Welcome back! In Part 2 of my 3 part series on how to hire help for your fashion blog, we'll talk about how to find people to hire, how to screen your new hires or potential hires, and how to adequately communicate job responsibilities to your new hire. As a quick reminder, last week we discussed why you might want to hire someone and the kinds jobs you can hire for. There were lots of really great insights in the comments last week, and I hope you continue to share your perspectives on the hiring process in the comments section of this article as well. This is a really meaty subject, and there are definitely multiple ways to approach it.
Where to Find Help
There are four major ways of finding someone to work with you on your site: professional services, your personal network, posting a job listing or job ad, and someone approaching you to get hired. As with anything, there are pros and cons to each method. I've personally used all four of the approaches I'm discussing below.
Professional services are sites that do most of the legwork in connecting you with someone to help you. A few of the larger, more popular sites are Zirtual, Odesk, and Fiverr, but there are tons more, and some of them even specialize in specific services (for example, Scripted is all about hiring freelance writers). An advantage (and a large part of the appeal) of using a third party professional service is that a lot of the “stuff” of searching for and vetting people is already predone for you. There's an easily accessible database available to you, and you just need to input what you're looking for and search for someone to fit.
Many of these sites also offer rating and feedback scores, which helps you to prescreen for important things like trustworthiness, efficiency, and professionalism. It's also very easy to contact people through these services, and you might even have support from the website itself in terms of mediation if things don't work out with your new hire.
However, those same factors that make it easy for you to search for someone to help may also make it hard for you to find someone. The most popular and professional freelancers may already be booked up and not interested in taking on new work, and you may have some difficulty building rapport or trust with your new hire since you're reaching out to someone blindly. Still, as a final upside, you can use a professional service to find assistance with almost every kind of projects, whether it's short term, long term, ongoing, or discrete.
The second way of finding help is through your own personal network of family, friends, acquaintances, and friends of friends. Many people you probably already know are looking for a bit of extra work, and since they're already within your circle, either personally or through someone else you both associate with, there may already be a bit of a connection there.
The downside here, of course, is the same as the upside. Since you already know this person, it can be very hard to manage everything where your personal and professional lives meet. Before hiring a friend, family member, or friend of a friend, ask yourself if you're willing to risk this relationship ending if things don't work out. Having to fire a friend or family member could result in a lot of resentment and hurt feelings, even if you appear to part ways amicably on the surface. However, it's often more enjoyable to work with people you genuinely like and respect, so that's something to consider too.
The third way to find someone to hire for your blog is by taking out a job posting or ad. You can use Craiglist, online job boards (like the one at ProBlogger), or even your own blog to post a listing. If you choose to do this, be very clear about what you're looking for and what the application process is, as you can very often wind up inundated with resumes (which can be both a good and a bad thing). In addition, if you choose this method, think about which resume items are most important to you. Are certain things must-haves? Deal breakers? Will you check for references? What will your interview process be like? Have a plan in place before you post a listing. It'll make the entire process that much easier.
The final method is that someone may reach out to you and offer their services. I'm not talking about those spammy “Let me fix your SEO” type emails that show up in your inbox all the time. Rather, someone who's familiar with you or your niche (and who actually has skills you can use) may contact you to see if they can help out. The upside here is enthusiasm, and the fact that you don't have to search for someone (searching takes time away from other things). The downside may be that you know very little about this individual, and you'll still need to spend time checking references and vetting their skills.
How to Screen Your Potential New Hires
So you've narrowed the candidate field down to your top picks. What comes next? Screening the people you're thinking of hiring. Screening can take a few different forms depending on the intensity of the task and the level of responsibility that person will be assigned, but the two big components of screening that apply to almost any hiring situation are checking references and checking skills.
Whoever you are thinking of hiring should have at least two to three references that you can check on your own. I'm not talking about testimonials here, which are previously typed or taped positive comments on someone's work. Rather, you should have a phone number or email address that you can reach on your own time. If someone's going to work on your blog design for example, they should be able to direct you to a few other bloggers they've worked with that you can talk to. If someone's going to work on your social media, the same applies.
Concurrently with this, you also want to check that the person you're thinking of hiring actually has the skills you need. Whether it's a coding test, a sample blog post, or a particular degree or license, make sure this person is actually capable of doing what you want to hire them to do. I know that doing work for free is a sensitive subject and that's completely understandable, so I'm not insisting you should tell someone to code your website or write 20 books for you for free. However, asking for a sample of their work is perfectly understandable. And, if you happen to be in a specific niche, it's necessary. After all, just because someone is a good writer doesn't mean they're a good writer on your particular blog's topic.
While you're doing your reference checking and your skill screening, you also want to confer with your gut. Ask yourself if this person is a good fit for your site and personality. Do they get what you're about? Do they believe in your brand? Is there anything that's made you feel uneasy or wary? Now is the time to pay attention to your intuition. If something seems off, examine it. Ask more follow-up questions if necessary. But make sure you are as satisfied as you can be with your potential new hire before officially bringing them on. No business relationship should start on a foundation of doubts.
Finally, if you've gotten more interest than you have available budget or work, be polite and inform the people you've chosen not to hire that they haven't made the cut. I know it can seem tedious, but it's polite and the right thing to do and it makes a good impression. Also, don't feel like you need to give a lengthy explanation for why someone wasn't hired. You can share the reasons if you want to, but don't feel obligated, especially if you suspect a simple answer won't suffice. And, of course, once you've made your final decisions, let your new hires know that they are officially on the team!
Communicating Job Responsibilities
In the final section for today's post, let's talk communicating job responsibilities. Being able to communicate clearly and efficiently is essential to being a good employer. If you cannot express what you need very well, you will inevitably make people frustrated – both yourself and your new hires. Ambiguity, uncertainty, a lot of rapid, unexplainable changes….all of those things can wreck a new business relationship before it's even gotten off the ground. Hopefully, you had a job description in mind (even if it was a brief one) that you can expand upon for your new hire if need be. I believe it's better to be a little more detailed than less detailed when it comes to things, especially if there are specifics you want done.
Inform your new hire of how you will track progress and accountability. If your new hire is a writer, tracking accountability and progress might just mean making sure their blog post is live when it's supposed to be. If your new hire is an SEO or ad professional though, tracking accountability and progress may mean looking at leads, conversions, clickthroughs, and referrals. Know how you're going to measure the success of your employee – what outcomes and goals are you looking for? Nothing's worse than being upset with someone's work and not having a clear reason why.
When it comes to staying in touch with your new hire, you have a few options. There's email and phone, of course, but don't ignore other ways of communicating like Basecamp, Facebook groups, and Dropbox (I use all three for my blog). Communicate often; don't let issues build up unaddressed until they reach a breaking point. As an employer, it's your responsibility to make sure that your people understand exactly what you need.
Finally, allow time for a learning curve. When you've been working by yourself, you've gotten used to certain way of doing things (I think of them as implied policies and procedures) without even being aware of it. And while that knowledge may be intuitive or automatic to you, it still needs to be acquired by your new hire. Give them time to ramp up to the full responsibilities of their new position. Allow time for extra training or explanations if need be, and remember that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” Things don't have to be done exactly your way for them to work.
Next week, we'll talk about protecting yourself, paying your staff, and how to let someone go if it doesn't work out. As I mentioned above, if any of this resonates with you or you have advice or a story of your own, please share it in the comments. Let's all be a resource to each other!