Craft Venture: to hire or not to hire

Happy Monday everyone and welcome to this weeks Craft Venture!  Im Brenda from Phydeaux Designs, and we’re starting a new series this week, about hiring help!  In my previous day job, I had to hire or be involved in the hiring of many people.  I learned quickly (the hard way) that making superb hiring decisions is absolutely essential – hiring underperforming, nonmotivated or even dishonest staff is an absolute nightmare and complete waste of your limited monetary (and other) resources.  The thought of hiring a helper may be terrifying for some folks for just that reason, along with others.  There is both a science and an art to great recruitment – and I look forward to sharing that with you!

I’ve heard a recurring theme when talking with handmade and vintage sellers lately.  “I wish I could hire someone to help me.”  Everyone has great ideas about what their helper could do:  package and ship orders, do piecework, catalog/inventory stock.  The possibilities are endless!  Many of us are in the same place in our businesses:  just on the brink of being large enough to be able to afford/absolutely need help.

I’m in the same position myself!  I will most certainly need help this coming Fall and holiday season.  I could have really benefitted from help during January and February while I was focused on preparations to vend at a huge annual marketplace for knitters.  My focus meant less focus on my online and wholesale business.  With help, I might have been better able to handle both.

Maybe you dream of help.  Maybe you’ve already hired an assistant or apprentice or two.  Maybe you hire seasonal help or helpers for trade/craft shows.  I think at any given point, we all dream about having more pairs of hands to help with our businesses.  This kicks off a series about how to find and hire the best possible help for your business, as well as things you’ll need to be aware of and/or think about (oh, say, like the “law?”).

But before we get into the nuts and bolts, we first have to figure out if we can even (or truly want to) hire help!  Hiring help seems like a heaven sent dream come true, doesn’t it?  I’m here to tell you, after years and years of management and recruitment experience, that YES, hiring the right help will change your life in the best possible ways.  Hiring the wrong help is your worst imagined nightmare.  Hiring the wrong help is super easy.  Hiring the right help is a huge challenge.  Guess which happens more regularly?  Yes indeed, poor hiring decisions are probably more common than very good hiring decisions.  Luckily, I’ve learned the hard way, through years of education and practice, how to make better hiring decisions, and I’ll share that with you in the coming weeks.  Perhaps the repetitive stress of your particular art form is wearing on you, so you need to spread the wealth with some of that routine work (sewing, hammering, knitting, etc.).  Or you just really need to actually eat dinner with your family, and spend time with them after dinner, and having someone do your shipping and other routine paperwork could make the difference for you.

If you opt for “easy” and make a quick hiring decision that ends up being disastrous, you’ll know why so many people don’t even want to consider hiring help.  Hiring and training fantastic help is not easy!  It’s a lot of work, and it’s work away from your business.  It’s also a necessary investment if you truly want to grow your business.  A poor hiring decision will give you sleepless nights and possibly ulcers from the stress and angst you will experience.  You may need to fire that person, which – I won’t lie – is very very difficult to do.  But you have to do it!  Unfortunately, I also have experience (and education) in the art of letting people go, and we’ll have a post on that topic.

Before we get ahead of ourselves imaging sleepless stress-filled nights, let’s think of some good reasons for wanting to hire staff.  Maybe your direct sales and/or wholesale volume has steadily increased to the point that you either have to stop accepting orders or hire help.  Perhaps you finally got that call from Big Huge Retailer you’ve been dreaming about, but there is no possible way that you can fill all on your own by the date the order is needed.

There are probably a gazillion different really great reasons for hiring help!  You don’t even have to hire longterm help – you can hire someone for just a day or a week or a month or a season of work.

You do have to be able to afford to hire your help – and that’s the problem for many of us.  If you’re barely making a profit, how do you afford hiring someone who will need to be paid?  Before you answer, “I’ll hire them as an intern without pay,” make sure that you understand your state’s laws about voluntary vs. paid labor (more on that in an upcoming post).  You don’t want to make assumptions ab0ut this area – if it’s not very clear to you, talk with someone from your local Small Business Association to make sure you don’t unwittingly break your state’s labor code.

Even if you can’t afford to hire a helper, there are other ways to get help and free up more time for your business, like contracting out piecework, hiring a housekeeping service (something I dream about doing!) or sending out your laundry.  Hire the kid next door to cut your lawn – you’ve just saved a couple of hours a week during growing season!

We’ll dive right in next week; in the meantime, let’s talk about hiring help!  Do you have helpers?  Tell us more about your experience!  Do you need helpers?  Tell us about what’s holding you back!

I’ll kick off the conversation with my own experience, which is that I would love to hire someone to help me with my knitting business.  I would love someone to package and ship orders!  I do plan to hire an accountant for my taxes this year!  But – and I’m that many of you are in the same position – I’m right in that spot where I’m a little too busy to not have help, but not busy enough to be able to afford help.  So I make do with myself and work really hard with really long hours, which means there are new designs I never get to or new ventures I’m not able to follow.

Share with us your experiences, as well as your questions in the comments!

Image Credit: Chris Overworked by Before the Coffee and With a Handshake by Corey Olsen

10 comments | Click here to reply

I have avoided hiring help for the past 12 years after one of those “wrong help” hiring experiences! After spending several all nighters fixing problems that my help created (like cutting pants on the obvious wrong grain of fabric and putting in buttonholes on the wrong side of a jacket)I decided it was just better to sew it all myself.
I’m looking forward to your series of articles on this because now that I am older and wiser (hopefully)I would like to get some help. I’m staying tuned!


Hi Karen!

Yes! Those kinds of experiences, unfortunately, shy us away from hiring again. I hope that this new series will give you the tools that you need to find a motivated, high performing assistant who will make your life easier!



I am so excited about this new direction Brenda. I’ll be on the edge of my seat waiting for your advice on this subject. Its not something I know much about since I am the lone ranger here. But I would love to know more.


Brenda! Great topic! I think the suggestion you gave about hiring housekeeping, accountant, etc… Is a great 1st step. That’s where I am. What can I outsourse that’s NOT part of my business? For diyers and perfectionists, I think that can be a real source of freedom and extra time. Looking forward to the rest of the series!


Thank you, Tara! Plus, it may be really difficult for some folks to justify hiring an assistant, but really really easy to justify hiring someone to manage the books or to keep the house clean (sounds great to me!).


I can’t wait to read more about this! I have been pondering this very thing of late, and am simply giddy that you’re posting about it! Thanks! 🙂

Karen @ TheJuneBride

Thanks, Karen! You are one busy lady – hiring some help could be wonderful for you!


[…] back for this week’s Craft Venture!  I’m Brenda from Phydeaux Designs – back to continue our new series on hiring help.  This week, we’ll step back a bit to talk about WHO you want to hire, to make sure your […]

paper n stitch – Craft Venture: who do you want to hire? - A daily dose of handmade, design, and style inspiration

I stumbled across your blog today while trying to find the answer to a question. Maybe you can help to point me in the right direction. I am just starting to go to craft shows and I am trying to figure out the legal logistics to paying someone to help me for the day of the shows. I have been told that if you pay someone under a specific amount per year you to not have to go through all the pay roll paperwork and withholdings. Do you know if this is the case and if so what that specific amount is? and where you find the information on the government sites?
Thank you!


[…] a very nice examination of the reasons why you might want to hire help (or not), over at Papernstitch. // Hi – nice to see you! If you're new here, give a clicky to the ol' subscribe button so […]

Free Podcast! Getting Started Hiring Help, with Kelly McCants « CraftyPod
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