The decision to hire staff is a big move for a small business. Here are some considerations.
As the owner, your job is to understand and oversee all aspects of your business. Sometimes artists want to focus only on the studio work and not deal with the big picture, but this is a mistake that sinks many entrepreneurs. When your business grows large enough, it makes sense to allot tasks to assistants to work “in” your business while you take the helm and concentrate on working “on” your business, including its structure, planning, and creating systems that work for you.
Hiring help for your business can be advantageous in overcoming the isolation that many artists feel when they work alone in their studios. It can also result in fresh perspectives and ideas for your line.
Assistants give you more “reach” – helping you to be in more than one place at once. They can be your representative at retail shows, or hold down the studio when you are traveling, shipping out orders while you work on landing more accounts.
Scaling up your business means that you have to trust others, and that you will have to train them. Give thought to specific jobs you will need completed; whether you will have staff work in your studio or off-site; whether you will pay them hourly or by the piece.
All small business owners are the last to get paid. Overhead, materials and other expenses come out of sales revenues each month, and it’s up to you to make sure your profit margin is good enough to provide you with a good income. Labor costs from hired help will be a major expense. You must have the commitment and confidence that you will be able to bring in enough added sales volume to justify that labor cost. When you reach a “tipping point” that tells you to start hiring help, understand that it may take some adjustment while your sales volume grows enough to make those hires as profitable as possible.
Are you hiring independent contractors or employees? That depends. The IRS has specific definitions of each, which you should take into consideration when planning to hire. Decide which works best for your business, and your workers. Then, create contracts with your workers or take care of all necessary paperwork to make it all legal. Educate yourself on tax implications and requirements that you may have as an employer.
Taking the plunge and hiring help for your art business can be stressful, but you may well be happy you did it. The Arts Business Institute asked artist Lisa Cottone about her recent experience with hiring. Here is her response:
“I am fortunate that my ‘apprentice’ has smart ideas and is a good sounding board for me to toss ideas around with; it’s nice to have another perspective as it’s very easy to get tunnel vision and not see alternative ways to improve and streamline technique or production. As I now have two staff members that help with production, my next step is to hire a staff member to help with administrative and PR duties which will allow me to spend more time in design development. It’s a constant struggle to maintain balance, but without a staff, I would’ve lost this battle a long time ago.”