How to Hire: Tips on Staffing Your Creative Business

When it comes to staffing, I have a different outlook than most. As a creative business owner myself, I know it’s hard to give up control on the little details that make up the work you do every day. It can also be nerve-wracking to take on the added expense. Today I’ll show you how to hire in a way that alleviates both of those concerns.

how to hire: tips on staffing your creative business

Quick disclaimer: Too often you get caught up in doing for doing’s sake in creative business, and it’s quite common. For instance, you might make products even though your current inventory’s not moving (making for making’s sake), post status updates online even though what you’re saying isn’t connecting (marketing for marketing’s sake), email because you know you’re supposed to (emailing for emailing’s sake), and research everything you can find online to try to make what isn’t working work already (training for training’s sake).

This is not an article about hiring for hiring’s sakenever hire because you heard you should –orit seems like everyone else is –oryou’re simply overwhelmed by a lack of schedule –or you’re never sure what you should be doing next, so you’re doing everything for doing’s sake, and you want to delegate some of the doing to somebody else.

If you’re at all lost in logistics, or if you find yourself chasing different business advice all over the map, it’s too early to hire. Save your money and the enormous chunk of time and energy it takes to feed your hire’s position (more on this to come!), and focus on your future strategy for success.

Identify Your #1 Income-Generator

Now that the disclaimer’s out of the way, let’s get right to the good stuff! At the start of creative business, your working hours don’t always generate income. The building, learning, and researching of it all must be done by you.

As your business grows, so will the income you earn with every hour invested. That start-up mentality can quickly become the bottleneck to your business’ growth, as it did mine. This means that something you create is very valuable to your customer (thereby generating a substantial income), and you’re trying to do it, and everything else on your business to-do list, all by yourself.

Identify your #1 income-generator, and then calculate how much you earn per hour you spend on that task. When the amount you earn on your #1 income-generator exceeds the cost of outsourcing other tasks, it’s time to hire.

For example, my number one income-generator is content (in the form of courses, books and training). Consultation is a close second. When I’m doing either of these, I generate substantial hourly wages.

Organize Your Entire Task List into 3 Columns

This is the best exercise on the planet when you’re thinking about hiring your first employee. To start, think of every task you do each week – your responsibilities in both your personal and professional life.

Next, organize all of your weekly tasks into one of three categories:

  1. Work that creates income
  2. Busywork to maintain your business
  3. Your household responsibilities

Then, decide which items you want to continue and which you’d like to eventually delegate. Here’s a sample of my weekly tasks, organized into the 3 columns:

Tips on staffing your creative business

As you can see, I organized everything that is my responsibility into the three aforementioned categories. In this bullet journal spread, I decided which tasks I want to continue (marked with a closed dot), which tasks I would like to give up (marked with an open dot), and which tasks I’ve already delegated (marked with an x).

Hire to Generate MORE Income

If you know it’s time to hire, you’ve probably wondered and worried about the finances of it all. Most people see hiring as an added expense or cost that will cut into their profits.

I love to rearrange that thinking! 

Hiring should greatly increase your profits. That’s the ultimate goal and why we identified your #1 income-earner at the top of the post <<< Your hire is there to enable you to make more money!

Your First Hire

I love what I’m going to say next! I’m bursting at the seams to share this indulgent advice because you are so worth the valuable time and energy it’s going to free.

Contrary to a lot of advice on hiring, I suggest you first delegate the tasks that are easiest to give up, such as the housecleaning. The hiring process for household help is simple – at most, it’s an interview, a reference check, and a brief discussion about what areas need covered. It gives you a chance to communicate and manage terms of employment. And from there, you let the pros do their thing.

No training necessary.

As I’ll explain more below, training is time-consuming. Even worse, when you’re training, you’re NOT doing your #1 income-generator, so your bottom line takes a hit in more ways than one.

how to hire: tips on staffing your creative business

5 Ways to Know it’s Time to Hire

  1. Figure out your #1 income-earner (as discussed above). Calculate how much you make/hour when you’re able to focus on that task.
  2. Calculate how many hours you’re able to work on that income-generating task.
  3. Calculate how many hours you spend doing everything else (include household responsibilities on your task list).
  4. Calculate how much you could earn if you spent more hours doing the work that generates the most income.
  5. Compare the income potential with the cost of outsourcing even a few hours of your week.

Tips & Tricks on Hiring

Like anything else, working with your first employee comes with a lot of trial and error.

Train with purpose

I hired my first assistant earlier this year (on an agreed upon part-time basis) and spent weeks training her on the backend of my entire operation. I mean, I went over everything.

Within a few months, we parted ways (in the most mutual and loving agreement). We did meaningful work together during that time, but I’d wasted weeks training her on unnecessary aspects of my business.

Now, I train in one (very specific) area at a time. I’m contracting work with Jennie Rensink <<< She’s my go-to creative’s assistant, and I highly recommend her services for anyone looking; she’s phenomenal. Jennie currently does all of my video editing. When we first started working together, I trained her on webinar setup and moderation. Should we ever need to part ways, I know exactly the gaps I’ll need to replace to fill the void.

Know your seasons

Have a working marketing calendar before bringing anyone on. Hire and train before it gets busy, and aim to get the most bang for your buck:

How can every one hour of training take at least four hours off your plate each month?

Hiring should offer a huge return on investment + bring great relief; the only way to make it so is by doing it with a game plan for highest return and maximum efficiency.

Question everything on your schedule

Especially the tasks that anyone can do without your training them. Those are the biggest time-savers to start. Soon after I hired a bi-weekly housecleaning staff (costing $110/visit, saving us at least four hours every week), I questioned the rest of our household responsibilities.

For example, my husband and I used to take turns tackling a huge mountain of clothes in the ironing basket each week. Every ten items took approximately two hours! And we always had a lot more than ten items in that basket; pieces at the bottom seemed to have gone to their eternal resting place.

My husband discovered a dry cleaner in the area that advertised $1.99 for every wash and press. We dropped our first basket off with over 40 items to discover that mens’ shirts (the bulk of our order) only cost $1.39 for wash and press! A basket that would’ve cost us 8 hours of work – not to mention the massive toll we paid in energy because the chore was never-ending – and gladly paid just over $40 to have it all pressed.

We no longer keep an ironing basket. Instead it’s a cleaner’s basket; a weekly drop-off and pick-up we make when we’re running errands, costing less than $10 per visit!

Filter Candidates to Find the Best Fit

The first time I hired, I wrote an in-depth want ad on my blog.  On the surface, it might look like any other want ad, but it was written with a very specific candidate in mind (and she happened to be the first to apply and the one who got the job).

I chose a self-published announcement (blog post) versus searching Upwork (AKA Elance) or similar VA sites because I was determined to hire someone who already had a working knowledge of (and a mutual passion for) my mission.

If you look at the ad, it very specifically states my desires and needs. I wanted the post to be shared around because I was open to hiring someone who didn’t yet know my work, but who was willing to do the necessary research before applying.

When you hire, you’ll likely seek a very detail-oriented applicant. Secretly test for that virtue during the application process to save time!

The next part of my application required 3 things:

  1. To apply, submit your application through the linked form
  2. Let me contact you if I want to request an interview
  3. (In the form) Tell me two things you’ve taken away from my articles/products

I will only hire people who can follow simple instruction and work independently, so if they didn’t follow the first two simple instructions + prove they were familiar with my work by answering the third requirement, I wouldn’t even consider their application.

My friends, I can’t tell you how many people saw the post and promptly emailed to ask me how to apply. Or wrote to tell me why I should hire them. You wouldn’t believe how many people left the specific questions about my work unanswered on the application – I mean, it only takes a few minutes to do the research!

This process told me so much more about my potential hire than any interview ever could. I highly recommend creating the same application process for your business.

Tell me: What’s the first task you’re going to delegate?

Please leave me a note in the comments and tell me the first thing you’re going to delegate – OR – share the delegation you’ve already made that makes you feel most indulgent.  I can hardly wait to read your ideas!

PS- If you’re not on my mailing list already … what are you waiting for?! If you loved this post, you’ll love the private lessons I send exclusively to subscribers. Sign up below!

Until next time and all the best xx

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  • Hi Lisa! Thanks so much for this! I have a new (very new…) business and am nowhere near needing to hire, but it hadn’t even occurred to me to hire people for household tasks as part of my business, per say. The household tasks are the ones that seem to take up the most time for me and in the future, I can see hiring help for those being a huge help as my business expands and demands more of my time. Thanks for a great post!

  • Lisa, I love this working style! For me, as a creative assistant, working one task at a time allows me to focus all my energy in creating quality service, while mastering the task, resulting in faster (less expensive) quality service for the business owner. It’s also a great way to learn each other’s work style before committing to much too fast. Thanks for sharing!

  • I run a home-based baking business. So far there’s two of us who do the actual baking. We hired an assistant to help us with cleaning and other tasks (such as folding and inventory) But she left us after a two months without notice. Sad because she does help out a lot and we always gave her enough money for her commute (despite the fact that she actually lives near our workplace) She’s young and inexperienced with working so now we’re trying to look for someone who’s a bit mature with at least minimal experience in work, or someone who can appreciate having a job. I appreciate the tips! Just wanted to share some of my personal experience. 🙂

  • Thanks for the article. I found it very interesting. I am a VA/marketing assistant and it was great to hear your thought process behind hiring.

  • Thanks, Lisa! I appreciate this article and you sharing the post with the ad. I am beginning this process, after putting it off for over a year. This is a big help. 🙂

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