Is it ever a good idea to hire family for your Etsy shop? It seems like a fantastic option, right? Stick around while we dive into family ties with Dalia from The Handmade Mastermind on this episode of the Jam.
Today we have a special guest with us! Joining us again is Dalia Abdalla from The Handmade Mastermind. We just had an episode with Dalia where we talked about hiring an assistant, and today’s episode goes along those same lines.
Often when a shop owner is looking to hire an assistant, they don’t want to work with someone they haven’t really known for a long time. Someone completely new to them might feel uncomfortable or scary. So they hire family or a friend. Before you do that, however, there are some things you’re probably going to want to consider. Make sure you’re going into hiring family or friends with your eyes open. Dalia is going to help us cover some of those things today!
Are you ready for this answer?
Dalia: First of all, yes, compared to the last episode, people may not be emotionally ready to hire someone that they don’t know. I completely understand wanting to hire family or friends. The first thing I want to mention (and the thing I think has to be mentioned in the beginning) is this: if you can, avoid hiring family or friends at all costs.
And just for context, my husband does work with me, so I didn’t avoid this, and I’ll talk about how this works for us. There’s a saying (and I’m paraphrasing here): “If you want to make enemies quickly, work with friends and family.”
The ‘why’ behind the saying
Dalia: Yes, this depends on the family. But, it’s because (I think) people feel like you owe them. Especially if they’re your friends and family. Let’s just take my sister, for example. She doesn’t work with me, but I feel like if I hired her, she would feel like because she’s my sister, she would get extra time off. Or she would be allowed to dilly dally on her phone while working. There’s this sense of entitlement because they’re your family.
Whether they are consciously thinking this or subconsciously thinking it, I feel like it’s not a good mix and it could be difficult to break through that.
When you hire family, It can make the relationship complicated
Dalia: Also, it could ruin your relationship. It absolutely can do this, and that’s why I say to avoid it at all costs. I think the only time it actually does work (and this is speaking from my experience) is if the person that you’re trying to hire within your family has your best interests at heart. You would think that’s everybody, right? But, not so much.
I would say my mom has my best interests at heart (no, I wouldn’t hire her because she’s not very tech-savvy), but I think that would make sense for her. My husband and I share finances and everything else. So for us, when my business makes money, my husband makes money because it’s all together. This could also make sense if you and your spouse don’t share finances. I’m not speaking for everyone; this is just my experience.
When you hire family for your Etsy shop, it’s personal
Dalia: I feel it could just bring up many issues when you’re working with friends and family. I don’t particularly have any experience working with friends or trying to hire friends. I don’t want to tell my friend what to do. People take things personally.
We’re humans. You know I like to give people a break. You’re here trying to run a business. You hire a friend because you need help, and you’re paying them. But we’re still humans. I’d don’t even know how I would gauge having a friend work for me, to be honest. If you can gauge it great, then go for it, but otherwise, I’ve seen too many sellers hire friends and family, and it did not go very well. They come back to me and say that I was right. And I hate that I’m right because I understand the comfort level of hiring somebody you know.
Temporary hires can be a good trial run
Dalia: I think it also works best (if you’re considering hiring friends and family) to hire them temporarily. I think that’s a little easier than a potentially long-term relationship in business.
How is he working for Dalia?
Dalia: Working with my husband wasn’t easy in the beginning. It was me telling him what to do. This can be a hard thing to navigate in a relationship. I think it’s important that the person you want to hire (your spouse or partner) should not have breadwinner issues.
My husband doesn’t need to be “the man” making the most money in our relationship. Money talks, right? So he’s like this is where the money is, so that’s where I’m going to go. It’s fine, he’ll put in the hard work.
Communication is key if you hire family for your Etsy shop
Dalia: I think the biggest issue when it comes to our friends and family is communication. You heard me mention having to boss them around and setting expectations. They also have to deal with me telling them what to do, all that stuff. It’s a communication issue. How do you navigate being a boss with someone that you never have to be bossy to in general? Because that wouldn’t be a good relationship outside of work. Imagine, I’m just casually hanging out with my friend Lucy and I’m bossy to her, telling her what to do. That’s not what I want our friendship to be.
Learning what works
Dalia: I think what worked for me (and it’s not the only way, it’s just what’s worked for me) is you have to know what motivates them on a personal level as well as what is a big no-no. If it’s your spouse, it might be easier for you to know how to communicate with them. But you also need to be careful with how you’re communicating because you’re comfortable with that person. If you’re directing your spouse and tell them, “That’s wrong! Fix it!” that’s not how you should be talking to anyone. My approach is very similar to talking to people in the workplace who are not related to you.
First, explain the problem. For example, you might say, “I don’t think that spacing is correct,” then you put it on yourself. You could say something like, “You know that’s probably my bad. I should probably take another 5 minutes with you. I don’t think I trained you properly on this,” so you’re putting it on yourself as opposed to putting the blame on that person.
If you hire family for your Etsy shop, don’t take them for granted
Dalia: For me, the way you communicate with feminism is important. That’s the biggest takeaway. And don’t take that person for granted, meaning, compliment them. If the workday ends early because my husband printed quickly and was on point, I’m going to let him know authentically and genuinely that he did an amazing job! It’s important to not take that person for granted over time because you are comfortable with them. This goes for spouse/family and employees you’re not related to as well.
It takes a lot of work and balance if you hire family for your Etsy shop
Dalia: It’s a lot of work to be a boss and do it right. To retain employees, to not fight with your spouse or loved ones, it takes forethought and work on your part.
I’ve said this before, but it’s important to set boundaries with employees where you communicate that you’re not friends with that person (in general), but you need to be friendly towards them. When it comes to someone that you are hiring within your family, it’s a weird balance. They might feel like, “But I’m your spouse, why are you talking to me like this?” You must find this nice balance between being a great boss and being that person’s spouse/family member. And I definitely wasn’t perfect at this in the beginning. It took practice to find the balance.
How is the work/life balance?
So for shop owners and founders, it’s easy for our businesses to always be front of mind no matter what we’re doing. Is there ever tension or friction there because you feel like you should be there for somebody as a friend/spouse, but you’ve got this business thing going on in your head, and you want to talk about it and feel like you can’t? Is your husband cool with that, too, because he’s living and breathing your business as well?
Inside of work vs. outside of work
Dalia: I’ve had so many people talk about that work/life balance where when they’re at work with friends/family, they can talk about work, but outside of work, they don’t talk about work. This is great advice. I don’t think that applies to everyone. For my husband and I, after work is done, we’re bringing the kids to soccer. We’re doing other shenanigans at the end of the workday. Then, dinner is over, and we’re going to bed. We do talk about work, though, because for us it’s so exciting.
But, I don’t think this would work for everyone, just to answer your question. I think the idea of leaving work at work and having a separate space for personal stuff is great. I just personally can’t relate to that because my husband and I are fine to talk about work after work.
Final thoughts before you decide to hire family for your Etsy shop
These are some awesome tips! It’s a good window into things for people who might want to hire family/friends. We think the tip of having friends/family in for a temporary time (maybe right around the holidays/busy season) seems like a very natural thing.
You can dip a toe in and see if the water is nice before you commit to like long-term work relationship. This also provides a natural ending point where you figure something else out for the next year if things don’t go well. Hopefully, you can avoid burning any bridges with family members or making things awkward at the next family Thanksgiving.
If you want to find out more about Dalia, you can obviously go watch The Jam episode we just did about hiring an assistant! We also have several other episodes Dalia has joined us on that you can check out. You can also find Dalia in The Handmade Mastermind Facebook group and at thehandmademastermind.com.
Happy hiring, everyone!
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