5 minute read

Hiring Secrets of an Etsy Seller

Vana Chupp of Le Papier Studio reveals her best tips for finding and hiring your first shop assistant.

Avatar image for Vana Chupp by Vana Chupp
Title image for the article

As a creative business owner, I always thought I would be able to handle all the aspects of running my business and still have time to live a well-balanced life. But things changed pretty quickly as my Chicago-based business, Le Papier Studio, began to take off.  The list of tasks that required my attention grew each day. I began to feel overwhelmed.  I wondered how I could continue running my company, which sells custom silhouettes, jewelry and stationery, while keeping up with everything and everyone else in my life, including my two young sons.

The simple act of hiring an assistant seemed daunting at the time. But, in 2009, about a year and a half after I started my business, I made the decision to hire my first part-time assistant. Since then, I've hired a half-dozen assistants, sometimes working with two at a time, along with consultants who have handled various projects for my business. Along the way, I picked up the following tips for making the hiring process simpler and more successful.

1. Decide to Hire Help

Simply deciding to hire help might seem like an obvious step, but it can be the most difficult part of the process. Most of us creative entrepreneurs tend to think we can do it all and that no other person (unless he or she is our clone!) would be able to do what we do. Although this is probably true for some aspects of your business, there's a good chance you could delegate a chunk of your work to someone else. To figure out which jobs you could — and should — delegate, make a list of your day-to-day tasks and think about which ones you repeat continuously. For me, that includes order fulfillment (printing, packaging and shipping), email correspondence with customers and pitching to magazine editors, among other tasks that I can systematize and hand off. A good friend of mine who runs a home-based business hired someone to handle house cleaning and yard mowing to give her more time to focus on her business.

2. Explore Your Options

Once you have a job description in your mind, think about the different kinds of employees you could hire. I've hired four types of help: virtual assistants, in-studio assistants, versatile assistants and independent consultants. Virtual assistants are ideal for work that can be performed outside of your studio. For instance, I once hired a stay-at-home mom, whom I found through the website HireMyMom.com, to respond to customer emails and handle some of my company's social media efforts. I currently pay a virtual accountant to handle my bookkeeping and taxes remotely. We meet in person once a year to discuss my business plans.

If you need a lot of help with work that must be done in your studio, you'll need a traditional, in-person assistant. If you share a space with another business, consider sharing an assistant to keep costs down. Currently, I employ one part-time assistant who comes to my studio to handle order fulfillment and do some marketing and social media work. (My husband helps out with IT, design and other work as needed). I also pay a so-called versatile assistant, a category that's growing in popularity, to babysit my younger son during the morning hours and help me with some business tasks during his nap. This arrangement works out very well, especially during slow times when I might not need consistent help with my shop. Finally, I hire consultants to work on specific projects, including photography and website maintenance.

Vana Chupp hired a shop manager to help with order fulfillment, shipping and social media for Le Papier Studio, where she sells custom silhouette jewelry, monogramed trays and personalized prints.

3. Do a Targeted Search

I found my first assistant by posting an ad on Craigslist. Since then, I've learned that in order to attract the best candidates, you should post your job ads in more targeted places. The next time I was looking for help, I placed an ad on the job board of The Everygirl, a Chicago-based blog geared toward creative, career-driven women. I got an amazing response. It's also a good idea to tap your business network for candidate referrals and work with local universities to advertise jobs to recent graduates or alumni.

4. Ask the Right Interview Questions

After I gather and review resumes, I conduct half-hour phone interviews with candidates who seem to have the right qualifications. Then, I ask the ones who seem like they'd be a good fit to come to my studio for a 30-minute interview. In addition to the usual questions about a candidate's strengths and work experience, I ask each person to suggest one or two ways I could improve my business. That has been the single most effective way to pinpoint the best candidates. For instance, I ended up hiring one woman who made some amazing suggestions related to blogging, something I didn't realize I needed help with until she mentioned it during her interview.

Paying extra attention to a candidate's personality and how we connect is key. I look for people with great communication skills and confidence who are also detail-oriented, easy-going and eager to learn new things. I've always trusted my instinct when it comes to hiring someone to work side by side with me. It's extremely important to choose employees you like and get along with, especially since you will be working with them on a regular basis. If we don't click during that first interview, I won't hire them.

What's your best hiring advice? Let us know in the comments section below.

Avatar image for Vana Chupp Words by Vana Chupp

Vana Chupp is a wife, mother of two sweet boys and the heart and soul behind Le Papier Studio. Before finding success as an entrepreneur, she earned a Master’s degree in architecture. When she’s not running her business, you will find her blogging about running a small business and capturing life’s special moments. Follow her on Instagram,  Facebook and on the web at www.lepapierstudio.com.

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