For untold years, you’ve dreamed of running your own business. Now you’re doing it and find you can’t do it alone—you are strong in certain areas but don’t have the talents, or the proper time, to do well in others. You need to hire at least one assistant. Problem is, your business is still getting off the ground. The income is not consistent. Months can be feast or famine.
But you realize that a little help might push your business to break through the famine and be fed consistently, though perhaps not feast just quite yet. In short, an additional employee could help your business grow.
Your dilemma: Do you take a risk? Do you build an assistant into your model to scale your company?
We’ll presume that that’s exactly what you’ll do. So now, having decided to bring someone on while still getting your business bearings, how do you do it and who do you hire?
First, be realistic about what your business needs from this employee and what you can realistically pay him or her. Assess what you are doing well and what you are not. How much and what type of help do you need in the areas where your business requires improvement?
When determining a salary or hourly pay, look at industries similar to yours to assess how you can be competitive
Maybe you can’t pay the person $20 an hour for forty hours a week and you can’t offer health benefits. Can you bring someone on for twenty hours a week at $20 an hour? If you don’t think you can swing that, can you do a total of forty hours over the span of a month? Can the tasks you need performed by an assistant realistically be accomplished in that time and for that pay?
Consider this too: If your business income is inconsistent, your business should have a large savings account to pull from to pay the assistant in lean months. If you don’t have that or a business loan, you will need to think conservatively about how and who you can hire. You may want to consider bringing on a freelancer, someone who can work for a set amount of time for a specific project, perhaps for a flat rate. Freelance rates can vary wildly, so if you can’t pay top dollar or even half of top dollar, visit freelance sites where people may bid on work for your particular industry. You can also put up online ads seeking freelance help.
Whatever you do, keep in mind that you will get what you pay for. So, if you can only afford a college student, you’re likely not going to get the high-quality work a qualified freelancer or long-time professional may be able to provide. In that case, the next question is whether it’s worth bringing on a student. The pro of having them: You’re paying less and you’re getting some help. The con: You may be spending your precious time training a student instead of focusing on your own tasks (in some cases that might work for you, in others it would be counterproductive—the opposite reason for why you wanted to hire someone).
So, in short, if you’re going to hire someone and money is limited:
- Assess the financial situation of your business. What budget can you realistically set aside for an employee/freelancer?
- What tasks do you need an assistant to perform, and realistically, how long should those tasks take?
- Given the needs of your business and your own time constraints, should you be hiring someone with solid experience who may work far fewer hours than a college kid—someone who could provide you more bang for your buck in a shorter time?
- Are you willing to take the necessary time to find the right person to help you? Have you researched appropriate resources and freelancer sites? Are you willing to publish a job ad and conduct an interview? Do you know how to conduct a job interview and know what to look for?
- What areas is your business weak in, and will hiring someone help those areas improve and grow your business?
These questions are just the tip of the careering iceberg. There is much to consider when assessing when, and how, to make a hire. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for this question, as each situation is highly individual.
Bottom line: Don’t necessarily hire the person who comes the cheapest—look at what you’re going to get for your money, whether it will benefit your company, whether it will help you scale your company and build its profitability, and whether it will help you reduce your stress as you navigate to keep your small business afloat.