How to Hire Staff When You Can’t Afford It for Your Studio
Are you a studio owner who’s trying to do everything yourself?
Chances are your studio has gained good momentum, you’re getting more students and opening more classes. On the surface it seems business is really booming!
But you find that you’re always teaching, doing more paperwork, getting less sleep. The parents are demanding more from you (as there are more of them!) and you’re struggling with the increasing workload.
You know it’s time to hire extra help, but you’re barely making ends meet. How can you afford to pay someone, let alone have the time to train them up?!
It’s Not As Expensive As You Think
While you’re not going to have a team of 10 fully capable staff appear at your doorstep overnight, it is possible to start getting the help you need without it costing an arm and a leg.
The key is just to get started. The sooner you can free up your time, the sooner you can start to build a business that can sustain a faculty of more than just you.
So let’s get right to it!
Step 1 – What’s In Your To-Do List
First of all, write down everything you do for your studio.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a task you trust someone with, or if it’s a “silly” task you don’t think anyone will want to do.
Write down everything.
From the moment you wake up until you go to sleep at night, what do you do for your studio?
Think about both regular and irregular tasks. For example:
REGULAR: Answering emails, client calls, teaching, studio maintenance and cleaning, filing, accounting work, marketing, social media etc.
IRREGULAR: Staff recruitment, recital preparation, competitions, events, workshops, and so on.
Step 2 – Get Specific
With every task you list in step 1, break them down into smaller micro tasks.
It will take a little bit of time to get into the rhythm of this, but really concentrate on the small steps you take to make each task happen.
For example, studio maintenance and cleaning is a massive task that might take 3-4 hours a week, but it consists of a number of smaller micro tasks that might take 2-3mins each (i.e. tidying the reception area, vacuuming, changing over bin liners).
Or when you respond to client emails, do you spend time filtering them first? Perhaps you always have the same emails over and over again that you respond to, and only every once in a while receive a new type of enquiry?
Get specific so you can see what type of tasks you do, how often you do them, and how long every process takes.
Also, take time here to identify what tasks are your studio growth tasks. You will need these later.
These are tasks that help to grow your business, not just “busy” tasks. (Believe me, not all tasks are equally important or even necessary, despite what your hectic-entrepreneurial mind will tell you!)
Step 3 – Pick Out the Simple Tasks
Looking at your list of micro tasks, pick out the simple, quick or easy tasks. These are tasks that won’t require you to spend too much time training someone else to do. Or cause you too much anxiety in trusting someone else to do!
– Filtering phone calls (someone can easily learn your studio’s greeting and take notes down on what the enquiry is);
– Basic enquiries about enrolling into classes;
– Designing a graphic for your next studio advertisement;
– Drafting information packs, newsletters and studio communications;
– Sweeping the floors/tidying studio/cleaning mirrors/vacuuming, and so on.
It’s important to push your inner control freak aside and not to get too possessive here. Chances are you won’t be giving up all of these tasks immediately. The idea is to have a list you can choose from to begin the process.
Step 4 – Find Your Staff
Here comes the fun part. Finding the right people for the job!
I know you’re probably thinking “But I still can’t afford it!”
You may not be able to afford a full time, part time, or even a casual staff yet. But you can contract and/or delegate small tasks out to others one at a time. It doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money either. Just make sure you are looking in the right places for the right people.
Fiverr is a platform for freelancers to offer their services starting from (as the name suggest) $5. As the client, you’ll find all sorts of skills and talents here, from transcribers to voice actors, graphic designers to social media managers.
This site is good for one-off, easy projects. For example, graphic design (if you need a poster, promotion or flyer designed), music or video editing, data entry, basic research and so on.
The great thing about this platform (aside from the price) is that you have the ability to reject submissions that are given to you. If you’re not happy with the results, you don’t have to pay. However, as the platform houses hundreds of thousands of freelancers all around the world, it’s important to do your due diligence before hiring. Look for the seller’s rating, previous reviews and work samples before locking them in.
There are another freelancing platforms available as well, such as Guru and Upwork. These sites offer a higher quality of candidates, however they are priced a lot higher as the freelancer can choose the price they charge.
Virtual assistants (VAs) are similar to a regular administrative assistant, except they can work from anywhere in the world.
Depending on the assistant, they can do anything you require that is not location-dependent. For example, they can answer emails, do client callbacks, help with virtual filing, research, data entry, accounting, content creation and social media management.
VAs can be available as frequently (or as infrequently) as you need. Many VAs work on a per-project basis, so you can hire a VA to complete, say, a social media campaign for a month and never speak to them again.
The great thing about VAs is that they provide their own equipment such as their own computer and internet, so it’s less expense for you. You can also pick VAs with specific skill sets so it saves having to train them up, unlike if you were to hire a local assistant.
VA costs can vary greatly depending on your needs. For example, local VAs are always more expensive, however can get the work done with very little supervision and training.
Conversely, overseas VAs (like those from Philippines and India) are super cheap. Some are even just $3 p/hr.
However, there will most likely be a slight language barrier and they will require more patience and training from you.
Local VA or Overseas VA?
If you’re looking for someone who knows what they’re doing and the task you have requires some common sense and intuition (for example, emailing clients and ensuring they are happy), then I strongly recommend going with someone local. Especially if they have experience in similar work or industries.
But if the task is basic data entry, general research or account maintenance, then try a VA for a couple of hours work and see how you go. If you opt to go with a VA company, they generally give you a client manager who acts as the liaison between you and your VA to ensure the work is completed to satisfaction.
Find a list of VA companies and their ratings here.
Instead of hiring virtual help, you can straight up hire a contractor.
A contractor is someone who is already skilled in the expertise you are after, and can do the work on a “contractual” basis. This can be long-term or short-term, and booked on an as-needed basis.
Depending on the contractor, you can hire them for an hour a week or 40 hours a week. Most instructors are contractors, and you can start small by offering one or two classes a week first, before adding more to their schedule.
This will cost you money, yes. However, it’s up to you how many or how few classes you hire them for. Even just one class a week can free up 2-3 hours for you in teaching, class planning and choreography work. This is valuable time you could otherwise be spending on building your business so you can afford a more permanent solution.
Offer Internships or Work Experience
A great way to get help on a lower budget is to offer internships to students.
College students will be only too happy to work part-time or casually for you in exchange for a small incentive. Or sometimes even for free if it’s an industry they’re keen to gain experience in for their future.
If you have any students within your school who fit the profile, that’s even better as you already know what sort of a person they are. Plus they will have a connection with your school already and may work harder to get the job done properly.
The downside here is that an internship will require you, as the studio owner, to provide a quality and educational experience. This means proper training, not just in the “annoying tasks” you don’t want to deal with, but also what the intern may want to learn about the industry or business. You don’t want to be known as the studio that “uses college students for slave labor”.
If a long term internship doesn’t work for you, perhaps consider offering a one-hour a week work experience opportunity for some of your senior students. Offer them an incentive such as a reference letter for their future employer when they graduate. Or perhaps crediting the time to any work place requirements they need to meet for school, and so on.
This can give them a boost in motivation and loyalty to your studio, give you a chance to delegate some smaller tasks, and give other students a goal to work towards.
Step 5 – Put Your Free Time to Good Use
Once you’ve started to delegate the smaller tasks to the right people, use your free time wisely!
Remember those studio growth tasks I mentioned in step 1? This is the time you will use to work on those specific tasks.
As tempted as you may be to just clear your overflowing inbox, clean that dirt mark off the corner wall, or fuss around with your ballet props, this is not what your free time is for.
The whole purpose of delegating your tasks, is so you can use that time in a more strategic manner. If you were going to spend an hour on emails, delegating that doesn’t mean you now spend the hour on sewing costumes instead.
As the studio owner (the BOSS of your school), you should be spending your time on things that cannot be delegated. The tasks required to grow your studio so that you can afford to delegate more tasks out and, in turn, have more free time.
So have a look at your growth tasks and action those during your freed time. As your studio starts to grow from these tasks, you can afford to delegate even more.
Most successful, prospering studios are not operated by just one person alone. Those who try to run a studio all by themselves are usually stressed, burnt out and ready to throw in the towel right when their studio starts to gain momentum.
Remember, you are not the first studio owner to delegate in order to expand. You need other people to help you, so that you can focus on running your business.
Most people start a business to have more freedom in their lives, to build something they love and to have more time for their family. Don’t lose sight of this goal. It’s absolutely achievable if your manage your time right.
The key is to just get started. Remember that it’s a process that takes time to build up. You won’t find the perfect employee straight away. It may take some time to train and supervise certain staff. You may need to go through a few companies before finding the right VA.
But the sooner you start, the sooner you can find the people or process that’s right for you, so you can build your ideal team and business ASAP.