When to Hire Help for Your Art Business

By Aletta de Wal in Art Business Advice > A-Z Art Marketing Guide

Welcome back to “The ABC’s of Art Marketing”—an alphabet guide to marketing your art, from A to Z.

In today’s article, I’ll be focusing on the letter “H” to explain how and when you should hire help for your art marketing activities, in order to get back some of that very important studio time.

If you’re at the beginning of your art career, then (like most artists) you probably do all of the work yourself: making art, handling administration, and marketing. There’s usually not a lot of income for emerging artists, so this makes sense. You learn how to become an artists-entrepreneur from the ground up and grow at a pace that suits your time, money and energy.

By mid-career, as you make progress in your art business, you’ll start to seriously strain the limits of what you can do by yourself. There are only so many shows you can do while wearing all the hats. . . so if you’re not making the income you want, because you simply DON’T have enough time to make more art, then you should look at hiring someone to help.

Why consider hiring help?

One of my cardinal rules for artists is that, first and foremost, they must master their unique abilities, the things that only they can do: create art, manage their career path and build relationships. Everything else—especially routine tasks—can be done by someone else.

Not convinced?

Consider the “opportunity cost” of doing it all yourself—or in non-business terms, “What are you giving up, by choosing to do it all yourself?”

If you can hire someone to handle the non-unique tasks that take up your time, you’ll free up hours and energy that you can put into creating more art, making smarter business decisions and meeting people who can further your career.

Let’s put a dollar value on it.

Say you hire someone at an average of $20 per hour for 10 hours—that’s a $200 investment. You’d only have to sell $200 worth of art to cover that cost, and there are probably many other non-financial benefits you’d receive, like enjoyment and well-being.

In other words, it’s WORTH it to hire someone, if you’re at the right point in your career.

What can you hire others to do?

You can delegate things you don’t like, or don’t want to do. You can also delegate things you simply don’t know how to do, which would take too much time to learn and keep you from your three unique abilities—creating art, managing your career path and building relationships.

In my case, bookkeeping, accounting and taxes are my least favorite activities. I also find the tax code complex and confusing and I don’t want to run afoul of the IRS. So besides not liking these financial tasks, I don’t know enough about them to warrant the risk involved in doing them myself.

I speak several languages but I do not speak or write HTML, nor do I want to spend time learning how. Long ago, I decided that I had no interest in becoming a web geek and hired an amazing person who tales care of all that for me. She makes my newsletters as well as my blog and website look good, so they attract clients all on their own, and that frees me up to do what I love (which also brings in more income.)

Simply put, at some point in your career you will earn more money making art than you can SAVE by doing all those extra tasks yourself. And that’s when you need to hire help!

A sculptor I work with was at that point recently, so we took a look at how she could free up time while still keeping her hands on the steering wheel of her art career:

“I was making slow progress but I wanted to move more confidently and faster. I hired a business administrator to take some of the administrative work away and implement the marketing strategy. Now I can focus on the art, relationships and having the conversations Aletta describes as the core of art marketing.

I’ve been able to hire someone competent who has been able to implement my marketing strategy with new print and online promotional tools and has lifted the burden of the whole business and financial side. I am ramping up the exhibition strategy with her help and will be at the Loveland Invitational Exhibition in August.”Karen Schmidt

You can also get help in the studio with tasks like stretching canvas, preparing clay, framing work or building pedestals, to name just a few other examples of work that someone else could do for you. Taking those tasks out of your schedule frees up time for marketing, creating, etc—whatever it is that YOU want to do, and do best!

When are you ready to hire?

You are ready to hire when:

• There’s more demand for your art than you can fulfill while running your business, too

• You are ready to share your studio, the work and the credit

• You have the time to create a job description and go through the hiring process

• You are willing to train and supervise others

• You can pay for the support

What steps are necessary in the hiring process?

You’re still in charge of your art business, so hiring help is not just a matter of finding a warm body. Here’s a quick start guide that you should reference whenever you’re planning on hiring help:

1. Make a list of jobs you don’t like, don’t want to do, don’t know how to do, or simply take up too much time and keep you from your three unique abilities.

2. Divide that list of tasks into three parts: studio support, business administration and marketing support.

3. Write a detailed description of how to do the task to your standards.

4. Do some research to find out the going pay rate for those tasks.

5. Describe the ideal person for the work you want help with. (You might need more than one person if you want studio support, business administration and marketing support, and each of these might call for different pay rates.)

6. Create a “work-for-hire” contract and have your attorney look it over.

7. Ask you accountant about any paperwork required to avoid running into any IRS issues about contract workers vs. employees.

8. Write a brief description of the ideal candidate(s) that you can say in a few minutes and post in print and online.

9. Reach out to all of your networks and let them know you want to hire someone – the best person for the job might be someone you already know. Check your local high schools, colleges and arts organizations.

10. If you need to reach out further, use social media, your web site and classified ads.

11. Request a resumé and references and let candidates know how and when you’ll get back to them.

12. Check all references and do a web search for their name—especially if they will be working in your home or studio. If they will be entrusted with confidential and financial information, make sure that they are “ethics checked or certified.”

13. Do telephone and/or web interviews to narrow the field to three people. If they will be working for you at home, interview them in person. (Otherwise do another web interview to make your final decision.)

14. Make a hiring decision, and confirm the hire in writing along with the job description and contract that includes a clause about a probationary period where each of you can decide if this is a good fit.

You will also be creating employment—so there for all those people who talk about starving artists!

And speaking of that, please make sure to pay the person you hire. You wouldn’t want to perpetuate the stereotype. (If you choose to barter, be clear about fair exchange of value and make sure to follow the IRS guidelines so you don’t create a problem for either of you.)

There are many steps, but if you hire well, you will reap the benefits. And if you need a hand with your art career, please let me know. I’d love to help.

Follow the links below to read more articles in “The ABC’s of Art Marketing”—an alphabet guide to marketing your art, from A to Z:

A – Appreciating your Audience

B – Building your Business Base

C – Communicating Clearly, Consistently and Cleverly

D – Diversifying Your Delivery

E – Educate, Entertain, Engage, Enrich, and Evolve

F – Fostering Friendly Familiarity

G – Give to Gain

H – Hiring Help (current article)

I – The 5 “I’s” of Art Marketing

J – Joining Juried Shows

K – Creating Good Karma

L – Listening and Learning

M – Mastering your Marketing Messages

N – Negotiating 101

O – Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

P – Procrastination & Perfection

Q – Quality & Quantity: Creating Art that Sells

R – 8 Rules to Improve Your Artist/Collector Relationships

S – S is for Sales

T – 30 Ways to Say “Thank You”

U – Switching from “I” to “Us”

V – Volunteering in the Art World

W – Write, Write, Write!

Y – Just Say Yes

Z – Zen, Zoom, ZigZag & Zowie


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