You Can't Afford Not to Hire Someone

There comes a point in a growing business where you can’t afford not to hire someone.

A recent coaching session with one of my Gold Mastermind program members reminded me of how difficult it is to take this step.

It’s not easy to write those first checks to someone else for a task you know you could do, but your business can’t grow as long as you continue to do everything by yourself.

Let’s look at six situations where you should get help from others.

Photographer Sam Nguyen shoots Alix Christian with her work.

Photographer Sam Nguyen shoots Alix Christian with her work.

1. Data entry

You just shut down an exhibition and are blessed with a guest book full of names and addresses. Blessed and cursed. It’s daunting just looking at it, but thinking about acting on it is more than you can take right now.

Get someone else to do it!

Hire a student to do this kind of work for you. The same student could also address postcards, schlep boxes for shipping, and resize your images.

2. Bookkeeping

This most certainly is not one of your strengths. Crunching the numbers, generating reports, and reconciling accounts zaps your creative juices – energy you need for your art and innovative marketing.

Get someone else to do it!

Hire a professional bookkeeper that works on your preferred platform. S/he can keep up with your accounts, remind you that taxes are due, and generate end-of-year reports for your accountant.

3. Material preparation

Your recent shows have been a big success and you are overwhelmed with what you must produce in time for the holiday season. The first steps are the easiest, but they’re also unsatisfying to you.

Get someone else to do it!

Hire art students to prime your canvases, make the links for your necklaces, or roll out slabs for your platters. When they’re done, they can straighten up your studio, pack your pieces for shipping, and research names and venues.

4. Event photography and videography

Another opening has come and gone without your taking a single photograph. This is no surprise. You were doing what you’re supposed to do at openings: talking with interested viewers and potential collectors.

Or you taught a class and received immediate raves from students. Oh, how you wish you had thought ahead of time to have someone present at the end of class to record student reaction. That would have been fantastic footage to have on YouTube and your website.

Get someone else to do it!

You need a professional for these occasions. The social proof that images and videos provide is too important to leave to amateurs. And it’s far too important to neglect altogether.

5. Design work

A big deadline for your show reminds you that you really should have done a postcard, so you slap one together. It doesn’t seem quite right, but you trust your abilities and start using it.

Next time, get someone else to do it!

This is another instance where you need a professional on your team. Fine artists are concerned with visual expression, while graphic artists focus on using the right images, colors, typefaces, and text to communicate with people.

6. Proofreading and editing

Oops! Another email announcement went out with a bad link.
Drat! You are now the proud owner of 1000 postcards advertising a wrong date.
OMG! You swapped “your” for “you’re” AGAIN.

You are not qualified to do your own proofreading and editing. No one is.

Get someone else to do it!

Not everything you write requires proofreading and editing, but if you’re in a hurry to get something out and prone to making errors, borrow a second set of eyes.

Notice in all of these examples that anyone you hire would probably be better at the job than you are. Yes, you might be competent doing any of them, but they are not your strengths.

For what other jobs can you hire help? Tell us about your experiences.

Send to Kindle

21 comments to You Can’t Afford Not to Hire Someone

  • I love this idea, and it’s one that I’ve had bouncing around my head for the past few weeks. I’m curious what your thoughts are on space, though. I work out of my home, and there’s barely enough space for me to do my work. I’d love to hire someone to help me package items for sale, but I don’t know how I feel about hiring someone to work at my dining room table. Do you think a “professional” space is required before hiring someone?

  • This post is so timely Alyson. You may be aware that another Art Biz Bootcamper- Catherine Hartigan and I are exhibiting our work together later this month. We have enlisted the help of another friend from our home town who is a design and marketing wiz and is generously doing this for trade. Caryl Felicetta of Plan C has designed the branding for our cards, posters, written our press, and more- with our imput of course. I can’t tell what a relief it is to not have to do this all ourselves, especially since Cathie and I are each two hours away from the venue. So to your point, whether it is in your home or studio or virtual- it is an important part of any art practice to get the help you need. And, because I am so happy with what she is doing for us- I will hire her the next time.

  • True, but so hard to do!

    As artist entrepreneurs, we have kept our expenses to a minimum for so long, it’s difficult NOT to be so frugal! But, as you point out so accurately, even though we CAN do all the tasks, it takes away from the things that will make our business grow. When we do seek and accept help, it’s so wonderfully freeing!

    Still, I have a mental image of me in a tug-of-war with a would-be assistant, both of us tugging on my business checkbook… :-/ *sigh*

    • Julie: When you see how relieved you are with help, you will want to write bigger and bigger checks. And you’ll have time to do the work that makes you the money to write those checks.

  • I actually just started a virtual assistant business just for crafty/handmade/artists small businesses. I am a painter myself though still in the early stage years (just stepped into the fine art world recently before I was doing more whimsical paintings that did better at urban craft shows) and I know how much work it can be! Being a stay at home mom and wanting to work from home I think it is a great fit! Helping other artist (who I get this is my tribe!) while also helping my family. Best of both worlds I tell you!!!

  • This summer, I hired a professional writer to ameliorate/edit my book…The act of hiring someone for some reason put a fire in my own belly…Chatting about the work refueled my own energy…He recently submitted the edited version to me…But I didn’t end up using it because I had already done the work myself…It also gave me confidence that my own ability is ok, now that I compare the two versions…
    Peripheral Non-sequitur Comment: Thank you so much Alyson for being brave enough to try to navigate the Google Hangout for the art writing seminar…I was fascinated to see my own video feed live, beside the live faces of others…This is a bold new venture & so exciting…I do hope you will try again…Technical difficulties aside it was just wonderful to see how that all worked! Bravo!

    • Sari: I learn so much when I work with a professional editor. My IRBITS wouldn’t be the same book without Alice’s eagle eye.

      Thank you for being so generous about the Hangout. We haven’t given up at all and will look for a new opportunity to take it around for a spin again.

  • I hired my first assistant back in 2000, she left me for college, came back worked with me again for the past few years and today was her last day again. She is leaving me to pursue creative work in another state. I have hired around half a dozen talented young artists over the years. I have a new young shipping manager starting next week. I can not do the volume that it takes to survive without a little help. Cate, I work at home too, and we invested in an outdoor building that has air and electricity. It houses all of our shipping & stretching supplies. Working at home means you have to be extra choosy about who you hire and trust. I have never had any problems with the people I have hired.

  • Alyson: didn’t want to be all “sales-pitchy” but since you gave the ok :D. My website is http://www.craftyhelper.com I help local crafters/artist with in house tasks (Madison,WI area) but most of my clients are virtual. They let me know what they need help with or taken off their plate and I let them know if its something I can do. I help artist load up paintings on their website, blog topic research, scheduling blog interviews. Really whatever an artist/handmade business needs I can help figure a way to get it done for them :D

  • My passion is glass. I learned the delegating lesson when I started making frames to accommodate my weird glass shapes. The frames were adequate but certainly not inspired. When I asked a woodworker to make the same frames they were such an upgrade to my work.

    There are people that are passionate about bookwork and things that I do not enjoy doing. Therefore, they not only do a better job, but they do it in less time. They are as happy about doing it as I am NOT doing it. That has got to translate into a better work place. OK, I have talked myself into hiring a bookkeeper.

  • We’ve heard the saying that if you want something done right, do it yourself. I would say that can be true if you actually have the skills to accomplish it. I pretty much know when I’m lacking. I couldn’t build a bird house even if someone gave me the materials to do so. Same goes for preparing a tax return. I’d rather have a root canal. So a CPA does that.

    I also have a picture framer with whom I’ve worked with for over 20 years make my stretcher bars for my canvas. I’m also thinking about having him stretch the canvases for me on a regular basis now, even though I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself and have been doing it.

    However, in delegating it’s also important that you have confidence in the person doing the work. So in the beginning you need to check their work as well, before giving a final OK especially with design work. For example: I had need of a window sign, so I went to a professional sign company. I communicated what I wanted, had a photo of the store front and a general concept with a rough draft from which they could work. The initial consultation went well, with good ideas on type style was given. I also saw other examples of their work and I was thinking this was great, because I won’t have to design a sign. When I got the proof of what they designed, I realized I should have hired a kid out of kindergarten. Everyone who I showed it to essentially said: “You’ve got to be kidding??” Yes, it WAS that bad even to an untrained eye. Fortunately I did have some skills in design having had training as a layout artist and working for a printing company early on in my career. So I designed the sign and went to another sign company who actually put the sign up. Then when the time came for another sign, I went back to this company thinking I had found someone to whom I could delegate. I was told I would get a phone call with an estimate. I never did. Even after repeated phone calls, leaving messages on the business phone and the owners cell phone and even stopping by the business. So even in trying to delegate there are pitfalls that can cost you money and time! So if you do find someone who does a good job consistently, consider them as GOLD keeping in mind you may have to dig and sift through a lot of dirt to find them.

    • William…Notice how after hiring the kindergarten sign designers, that you got inspired to design the sign yourself? After years of getting my hair done by professionals, I learned to do it myself…After hiring professionals to do my accounting, I finally figured out an internet based accounting system & do my taxes myself…I don’t think this was the spirit of this post, but I have found that I learn alot by hiring others…Possibly I am a thief…(Shhh)!

  • William…Lol! (am going now to look for your blog so I can laugh some more, thanks…)

  • Such a timely post, Alyson! Over the past few years, I’ve had so many artists come to me for just the kind of help you’ve described. I helped out as much as I felt I could at the time and mentioned that I might eventually offer such services for hire through my blog. And last week, that time if finally arrived! I’m offering writing & editing services, as well as research, curation and social media management services to artists, designers and other creative folk.

    I think that those of us who think we can do it all ourselves ( admittedly I am one! ), eventually realize that the monetary expense is sometimes a small price to pay to lift a bit of the burden off our own shoulders.

    More information on my services can be found here: http://artsyforager.com/services-2/

  • I must be a very atypical artist. I love data entry and paperwork. I’ve spent more time working at a tax firm than I have as an artist with services to sell, and this year I’ve been promoted to be one of the tax return preparers. And right now somebody would have to pay ME to relinquish the job of packing an artwork for shipping because I have fallen in love with my new utility-knife-box-cutter-thingie.

    The thing I really need help with is socializing and MARKETING. Oh, evil, evil marketing! My idea of advertising is tacking a business card or flyer to the bulletin board at the local grocery store so I can avoid the awkwardness of attempting to casually mention my hobby and then blurting it out mid-conversation instead.