How do you know when it’s time to start thinking about hiring an Etsy shop assistant? What does that process even look like? Stick around as we talk with Dalia from The Handmade Mastermind about her advice on assistants in this episode of the Jam.
Today, we have a very special guest with us, Dalia from The Handmade Mastermind! Dalia has been with us before on previous episodes, but it’s been a long time since we’ve gotten to chat with her. We’ve got Dalia’s previous Jams listed at the end of this post, so be sure to check those out!
A great topic
Today, we’ve got a cool topic to talk about with you! This is something that we think a lot of sellers are apprehensive about. We’re going to be talking about working an assistant into your daily routine and the tasks that you need to complete with your shop. How do you navigate that?
It’s tough to give over some of that control. You’re used to doing things the way that you want to do them. You want to make sure they’re done right. You want to make sure you find a person that fits into your business and not have to go through a bunch of different people in the process. How do you start to navigate that when you feel like you’re ready to make that leap?
Are you ready for an Etsy shop assistant?
Dalia starts that more often, people don’t know if they’re ready for an assistant. Some people believe they are. It sounds like a good idea, but she really encourages people to do the math. Write down the tasks you’re going to have your assistant work on.
First, if it’s the right time to hire an assistant, that means you’ve run out of time to work on your business alone. You’re only filling orders. You don’t have time to work on new product launches or SEO. You’re not working on the things that help to grow your business. If you work forty hours a week and thirty-five (or more) of those hours are only used to keep the business moving (filling orders), then you probably know it’s time to hire an assistant. So that’s hint number one.
Money and time
Hint number two is if you can afford it. If you’re only able to fulfill orders, you should have a good amount of revenue coming in, and hopefully, your profit margin is healthy. Having said that, you should be able to afford to be able to hire an assistant.
This person will be filling orders. So, what will you be doing? You have to have the answer to this not just for today but long term. It has to be high-value things. Things that move your business forward. Things that grow your business. New product lines, your own website, SEO, etc. You want strategies that help your business. That’s the first thing you need to make sure you have a plan for.
An Etsy shop assistant is an investment.
Anytime you’re going to hire someone, you need to be mindful of your ROI (return on investment) and be sure that you’re going to earn back what you’re spending plus some. This is an investment. You need to make sure that it’s worthwhile.
What are your highest priorities?
You are always going to have a to-do list of things you have to accomplish. Dalia encourages people to think about everything they need to do and then say, “What are the highest priority items on my to-do list?” These should be things that make you money.
Short term vs. long term tasks
She says she hates to use the word “short-term,” but you need to work on the short-term, money-generating things first. What you don’t want to do is say, “I’m going to hire an assistant. And then, once I’ve hired that person, I’m going to work on Google SEO for my website.” That’s a long-term strategy. You won’t see the fruits of your labor for a very long time (if people know what Google SEO is about). You want to work on things that bring you immediate money.
When Dalia says “immediate” she means over several months. Some of these money generators would be product launches and redoing your Etsy SEO. Things of that sort because then you will be able to sustain yourself. Then you can say, “OK. I’m making even more money. Now I’m able to start working on things that take a little bit longer to see results from.”
How to find candidates to hire your Etsy shop assistant
After you get this settled, you have to find candidates. Personally, Dalia posts on local job Facebook groups, and she also posted on Indeed.com. One time, Dalia posted on Indeed for just a regular assistant job. She didn’t feel like the job she was posting about was that big of a deal. Do you know how many resumes she received?! It was so crazy! Over four hundred resumes in a matter of days!
She ended up finding quite a bit of candidates, but she thinks it’s important to understand what you’re looking for first. What is the bare minimum you need from someone? A lot of times what you’re looking for has to be trained. It’s very unlikely you’re going to find someone who knows everything you’re doing. You have to find someone that is trainable.
What are the basics?
What basic skills do they need? For Dalia, it was computer skills. She uses InDesign, Photoshop, those types of design programs. Customer service was also important to her. She needed to make sure that who she hired knew their way around the basics of these programs. For example, she wouldn’t be able to hire her mom. This just wouldn’t work. Dalia’s mom doesn’t know how to use Facebook properly yet (she says people can probably relate).
Think about your bare minimum of what you need and then say, “OK. The rest of the tasks that this person doesn’t know, can I train them on these things?” Then you’ll know what you need to post in the job posting. Also think about the bare minimum you need for hours, days, all that stuff. You need to have a clear picture of what you need and if someone doesn’t meet this bare minimum need, you don’t interview them.
After you get that done, you don’t meet people in person yet. You have to screen them and Dalia recommends doing this over the phone. Let’s say you narrow it down to twenty candidates. Dalia then prints out their resumes and she calls them on the phone. She then asks the same questions as her job posting.
People tend to apply for many jobs and forget what they applied for or they may not be fully committed to what you outlined in your job posting. So you’re going to ask the questions as if you haven’t asked them already in the job posting.
Here’s how to phrase your questions
So, you’d say something like, “Hey, Richie, what is your schedule availability?” Instead of saying, “Are you available Monday through Friday, eight to four?” You’re not going to ask questions this way. You do not want to lead them. You’re asking them open-ended questions so they can tell you, “I’m available all days except nights.” Whatever else you ask in the job posting you’ll also want to cover. For example, she’ll say she needs someone to be able to use Microsoft Word. Then she’d say, “I’m going to ask you a series of questions about your skills, one to five. Five being super fluent.” Then ask for examples like, “Why do you feel like you’re a five?”
You make them think about their answers and then you’re going to get a little bit of an idea of what it would be like to work with them instead of just getting a yes or no answer. When you’re asking them to rate themselves, this will force someone to pause and think about that for a moment. Remember, you’re going to have interactions with this person on a daily basis. You want to make sure that it’s going to go well.
Taking care of the basics
Remember, this is just a phone call to make sure that you’re only narrowing down candidates that you feel are worth meeting. Other types of situational questions like, how would you handle this situation, etc., can be asked in person. You just have to make sure that you get the basics out of the way first.
Another basic you need to cover are deal-breakers. For Dalia, she needs her employees to sign an NDA and also a non-compete form. If they have a problem with that, she won’t be meeting with them in person. She’s not going to wait until the in-person interview to ask this question. If it’s a deal-breaker, you ask on the phone. If it’s a question that isn’t a hard yes or no for you, that can wait until you interview them in person.
Narrowing it down
So, Dalia had about four hundred resumes come in, and then she had phone conversations with those people. We asked if she remembered how many people she tried to screen that down to before she had phone conversations with them. And then how many people she met in person?
She says she narrowed this pool down to about twenty-five people which doesn’t seem like a lot when you compare it to four-hundred, but it’s still a lot of interviews to do! There were a lot of people that just weren’t the right fit for Dalia, including over-qualified people. She personally believes if someone is overqualified, they’re not going to stay around for long.
After Dalia screens her potential employees, she then meets them in person. She does have quite a few questions to ask them at this point. Dalia encourages people to print out their questions on a piece of paper. She also tries to feel them out personality-wise. Here’s why she does this: as solo entrepreneurs, in general we have a smaller workplace. So, because of this and working so closely with this person you’re hiring, it’s really important that you like the person you’re hiring.
Out for drinks
When Dalia used to work in corporate as a hiring manager, she says they used to ask us, “Would you go out for drinks with this person?” Not that you would actually do this, but if the answer is no, that’s not someone you want to hire. That would not be fun. And while you’re here to run a business and to make money, not to have fun necessarily, this is still your personal business and feelings every single day.
Make sure that when you’re asking the questions and going back and forth, you laugh a little, you ask follow-ups, you joke a little bit. Whatever it is, try and get your personality out there and see if they reciprocate it. This will help alleviate nerves for the person you’re interviewing and will give you a better chance of seeing if you like them.
Gauge the ability of your Etsy shop assistant
When you’re asking questions during the interview, make sure that you think about all the challenges you have as a business owner and what you want this person to work on. See if you can form a question that helps you gauge if they would help fill that gap. How do you gauge if they’re fast-paced? Ask them situational questions about how their environment was in their previous jobs and things of that sort.
Also, use Google. There is a lot of information out there to help you come up with these types of questions, but again, you have to figure out what your challenges are. What do you need from the person in that position?
A few other questions for Dalia
We asked Dalia if technical ability is one of the things that she’s concerned about, whether someone can use Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, the Adobe Suite, does she do any vetting on that? Does she just take them at their word? Does she throw in little projects and see if they can handle it?
Dalia says these are good questions. She doesn’t need them to know how to use programs like Photoshop etc. She needs to know that they know how to use programs in general, because if they know their way around in general, Dalia says she can teach them InDesign and Photoshop. It’s very trainable and Dalia’s systems are the proof. Her husband is proof as well, he was very trainable in the systems she has in place for her business. And she says as long as she knows someone is trainable, she doesn’t need to vet them for these tasks specifically.
Training an Etsy shop assistant
An important thing to be sure of is that you actually know how to train people. Dalia says when she used to work in Macy’s as the sales manager, her HR guy used to tell her that if someone didn’t do well at their job, it’s not that person’s fault, it’s ours. At the time, Dalia didn’t fully understand what he was talking about. Now that she has her own business, however, it makes sense! She has to make sure she trains her employees properly.
Breaking it down
Dalia says to think about how you would train your grandmother or your mother. You would really break it down step-by-step. That might sound annoying, but you can’t assume people know every single step of how your business is run. You have to break it down and make it really clear.
Show them repeatedly how to do something. Then, step away. Let them work on it. Audit them. Dalia shows them, then she has them do that task on their own. This will give you a great sense of what they’re learning and how their work is. At this point, Dalia will correct who she’s training if she needs to, but she keeps auditing everything that they do because she says if she doesn’t, she won’t know where a problem is coming from with a customer.
She’s very involved in the process, which might sound annoying. But it’s a lot of work to bring on someone new and properly train them. It can feel for a while like another full-time job for you, but this still has to be done because ultimately, you want to be able to free up some of your time.
The point of it all
The whole point is to free up your time. This is why it’s such an investment, not just in money, but in time. You can’t just hire an Etsy shop assistant and expect them to just come out of the gates, hands-off, knowing exactly what to do. Chances are they’ll never exactly know what to do on their own.
As the person running your business, you still have to guide everything that happens and when directions change and priorities change, you’ve got to let people know because they won’t know on their own.
Setting expectations for your new Etsy shop assistant
The last thing Dalia wants to talk through is about setting expectations. As business owners, when we’re about to hire someone, it’s possible that many of us have not managed someone before. If this is your first time managing someone, you have to set expectations. This can be very difficult for people to do. It can be hard for business owners to actually be the boss. Dalia says that your employees are not your friends. You can of course be friendly, but they’re not your friends. Setting expectations are really important.
The way Dalia handles this is by telling her employees she’ll be checking in for about ten minutes before the end of the work day every week. So on Friday, ten minutes before the work day ends, she checks in. What checking in is figuring out what they’re doing good at and what they need to work on.
She lets them tell her the answers because she says she needs to know what they are thinking about where they’re at work-wise. By checking in with your employees often, it’s holding them accountable. It also could be that because you’re working from home (or they are working from home) it’s very possible they may not take your business as seriously as you do.
But by setting this expectation of being the boss is a reminder that this is a real job. I’m paying you. Dalia tells them that this is just to make sure that they are successful in their position. Because it doesn’t feel good to work somewhere and not know what you’re doing or how to do it right. To be given the tools to succeed feels amazing and she tells them that. This is why she does a weekly check-in, so they know it’s not just her being annoying. It’s going to help them.
Final thoughts on hiring an Etsy shop assistant
Obviously, this topic probably deserves so much more time. But these pointers can lead sellers in the right direction when hiring someone. If you’re killing yourself, working crazy hours all the time, while trying to take time to train someone, this can be a big struggle. Knowing what those key indicators are and when you should start considering hiring someone and what process to go through is key. We hope these tips are immensely helpful in this area. Ultimately, we want them to help you as you try to figure out what you need to be doing with their own shop and hiring someone.
We want to thank Dalia for joining us and talking about this topic! This is something we haven’t covered before on The Jam and she gave some really good advice for sellers to know where to start with hiring someone. If you want to find out more about Dalia, the best place to start is the Handmade Mastermind Facebook group and at the handmademastermind.com.
Happy selling, everyone!
Dalia’s featured Jam episodes:
Pinterest for Etsy Sellers with Dalia from the Handmade Mastermind
Etsy Jam Episode 25: Dalia from Etsy Seller Mastermind
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