Managing an Etsy Shop - Part 4 - How to hire an assistant

Emily's posts on "The Magic of Maintaining Inventory" and "Beginner's Thrifting Tips" are the perfect segue for this post on hiring an Etsy assistant. Her posts truly capture just how essential she is to Vintanthromodern Vintage. Her thoroughness (is that even a word, Emily? [Edit: YES! ~Emily]) and creativity are invaluable. She's a COOL BRAINIAC -- and no doubt -- over time we're becoming more like partners than employee/employer. I couldn't have wished for a more perfect set up! Thank Emily! Love ya! So how exactly did this perfect union begin? Well, shortly after I opened my shop last summer, I quickly realized that at the rate I was acquiring vintage gems (see this post) there was NO way I could keep up with photographing and listing everything. I knew that I couldn't afford NOT to hire someone to help. I turned to the internet looking for tips on hiring an assistant to help me run the shop. I found a few articles on Design Sponge's Biz Ladies board and in etsy's forums - but there wasn't really any substantial information about the process. I'm hoping these tips will help those of you out there that are considering starting an online shop (etsy or otherwise), or are realizing as I did, that hiring help is sometimes key to running a successful shop! There's nothing that can make you feel more like a true entrepreneur that hiring your first employee! Girl power!

1. Place an ad on craigslist

I ran an ad on craigslist seeking a vintage fashion assistant. It's important to be clear and concise about what you are looking for in an assistant.  The posting went a little something like this:

"Seeking a creative minded individual that loves vintage fashion. Must be familiar with taking digital photographs, be internet savvy, and able to work independently. Knowledge of etsy and ebay is preferred.

Responsibilities include: *Adding vintage items to inventory via excel spreadsheet *Taking photographs of/in vintage clothing, shoes and accessories *Importing photographs into iphoto (knowledge of mac computers is required) *Creating listings on etsy and ebay

Pay dependent on experience. Approximately 10 hours per week. Please respond with information about yourself as well as your experience with vintage fashion. A resume is not required but welcomed."

2. Filtering through applicants

Surprisingly, I got about 15 responses to the craigslist post, which was way more than I expected! Being a bit overwhelmed by the response and in an effort to filter these to a manageable number, I sent a blanket response to applicants:

"Thank you for taking the time to share some information about yourself! I have gotten quite a few responses to the ad- so to streamline the process, i'll give you a little background info about me and my etsy shop so we can determine whether we are a good fit for each other. I LOVE anything vintage and I LOVE to collect and of course SHOP. This summer I decided to start my own online shop on etsy. I have been an ebay seller for several years, but was attracted to the community feeling, lower fees, and overall shopping experience on etsy. Unfortunately, now that I am back at work full time, I need someone to help me maintain the shop so that I can continue to acquire new stock and keep the shop profitable. I have a spare bedroom and office where I keep inventory - but they are quickly becoming full! This is a part time endeavor for me, my full time job is as an art teacher- so I would need someone to assist 2 nights per week, either during the week or on the weekend depending on our schedules. Initially, the work would take place at my apartment, but could then be done at your place and pace. Typically, once vintage items are acquired, they need to be inventoried, styled/photographed, then listed. I would take care of the day to day responsibilities (answering emails, shipping items once they sell). In the ad I specified 10 hours per week - it could be less, but not more, at least for now. If this still seems like something you'd be interested in or if you have questions, please respond along with your pay requirements and we can go from there."

About half of the initial applicants did not respond to this message - so my filtering seemed to be working! In the next exchange, I gave the remaining applicants an assignment. I figured this would further reduce the pool of applicants to those that were both REALLY interested and capable. This assignment also required the applicant to demonstrate that they could independently and accurately list an item. How thoroughly and creatively they did it was key. I sent a photograph of this item along with the following prompt:

"I would like to give you an opportunity to do a sample etsy listing based on a photograph of one of my vintage items since I will be relying on you to do this independently. If you are unfamiliar with an etsy listing, please do a search for an item of interest to you or an item similar to this one and take note of how the item is listed. Pay special attention to the item title, description and TAGS. The following stores have great examples:

Please create a listing based on the following prompts ( these are identical to etsy's prompts). You may need to do a search for a similar item to generate this information from scratch. Feel free to cut and paste the items below and return in an email or Word document. I would like to make a final decision by next week, hopefully this is ample time for you."

Emily's sample listing blew the other ladies out of the water! She has a great knack for storytelling -- always adding a cheeky punch of humor -- which I think most Etsians can appreciate. [Edit: Actually, I'm just a ridiculous overachiever. Look at this thing! I made a "fake" Etsy listing in Word! ~Emily]

3. Interviewing

Again, only half of applicants responded to this assignment! 4 of the original 15 responses to the craigslist post remained. While this was a reasonable number of people to interview, after looking at their work on the hypothetical assignment, taking into consideration pay requirements, qualifications and the overall dynamic and tone of our email interactions - I was left with 2 really strong applicants. The next logical step was to set up a meeting/informal interview. Luckily I was selling vintage at a street fair that weekend, so I invited the 2 remaining ladies to meet me there. I should admit here that I always knew Emily was "the one" but just like with any major decision in life - like buying a house or car - its important to be mindful of your gut instinct but also important to do your research! I knew that I wanted to be certain of my decision - and being thorough in the process was super important. Also important is meeting someone in person - you really get a feel for their energy, sincerity, and overall compatability. Meeting Emily in person pretty much sealed the deal. Our meeting felt comfortable - and I got a really good feeling about it - again it's important to trust your insticts.  I couldn't be happier and we've been kicking Etsian ass ever since.