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Dilemma - time to expand?

After 5 years of hard slog I have finally got to the stage that I
thought I had always dreamed of.

I have a set of designs I am proud of, a group of stores that order
regularly and private sales through my website.

But I have now found that I spend 95% of my time on the following -
writing emails and invoices, repetitive stock making, picking up
supplies and taking pieces in for polishing, stamping etc which just
leaves a miserable 5% for designing, which is my real passion.

I want to take someone on to do the schlepping and repetitive work,
leaving me time to do the paperwork (too much of a control freak to
hand that over) and more designing but as my home studio is very
small it will mean renting bigger premises.

My worries are:

Losing my freedom - Although I am very disciplined with my own work,
I love having the freedom of a home studio. At the moment having no
employees means I am free to work whatever hours I like, travelling
and visiting my family who live abroad, and I don’t have to think
about teaching/supervising anyone.

Finding the right employee.

Covering the new expenses of studio and employee. I have saved up
enough to cover me for a few months, but then I will be under
pressure to really increase my income. At the moment I feel I have
several untapped opportunities for more sales, and with more products
should have more sales - but who knows.?

Scared of the extra responsibility but also scared of standing still
and not realising my potential.

I am excited about:

Having someone to do all the boring bits- manufacturing, picking up
supplies, bank, post office etc.

Having time to design and make new pieces, improve my website.

I would love to hear from other people who have taken the plunge
from a home studio and any advice would be welcome.

Thanks in advance,

Dear Laura, this is a good dilema, I would first make a detailed job
description, written down so that you can show possible employees
exactly what you expect from them. Then set goals and time limits
for evaluation so that you can have as objective a measuring stick
as possible for their effectiveness. Come up with a payment
description and see what they have to make in order to not only pay
for themselves but to make you money, a break even point. Then look
into part time employment so you are not taking the plunge to
quickly. Come to think of this I have to do this myself.

Sam Patania, Tucson

There was just an article in the Chicago Tribune about using
"virtual assistants" who aren’t even necessarily in the same
country. If you needed office work, perhaps that could work for

One way to look at it would be: instead of hiring an actual local
employee, what tasks could you outsource to various contractors.
Such as hiring a bookkeeper, web designer, etc. The goal is to free
you up to do design work, and one thing that comes with an employee
is management time.

How much time would you be managing them vs. how much time would
they free up for you.

For some of the other things you mention – picking up supplies,
post office, perhaps you could set up systems for some of these
things. With careful planning and ordering, you could have
everything shipped to you. Many services are available from, including the ability to print out postage. And your
mail carrier will pick up any package weighing less than a pound.

If you still have errands that you’d like to get rid of, then
perhaps a “runner” would do the job. Maybe a high school student?

I would look very carefully at the costs and benefits of having an
employee. Tax implications, how much it would free you up. Vs the
cost of using various contractors.

Say, I wonder if it would help to hire a professional organizer? To
help you set up some new systems.

Well, that’s my 2 cents.
Elaine Luther
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor