Creative entrepreneurs play many roles and wear many hats.
So it’s inevitable that at some point, you might consider lessening your load and delegating tasks by bringing on the help of an assistant.
Whether hiring an assistant is in your near or distant future, you probably have a lot of questions.
- When is the best time to bring on an assistant?
- How do I find the right person?
- How much do I pay them?
- What are some best practices for training them?
- How do I maintain a good working relationship?
To be honest, this is a topic I'm still exploring, but I have a lot to share from my experiences of hiring 2 part-time assistants in the past 2 years.
Episode 5 Livestream Replay
Episode 5 Podcast
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Lauren Hooker: Hello, everyone and welcome to this week’s Ellechat on hiring an assistant for your business. This is a topic that I’m still exploring, to be honest, but I have a lot to share since taking on my first assistant about a year and a half ago, and now I have two great assistants. I’ll tell you about them more in a moment and how I was able to bring them on.
As I was reviewing this content and preparing these slides, I kind of realized that I still have a lot to learn when it comes to hiring. Just like a lot of other things in business, you're always learning. There are always things that you wish you had done differently, still could do differently, still are improving, so that’s where I feel like I’m at. I’m going to share everything that I found helpful, things that I wish I had done differently, things that I, thank goodness, did correctly from the get-go, there aren’t as many of those as what I learned to do differently, but I hope that this content is helpful for you and where you're at in your business.
Why hire help?
This might be a little self-explanatory but why hire help in the first place? The first thing that most of you are probably dealing with in your business right now is not enough time and manpower. There are so many tasks on your plate. You feel like there aren’t enough hours to get them all done and get them all done well, and that’s common especially when you're running your business on your own. You know that if you're able to hire an assistant, you could get more done. You could have more manpower and hopefully get more clients and work with more clients or customers.
Hiring help is also helpful for diverse gifts and abilities. You're very limited into what you can do and what you can do well. I've seen that, so hiring help has been so huge for me because my assistants have different gifts than what I have. Thank goodness. Hiring assistants can be helpful for that as well. The ability to focus on really important tasks … I still find myself doing tasks that I’m thinking I could be spending my time on something so much more helpful for my business but I have to do these monotonous tasks. I need to pass those off to assistants so I can spend my time on what’s most important.
Another reason is the potential for greater revenue. Perhaps that’s the most important reason. You might be at a place near business where you know that you could bring on more clients, you know that you could sell more product if only you had more help. Another thing that I wasn’t expecting when I hired assistants but something really positive that’s come out of it is having greater accountability in my business. Having assistants who are able to see what I’m working on and who are super productive and motivated themselves pushes me to be more productive and get more done as well, so it helps to have someone looking over your shoulder even when it’s your assistants, especially when it’s your assistants.
I love this quote and I think it gets to the heart of hiring help to you. “No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.” You are limited in your time and your abilities, so growing your team is one of the best things that you can do for your business. You can’t do it all yourself so it’s good to know your limits and to account for them through hiring assistants.
When is the best time to bring on help?
I know for my business, I wish that I had done it a lot sooner. I waited until I was in way over my head and then decided to hire assistants.
You may be at a point where you feel like you're reaching that point where you want to hire assistants but it’s kind of like making the leap to full time. There’s no necessarily right time but there are questions that you can ask yourself and tips that you can follow for making that transition a lot smoother. It’s always going to be a leap and it might feel out of your comfort zone but sometimes, you're better than others. In my experience, like I said a moment ago, I wish that I would have hired help sooner. I waited until I was working well over 12-hour days, sometimes six or seven days a week and I didn't account for the time that it would take to onboard new employees or learning curve of managing a team and being a boss.
I thought I would hire help, they would start helping me right away and everything would be smooth sailing from there. I didn't think about the time it would take to train them in how to set up a blog post and how to do all of the tasks that I would be delegating to them. I also didn't realize that I needed some training. It wasn’t just my assistant, it was also me, for learning how to be a good boss because I was used to being my own boss and accounting for myself and my own time. I was very good at being a boss to myself but not very good at being a boss to someone else. That was something that I hadn’t considered.
I have a lot of quotes on this one but I found these to be so helpful. Jessica Jackley said, “As all entrepreneurs know, you live and die by your ability to prioritize. You must focus on the most important mission critical tasks each day and night and then share, delegate, delay or skip the rest.” I was at a point in my business, and maybe you feel this way too, that I was spending so much time on tasks that anyone could do or that could be done better than someone like me or by someone who wasn’t like me. I found that I was spending my time on e-mails and setting up content and setting up Asana and all of these tasks that could be done by someone else instead of creating and sort of working with clients instead of creating that content. I found that I was probably spending 70% of the time on tasks that could be done by an assistant and 30% of time on tasks that were actually making me money. You might be at that point too.
There are a couple of critical questions to ask right now. Am I unable to take on more clients or fill more orders because I don't have enough manpower? Do you feel like you're at a place in your business where you could be able to take on more clients if you didn't have to do so many administrative tasks or that you could be able to take on more orders and fill more orders if you had more manpower to do so? If so, you might be very close to needing to bring on an assistant. Extra money that you would make and extra revenue that you would make from those extra clients and customers could easily cover the cost of hiring an assistant. It just takes making that leap.
Another critical question to ask, am I spending more time on tasks that don't require my touch than tasks that do like I said a moment ago? Are you spending time on things that don't require your gifts and abilities that anyone could do? If so, it might be time to hire an assistant so you can get back to doing the tasks that only you can do. Don't wait like I did until you're in over your head. You can start planning by doing a couple things the first is setting a goal. I always find it helpful to set a goal to work toward whether it's time-based, revenue-based, client-based.
When do you hope to bring on an assistant? What would allow you to do that? Do you want to bring on an assistant six months from now? You need to start planning that today. Do you want to bring on an assistant when you start making a certain amount of money? Go ahead and set that amount of money so that you can start working toward this goal but also keep in mind that you'll be able to bring in more revenue if you hire assistants because you'll be spending your time hopefully on the tasks that will bring in that revenue. Do you want to make sure that you have a certain number of clients before you hire an assistant? Whatever that looks like set that goal now so that you can start working toward it. I wish that I had done that when I first started my business.
Also, meet with an accountant. I can't tell you how much money you need to be bringing in. I don't know what that looks like for you and your business but I do know that delegating my bookkeeping and accounting work to other people gave me so much peace of mind in my business. It allowed me to really know the numbers instead of just trying to make it work and guessing. Meet with your accountant, sit down, crunch the numbers, they can help you prepare for bringing on assistants and figuring out how much to pay them and all that sort of stuff. You'll have so much more peace of mind if you hire an accountant to do that if you don't already have one.
Consider a recurring revenue to cover the cost. My Elle & Company Library is a source of easy recurring revenue for my business and it totally covers the cost of my assistants. If you're worried about the cost of hiring an assistant, try to get creative and think of something that isn't going to take much of your time and effort, maybe even something that an assistant could help with and kind of run that's passive income, that's recurring passive income so that you can cover the cost of your employees. The Elle & Company Library has been a great way to do that and a great way to continue to pay my two assistants month after month.
I also start tracking your time. I use a time tracker called Toggl. It's great because I can set categories for all the tasks in my business whether I'm answering e-mails, working on client work, writing a blog post, writing a newsletter, preparing for these Ellechats, I have categories for each one of those. Then, I try to track my time every week. I set a timer when I start working on a new task and then I can look at the end of the week or the end of the month and see what's eating up a ton of time. If you start to do that and I encourage you to do so and you see that a lot of your time is being spent on administrative work, on things that could be done by an assistant, that's a good indicator that you need to hire an assistant and make that work. Tracking your time is a great way, a great thing that you can start doing right now to start planning for an assistant.
Also, make a list of tasks that can be delegated. I remember when I started thinking through bringing on an assistant, the thought of it was great but when I sat down and thought what tasks could I actually delegate, it was a little bit harder if I tried to sit down and think of I'll make a list of all the tasks all at once so I kept a running list. If I was working on something and I thought, “I don't have to do this. I could pass this off to an assistant,” I wrote it down. That way, when I was ready and I brought on an assistant, I had all of the tasks that I was ready to give them and I had an idea of all the tasks that I would need help with. You can start planning today, even if you don't plan on hiring an assistant within the next year even. It's good to have on your radar so that you can start working toward that goal.
How do you find the right person?
Maybe you're at a place where you are ready to hire someone soon or you just want to keep this in the back of your mind when you are ready to hire someone but how do you find that right person? Another quote by David Ogilvy, he says, “Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for their remarkable, who will not settle for their routine.” It's hard to find those kinds of people so where do you find the people who are better than you are, who aim for the remarkable and who will not settle for their routine?
Also, I heard this wisdom. I don't even know where I heard it but I heard it years ago from someone I really respected. I wish I could remember but they said, “Try to find someone who's followed your business from the start,” which is easier said than done, “And try to find someone who loves your business almost as much as you do.” That's really hard too. Those are your goals. Those are like the ideal when you're hiring. Can you always find someone who's followed along with you from the start and loves your business as much as you do? No. Truly no one's going to love your business as much as you do. It's kind of like your child. You're the one pouring all the time and energy into it but I'm grateful both of my assistants kind of fall in that realm.
I found my first assistant Jenny, actually she's my best friend. She followed Elle & Company from the start. She followed along when I was just freelancing and doing wedding invitations. She was probably one of my biggest supporters all the way through and was really excited to see what I was working on. A lot of people will advise you not to hire family or friends but I found that I could really trust Jenny. I could trust her with any part of my business. I knew that she'd been following along and had been familiar with it. Familiarity is huge.
After I hired Jenny about a year and a half ago, in January 2016, and around that same time right after I hired Jenny, this really sweet girl named Marisa reached out to me, said she's been following along with Elle & Company for years and asked if I needed some help like a VA or an assistant. I told her I just hired someone but I would love to keep her in mind. She sent me her resume. It checked out, looked great, and I'll talk about that in a second. I always kept her in the back of my mind.
Six months later, I was about to reach out to her, had the e-mail typed up, wanted my husband to take a look at it first before I acted on it and wouldn't you know, I kid you not, while I was waiting, Marisa sent me an e-mail again and said, “I wanted to reach back out. I know you just launched Freelance Academy. I know that you could probably use some help.” It was perfect timing.
All that to be said, Marisa and Jenny both know my business well and love my business and hopefully love what they do. They tell me they do. That is so helpful when you're hiring to try to find people like that. How do you find them? Where do you find them? Some qualifications I looked for before I get to that. I wanted to look for people who had knowledge of the industry. Not just any virtual assistant out there who could write e-mails and do that for anybody but I wanted them to know the creative industry because it's very different. It's a kind of its own little world. I wanted to make sure they were familiar with exactly what I did already. That's hard to trade.
I also wanted to make sure that they are organized and very systems-oriented. For me, being able to trust assistants is huge. For you, it probably will be too. I wanted to know that they were well-organized because I like to think that I am and systems-oriented so we could keep that going and just get on a roll with tasks. I also wanted to make sure they were quick learners, that they were self-motivated and self-starters, especially because they'd be working remotely. One of my assistants, Jenny, is in Virginia and Marisa is in Alabama. They work part-time for me after their normal 9-5 jobs so it was really important for me to know that they were self-starters and could stay on task and get stuff done even if I wasn't right there with them.
Another thing for me, I want to enjoy spending time with the people I'm working with. I think I heard, it was actually my husband's boss said this to him. If we're not having fun, we need to re-evaluate. Not that every task that you're doing will be fun but you should enjoy the people you're spending time with. You might have conflicts here and there, misunderstandings, but for me, it was key that they were enjoyable. Like I said, I'm going to go trustworthy. Those were some of the qualifications I looked for.
If you're trying to seek out help and you have nobody on the radar screen to bring on as an assistant, I encourage you first to consider your long-term goals. Is this someone that you just want to bring on right now, maybe for the next year? Is this someone that you want to bring on for the next five years? Are you wanting to hire them part-time for right now and eventually move them to full-time? What's your goal here in hiring an assistant and what are your long-term goals for your assistants? Then, list out the qualifications. Just like I shared mine a moment ago, what's the most important to me when I'm looking for assistants is that their education, their experience, their character, what are you looking for in an ideal candidate as your assistant?
Then, write out the job description. Figure out exactly what you want them to be doing so that when you're looking for someone, you can see if they're capable of doing that. Think about the duties and capabilities, duties that they'll be doing and the capabilities that they need in order to do the job well. Then, reach out to your current audience. See if there are people who have been following along with you or familiar with your business, familiar with your industry. I would say as a last resort, look outside of your industry for assistants but start with your audience and the people who are currently following along with you.
Then, if you don't see anybody turn up there, reach out to industry peers. When Marisa reached out to me right after I hired Jenny and I told her that I couldn't hire her right then, I already knew someone, another designer, Kadie Smith from Drop Cap Design, she was looking for an assistant, reached out to me and I pointed her to Marisa so I was able to make that connection. Reach out to industry peers. They might know of someone who would be a good fit for you.
Then, if you still don’t come across anything, reach out to forums like Facebook groups in your industry. You might find people there as well but try to look within your current sphere before looking outside of it and try with your audience first, industry peer second and then industry-related Facebook groups. I'm sure you'll at least get a referral or something from one of those outlets. After you start receiving resumes, maybe you're connected with a few different people and you're trying to decide who might be the best fit, prepare a thorough interview based on your ideal qualifications. Look back through that qualifications list. You don't have to say, “How are you with time management,” but ask questions that get to the heart of that question or get to the heart of that qualification. Sit down and put some time into your interview questions. You don't have to grill people. You can still be friendly and personable but put some time into that.
Check references and check social media accounts too. Ask them for references from other people, other employers, other peers and then social media accounts too. You can get to know someone fairly well by looking at their social media accounts. You can also, and this is really important, write up a contract with your assistants, whether you have a lawyer. As I was reading up on this for contracts for employees, you can also reference your small business association. I know if you're in the States, each state has a small business association. My cat is on my laptop and she is deleting slides. That's great.
Let's go back here. Sorry, guys. Here we go. Write up a contract. Like I said, reference your small business association. They usually have resources on each. Like if you go … If I went to the South Carolina Small Business Association, they have resources for things like this. Be sure you write up that contract and outline your expectations and roles and all of that.
How much should I pay them?
Paying can be really tricky. My experience, as I think about my long-term goals for my assistants, my hope is to be able to bring them on in a full-time capacity. I want them to stick with me, I want them to enjoy their work and I want them to know that I value them. A lot of that starts out with paying a reasonable amount for their work and making it worth their while.
If I pay them the bare minimum, that might work out well for me but it doesn't for them… I want them to enjoy their job and feel like it's worth their while. I started out far above minimum wage. I wanted them to feel valued, I wanted them to feel like their work mattered and I wanted them to stick with me for a while. I don't want to have to go from assistant to assistant. I knew that if I hired someone, I wanted to pay them well. For me, it's totally worth it. They go above and beyond, both of my assistants do. They are both extremely motivated and keep me on my toes. For me, it's well worth it.
I would encourage you, there are a few dos and a few things to avoid. Do meet with your accountant when you're figuring out how much to pay your assistants? Don't just wing it, pull a number out of thin air. Crunch the numbers. It may not be fun but it's necessary. Come up with a payroll system. Figure out how you're going to pay your employees. Your accountant might set that up for you. Be sure, first and foremost, I know people who are paying employees and don't even give themselves a paycheck. Don't do that. Make sure that you're paying yourself regularly first. If you're not, meet with that accountant, get that set up and then figure out when you might be able to bring someone on, how much you can pay them, how you're going to work out payroll and all that stuff.
Think about hourly rate versus a flat rate. I pay hourly for each one of my assistants. I have them keep track of their hours which I'll tell you about in just a second but try to avoid, like I said, winging it and just pulling a number out of thin air and then trying to make it work. Try to also avoid paying the bare minimum. I don't know what that looks like for you and what you're capable of paying people. Again, you can meet with your accountant and figure that out but think about long-term goals and whether you want your employees to feel valued and enjoy what they do. If so, you might want to pay them well.
Keeping up with hours. I pay, like I said, I pay my assistants hourly or by an hourly rate and I have them track their hours through Toggl. I track my own time through Toggl. I need to get back on that. I haven't been as good about that since we moved to South Carolina but my assistants are great about it. They have the categories too for where they're spending their time and they track them. We set an ideal number of hours. With one of my assistants, Marisa, the ideal number of hours for her to work is 10 hours a week. She usually hits that number every time but during launches like the Freelance Academy course launch last week, she had a lot of extra hours, maybe like 15 hours a week, maybe more. We account for those hours and I'm happy to pay her for those extra hours during those seasons. We just account for those.
Then, Toggl also allows me to see where time is being spent because they're categorizing all their time. I can see when they turn in their report, which I'll show you in a second, when they turn in their hours, I can see where they're spending their time and if I need to re-evaluate tasks or switch up what I'm delegating. For example, this is one of my assistant’s Toggl reports. You can see what day she worked and how many hours she worked and the projects that she's worked on. Ellechat took up a ton of time, especially when we’re trying to get the podcast up and running it first. I can see where she's spending her time, Freelance Academy and then time entries. I can see replying to e-mails, monitoring social media accounts and all that sort of stuff. It can be really detailed with Toggl which is great for both of us to see where we're spending our time.
How do I onboard my new assistant?
This is something that I didn't really account for. I thought I'd hire someone and teach them what I do and it would happen fairly quickly. I didn't really set a time limit on how … I didn't even think through this honestly. Looking back, this is one of those areas where I wish that I had done a lot differently. Some things worked out really well. Other things, I could have done a lot better.
Some best practices from what I learned for onboarding your assistant, first would be to take the StrengthsFinder and Myers-Briggs tests. Personality tests aren't a hundred percent accurate. You may have taken some in the past but they're really helpful for finding out what makes people tick, what they're really great at. For the StrengthsFinder, one of my assistants Marisa ranked highest for communication. That nailed her to a tee. She is great at asking questions, making sure she's clear on exactly what she needs to do, she is an awesome communicator. For me, that's really helpful to know as her boss.
Myers-Briggs tests too are really helpful, just figuring out how your personalities are going to mesh and what each other strengths are because if I know that she's strong in certain areas, it helps me figure out what tasks are best to delegate to her. Also, outline clear expectations and roles so that your assistants know exactly what their role is and exactly what they need to be doing. Again, that goes with clear communication. I needed to do a better job of that, especially having two assistants and saying, “Jenny, you're going to be working on these tasks. Marisa, you're going to be working on these tasks.” It took a couple months for me to really figure out what that would look like and assign them those roles.
Create a home base for your team. I know I talk about Asana a lot but it is the home base of Elle & Company. We really couldn't run this business without it. It allows us to have all the projects, create subtasks for it, delegate those tasks to certain members of the team. It's really that home base. Whether you use Asana or Basecamp or any of those other systems, maybe even Trello, make sure you're creating that home base. It makes it easier on every member of your team. It's really helpful when you onboard, you just add them right into that system and teach them how to use it and then hit the ground running.
Outline your workflows as well. I'll show you our workflow board in a second but right in Asana, we have an Asana board with each workflow. I have a workflow for blog posts, we have a workflow for setting up newsletters and ConvertKit, we have a workflow for these Ellechats, now we have a workflow for the Ellechat podcast. All the tasks that need to be done, we went ahead and outlined those. My assistants, when they first started had a question like, “Oh, we just did this. What do I need to do next?” they could refer to those workflows and easily know every step of the process and refer back to it.
Something that was also extremely important and kind of fun to do was to record tasks using QuickTime. For example, if I was setting up an e-mail in ConvertKit, rather than show Jenny or Marisa how to do that several times and in order … and expect them to remember how to do those tasks every time, I set, I recorded my screen as I setup an e-mail in ConvertKit using QuickTime. If you have a Mac, QuickTime is already probably on your computer. I just pulled it up and recorded my screen and kind of treated it like a Food Network show. As I was setting up my content in ConvertKit, setting up that newsletter, I would talk out loud to Jenny and Marisa but really to myself when I was recording it and just explaining every single step and explaining what I was doing and I drop those videos right in Asana in the workflows.
Those videos were there so if Jenny or Marisa were setting up a new newsletter, they could pull up that video and watch it and pause it if they needed to and go throughout that workflow for that task. It was right there for them. They weren't forced to remember every step of the process and they could refer back to it later. It also saved me a lot of time because I wasn't having to run through those tasks again and again. Stephanie just asked in the comments, “Did you pay them for their time to watch your QuickTime videos to learn the workflows?” Yes. I have them track their time too for the whole onboarding process for learning, yeah, learning how to do those things. Thankfully, because they were quick learners, it didn't take them long at all.
I also pay them for our team meetings. If they tune in, we have monthly team meetings and I'll talk about that in a second, but they get paid for joining in those team meetings too because it is taking up their time. I'm sure to pay them for that. You're welcome. All right. Here's a look at one of my Asana workflow boards. You can see, in the left-hand column, and I'll make this a little bit bigger for you, you can see in this left-hand column, we have a project named workflows. I set up an Asana board. You could do this in Trello too, you could do this in Google Docs, we just really work out of Asana.
You can see Ellechats, Ellechat recaps, podcast, library additions, all the different tasks, we list a workflow for it. For the Ellechat, we create a new Google Doc for it, name the webinar, write the description, create an outline of questions. We just walk through every single task in there. Then, I can even assign the tasks. Jenny sets up the Google Doc, I name the webinar, I write the description and so on. Same thing for Ellechat recaps, podcast. The great thing is that if my assistants are ever hung up or if they think, “Maybe I forgot a step in this process,” they can refer back to these workflows.
On the back of the card, you can link to master documents, you can add comments and all sorts of stuff, and you could even attach a video if you have a walkthrough video. There. I found that to be extremely helpful to have those workflow boards. Maybe I could even, if you all are interested, write a blog post on how I set that up. Then also, we use Slack for communicating as a team. We have different channels, a general channel, read this channel if I come across an article that I really think would be helpful for them to read, I put that there, a share article or a share channel for if I come across other really helpful content that I think the Elle & Company audience would love to see and maybe it needs to be shared on social media, I drop it there, social queries if someone asked me a question and Jenny and Marisa are helping with social media accounts, they can ask me there and we can communicate and then I can communicate directly with each one of them right through Slack.
It's helpful because e-mail can get really … can be a pain in the butt so having the Slack channel is a really great way to easily communicate and Slack has an app so you can access it from your phone as well. We couldn't function without Slack. Another way that we communicate with each other is through those monthly meetings. I set those up in a Crowdcast window just like this one. They tune in and I can invite them on the screen. They can access the recording, we can all access the recording later. I also set up a Google Doc before every meeting and outline what we're going to cover in the meeting so we can stay on track. I give them access to that. I try to within a day of the meeting and so they can prepare and add notes and all that sort of stuff too. That's kind of how we set up communication through Slack and through meetings and occasionally, we'll jump on the phone with each other as well.
Two big pieces of advice that I learned the hard way when I was onboarding Jenny and Marisa, the first was to let it go and be patient. There will be times when you feel like, “Man, this task could get done so much quicker if I just handled it myself,” or a time when your assistant may get something wrong. Don't let it keep you from delegating tasks. Know that there's a learning curve involved in what you're doing and you might be great at it because you've done it for years, months. You've done it a lot longer than they have but be patient. It might take a little bit of time but it'll be worth it in the long run because they will get really great at it and maybe even be better than you are at some of these things, so let it go and be patient.
Two really good quotes on delegating, Richard Branson says, “If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you've got to learn to delegate.” He's one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time and he didn't get there by trying to do it all himself. He wouldn't have several businesses several successful businesses if he hadn't learned to delegate, so delegate. The second one is Eli Broad. He says, “The inability to delegate is one of the biggest problems I see with managers at all levels.” It was really hard for me as a perfectionist to be able to loosen my grip and delegate tasks to my assistants knowing that it might take them a little longer, knowing that they might do it exactly as I do it but I would encourage you to try to have open hands from the start and realize you can't do it all and do it all well and that you need to delegate and pass task off.
Another thing that I learned the hard way, and I'm still trying to do better at, is to assign a task to your assistant and let them run with it. I learned very quickly that I, as much as I hate it, can be a micromanager and so, I would assign a task and then tell them exactly how to do it. Sometimes, with those workflows those tasks can't be avoided. All of those to-dos can't be avoided but if I give my assistants a task like come up with an affiliate program, I can't sit there and tell them exactly how to do it. I'm delegating it to them because I don't want to do it and I don't know how to do it and I don't have the time to do it and so I need to show that I trust them by giving them a task and letting them come up with their own systems and methods for carrying out that task.
You're totally negating the purpose of having an assistant if you assign them a task and then look over their shoulder and tell them exactly how to do it, or they do it and then you go back and fix it and spend as much time fixing it as you did assigning it. Assign the task. Trust them. Let them come up with their own systems and methods for doing it and run with it. Your assistants are going to get really weary and burned out if they don't have any ownership over the tasks that they're doing.
A lot of times, I found that my assistants, their systems and their methods and their ideas are so much better than my own if I would just have open hands with it and trust them with it. I really love this quote from George Patton. He says, “Don't tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” Give them ownership over their projects, over the projects you assign them, let them run with it and you will definitely be surprised especially if you've hired the right people.
How do I maintain a good working relationship?
This is something I'm always trying to improve on. Once I have hired an assistant, on-boarded them, how can I continue a good working relationship so that we enjoy each other so that they enjoy their job? I don't know about you but I have had some terrible bosses in the past. One of which actually helped me make the leap to Elle & Company because I hated my job so much. He treated me like a number, that I was easily replaceable. I'm sure that you all can relate to having some terrible bosses and so I never want my assistants to feel like they're just a number, that I don't value them and so this one is really important to mean and it's something I'm still trying to learn.
Best practices for working with your assistant is to use the upside-down pyramid model. I learned this from a leadership book. I think it was the 10 Mistakes Leaders Make is the name of the book and one of the greatest mistakes is that leaders tend to look at their assistants and having help as kind of like a pyramid where they're at the top of the pyramid, their assistants are below them and so they bark out orders and everybody has to step in line and follow suit. The guy who wrote this book, I wish I could remember his name, talked about an upside-down pyramid model where you're the boss and you're at the bottom and your job is to equip everyone to be able to do their job well, assigning the right tasks, knowing their strengths and being able to equip them and make sure they have everything they need to do the job well, so instead of viewing your role as a boss as someone to be served, viewing your role as a boss as how to serve other people well and how to serve your assistants well.
I think that was totally a game changer for me with Jenny and Marisa and having assistants and having a team, is shifting it from how can they help me to how can I help them get all of these tasks done and get them done well as a boss. Some of that comes through praise and gratitude. If they do a really good job, letting them know that they've done a really great job or that I really appreciate their effort and that I really appreciate everything that they're doing. Even though I'm paying them for their work, I'm so appreciative to have them on board. I'm grateful that they're willing to work outside of their normal nine-to-five to help me with my business and that they're always coming up with great ideas. I want them to feel valued and so, I try to make it a practice to show gratitude even in the small things, something that I'm always working on and could do better at.
Try to be available and approachable. Check in and see if there's anything that they need, anything that could be done differently. Keep the lines of communication open. I feel like when you can't communicate with each other, it's easy to hold back and let things get worse and worse and worse. It's also hard if you feel like you can never get in contact with your boss and so try to be available and approachable with your assistant. Also, show interest in their life outside of work.
I like to think that my business is much more than just tasks and to-dos and I want to always remember that my assistant is a person and not just a workhorse for me and so I try to always ask about what's going on in their life outside of work. How's their week going, how is their normal nine-to-five going and just let them know that I care about them as a person and I don't just care about them because they're getting stuff done for me. Then, the last one is to have fun. Like I said a moment ago, my husband's boss said if they weren't having fun and something was wrong, not that it's all about fun but I don't believe that work has to be terrible and I don't know, not exciting so have fun and enjoy each other. You'll enjoy your work a lot more. When you enjoy your work a lot more, the outcomes will be a lot better.
I love this quote. ”People who work in an environment where doing their best is recognized have a better chance of feeling good about their work.” Marilyn Suttle said that. I think that's so true. You can probably relate whether you're currently working for a boss or you have worked for a boss in the past. When they appreciate your work and where their best is recognized or where your best is recognized, you usually feel better about your work and more excited.
Before I dive into questions, if you all have any questions, I wanted to leave you with a few things that you can do today whether you are hoping to bring on an assistant this month or next year. You can start working toward that goal today by doing a few things. One is to set a goal for bringing on help. I usually like time-based goals. I want to bring on an assistant by January 2018 or September 2018. Go ahead and set that goal so that you can start breaking it down into action steps for working toward it.
Begin tracking your time. Figure out where you're spending most of your time and whether it's helpful that you're spending your time there. Are you spending your time on the things that require your touch? Are you spending your time on things that anybody can be doing like an assistant? Start a running list of tasks to delegate. Start writing down tasks that don't require your touch that you could easily pass off to someone else. I actually have a blog post on tasks that you can delegate that I'll link to in the show notes that come out every Tuesday on the blog, so be on the lookout for that.
Also, meet with your accountant. They're going to have the insights on how much you need to be making in order to pay an assistant and they can work out all of those details and crunch the numbers for you. Then, set aside 30 minutes a day to educate yourself. Remember that your assistants aren't the only ones who are going to have to be trained. You're going to have to be trained in how to be a good boss. That's something I totally didn't account for and that really took me by surprise. I don't want that to be the case for you.
I try to set aside 30 minutes a day. I was doing it right after lunch. I needed that. It's kind of a great in-between time from eating lunch and then getting back into the swing of things for the afternoon. I'm not as productive in the afternoon as I am in the morning so it's kind of a good middle ground but I spend 30 minutes trying to read a book or watch a webinar replay or read some blog posts or something along those lines to continue my education not only as a designer, not only as a blogger, but also as a boss to my employees.
Nancy Ray, I came across. She has a team. She's a photographer and she has some awesome resources for hiring assistants and working with a team. If you go to her website, I think it's under products or something like that. Some of them are free. Some of them, you have to pay for but those are very helpful. The top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make was a book that was helpful for me and I'm constantly trying to come across new resources for leading my team, so those are a couple. If you all know of any great resources for that, I would love to hear them so whether you're tuning in live to the webinar and you want to leave a comment or you're listening to this in podcast form and you're watching the replay, feel free to leave a comment whether it's on the blog post recap or just reach out to me and let me know. Send me an e-mail with some of those resources. I would love to hear them.
All right so I'm going to dive into questions. We don't have any questions. I'm so surprised about this. I'll wait just a second to see if any questions come in but if not, we might just end a little bit early. I appreciate you all taking the time to join in today and I hope that this is helpful for you. Like I said, this isn't a topic that I feel like I'm a huge expert on and a lot of it, I learned by trial and error but there are some things that I feel like worked well and some things that I learned the hard way that I hope that you all can learn from.
I hope this webinar was very helpful for you and yeah, I hope to see you in next week's Ellechat which is about launches. I have a very simple launch approach. Some people have … it gets really complicated with Facebook ads and affiliate programs and all the things and I don't hold to that. I think you can have a simple launch and have it be just as effective. I just saw that with my Freelance Academy course and I've seen it time and time again with my different offerings and so I'm going to be sharing that launch strategy with you next week. If you click on my profile, you can see the next Ellechat coming up or you can go to elleandcompanydesign.com/ellechat and you can register for that webinar next week, same time, same place, Thursdays at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and I'll be sharing all about that but again, thank you all for tuning in this week. I hope it was helpful for you and I hope to see you in another Ellechat very soon. Bye, guys.