I'll preface this by saying that this isn't my exact situation, but it's close and it could be some day in the not too far off future. But mostly it's something I think about a lot and am curious how others have handled it.
I am on retainer for a handful of small biz clients for whom I essentially serve as their in-house creative/marketing/dev department. I have just enough clients of just the right scope so that with meticulous scheduling, I can serve all their needs throughout the month. most of them are long term and some of them even longer term.
Now that I've got a bunch more experience (and skillz) under my belt, not to mention the rising cost of living in my area (and maybe a little bit of greed), I'm feeling some self-imposed pressure to make more $$. My rates are more than fair (based on my abilities and the range of rates in my area for similar services) and i think that they'd still be fair with a 15% increase, BUT I don't know if that's the best way to go in the interest of keeping my long term clients who I don't want to drive away, nor put them in a position where they feel like they're being asked to pay this increase "just cuz".
Perhaps the way to go is to expand the business and bring on another resource. I don't want to be an agency by any means. I'm thinking this resource would be doing largely low-level production work while I still do the bulk of it and am still the face each client interacts with. Of course I'd have to find a few new clients and rearrange schedules and whatnot, but for the sake of this question, let's just say I have just the right amount of new clients knocking down my door, ready to get started at my current rate (of which, now a portion would be going to my new "employee"). I'm not opposed to putting in a few more hours in to make sure I'm not giving him/her too much of my revenue, but at the same time I don't want to spread myself too thin.
My first reaction is that expanding makes sense. It would be a contract employee so no issues with a full-timer or anything like that and if it turns out not to be the right thing for me, I can always cut him and the new clients loose going back to my original situation... and then decide if a rate increase is the next thing to try.
With that said, I know there are all kinds of headaches associated with managing someone else... especially someone doing work that will bear my name. And probably even more complications than I'm even aware of with taking this route.
Anyway, if anyone has any wisdom to share in favor of or against either direction, I'm all ears.