The Art Biz ep. 106: Learning How to Be a Boss with Ali Manning

Whether you're overseeing a single part-time assistant or a team of helpers, when you’re the boss, you have to step up and own your authority.

You have to be more organized, more focused, and more responsible.

Want help editing your video? You'd better get the raw footage to your helper a couple of weeks before your deadline. Ditto for social media posts that need to be plotted and emails that must be created and scheduled.

Coptic stitched book artist Ali Manning | on Art Biz Success
©️Ali Manning, Backyard. Handmade book of paper and fabric dyed and printed with local plant materials.

You have to be more deliberate because people are depending on you.

You must hire thoughtfully and thoroughly and know when it's time to fire people who aren't a good fit.

It takes a great deal of effort to find the right person to help with your art business, so you want to get it right. Because of this, you need to find a way to retain good team members. You want them to take ownership in your business and pride in the work they do on your behalf.

You won't think about this from the beginning of the relationship with a new team member because you're so focused on getting the help you need fast. But you absolutely should be thinking about it: How do I keep good people on my team?

We talked about working with a team with Angela Fehr and Robin Edmundson back in episode 104. Then in episode 105, Trudy Rice discussed how she assumes the role of boss even while working with her sister as an employee.

In this episode I talk with Ali Manning about the responsibilities she feels as the person in charge of her business. In particular, the responsibilities she has to team members.

We discuss her membership-based business model, the dynamics between team members, how she hires, when and why she hires employees instead of contractors, and how she keeps team members happy. We also get into the hiring mistakes that both of us have made in the past—freely admitting that it was our fault, not that of the employees.

[ See also My Best Practices for Working with an Assistant ]


  • The aha moment in Ali’s art journey. (2:45)

    hand made book artist Ali Manning | on Art Biz Success
    Ali's book designed for and published in Cloth, Paper, Scissors in March 2018.
  • How does Ali make money in her art business? (6:25)
  • Running a business with 1,500 members requires the help of several assistants. (10:15)
  • The key difference between employees and contracted help. (12:27)
  • Bringing your team together regularly starts with a weekly meeting and the right technology. (15:09)
  • You might be surprised at where you can find the right help. (19:07)
  • Hiring mistakes and how to correct them quickly. (24:15)
  • Tests and onboarding processes that can smooth out the new hire process. (28:56)
  • Clearly defined business processes and procedures will help your team members succeed. (31:35)
  • Your assistant can’t actually read your mind, but taking these steps can help them out. (34:06)
  • Keeping your employees—and keeping them happy. (38:46)
  • A peek at Ali’s upcoming launch. (42:41)


Ali Manning Quotes

“From a business standpoint, I want to be able to offer my help a secure job. It’s important to me that they’re invested.”

“With as many moving parts as I keep in my brain, it’s no wonder that I needed some help with this stuff.”

“It’s important to slow down, take a step back and really think about what you want and how you would like your assistant to do it.”

About My Guest

artist Ali Manning at her press
Image credit Millstone Memories.

Ali Manning creates bindings that showcase the stitching and the handcrafted nature of books. Her mixed media books are inspired by the forests of New England and the gardens of her home country, England.

Working from her studio in a converted textile mill in Massachusetts, Ali has taught thousands of students via her blog, Vintage Page Designs, in person and with her latest online adventure, The Handmade Book Club. Teaching others to express their creativity through handmade books is her greatest joy. She believes that anyone can create a handmade book and it shouldn’t require expensive tools or equipment.

Ali's work has been featured in Somerset Studio, Take Ten, Paper Crafts Magazine and Cloth, Paper, Scissors.

Follow Ali on Instagram: @vintagepaperdesigns

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