In this episode, Angie and April are answering frequently asked questions about hiring for your TpT store. They cover everything from VAs to full-time employees. You can join in on the conversation in our mastermind group at www.growwithusmastermind.com.
A couple of years ago we did an episode on how to hire help to grow your TpT store, but a lot has changed in our businesses over time. So, we’re excited to have Caitlin Mitchell from EB Academics join us on the podcast to talk about all things hiring.
Disclaimer: We are not accountants. We are sharing our personal experiences. We encourage you to talk to your accountant or a tax professional before hiring employees or contractors for your TpT business. The rules and restrictions vary from state to state. Please make sure you cover your bases.
With that disclaimer out of the way, we get a lot of questions in our group about hiring help. Caitlin, Angie, and I all have employees working in our businesses but it looks a little different for each of us.
Caitlin has two full-time employees, 8 part-time employees, as well as an overseas virtual assistant and editor through Upwork. Angie currently has eight people working with her. She hires as she sees a need in her business or something she doesn’t want to do on her own anymore. I currently have 3 full-time employees along with part-time employees.
Q: Should I hire employees or freelance contractors
We’re not going to get into the legal/tax side of the difference between contractors vs employees. However, we do want to touch on the experience of working with contractors vs employees.
All three of us have worked with both options. Contractors can be nice to work with when you have a project that you need to be completed. This is often an easier way to begin having people help you complete different tasks within your company.
The difference that we notice with employees is you’re able to grow and direct them for your company where you’re not really able to do the same with contractors. When you hire someone as an employee, we’ve found that you get more buy-in from them. They are part of your team and share your mission and goals with you.
When you work with a contractor, you may be one of many of their clients. This may be OK with you for certain tasks, but as we’ve handed over more and more tasks, we’ve all enjoyed the experience of hiring employees. Yes, it is expensive, but we’ve found once you get to the point of needing to hire, the resources are there.
Q: Where to find people to hire?
There are several different places that we’ve found work for hiring employees for our TpT businesses. Here are a few to consider:
- Upwork: If this works with your tax situation and rules, it can be easier because the platform issues the 1099s for you.
- Network of teachers: This is a great way to find help in the summer. You may also find teachers who are looking to earn some extra money for vacations, paying off student loans, or putting their kids in extra curriculars.
- People you know: Angie’s sister-in-law works for her and I have a close friend working for me. This won’t always be a great fit, but if you have people you trust that fit with your business it’s a possibility.
- Recommendations: You may be able to get a good recommendation from another TpTer. However, keep in mind that just because someone works well with an individual doesn’t mean it will automatically be a great fit for you.
- Email list or followers: Don’t be afraid to reach out to your own community to see if anyone is interested in your open position. These are people who are familiar with your resources and believe in what you’re doing.
- Facebook ads
There are some people who work with a lot of different TpTers. It may be beneficial to work with one of them because they are familiar with how the process works, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes it can take longer to get work back from them compared to finding someone else to work with.
We also want you to know that you don’t have to hire someone who already has experience with TpT. Hire the person who is the right fit for your TpT store and mission. You can train them on the specifics of your store and resources.
Q: What should be part of the hiring process?
We all like to have potential hires complete a task for us to see their work before bringing them on for additional work.
I currently hire by putting an application on my website just like other companies. Then we go through the full hiring process. We toss any applications that don’t meet the requirements. Then, we narrow it down to our top five to who we give a specific project with directions and a deadline. This helps us see who we want to interview further.
I used to do the interview portion first but then would find that the person I was interested in working with didn’t complete the project the way that I was looking for.
Caitlin likes to include questions on the application such as “Who is your hero and why?” This gives her insight into who they are as a person as well as makes it very clear who doesn’t follow directions. If they don’t include the answers to those questions in their replies then they are automatically removed from the list of considerations.
The way you ask questions on an application or in the interview makes a big difference in your ability to hire the right person. You want to hire someone who is a good fit as a person. You can always teach specific skills. But you can’t teach things like drive, passion, and self-sufficiency.
Why you want to hire slow
In the podcast, Caitlin shared the tip to “hire slowly, fire fast.” If you hire the wrong person, you’re going to spend a lot of time and energy trying to train them to make it work. Then, you’re going to spend a lot of emotion on the process of firing them only to start the process over again.
When we’ve hired out of desperation, it’s never been our best hires. We rushed into trying to get help and made mistakes on our hires because of it. But if you take your time to figure out what you need help with and be careful about who you hire, it will be worth it in the end.
We’ve also all made the mistake of waiting too long to fire employees that weren’t working out. We wanted to give them every chance we could, but in the end, it was a waste of our time and energy. We’ve since learned to cut the ties quickly when we see that it’s not going to work.
Q: What should be included in the onboarding process?
Caitlin admitted the first time she hired someone, she was drowning in her work. She made her hire and then dumped things on the employee without providing clear guidelines. After five weeks or so, the employee quit. Caitlin took responsibility for it and changed the way she hired the next employee.
With the next hire, she broke down the things that she wanted to be taken off her plate that were easy to complete. She slowly transferred the tasks over, making sure the employee was comfortable with them before adding in more.
She provided them time to familiarize themselves with the company. They had access to the dashboard and files where they could learn about the resources, memberships, and different aspects of the business. It was a 180 from her first hiring experience and the employee was set up for success.
Here are some onboarding tips:
Start with small tasks that allow the person a chance to get their feet wet. This helps build a foundation for them before giving them a lot of other work to add on top of it.
All three of us like to use screen share videos to train employees on different tasks. One of the easiest ways to do this is to record your screen as you complete a task. Then you can save this to share with new employees so they can see exactly what you do.
This makes tasks a lot easier to hand off to people. If they watch the video and still have questions, they can come to you to clarify. Just make sure you’re saving and organizing these videos to make it easier for future employees to find and learn from as well.
Screenshare videos are also a great way to provide feedback to employees.
Q: Should I pay hourly or per project?
There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer to this question. Some projects are better to pay hourly on and others are better to establish a price for.
For example, Angie will pay per project for content creation but she pays by the hour for editing services. She also pays her Pinterest manager and social media person by month.
It’s normal to feel nervous about paying someone hourly because you may worry about them just taking extra time so they can get paid more. In order to avoid this, Caitlin shares it’s helpful to establish expectations at the start of the project.
Let the person know how long you estimate the project should take based on your own experience. If they get halfway through and it’s taking a lot longer, the two of you can talk about it to find out what changes need to be made or where they need help. This allows you to guide them if needed.
Q: What about hiring for customer service?
This is another area where you may think you need to hire a TpTer or someone who already knows your resources but you don’t have to. Angie hired her sister-in-law to do her customer service and she was not a teacher. Angie trained her on how she wanted her to respond to feedback and Q&As.
When there was an issue and she didn’t know how to respond, they would talk about it together to come up with a solution. Then, they keep the answer in a spreadsheet so they have it to use in the future.
It can be really helpful to keep common Q&As documented so they’re easy for employees to copy and paste the replies. It’s also helpful to record screen share videos showing anything that people have common questions about. Then, your customer service employee can easily share your video with people.
Caitlin has three people doing customer service because they all do different parts: billing, tech, and curriculum questions. It can be hard to find someone that can handle all the different areas especially if you get a lot of emails.
She found it was helpful to provide these employees access to the resources and membership site. She let them explore and learn about it on their own. Then they’re familiar with it and it’s easier to answer questions.
They also have core values for the company. Employees are taught to focus on those core values as they respond to emails. She wants them to be empowered to make decisions on their own instead of her being the “answer keeper”.
Keep in mind that it’s OK for people to make mistakes. That’s the way we learn.
And remember customer service roles take a special kind of person. Look for people who have the intangibles you need like patience and kindness. You can train them on how you want them to answer.
Q: How do you handle pay raises?
There is a lot that goes into pay based on where you live. In Arizona, we have low wages. California, on the other hand, has different requirements. Make sure you know the laws in this area and abide by what you are required to.
There are several different times when the three of us do pay raises:
- Roles growing to take on more tasks
- Transitioning to full-time roles
- Annual reviews
As you think about pay, consider what value your employees are adding to the company. How much do you want to keep them on your team? Are you paying them a fair way based on the job?
If you’re looking for someone with a skillset, it’s likely worth it to pay them what it’s worth instead of trying to hire them for minimum wage. Pay is important as well as how you treat your employees.
Final tips on hiring for your TpT business
Have clear expectations from the start. Don’t hire quickly out of desperation. Remember that you need to “hire slowly, fire fast.” When you know what you’re hiring for, it helps you find the right person. It also helps you set the employee up for success.
Trust your gut. You don’t need someone who already has TpT experience. Look for the person who is the right fit for your mission and goals.
If you’re interested in learning more about Caitlin and her work, you can find her on Instagram @ebacademics and check out the book she wrote with Jessica Cannata, The Empowered ELA Teacher: Be the Teacher You Want to Be, Do Great Work, and Thrive.