Do you have a pile of work you never seem to catch up on in the studio?
Even thinking about the amount of work you have leaves you stressed out, with a mile-long list of to-dos looming over your head. Not to mention how disorganized you feel. The weight of administrative tasks can impede your creative process and infringe on the time you have to create art. You have built an empire. You have the art skills and the talent. Even if you are strapped for cash, is it time to hire an assistant?
Assistants can tackle everything from inventorying and organizing to bookkeeping and marketing. Releasing the reins and delegating some of these tasks can take work off your plate and allow you to concentrate on larger tasks. The problem is, how do you know it's time and how do you go about hiring the right candidate?
The right person for the job is out there. And, you can get the relief you need. Follow these four steps for hiring a studio assistant to get the most out of your investment and time.
1. Think about where you need assistance most
Then, create a job listing around this.
Maybe you need help updating your art inventory and tracking the current whereabouts of your work. Or, sending invoices or printing out inventory lists for upcoming shows.
It could be helping with social media, writing newsletters, photographing new pieces, managing your calendar, updating your contact list, ordering new materials, shipping out fresh work, organizing the studio, or even answering client emails.
The possibilities are endless, really! Write down the tasks that will make your job as an artist—and art business owner—easier.
What are your “must-have” skills and characteristics?
Depending on the tasks you need help with, think about which characteristics your assistant would need to possess to get things done efficiently and correctly.
Do they need to be organized? A self-starter? Follow directions well? A positive attitude? Interested in art? A good writer? Know a certain software program? Have a flexible schedule?
Not all of these traits may be necessary to get the job done. And, some things can be learned on the job!
Decide which characteristics are absolute must-haves and which are negotiable. You can always dig deeper come interview time.
Think about how much time these tasks take you each week
This will inform what type of time commitment you are looking for in a studio assistant. Would a couple days a month suffice? Will it be an ongoing arrangement or seasonal, perhaps just for the summer? Would they be required to come into the studio or could they work remotely?
Your studio assistant's unique set of skills should allow you to free up time to work on more profitable and desirable work for you. Be flexible, but think about what works best with your schedule and what will accelerate creative process.
Consider what this help is worth for you and your business
After reviewing your task list and time requirements, decide what is fair compensation for the work. What would you be happy to accept if you were doing these tasks for someone else?
Can you offer an hourly rate, or maybe a monthly stipend? If you can’t afford to pay much, can you set up an opportunity for students to get class credit? Will the promise of insight into an artist’s career be enough?
Even if you are strapped for cash, you have to find some way to make the offer enticing. Remember that having someone working on these tasks will ultimately let you work on larger projects and take more commissions. Take some time to weigh those out.
No one wants to work endless hours a week for free. Burnout is real, not just for artists. And, if your helper doesn’t feel fairly compensated or as if the job isn’t providing any value, you might be left assistant-less again with a pile of work on your lap.
2. Share the opportunity
Think back to your description and what type of person fits the bill. You can go from there to figure out where to best post the opportunity so that those people will see it!
It could be on your social media pages, job boards around your community, schools and art programs, Facebook groups, word of mouth, etc. You never know who might be interested, so don’t limit yourself completely.
Also, think about the best time to post the position. Holidays and weekends can get busy. If you’re looking for an art student, be aware of the academic calendar. You don’t want your opportunity to be missed simply because of timing. Keep posting until you have a worthy candidate or two.
Hiring is often the most important aspect of your business
... especially if you make a bad hire. A bad or good hire can have huge effects on your productivity, day-to-day culture, and output.
That's why it's important to master the hiring process. First, look for applicants who are eager to connect and have followed the directions on your job description, whether that’s simply following up with a phone call or emailing over a resume.
If they pass that test, figure out a time and place to talk to them face to face. You’ll get the best feeling for them when you meet in person, but if you’re in a pinch, FaceTiming or a phone call will do.
Get the right candidate with the right questions
You’ll want to come prepared with a few questions so you can determine whether or not they’re a good fit. To get the interview started, explain the general idea of what tasks you need help with, and ask them to tell you about some of their similar experiences.
No need to go full boardroom on anyone, but you want to get a good feel for the type of person they are and the quality of work they produce. Ask behavioral questions that will help you get the answers you need. For example, asking "Tell me about a time a project you were working on didn’t go according to plan. What was your role? How did you did you deal with this event?" can let you know about a candidates leadership skills.
Then think about what type of person you want working by your side. Studios can be close quarters and you don’t want to dread coexisting with the person you hired. Asking, "What are the three things that are most important to you in a job? " can suss out if the candidate is a good cultural fit for your studio. Happy employees = happy studio.
You wear a lot of hats as an artist and a business owner. You want an assistant who can do the same and who is adaptable and agile. Develop questions to see if your new assistant is capable of handling the many different aspects of running a studio. An example question would be: "Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you had never done before in a previous role. What was your response? What did you learn?"
Identify the pillars that you find most important in an assistant or art intern. Is it communications skills, time management, adaptability, collaboration, or independence? Then, create your own behavioral questions around these skills to see how they have responded in past situations. They can be specific or broad. Finally, don’t forget to discuss their availability and make sure it works with your schedule and needs.
If they check off all the “must-have” boxes, then there’s no need to keep searching. In the end, you’ll have a good feeling about the candidate you want to choose!
4. Embrace your manager side
You’ve found “the one.” Now you need to put them to work.
Remember, your studio assistant is here to help! There needs to be enough structure so they know how to fill the time and get done what needs to be done, but also time to learn and have fun. You want this to be as much of a valuable experience for them as it is for you.
Get in the habit of developing to-dos. Now that you have someone under your wing, make it a priority to sit down every week and think about the tasks ahead that need doing. Where can you use help? What tasks can you delegate?
Make a list of to-dos that your new assistant can refer to as soon as they walk in the studio. They can always follow up with questions when needed, but otherwise, you can both get right to work. TIP: Don’t just pass off tasks just because you hate doing them. Some tasks only you can complete.
Then don’t forget to develop a way to keep track of tasks, whether it’s adding more to-dos, jotting down notes about a certain project, staying on top of deadlines, or signaling when a task is done. Set expectations about quality and what needs to be run by you before completion. Stick to a system and communicate!
Develop your management style
In any new position there’s going to be a learning curve, but over time you will be able to identify your assistant’s strengths and figure out how to use them best. Don’t be afraid to give them a little freedom as you see fit. A fresh pair of eyes might be able to see a better way of doing things.
Another tip? Constantly check in with yourself. Think about bosses you’ve had and loved. What kind of boss do you want to be? What tools can you suggest or ask them to research to make their job easier? Are your goals actually achievable? Set your assistant up for success and everyone wins!
Don’t ever underestimate the power of an employee who feels appreciated. Tell them often when you are thankful for their good work.
Get the help you need
One important tool your assistant can use to save time and keep the business side of things organized is Artwork Archive. This easy-to-use art inventory software helps you manage your constantly evolving art business.
Record your art inventory details, track the changing locations of your work, record all of your art sales, manage competition and show dates, keep up with client contact info, create reminders tied to your schedule, and generate professional reports with the click of a button.
When you link all of these moving parts to each other on Artwork Archive, the business side of your art career stays organized. Your assistant’s life gets easier. And, you can focus on your true passion—making art.