All small businesses begin – well – small really. Even the instantly recognizable household names we all know and love started in a basement as a one-man-band or a dynamic duo. There comes a time, however, when a founder wants to reach new heights and flying solo just won’t cut it.
When I became a professional photographer back in 2011, I was a solo entrepreneur wearing every hat required to run my business. Today, that juggling act is a distant memory and I’m a firm believer in outsourcing various aspects of my operation to other skilled professionals. Once I began expanding my entourage I quickly learned that delegation created exponential growth, but perhaps more significant was the realization that subcontracting certain duties formed a family-like community that has proven to be valuable when I least expected it.
Widening your workforce
As your business grows, so does your to-do list. Thankfully, there are numerous roles that a photographer can outsource to help relieve some of the consequential demand as a result of business growth.
Do you ever find yourself wishing you could be in two places at once? We all know how hard it is to turn down the perfect inquiry that just so happens to fall on the same day as your biggest booking to date. Bringing on an associate to capture secondary gatherings is a game changer for many wedding and event photographers and is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to grow. As well as expanding your team, an associate can also double the number of annual events your business can capture and help spread the word about your success; did I already mention this was a game changer?
If you’re not quite ready to commit to an associate photographer, a second shooter is the perfect way to dip your toe in the water. Capturing an event alongside another skilled professional offers an opportunity to see how someone else works, not to mention it diversifies your client’s gallery as a result of new angles and improved coverage. In addition, a second shooter could be the difference between booking your typical event and the type of occasion you’ve longed to capture since you started making money as a photographer!
Our work capturing others doesn’t end in the field. In fact, most artists will tell you that much of their time is spent managing the day to day operation of their business, including client correspondence, editing, education, and maintaining a web presence. Employ a helping hand in the office with a studio manager or an office assistant to contribute to some of these less glamorous tasks. Uncomfortable sharing your space with another person, or perhaps you work from home and your hours aren’t set? Help comes in many forms and today there is no shortage of virtual assistance for small business owners like you and I. From editors to copywriters and everything in between, the flexibility these individuals offer is ideal and the work they take on is nearly always the items on your list that you dislike doing.
This all sounds great, but how do I know when I’m ready to commit? It’s straightforward really. Simply ask yourself if you’re at capacity.
The most obvious answer lies in the responsibilities we repeatedly avoid, the undertakings we don’t enjoy, and truthfully, the tasks that we’re simply not good at. It seems so obvious, yet many of us have a difficult time admitting when we can’t take on anymore or accomplish everything to the best of our ability.
Beyond this obvious observation, other tell-tale signs include feeling overwhelmed and overworked. Small business ownership is not for the faint hearted and we’re all undeniably guilty of struggling to set boundaries. One of my own personal realizations was when I repeatedly found myself sitting at the computer after dark. At first I believed there simply wasn’t enough hours in the day but I came to eventually understand that there was in fact ample time, I was just trying to fill every last second with all aspects of managing my own business.
From a more positive angle, consider whether it would be possible to pay yourself and someone else to assist you with your workload? If that may be the case, it’s time to commit!
I’m so ready to do this… but where do I begin?
First things first, congratulations! You’ve made a huge decision that will alter your business and your life. Now that you’re ready to begin growing your team, it’s time to clearly define what you’re looking for. Doing so will not only help you figure out the future in your own head, but also assist you in finding the right fit for the role.
Determine what you need
Start with writing down exactly what you’re looking for in an individual to assist you with a particular task, for example, what skills should they possess to accomplish the assignment successfully. In addition, consider what their responsibilities are going to be, as well as how much he or she will be paid. Perhaps most crucial of all when employing someone to work for you, think about what personality traits would create harmony in your workspace or what type of person you would like to work with on a regular basis. Afterall, you want this relationship to work, right?
Consider your current circle
Once you’ve decided all of the above, it’s time to think about how you’re going to find the ideal candidate, which may seem a little daunting. Start by reviewing your current circle. Who do you already know and trust that could fill the role? Reach out to your peers to find out if they’re aware of anyone that might be interested, or inquire about who they work with themselves when it comes to responsibilities outside of their wheelhouse.
Open the door to applicants
Still searching? Then it’s time to open the door! Share a post on social media with a detailed description that covers all of the attributes you defined. If you have an email list, send out a newsletter that explains you’re hiring and include exactly what you’re looking for. No matter how you choose to reach people, be sure to include a clear method of how to respond. This could be a link to an inquiry form for completion, an email address and a request for resumes, or a personal telephone number so applicants know how to contact you. Either way, make it easy to encourage potential candidates to show their interest.
Bringing the perfect person on board
You’ve sifted through resumes, chatted with countless contenders, and finally narrowed down your search for the perfect person. Before you rush into drawing up contracts or giving them their workload, however, schedule a time to meet either virtually or in-person to begin the interview process.
Start with a simple coffee chat to get to know one another, you’d be surprised the difference it makes in discovering whether you’re compatible with someone! Once you’ve established the interviewee is suitable, schedule a more formal meeting in your workspace to dig into their experience and qualifications. Still hesitant to pull the trigger? One last get together for good measure is a great way to be certain of your decision, as well as setting a foundation for respect and demonstrating you want your new hire to take the job seriously!
When you’ve officially decided to bring someone on board, the first thing to do is send them an offer letter. Following confirmation of receipt and acceptance of the position, a W9 form should be completed. If he or she is not being brought on as an employee, they will also need to complete an Independent Contractor Agreement.
A warm welcome to the team
It’s easy to assume that the hard work is done at this stage, however, the onboarding process is just as important as defining the role you’re recruiting for and finding the perfect candidate.
Training a new hire should include both foundational and technical tuition. Consider foundational education the who, what, when, where, and why of your business. Show your new assistant all of your equipment and software as well as informing them of your core values and company purpose. If you have a brand guide, it would be beneficial for you to review this together.
Technical tuition covers training them in whatever they will be doing for you. At Magdalena Studios we begin with pairing up our new associates and existing employees so that the recent recruits can shadow someone with more experience. Even if this is your first time bringing someone on board, start with smaller projects to build trust and confidence in one another.
From the get-go, it’s important to clearly assign jobs and to delegate responsibilities to your new team member. It can often be hard to let go of things at first, but it’s imperative to remind yourself why you brought someone on in the first place, not to mention that clear delegation is the best way to encourage an individual to grow into the role you hired them for. For some positions, you may want to send per-project contracts that set clear expectations and responsibilities, for example, our associate photographers are asked to complete a one-page sign off for each wedding day they are taking on.
Continuing to build a healthy relationship
Success for you and your new colleague doesn’t end when he or she has fulfilled the role they were hired for. It’s important for the future of your business and for your co-worker’s growth and development to maintain working together and building a healthy relationship. Be sure to check in with your recruit regularly and schedule quarterly feedback and reviews so that staying in-tune with their progress doesn’t become an afterthought.
For a fun way to continue getting to know one another outside of your work space, plan team get-togethers. Better still, look for opportunities that inspire continued education for everyone involved or give back to your community. Keep morale high on a regular basis with ongoing evaluation and encouragement and if things appear to take a different course at any point, don’t be frightened to ask for your own feedback. If you do request someone’s opinion, be open to listening and changing if something isn’t quite right. Yearly agreements help to refresh everyone’s memories about company policies and procedures and also provide a gateway to share any updates. We do ours every January when everyone is pumped about the year ahead.
Finally, as creative entrepreneurs, it’s in our nature to seek personal and professional growth. Apply that same curiosity to studying leadership (there are numerous resources out there!) as you continue to grow your own team!