Someone Else Could … (What To Delegate in Your Art Business)

There’s a certain point in your business when you can’t grow without hiring someone.

Your work is in demand, and you sell the work as fast as you make it. This is a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem because you can’t keep up by yourself.

You’re creator, packer, shipper, marketer, janitor, and warrior rolled into one. You spend as much time in the studio as you can and perform ninja maneuvers to get all of the business stuff taken care of.

You don’t watch television, your family barely sees you, and you’re not getting enough sleep.

You’re maxed out! But you don’t feel like you can afford to hire help.

Victoria Pendragon's New Moon Breath

©Victoria Pendragon, New Moon Breath – Indigo Winds. Resist-dyed silk and acrylic on gessoed board, 12 x 12 inches. Used with permission.

Here’s the thing: You can’t afford not to hire someone.

It’s not just you who hesitates to get help. Very rarely does an entrepreneur feel like it’s the right time to hire new people because there’s never “extra” cash lying around. It’s a catch 22: you don’t have surplus funds, but you’ve reached your limit on what you can accomplish alone.

If you believe in your work, it’s time to take risks.

When my clients reach this point of frustration, I encourage them to start keeping a list of everything they do in their businesses that someone else could do.

It’s even better if you start this list before you reach this point. You don’t have to go out and find someone right away. Just start the list. I’ll help.

Professional Services

Professional services are usually contracted out in a small business. You’re hiring these people for their expertise, not to instruct them on how to do the work as you would like to have it done.

Someone else should do these things for you

  • Design brochures, postcards, and invitations
  • Create and maintain a website or blog
  • Handle legal matters, accounting, and bookkeeping
  • Photograph your art
  • Clean your house

In contrast to some of the tasks you’re competent doing, professional services are usually far removed from your zone of genius.

Melanie Furtado's Oceanic

©Melanie Furtado, Oceanic. Hydrostone, 30 x 10 x 8 inches. Used with permission.

Now let’s get to those tasks you’re comfortable with but no longer need to be spending quality time on. These are things that you can train someone else to help you with. I’ve broken down these tasks into eight possible areas: Studio, Administration, Social Media, Teaching, Photography/Video, Writing, Events, and Personal.

Of course, you won’t find someone who is gifted in every area that you need help with. Likewise, you don’t want candidates to bend themselves into a position for which they are ill-fitted. Hire to people’s strengths.

Here we go.

Studio

It’s fairly easy for someone else to assist with certain studio tasks if you are willing to relinquish control. Someone else could

  • Prepare your material, prime your canvases, mix your glazes, etc.
  • Install the art
  • Adjust lighting in an exhibition space
  • Create and hang gallery labels and signage
  • Pack, crate, and ship artwork
  • Assist in aspects of production work
  • Order art supplies

Administration

Imagine breathing a sigh of relief when you have the support of an office assistant who loves to take care of details for you, and whose zone of genius is doing exactly this. Someone else could

  • Enter data and light bookkeeping
  • Send invoices and receipts
  • Maintain your schedule and correspondence
  • Label and stamp postcards and invitations
  • Maintain an inventory of artwork, and create inventory sheets for exhibitions as needed
  • Order office supplies
  • Clean, dust, water plants, empty trash

Social Media

I don’t believe in outsourcing social media because it should be personal in order to be effective. However, you could get help with the preparation of your posts. Someone else could

  • Schedule approved posts
  • Crop images
  • Research helpful posts to share

Teaching

You, of course, are the expert at the front of the classroom, but much of the burden could be lifted from you. Someone else could

  • Research content for a new class
  • Register students and serve as their liaison
  • Prepare class materials
  • Handle payment issues
  • Respond to technical concerns
  • Send email reminders
  • Monitor an online forum

Photography and Video

While you should hire a professional photographer for publicity photos and the slick images you need of your art, someone else could

  • Record video clips of people saying nice things about your art
  • Edit informal videos and post them online
  • Photograph events and daily studio work for your newsletter, website, and social media posts
  • Resize images for the website, publicity, and exhibition submissions
Mandy Evans narrative painting of 5 people in a boat

©Mandy Evans, Busy Boat. Reproduction only. Used with permission.

Writing

There is so much writing that must be done in a professional artist’s career. Most of it will require your expert input, but someone else could

  • Take your articles and create drafts for blog posts, brochure text, or wall labels
  • Write and distribute press releases
  • Proofread your writing (you shouldn’t be the final proofreader of your writing)
  • Format and send emails to people on your list

Events

It’s important that you are free at your events to connect with your guests. Someone else could

Personal

It seems like an extravagance to have a personal assistant, but Christine Kane says this is the first person you should hire after the accountant and bookkeeper. Someone else could

  • Shop for groceries
  • Prepare food for cooking
  • Pick up mail and dry cleaning
  • Keep house tidy

Your Turn

I have lots of questions that I’d love your responses to.

Who helps you with your art business? What do they do for you?

Who was the first person you hired?

What hiring mistakes have you made?

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47 comments to Someone Else Could … (What To Delegate in Your Art Business)

  • Excellent and ultimately thorough list Alyson. Thanks for putting it down where we can see it in writing!

  • Many of my fellow working artists are hiring people to do their social media. I can see the difference in the quality of the people they hire. It is important to have the social media reflect you and your personality not just be “this is the art and it is for sale” message that is so impersonal.

  • This is a great post Alyson. Most artists don’t want employees but I realized that it was time to hire out those must-do chores that nagged at me and kept me from the studio:
    spring yard clean up * window washing * carpet cleaning.

    I also hire and pay my mom to bake cookies for my studio openings. I know she would do it for free, but I value the quality she brings and love contributing to her “lunch with the girls” fund.

    Start with small things and pretty some you will realize that you contribute to the world at the highest level by being in the studio.

  • I still have a part time day job but I’ve had an accountant for a long time and hired someone to clean last year. I have also hired a photographer when I’ve needed one. It’s very liberating.

  • I need Sale$ so I can Hire folks to do all these things! Artists could create so many Jobs if we could only Sell more Art! It’s a shame Artists don’t Sell a bucket load of more Art. The 1% need to Cough!! 😉

    • William: That’s why I said it’s a catch 22. And you really shouldn’t be hiring anyone until the sales start coming in and you can’t keep up with the demand – unless you can otherwise afford it.

  • Well, I have not hired anyone, but my husband, who is retired, sees being my partner as a part time job. As a retired computer programmer, he loves data. He maintains my inventory database and keeps spreadsheets of data recording how well I did at art shows. In a second, I can go on to Google Drive and see which shows I did best at and which I should drop. He also wires my frames photos for me, packs the van, and is a HUGE help with booth set up and take down. During the day, he finds a quiet place to read – a salesman he is not! As a retired school principal, I see my art job as a way to fill my passion for photography and get out in the world at the festivals and meet wonderful new people. I am lucky that I do not have to depend on my sales to make a living wage – my profits are supplemental. Perhaps others have familly members that are willing to help out?

  • I’ve been agonizing over hiring someone for months (maybe a year – yikes!). I know I need help I guess I’m just afraid to invite someone into my business. I had a portfolio review the other night and my reviewer even suggested I hire someone to help me to move forward on some plans. Thank you for breaking it down into lists. That is exactly what I need to do. Do you have a recommendation on how to figure out whether you need an in person or a virtual assistant?

    • Victoria: Yes! I can see that you need this.

      Obviously, if it’s studio assistance, you need in person.

      Otherwise, it could be virtual. My assistant is actually an employee, but one of her benefits is that she can work from home most of the time. She comes into the office a couple of days a week for us to work together.

      It’s the perfect situation. It gives me breathing room to get my work done, and saves her a short commute.

  • Thanks for a timely post. I’m considering taking on a summer student (intern) to help with a range of tasks that would ease my work load. I know its a temporary fix, but with the right person, it could lead to a long lasting work relationship.

    • Jeanette: Be sure to balance the amount of training with what you need. Sometimes (as others here have noted) it takes too long to train someone before they have to leave.

  • This is a great post – thank you! Two other things we consider before hiring someone are:
    1) Is this something someone else can do better and / or faster?
    2) Is this something I enjoy? We try to keep the jobs that give us pleasure.

  • Thank you, Alyson, for your comprehensive and helpful list! I have hired help for house cleaning and art business/studio tasks off and on for the last few years. (especially in preparation for a solo show) The load is lighter and more of the important details get taken care of. The artwork is also of better quality because I am not as stressed out!!

    You know, it’s a win-win situation for all involved. I support them while they support me! It’s a great feeling all around. I would not have even thought of doing this if it were not for your prompting. Thanks again for your sound advice 🙂

  • Last year I asked for help from a friend in preparing for my open studio. She did such a great job curating my artwork, I am hoping she will come again this year. I love to create, but find that my attachment to the work makes me not the best curator. With her help, my presentation was much better than in past years.

  • I hired a cleaning person two years ago and it changed my life!

    I am so less stressed by mundane house stuff and therefore have more time to focus on my art.

    And when I’m happy, everyone’s happy right??!?

  • There are two things I would love to outsource even before I’m that much in demand; bookkeeping and heavy housework. Unfortunately, it will be some time before I’m able to, so I try to make it as easy as possible, so I don’t spend too much of my time on it.

  • Oh I so needed this kick in the butt! YES so much an assistant can do for me! YES I will do this!

  • Definitely timely! Luckily I have a few great and supportive friends who are acting as my upcoming solo show committee, helping me make decisions and getting things done that I’m really bad at. And I have retired relatives who love working in the wood shop, so they help supply me with wood for my artworks. For my shows, I’ve learned I need a crew to help out with a variety of tasks, so slowly I am trying to compensate them too. I even have someone bringing me water during openings because I get so dehydrated talking for hours. If only they could spoon-feed me.

  • I badly needed this post right now Alyson! So hard to delegate. I’ll be studying your suggestions! Thanks very much, Lauren

  • I love your blogs, being a “new business” owner. Hobby morphed into a business. I hired a cleaning crew, enlisted hubby to help with laundry (we do it together!), employed a guy to dig the flower beds and weed, started keeping a REASONABLE “To Do List” weekly rather than daily. Taking time for myself, giving realistic delivery dates, having certain yet flexible days for design and development has made a difference. I’m a routine type person, so what works for me may not work for others. Hubby is my “labor team” for art shows – setting up the heavy stuff, hanging around for potty and lunch relief, then tearing it all down, loading up and driving me home. Girlfriend(s) often come out to give me a break during the shows, or stay with me. A broken leg and being almost immobile for almost 6 months made me realize I was pushing myself too hard. Recently we traveled to Tuscany area in Italy for 2 weeks. While there I discovered I wanted to do this part time to make it work for me, not me work for it. Usually, I stick to my schedule – Monday, Tuesday & Thursday – some Fridays. The weekend is ours, unless there is a show. Learned to NOT do shows outside – Texas Spring weather is iffy at best and summers impossibly hot. Having a few mentors has made a big difference.

  • Yes indeed….

    I like to have someone do all of those tasks, especially someone to help me maintain my calendar! I tend to take on a lot and then try to figure out how to manage it all! So someone that has my vision of the big picture and can help sort out all the details and help keep me and the studio work on track is key. In fact I’m hiring for that role now…

  • What you describe is potentially alot of negotiating and interacting with a bunch of people. sounds stressful. I do pay for my work to get photographed, photoshopped. I dont do tune ups on my car. I dont do my own taxes, though I do all the other book keeping. But I like my business small. Its supported me all these years. I can keep my business small if i do alot of that other stuff myself. If I had to hire a bunch of people, I’d have to make more money to pay them. Good advice for people who want to grow their businesses but not for me.

    • Kathy: I am not advocating hiring a bunch of people and managing them, although some people will need to do this.

      I should have been clearer, and perhaps I’ll make this adjustment in my text.

      I suggest prioritizing what you need most and finding the best person to help.

  • This is a great thing you’re doing for artists.

  • Thank you for this inspiring writing.
    I once hired a high school student to work for free and she was able to earn service hours through her school. Although she did help me, I spent much of the time teaching her what to do. Her energy was fun but a little distracting.
    I learned that it is well worth paying an experienced person. Now I have professionals
    take care of my website/blog, photograph my art, and clean my studio.
    In other area such as teaching and administrative work, I will find help after reading your blog. I know that I will feel better when those files are organized and I have an updated inventory. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge.

  • Teri

    I agree with everyone about how awesome this list is. And I found it terrifying. I realized I have been thinking way too small about what it takes to have art as a business. The things in my way are not even on the list because they are so basic. I admire all of these people and the many ways they are moving forward and including the family and friends for support. There’s wanting something and then comes counting the cost, assessing worth, creating value and facing realities. I think I’m just barely on the first rung of the ladder.

  • Thankyou very much for using my image of ‘the busy boat’ in the post Alyson. It was very kind of you.

    Just in case anyone is interested in the meaning of the image I have a web page about it in my latest newsletter website

    http://www.mandyevansartist.com/great-pictures/great-limited-edition.html

    To add to the discussion, I have hired many people in my life, and at this point in time have downsized completely so its just me, living in the desert.

    The more people you hire, the more money you have to make, the more stock you have to produce to come up with the money, the more people you have to hire to make the stock and run the bigger business ect ect. Other people are dependent on you for their income, so your time is not your own.

    Of course I was attrocious with all the money, partied hard, hired all the wrong people and the whole thing was like a circus……..

    So (after rehab) – Made a series of limited edition posters – went back to uni to learn digital technology to sell them on the internet (a ONE PERSON job), and have moved to the desert to develop an internet business.

    Every day I sculpt a bit, garden …whatever I want….and i am truly grateful for this precious autonomy, because I am pretty sure its a rare thing.

  • Soni

    This is a great list and very reasonable. I, of course, just starting out, need to pay for supplies and gas! LOL…BUT that being said…with everything I am reading and every time I meet someone, the question I am asked is..”Do you have a website”…I have no idea what to do about that…I have a “business” Facebook…but have been doing some research on blogs/websites etc..Is this something I can do myself with any efficiency or spend money right away and hire that out. My expertise is NOT the computer and the terminology overwhelms me and I give up!!

  • Undeniably believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the internet the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get irked while people consider worries that they plainly don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks|