Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help: Hiring an Intern

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Now that the summer show season is in full swing, how are you are holding up to the demands of running and growing your creative business?

Between creating inventory, traveling, setting up your display and then turning around to do it all over again every weekend while trying to keep the business and personal ends of your life above water is tough for even the most seasoned crafter.

So, what can you do to ease the pressure?

Handmade Success reader, Lauren left a comment on my last post asking, “Has anyone had any experience hiring or gaining an intern to help with show season? Any words of wisdom?”

With all of the legalities aside (for those details, please consult your CPA or attorney) bringing in someone to help you with your business can be challenging since it does require a good deal of trust and letting go of a certain amount of control – but in the end, it is usually worth the effort.

But how do you know when you’re ready to hire an assistant or intern? One way to know for sure is to ask yourself the following questions:

  •     Is your work load consistently overwhelming you?
  •     Do you feel burnout approaching (or perhaps you’re already there)?
  •     Have you run out of favors you can ask of your friends and family?
  •     Do you find yourself fantasizing about what it would be like to have someone help you?
  •     Are you having trouble finding time to both produce your work and grow your business?
  •     Are you researching articles online (like this one) to help you decide if bringing in help is right for you?
  •     Are you willing to give up a certain amount of control to teach someone how to help you?
  •     Can you think of at least two tasks that an untrained intern would be able to help you with right now?

If you answered YES to most of the above questions (especially the last two!) then you just might be ready to start looking for an intern.  Check out your local art schools and communitycolleges for leads on great interns. Post an ad on Craigslist and interview qualified replies. Display a sign in your booth that announces your need for help.  Ask your friends and community members if they know of anyone who is looking to learn what you know.  Most importantly, take your time to find the right person to help you and you’ll save yourself a lot of time in the end.

Tips for setting up your intern for success:

  1. Decide your goals for the internship
    Do you just need to get through the season? Are you trying to grow your business? Would you like to get to the point where you can pay your intern a wage (or not)?
  2. Decide what you absolutely must handle on your own and what you could easily delegate
    Perhaps you’ll need to stay hands-on with the detail work but would be happy to train an intern how to take care of the prep work. Maybe you just need someone to input data and organize your files. Whatever it is, be clear and open about your needs and write them down for both of you to refer to throughout the internship.
  3. Decide ahead of time if any sort of payment or non-monetary compensation will be offered
    Will you buy them occasional lunches? Offer them specific training to help them further their career? Allow them to use your studio resources for their own projects? Think of all the ways you can help your intern while they are working with you.
  4. Be prepared to formally interview as many candidates as possible before you hire anyone
    As perfect as that first candidate may seem, be sure to interview as many prospects as possible to avoid having to go through the hiring process over and over again. Ask specific questions about their goals and reasons for seeking an internship with you. Make sure they understand your needs as well.
  5. Set a beginning and end date for your internship from day one
    How long will you require their help? Once a week for a month? Two months? More? Be specific and create an actual schedule. Decide how you will handle cancellations or no-shows ahead of time so there are no surprises later.
  6. Decide how many hours of work you can realistically provide
    This can be anywhere from a few hours a month to a full work schedule. Keep in mind that unpaid interns will require flexibility in their schedules to accommodate their own work /school responsibilities and may not be as motivated to work as hard as a paid employee might be.
  7. Plan your work days appropriately to facilitate reaching your mutual goals
    Understand that an intern will most likely require a good deal of training. Build that time into your schedule to ensure that it does not cut too deeply into your production time.
  8. Have regular meetings with your intern to evaluate their progress and determine whether both of your needs are being met
    Keep in mind that sometimes it just isn’t a good fit for one or both parties. Do your best to be patient, but if things aren’t working out, it’s best to be honest and let them know as soon as you figure it out.

Over the last 20 years I’ve had about 15 people help me in my jewelry studio through my mentorship program where interns help me get my work done and in return, I work with them for a couple of hours a week to help them figure out how to start their own businesses.  Their help has been instrumental in the growth of my business and I’ve enjoyed working with all of them. The best part? I am still great friends with many of my former helpers and I still love my job. Win!

This article was originally published by Handmade Success. Reprinted with permission.
Handmade Success is a daily marketing blog that helps creative business owners find success online. Sign up for their newsletter to get lots of juicy tips and helpful strategies delivered right to your inbox.

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