I’ve chosen to focus the blogs for this New Year on how to deal with prosperity. Last year we looked at how to acquire business, how to market yourself, and how to deal with the frustrations that come with just starting out your business. And believe me, that subject matter will always be relevant. But if you’ve gotten to the point where all of that advice paid off, and now you’re getting more business than you can handle yourself, you might want to think about bringing some additional people on board.
As a graphic artist, hiring someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you need another graphic artist. You may need an administrative assistant that can handle scheduling and your accounting books. You may need a marketing representative that can keep the business rolling in. But more than likely, you’ll probably be leaning toward bringing another artist in to handle some of the design work.
I came to that point in my business, and boy was it a new experience! I’ve never been anyone else’s boss but my own, and I was just getting the hang of that. But the bottom line was the work was pouring in and I needed help. Here are five of the basics on hiring an employee.
1. Check your budget
You can’t have a paid employee if you don’t have any money. When I started this process, I felt like I was between a rock and a hard place. I had work coming in, but my accounts receivables were out of control. I couldn’t very well “hire” another designer and then tell them to do the work and wait for pay; they can freelance on their own! I had to set up a structure where previous projects not only paid for an employee to handle future ones, but my own bills as well.
If you don’t have the money to pay someone, interns are always a good way to go. Being that they need experience more than anything, you could find some very interested candidates that are currently in college or just graduated. Keep in mind that although students are normally very eager to learn and get started in this industry, their skill level is normally lower simply due to their lack of experience. You would also have to factor in the time that it would take you (or them) to critique, correct and revise their work.
2. Be specific in your job posting
Now that you know that you can (or can’t) pay someone to work for you, you want to create a job posting. This requires that you make a job description that explains the specific duties of the new hire. Make sure to include even the smallest of tasks or details from e-mailing new clients and performing consultations to dropping off print deliveries, making edits to existing projects and helping to brainstorm on new ones. Mention if they need their own transportation, Mac computer, access to the Internet, the ability to work on weekends if applicable, pay and length of time that you’ll need their services. Whatever you know this person is going to do for you, WRITE IT DOWN. It helps if you take one week to go through your regular business routine and write down just what it is that you do. When you’ve finished your list, place a check mark next to those duties that can be performed by the employee.
After you receive notification from interested candidates, sift through them and find which ones you like best. For all others that you’re not interested in, make sure to send them an e-mail or letter that says how you appreciate them applying but you’re not interested. There is nothing worse than wondering if you got the job or not!
3. View a portfolio first
The candidates that you’re interested in should be because you’ve seen their portfolio and are impressed. It may be tempting to hire friends or family because they think they have a flair for art. But you need to see the hard evidence. If they can’t produce a good portfolio, then they can’t be considered. If for some reason you’re on the fence about hiring someone due to their portfolio (or lack of one) there is nothing wrong with having them take a performance test. Set up a simple mock project for them to perform, and see how they do. Have them create a unique business card design or sample flyer. If you’re satisfied with the results, put them in the “hire” pile. If not, send them that oh-so-important regret letter.
4. Make sure they sign a contract
The business of art can be a tricky one simply because we’re dealing with the business of ideas and intellectual property. You don’t want to hire someone who will leave the office at the end of the day and try to use your business ideas and your artwork for their own personal benefit. You also don’t want them going after your clients or replicating your future endeavors, so make sure that you protect yourself.
Draw up a contract that states that the artwork and the ideas that are produced by your company are your property and are not to be shared. If you find that the employee is doing this without your permission, you have the right to take action against them. There is a lot of great information about graphic design contracts on About.com.
5. Screen over the phone and meet in person, if possible
We are so used to e-mails and Internet chats to sustain relationships, but nothing beats the telephone or face-to-face meeting. When you’re doing business with someone, it helps to put a voice or face to your dealings, if possible. You want to make sure, especially if they are going to be doing consultations and meeting clients on behalf of your company that they are well groomed, professional and their speaking voice and phone manner are inviting. Test out their people skills and how they answer questions. An interview is always best, so that you can get the first glimpse on how your working relationship will start off.