you still want to mostly DIY, but you need some support. You need a little bit of access. Guess what, there is something before an agency, a full-blown agency support, and that is have somebody sit down and build a strategy either for you or with you. I like the idea of strategies with you, because it empowers you to learn these skills a little bit yourself, even if you’re not going to be the one executing them year after year, quarter after quarter, month after month, it’s nice from a hiring perspective to have the vantage point and your eyes on the process, and an understanding of how it goes. It can really help you confidently make a hiring choice.

Through us, we do this a couple of ways. We do this through Backstage Live where we do it in a group setting. Of course, we do it through VIP days, which is one-on-one options for us where we build a 90-day strategy with you. Then, of course, we have the done for you option also through Uncommonly More, where we have a call, and I build a strategy, and then we have another call.

Again, this can look a lot of ways with a lot of different strategists. Find the fit for you. Maybe this is a series of calls with somebody. Maybe this is through a group coaching program. Maybe this is a VIP day or something similar to BAM. That’s how a lot of our clients start, where we have this mastermind level of Backstage where they can get one-on-one support with me in addition to going through the content in the programs that are inside of Backstage.

This can look like anything you need it to look like. The pros here are you’re going to get qualified support, somebody who has not just perspective but expertise guiding you through this process or building this process out for you. That is a huge, huge advantage over sitting with a business bestie, even if they’re in the space who’s just pushing you along through doing your own work, versus really able to come in and, say, guide the work. That’s a big pro.

A con here is you are left to do that work on your own. The follow-up fully lands on you, and so the next variation of this is having somebody like a VA or a social media manager who maybe doesn’t have the strategy expertise but has the implementation expertise. This can be a great partnership, before you’re ready to go full agency, to get the support that you need and short circuit the con here of implementation falling on you.

The issue here is though you still need to manage that process and that ongoing strategy. If you’re going to go this route, make sure you’re looking at where you can invest in ongoing support with a strategist, where you can invest in recurring appointments, looking at reviews, checking your numbers with them, all those sorts of things, or looking at a VA who maybe can’t do an initial strategy but can help you guide things from month to month.

Make sure you’re making these investments with people who you feel supported by, not people you feel like you have to manage too much. Obviously, there will be some management here, because this is your team, but you want to partner with people who you feel comfortable communicating with. Again, I call it partnering with. I don’t call it hiring. I don’t call it employing. When we work with our clients, they don’t hire us, they partner with us. Because our clients are involved every step of the way.

Because at the end of the day, it’s their businesses. I can guide them, but I can’t make decisions for them. I can equip them to make the best decision possible. There are some clients who have empowered me to make some decisions, but ultimately we’re partnering on the goals. That’s the pros and cons of the middle of the road option. Again, this is a spectrum. You can make these work at whatever level you want and move up and down the spectrum as necessary.

Let’s really shift into talking about an agency now.

What does it look like to hire an agency? Now, different agencies look different. Their offerings are structured differently, and specifically not all digital marketing agencies offer the same services. For example, Uncommonly More does not offer website services, does not offer SEO services. Now, we have people who when we need those things we contract to them, but in-house those are not our lead offers. Our lead offers are podcast production, social media support, and email support.

We really help clients build out their content structure, and execute their plans, and drive traffic to that content. Now, we also build in things like launch support. We’re currently in the process of launching a few podcasts with our clients, but these services are our services. I mentioned Brandy Lawson earlier of FieryFX. She also owns a digital marketing agency. We quite frequently partner because although we both own digital marketing agencies, none of our services overlap. None of them.

In fact, I have hired Brandy for my own stuff, and Brandy has hired me for her stuff, as well as I’ve hired her to do client work, and she has hired me to do client work for their agency. Don’t Google digital marketing agency and think you need every service the top one offers. Figure out what you need, and go from there.

Now, that’s kind of the first big con of an agency. You really need to be clear on your expectations and your needs before you make the investment. Because it’s not going to be a small investment. The biggest, biggest piece of negative feedback I get about people working with agencies comes from them not getting the results they wanted. It’s because early in the relationship there was not a clear understanding and exchange of what expectations each party had. There wasn’t a clear understanding and there was not a clear journey that they were partnering on together.

It was, “I think I need this, so can you do that?” Cool. You do that, and then the agency did the work but maybe it wasn’t actually the work that needed to be done, and that’s why I want you to always look at an agency that is going to help you identify your needs. This is why with Uncommonly More the only way to hire our team for ongoing retainer services is if we first do a strategy. I won’t even build a proposal for a client until they’ve gone through a strategy with us, because then we can quote your exact needs.

We can set expectations for what the work is going to be over that 12 months because we built the plan, because we went through the plan together, and because we’re quoting to the strategy, not to what you think you may or might not need. This is a big con that I want you to navigate. Make sure you’re getting what’s actually going to move you forward and not what they sell, because you want to hire an agency and they said they do this, and so you think that’s what you need, and not because you decided based on somebody’s webinar that you needed to do XYZ and so now you’re going to hire someone to do it.

The other con of an agency is oftentimes people think that an agency is a set it and forget it situation. The fact of the matter is it’s not. In fact, again, I come back to this idea of partnering with our clients. Our clients are a huge part of their marketing, because, guess what, they’re a huge part of their businesses. We always make it really clear upfront that this is not about handing and offsetting and just sitting on a beach and waiting for the cash register to ring. This is about having a support system so that your ideas and your content and your thoughts does not just flip off into the internet and disappear in the noise.

We work really closely with our clients through Slack and occasional email, really mostly Slack, as well as our project management software like Asana, keeping everyone on task and ahead of schedule. We regularly sit down with our clients for strategy sessions, so that we can make sure that the ship is going the direction we want it to go. We always are looking at where we can better support them to do the work we need them to do.

Because guess what, a lot of what we do is not production or creation. It’s actually repurposing. We have clients who love Instagram Stories and do incredible work with it. Guess what, we turn those stories into lots of other kinds of content. We have clients who are doing really incredible things with their Instagram grid, and so guess what, we’re turning that piece of content into other things.

We have some clients who share the most amazing, behind the scenes kind of stories on their Facebook profile, and so we repurpose that into content for our other places. We have other clients who create incredible long-form blog posts, and so we break that content up into tons of social media content. We have clients who are doing all sorts of things, but here’s the message, they’re all involved in the week to week, month to month, quarter to quarter, year to year marketing of their business.

It doesn’t become set it or forget it. It becomes show up where you perform best and we’ll make the most of it. That’s the message I want you to take away is when you are looking for an agency, you’re going to run into frustration if your expectation is that they’re just going to do everything and create everything, and that you just need to show up for client stuff because there’s going to be tons of them knocking down the door. That’s not really the expectation you can walk into this with. That’s kind of a con.

The pros of an agency is as you make these decisions and as you partner with someone, you will become more and more confident and clear in where you operate best inside of your marketing. If you’re somebody who creates the most epic content, great, create that content and let your team maximize it. Let your team repurpose it. Let your team really run with the ball, to get super-clichéy around here. I want you to realize that you can operate in your I-do-this bestness and do it best. That’s the biggest pro.

You also have the ability to go, “Hey, I want to do this. Where does that fit in?” Because you have experts on your team, they’re going to be able to help guide you. They’re going to be able to help move the needle and shift the perspective and fit in whatever offerings you need to fit in, in a way that’s going to work for you. Which may mean you need to wait longer than you want to wait, because I know I have clients listening to this who are going, “Wait. Really?” May mean you still have to wait, because there is a plan, but they can help you figure it out where it’s going to be optimal to make the changes, and they can help you make those changes quickly.

You can also trust that once you produce your content, just kind of goes out. Be pleasantly surprised by emails in your inbox, podcast notifications on your favorite podcast player, or stories popping up in your Instagram feed. You get to enjoy your social as much as your audience is, and that’s pretty cool. That’s the rundown of the different ways you can work with an agency or a DIY and the pros and cons at each level.

I want you now to think about honestly what is going to work best for you right now, and then find somebody to partner with. It could be me. It could be Uncommonly More. It could be somebody else. I don’t care. I just want you to get the support you need where you’re at. Because that is the most critical step.

Don’t get the support that you think you’re going to need, because it’s the support that’ll make you successful. Get the support you need at the level you’re at now, and grow with that support. If you don’t understand that idea, make sure you go listen to that episode I did with Tara Newman. Again, I will link to it in the show notes. Because it talks about exactly this, growing with a trusted partner. Thank you so much for listening. I will see you next week.

Thank you once again for listening to the show. I’m so amped that you joined us. If you are ready to get real live digital marketing support, if you are looking for ongoing podcast support, social media support, email support, building out your funnels, or just all around looking to do more with your content, make sure that you head over to uncommonlymore.com. The team and I are excited to get to know you and your business better. We start every, every, every client interaction with a simple conversation. See what’s a fit for you. From there, we build a strategy. We can do that one of two ways, done for you or done with you.

Then, only then do we figure out what actually needs to be done in your business moving forward. Head over to uncommonlymore.com to get our conversation rolling.

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