How to Hire An Assistant to Help with Your Art Business

When I first published this post, I had just hired my first employee, other than myself. Yes, I am an employee of Art Biz Success.

I'm not encouraging you to hire an employee. (See employees v. contractors.) But I do think that most artists can benefit from an assistant.

Wouldn't it feel great to get help answering emails, sending proposals, and emailing your newsletters?

Here are some steps you can take to help you hire an assistant for your art business.

I've been blessed with some wonderful team members.

Make a List

Start with simple list titled Everything I'm doing that someone else could do.

You don't have to be ready to hire immediately. Just start the darn list before you become overwhelmed.

You are not as indispensable to your business as you think. There are surely many things you've been doing that take you away from your art. Update this list as you find a new task to add.

What are you doing

that someone else could do?

Write a Job Description

When you are ready to take the plunge, write a job description based on the list you've been keeping and your budget. Include the following information.

  • Deadline to apply
  • Start date
  • Hours needed per week
  • Tasks to be performed
  • Skills and knowledge requirements
  • Salary or hourly pay
  • How to express interest and what to include when contacting you

Don't forget to add your deepest wishes. Tell the Universe exactly the type of person you want to hire as an assistant.

Job descriptions for Art Biz Success don't look like the usual corporate ones. I need to enjoy the people I'm working with. So I'm not looking for someone to perform only rote tasks. I'm looking for a deeper connection.

[ How to Write a Want Ad for an Assistant – Alyson Style ]

For this first employee hire, I wanted someone fun, with a since of humor, and who had a lot of patience. I wrote: “You'll win the lottery if you are fun and know how to use Infusionsoft.” (As I expected, nobody knew how to use Infusionsoft, but I had to put it out there.)

My Best Practices for Working with an Assistant ]

Share It

When you're ready, share the job description with everyone you know locally.

After that, post it to social media (don't forget LinkedIn!). If you are looking for a studio assistant, artist forums might be the best place to focus your efforts.

Don't sit back and wait for applications to roll in. You have to keep talking to people. The more people there are who know about your search, the more likely you are to find the perfect person.

I've never had to do more than this to get excellent candidates, but I imagine LinkedIn might be a great place to find qualified administrative assistants. Artist forums could be useful if you're seeking studio assistants.

Schedule Video Conferences

If you find that you need help narrowing down the applications, set up 15-minute video conferences with your top candidates.

You cannot do this by email alone! You must get on a call just to get to know them. This is a preliminary interview. Look for the following.

  • Are they on time? (If they can't figure out how to get on a video conference on time, they wouldn't be the right candidate for a position with me!)
  • Do they communicate well?
  • Do they seem professional?
  • Do you feel like you would enjoy working with this person?
  • What's your gut reaction?

You can tell a lot from this single meeting. At this point, you should be able to narrow it down to 2 or 3 candidates.

Select Your Top Candidates

Invite your top 2 or 3 prospects to  live interviews. In normal circumstances, you want to do this face-to-face, but it's also possible to do it via video conference.

Devise a list of specific questions that you will ask each candidate. (Google “best interview questions” for guidance, depending the position.) Set up a type of score card that you can use to attach a number to each person and rank them accordingly.

Use any tools or tests to help you make the right decision. I ask applicants to take the Kolbe A Index at my expense, but I suggest using it after you've taken the test itself and understand what you're looking for. (*Not all aptitude or strengths tests are legal methods to use in hiring decisions.)

I'd be lost without Kristyn Brigance and other team members.

Make Your Decision

It's important to know that you probably won't get everything you ask for in a single person. You will have to decide which skills and personality traits are given more weight. In my experience, you don't know this when you begin the process.

The fun part is calling up the person you select and telling them the good news. The not-so-fun part is telling the others they didn't make the cut.

Until recently, the rule has always been to break the news over the phone. However, I think it's becoming more acceptable to email candidates who didn't get the job.

My Best Practices for Working with an Assistant ]

Deal with Paperwork

If you haven't done so already, reach out to your bookkeeper or accountant to inform them of where you are in the process. Ask for their help submitting any paperwork to payroll services and federal and state tax entities. You might also be obligated to purchase workman's compensation insurance in your state. 

You will want to create an agreement around your expectations for the position and your responsibilities to your assistant. Sign it and get your new hire to sign it. Give him or her a copy.

I continue to learn how much is involved in working with a team. It's a lot of work up front, but it pays off big time in the long run.

This post was originally published on April 4, 2014. It has been updated with original comments intact.

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6 thoughts on “How to Hire An Assistant to Help with Your Art Business”

    1. Hi, Laurel. I don’t know what anyone else would say to this, but for me it’s a feeling – the feeling that my business can’t grow without help.
      Yes, it’s a leap of faith. But when I find myself doing too much administrative stuff, I know it’s time.
      I need to be focused on the part of the business that makes money.
      I’ve been working with virtual assistants for years and years. And it wasn’t easy to trust people. But when you hire the RIGHT person, it’s glorious.

  1. Alyson, I complete agree with you on these points, however, finding that person has become an impossible task for me. Over the last year and a half, I have gone through 5 assistants. Only 1 of those 5 was worthwhile to the business. I have run ads in several different places online and in print in addition to using the local university’s job placement service. Do you have any additional ideas on how to find that right person?

    1. Alyson, first and foremost, they have to ship orders for product. That requires pulling the product, picking the appropriate packaging and using our online based software to enter a shipping address. This person then needs to print the label and pack the order. I have tried making this task as straightforward as possible by developing a decision tree and organizing the products as best as possible. Any other suggestions? Of the 4 that didn’t work out, two couldn’t manage to come to work so I fired them, one quit the day after I hired her because she didn’t realize this was a ‘real job’, and the last of the four couldn’t understand the shipping process after three weeks of training so I terminated her as well. I’m interviewing someone else this week and want to be sure I don’t make the same mistakes hiring. (By the way, I have received well over 100 applicants total for the job — I’m interviewing what I think are the best ones….)

    2. Katherine: Forgive me if I’m out of order, but it sounds like you need to change your hiring procedures. Something is wonky if 4 people haven’t worked out. HUGE waste of your time.
      What’s a “decision tree” ? Procedures?

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