help wanted

I needed help. Presenting a workshop solo to 40 people would be a recipe for failure. Trying to deliver the material while making sure everyone was following along was too much for little me to handle all by myself—at least if I wanted each person to have a good experience.

Time to call in reinforcements.

I faced a few challenges in bringing on an assistant. First, I had neither the work nor the funds to hire someone full time, or even part time. I had this one gig for a few hours when I would need help, but beyond that I couldn’t guarantee more work. Second, it seemed unfair to ask someone to come in for an interview for only a few hours of work — the effort needed to get the job would be disproportionate to the “reward” of landing it. And I must confess: I had also made the mistake of procrastinating too long (due either to denial that I needed help, being unsure of where to start or a combination of both), and now I needed to find someone fast.

It took me little time to realize that I should advertise for the one-day gig. My first drafts of the job posting were for a general assistant for occasional work throughout the holiday season. But that would be misrepresentation; there was just one guaranteed gig — I could handle other bookings by myself, and at that point I didn’t know if there would be more coming.

The costs of an ad for a small gig like this seemed disproportionate to my needs. So I went for free options that would garner a quick response, sending out a call to my network on Facebook, Twitter and a listserv I subscribe to. I also advertised on the job board of a local arts school (targeting artistic people who I thought would be ideal for a creative workshop).

I honestly thought I would have a choice of two or three people and would perhaps even have to take the first person who applied. But, while I wasn’t overwhelmed with responses, more people than I expected expressed interest. I had a real selection to choose from— I’d have to do interviews.

I didn’t want to take up a lot of time by bringing people into my office, so I opted for short 10-minute phone calls. The work wasn’t complicated and didn’t require tons of skills — just a pleasant, helpful attitude. The phone calls were primarily to gauge enthusiasm and confirm that the person on the other end wasn’t a nut job.

I realized that this was my opportunity to develop a list of potential freelancers. Whenever a gig came up in the future, I’d be able to send out an email to all of them and see who was available. I now had a chance to watch potential assistants in action and, when the time comes to hire someone on an ongoing basis, I’d already have vetted some candidates.

I think this approach works for me and my business and I plan to continue to bring people into my company this way, even as it grows.

Corinna vanGerwen is a creative gift-wrapping consultant, the sole owner and only employee of her eponymous home-based startup, which provides gift-wrapping services, training and workshops, as well as packaging services for marketing and events.

Read more of Corinna’s adventures in solopreneurship.

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