April 14, 2014 | Alyson Stanfield

How to Hire Someone to Help with Your Art Business

I just hired my first employee, other than myself, at Art Biz Coach.

Maeve Eichelberger and Alyson Stanfield
With my assistant, Maeve Eichelberger, at her recent opening in Denver. 2016 update: Maeve is no longer an employee at Art Biz Coach.

I'm not encouraging you to hire an employee. 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 move that process along.

How You Can Hire an Assistant

1. I suggest that you start with simple list titled Everything I'm doing that someone else could do – and that I'm willing to delegate.
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. Keep a list! Update this list as you find a new task to add.
Info-How-to-HireWrite a job description based on this list and your budget. Include:

  • Hours per week
  • Start date
  • 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 work with.
Job descriptions for Art Biz Coach 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.
For this position, I wanted someone fun, with a since of humor, 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.)
3. When you're ready, share the job description.
I first send the job description to everyone I know locally. After that goes out, I post it to Facebook (business and personal).
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.
4. Select the qualified top candidates.
After you've narrowed the field, set up 10-minute phone calls with each person. You want to hear their voices so you can get a better sense whether or not you'd like to proceed. You cannot do this by email alone! You must get on the phone.
Use any tools or tests to help you make the right decision. We use the Kolbe A Index, but you need to take the test yourself and to know how to use it in hiring.
5. Conduct a live interview.
Devise a list of specific questions that you will ask each candidate. (Google “best interview questions” for guidance.)
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.
6. Make your decision.
The fun part is calling up the person you select and telling them. The not-so-fun part is telling the others they weren't selected.
If you interview someone in person, you should break the news over the phone. If you have only talked with them via phone or email, you are okay to use email to deliver the news.
7. Deal with paperwork.
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.
Submit any paperwork to your payroll service as well as federal and state tax entities.
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.
If you've ever hired an assistant, what do you wish you had known in advance? 

6 comments add a comment
  • How do you decide if & when you’re making enough money to hire an assistant?

    • 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.

  • 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?

    • Katherine: I’m sorry this happened to you. What are the tasks you’re asking your assistants to do.

    • 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….)

    • 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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