Elevating a Solo Freelance Service to an Agency-Style Model

As a solo freelancer, growing your business can be a challenge; at a certain point, you just can’t do it all yourself. When deadlines start piling up and clients start asking for projects outside of your wheelhouse, it’s time for reinforcement. That’s what prompted Heather Tunstall to shift her solo freelance service to an agency-style mode, building Tunstall Content LLC into a brand bigger than herself. She shared her journey in ASBPE’s September 2023 webinar, offering steps and strategies to help freelancers level up their business.  

Heather TunstallTunstall also serves as corporate content director at Meister Media Worldwide while running Tunstall Content LLC, which offers editorial, content marketing strategy and digital content services for both B2B and B2C industries. ASBPE Director and fellow freelance writer/editor, Brooke Bilyj — who owns and operates Bantamedia, a national award-winning content firm in Cleveland — moderated the webinar, interviewing Tunstall about her transition from solo to team.

The biggest challenge, Tunstall said, is handing off aspects of a project when you’re used to juggling it all yourself. “It’s really hard to let go sometimes,” she said. “If you built a career on being a solo freelancer and then you’re building an agency-style model, you have to be able to trust your subcontractors quite a bit.”

Some of Tunstall’s keys to navigating this transition to an agency-style model include:

  • Finding and vetting skilled writers, editors, and other freelance support
  • Documenting processes to onboard writers and ensure consistency
  • Training subcontractors on the editorial standards for each project
  • Adding subcontractor clauses to freelance contracts
  • Communicating these collaborations to existing clients with transparency
  • Pricing projects appropriately and paying subcontractors fairly

To handle the growing workload under an agency-style model, Tunstall relies on a few project management tools to collaborate with her subcontractors. However, she said, the best decision she made to grow her business was bringing on a project manager to keep everything consistent and everyone on track.

“An agency model is no joke,” Tunstall said. “You’re not only managing multiple clients; you’re managing multiple subcontractors. To do that, being organized is vital.”

By leveling up her business and positioning Tunstall Content as a full-service content agency rather than a single freelance writer, Tunstall realized she “could offer more services to existing and new clients and potentially land bigger projects,” she said. “… It allows for a lot more flexibility in the types of work that you can sign.”

Ultimately, whether you’re a solo freelancer or a team of subcontractors, success depends on your ability to deliver great quality work to clients consistently. “That’s the name of the game with freelancing,” Tunstall said. “It’s all about the relationships and the trust.”

The webinar was recorded and is free for ASBPE members. View the recording and the accompanying handout in ASBPE’s members-only webinar archive.

Brooke Bilyj

Brooke Bilyj is a national award-winning journalist, published author and PR/marketing consultant. Since founding her Cleveland-based content marketing firm, Bantamedia, in 2013, she has worked with marketing agencies, trade publications and brands to provide content, PR, SEO and digital marketing for industries ranging from healthcare to horticulture. Her work has been published in more than 40 publications and more than 50 client websites, earning 24 awards.

Bilyj currently serves on the ASBPE National Board of Directors.

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