How to Build an 8-Figure Agency with Zero Employees

By Jason Swenk on October 19, 2020

Want an 8-figure agency? Tired of the hassle and cost of managing employees? Want an entirely new, innovative business model? Find the idea of zero employees appealing? The answer for one agency owner was in the cloud.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

    • What is the zero employees model?
    • Why not freelancers?
    • A unique way to compensate your team

Today I talked with Julian Stubbs, Co-founder and CEO of Up There, Everywhere. Since our last conversation in 2015, the cloud-based marketing agency has continued to grow and is now approaching 8 figures in revenue.

What is the Zero Employees Model?

The problem Julian had with the traditional agency business model is that you can never downsize or upsize as quickly as you need, so you are either missing opportunities or wasting resources. Combined with the high overhead of offices and employees, he knew there had to be a better way.

He and his business partner decided to take advantage of cloud-based tools to build a truly global agency. Instead of employees, they now have a network of members in 20 countries around the world. Members work on projects remotely for clients, and all their work is backed up online.

Why Not Team Full of Freelancers?

Often, when an agency chooses to go lean, they have a slate of freelancers they work with instead. As Julian says, though, freelancers don’t scale and they aren’t a long-term solution. Up There, Everywhere needs professionals who work consistently, which is why they opt for the member model.

To make sure it’s a good match for both sides, potential members go through a series of interviews before joining the agency and learning how to work with their particular tools and clients. Because it’s such a unique model, the agency isn’t for everyone—and members need to be able to deliver.

Members don’t pay to be a part of the agency, but they do donate their time to the community based on their skills, such as writing for the agency’s blog. In addition to the pay they get from projects, members also have a reward system based on their earnings, their engagement, and other charitable endeavors the agency encourages. As with employees, keeping members engaged and motivated is crucial for the agency’s success.

While they are free to pursue other work as well, Julian works hard to make sure the agency’s projects are the most interesting—preferring members to choose their work rather than forcing it on them.

A Unique Way to Compensate Your Agency Team

One of the most applicable takeaways from Up There, Everywhere’s model is its fixed-rate structure. Instead of billing hourly and paying its members per hour of work, it has fixed rates for its clients and its members. Julian points out that when people are working on their own time, they’re much more productive—a lesson for any agency owner. Consider how you can structure your team’s pay around deliverables rather than time spent.

Other stats from the cloud-based agency’s continued success?

  • Networking accounts for approximately 50% of sales, while content marketing brings in the other 50%
  • Churn rate among members is under 5%, while at Julian’s previous traditional agency that number was between 10-15%

As in any agency, having a plan and direction is paramount. The various teams get together on a weekly call to talk about clients, members, and the agency. Think about your own agency and what you can do regularly to check-in across your team and make sure you stay aligned on the same goals, whether you’re in the same office or fully remote.

Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster?

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What’s Next For Your Agency

If you think the zero employees model is the right fit for your agency, then I hope you found my conversation with Julian helpful. When growing your agency, there may be other challenges that come your way but don’t worry — this is where I can step in.

In addition to helping scale faster, I have advice for common agency obstacles such as dealing with bad agency clients, how to build authority for your agency and more. If it’s challenging growing your business, I have agency growth hacks, the best ways to improve management of your business as well as why building a remote team can be beneficial in the long run.

Learn more about my career as well as tips, tricks, and insights by checking out my blogs that cover a wide variety of topics.

You can learn more from my experience from my Ask Swenk series and my videos on my Youtube channel. Check out advice and learn even more from other successful agency experts featured on Smart Agency podcast twice every week.

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