When you’re running your creative business as a one-person-show, it can be, for lack of a better word, crazy. You want to keep costs low, output high, and stay a lean, mean, art-making machine.
But if the skills necessary to run your creative biz are starting to expand beyond your capabilities, you may be thinking, “I could really use some help around here.”
How you know when it’s time to hire an assistant:
Patreon creator Justin Cone of Motionographer was recently able to hire on a full time assistant as a direct result of his Patreon income. Here’s how he knew it was time to add a member to his team:
We’ve always had a lot of volunteer help with Motionographer, but I’ve been wanting to bring on a paid assistant for years. Volunteers are awesome, but when they get busy, they have to drop their involvement. A paid assistant is more reliable and easier to manage.
– Justine Cone, Motionographer
You may be ready to hire on some additional help if any of the following rings true:
- You spend way too much time taking care of administrative tasks
- You could be making more art, but you can’t because of other responsibilities
- You can’t find time for new, exciting projects or launches
- You have plenty of tasks to keep someone else busy
- Things are constantly getting pushed back
- There aren’t enough hours in the day
- You’re on the brink of a true burn out
Sound familiar? Alright, let’s get you some help so you can get back to doing what you love — creating.
You don’t need to be making bank to start outsourcing.
Your business doesn’t have to be bringing in six figures before you can think about hiring someone. Giving someone else small tasks can still take a lot off your plate, and you don’t have to spend big bucks to make that happen. The tasks are small, inexpensive, and you still save yourself hours.
Take an audit of tasks you could outsource:
Look at all the processes and workflows you regularly do. Grab a pen and paper and make three columns. Label them:
“I love doing this”
“I’m ok with doing this”
“Someone else, please, do this for me”
Optional fourth column — stuff you’d really like to do and would help move your business forward, but are too specialized for you to spend your time learning.
Items in the “I love doing this” column are, you guessed it, the things you enjoy doing and don’t want to delegate elsewhere. Making your art should fall into this column.
“I’m ok with doing this,” is the stuff you don’t get super excited about, but don’t mind working on. You can keep doing this stuff without sacrificing your sanity.
“Someone else, please, do this for me.” That’s the stuff you’ll want to outsource. The tasks make you want to pull your hair out. The things you dread doing.
Not sure if you can outsource certain tasks?
I bet you can. If you need some context, here’s a short list of commonly outsourced tasks for creative businesses:
- Bookkeeping and taxes
- Web site analytics
- Fulfillment and distribution
- Creative research
- Website maintenance (even specifically, sites like WordPress or Squarespace)
- Email newsletter management
- Social media campaigning (general, or network specific)
- Video and audio editing
- Styled stock photography
- Copy and blog editing
- Project management
- And even more
Generally speaking, if you need it done, someone out there can do it for you.
Justin’s VA specializes in a number of areas at Motionographer. Since bringing him on, Joe has not only helped the business grow, but has preserved Justin’s sanity:
As Joe focuses on the day-to-day running of Motionographer, I’m able to zoom out and plan for the longer term. We’re gearing up for a big new project, and there’s no way we’d be able to do that without Joe’s help. Joe is basically unlocking the full potential of what we can be.
Oh man, it’s helped me so much. First, just having someone else to bounce ideas of off — and occasionally vent to — is huge. I’m no longer working in a vacuum. Second, I can easily get overwhelmed with all of the things that it takes to keep Motionographer running. Joe shares the burden and is really great at cutting through the noise.
– Justine Cone, Motionographer
How to start outsourcing tasks: 3 Different Approaches
1. Automate it
A lot of simple, tedious tasks can be automated. Even quite complex tasks, as well. It’s like they say, “There’s an app for that.”
Automation is wonderful because you can give a system a thing to do, and it will do it faithfully until you tell it to stop, no questions asked. It will work for you while you are sleeping. You are fully in control of any and all settings or tweaks that need to be made along the way. This can save you stress and grey hairs.
Many apps are free or low cost. Often times, an app can cost you less than hiring an actual human to do the work.
If you need more convincing, Michael Shoup of 12South Music (CEO, marketer, and musician) has written a great article on how to make your life less complicated. Two things he touts? Automation and delegation.
Here are some key apps that help me run my music making business:
For Social Media Scheduling: I love Buffer. I use the free level and am able to schedule posts for an entire week on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Upgrade for $10/month, and you’ll be able to link up 10 different social media profiles. You also get access to a suite of analytics including suggested posting time and highest performing posts.
For Blogging: WordPress has great built in scheduling functionality. If you’re juggling many authors and need a place to convene, Gather Content is a great resource. It allows you to organize all your posts, give them statuses, invite a team of collaborators, upload images, make templates, and build a content schedule (as in, an actual calendar). Gather Content offers a free 30 day trial. Pro plans start at $66 monthly, or can be purchased annually at $125 or $216.
For Email & List Conversion: You’re probably familiar with good ol’ Mailchimp. MC is a classic. It offers 2,000 free contacts and automation at paid levels. If you’re selling products or courses that go along with your art, I would suggest making the switch to Convertkit. It allows you to create multiple automatic sequences, better segmentation (one list, hallelujah!), multiple sign up forms, and enough customization to make artistic hearts happy. Plans start at $29/month and go up from there based on subscriber count.
Patreon blog readers can take advantage of a special offer only available here:
Get your first 30 days of ConvertKit free to try it out.
That’s how I fell in love with it myself!
For Meetings: Did you know you could automate your appointment scheduling process? Meet Calendly. You let Calendly know when you’re available to take meetings, and it does the rest. Send the link to anyone, and they can book time with you on their own through a beautiful interface. Calendly syncs with your calendar and notifies you of new activity. The free level is a great place to start, and you can upgrade for $8 to access the majority of features.
2. Leveling up to a Virtual Assistant
You may find that your needs far exceed what apps can do for you. A part time virtual assistant could be just the ticket.
Virtual assistants are real people who exist anywhere in the world. They can help you out with general administrative tasks, accounting, or even specialize in very niche areas.
You also have the flexibility to purchase time as you need it. Many virtual assistants offer packages of hours – say, $120 for 3 hours straight of follow up emails and social media posting. You can always bring on a virtual assistant for full time work, too.
Justin Cone tells us about this Virtual Assistant, Joe:
Joe and I met while both working at a studio in NYC. We hit it off instantly. Joe volunteered for Motionographer, writing guest articles for our site. I always wanted to pay him and get him on board in a more official capacity. Patreon has made that possible… Since hiring him, though, our interaction has been 100% via Google Hangouts. He lives in Sarasota, Florida; I live in Austin, TX.
– Justine Cone, Motionographer
You may find that a lot of VA’s don’t advertise prices on their websites. That’s normal. They want to talk with you first about budget and scope so they can properly quote you. Reach out to any VA’s you’re interested in working with and let them know what you’re looking for. Don’t be afraid to ask for their professional referrals.
I will say this: a VA who only speaks your language as a second language may be more difficult to work with because of communication barriers. Be mindful of this when searching for your perfect VA, especially if price is a determining factor.
Some places you can find Virtual Assistants include:
- A good old fashioned Pinterest search. Many of the people writing these articles are VA’s.
- Word of mouth. Ask your friends who they use, especially if you’re looking for a niche specialist.
3. Leveling up 2.0 — a Non-virtual Assistant
You may need someone physically present to help you with more of the hands on stuff.
One option would be to bring on an intern. Interns are wonderful, especially when they’re motivated and passionate about the gig. If you don’t mind spending some time training them, an intern can be a great way to take some of the work off your plate. Interview them in person or on Skype (like you would an employee) to ensure they’ll be a good fit.
Example, a touring musician friend of mine, Nicole Nelson, reached out asking if any of her friends knew any interns who could help her out with booking. She brought on another friend of mine. Nicole got help with cold calls, follow-ups, and routing, and her intern got valuable real-world music industry experience she later used to help her land her first job. Win win.
Look for interns at your local and regional colleges. Some schools host intern fairs, or have an online bulletin board to post job openings on. Check out the US Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act to ensure you and your intern both know what’s legally expected out of an unpaid internship.
If you have less time to train or perhaps are looking for someone with more experience, look into your local or regional college career fairs. Recent college graduates have a lot to offer, including education and an eagerness to dive into their careers.
Another way to find great in-person assistant is simply to ask your friends. Who are your peers working with? Who have the worked with in the past? Who did they meet at a convention or networking event that they were really impressed by? Word of mouth is an excellent way to find responsible, hard working people.
In terms of payment, that will be up to you and your new hire. Talk with them to negotiate pay and hours that make sense for the both of you.
Money invested into people power and your quality of life is money well spent for your creative business.
Expanding your team is a huge win as a creator. At Patreon, we celebrate this often, as many of our creators have been able to grow their income enough to hire and run full teams. If you’ve made it this far, please know that we’re celebrating this win with you and can’t wait to hear about your experience.