Is it Time to Get an Assistant?
Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Between client meetings, drafting on SketchUp, updating catalogs, all while trying to have a personal life, it gets exceedingly more difficult to burn the candle at both ends. If this sounds all too familiar, it may be time to hire help. We surveyed a group of Ivy interior designers (86 to be exact) and 60% of them confirmed that they don’t have an assistant or intern, but wish they had one! Delegating tasks to assistants and interns, or hiring specialty services, can free up the time you desperately need, relieve stress from your day-to-day routine, and may be the pivotal tailwind in growing your business.
You may be thinking to yourself, “why bother hiring someone when I can run my social media and organize my inventory storage for free?” As any interior designer knows, time is never ‘free’; time trapped on running errands could have been time spent on billables or large projects that require lengthy attention. Overall, the goal for outsourcing tasks is to give you the time to work on the profitable parts of your business, which would in turn cover the cost of outsourcing (i.e. spending money to make money). That being said, the commitment of hiring an assistant can be daunting, and maybe you don’t know if you’re quite ready to make the splurge. In the spirit of making time for design, review this brief guide on business solutions like hiring assistants, interns, and general delegation for all types of firms.
Written by Shai Wallach
If you find yourself struggling with your schedule and trying to keep up with a growing business, seek out an assistant. Since there are different kinds of assistants, it is important to know the difference between them before searching for candidates. There are administrative assistants for admin tasks around the office; personal assistants for managing schedules and life itself; and the highly coveted design assistant for admin along with helping out on projects. When trying to cover assistant salaries, factor design assistant hours into client billables and add hourly fees into flat-fee projects. For administrative or personal assistants whose duties can’t be directly linked to design projects, you can try running a quick cost-benefit analysis. If an assistant buys you 5 hours of time running errands while you now work with a client billing your hours, you have just made a worthwhile investment.
After hiring the right assistant, a hurdle that many designers face is delegating tasks to their new assistant successfully. The first thing that you should consider when delegating is what differentiates your services and work – anything that doesn’t fall into that category should be delegated. This includes administrative duties, like tracking billing hours and inputting product specs, along with other tasks that are vital to the operations of your business, like measuring or follow-ups with vendors. Directly working with clients should be left to you, however, having your assistant sit in on meetings, even to simply take minutes, will help ease your assistant into the heart of your work. This leads you to the next important hurdle; because you may be so used to doing everything on your own, slowly letting go of tasks without micromanaging may be difficult. By starting out delegating smaller and more administrative tasks, while exposing them to the creative side of your work, you can slowly build a stronger relationship with your assistant. Once the foundation of trust is built, you can start adding in more creative tasks like helping source fabrics or putting together proposals.
If you think you’re not quite ready to make the leap of getting an assistant, consider starting an internship program. Unpaid and paid internships have become one of the most popular methods for students and postgrads to make their way into the workforce in the United States. Interns can be hired for part-time throughout the year or seasonally during summer breaks. Design interns can work on all aspects of the business – from assisting in installations to admin tasks – or on more speciality projects like social media. The major benefit in internships is the low monetary risk; even paid internships are relatively modest in salary while still providing eager and capable candidates. Although interns can be seen as a temporary means to an end, the practice of hiring interns full-time after their term has ended is a great way to organically grow your team with people already familiar with the ins-and-outs of your firm.
Lastly, but certainly not least, for those who need to clear something in their schedule but aren’t sure how; alleviate some stress and time by utilizing speciality services like household cleaning services. You may be surprised by how much a simple outsource of day-to-day tasks, like getting your laundry taken care of, can impact your schedule. Though this won’t directly impact your business, by clearing your agenda of basic yet time-consuming tasks, you will be able to use your time more effectively and therefore influence your bottom line. This is the perfect solution for those who don’t know if they are quite ready to fully delegate tasks or invest resources in full-time assistants on a regular basis.
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