Hiring your first employee is a big step for a lot of business owners. It's especially big when you've been running the show solo for any amount of time. You haven't relied on anyone else, you haven't had to trust anyone else's work, and you certainly haven't paid anyone else. It often ends up being a scary leap of faith, but it doesn't have to be.
Make sure you have a clear idea of why you're hiring, what you need help with, and who you should hire before you hire anyone. It will save you time, and make handling your first employees much easier.
Questions to ask yourself
Why do you need help?
A great first step for determining when—or if—you should hire is simply asking yourself, "Why do I need help?" It seems simple, but it's often overlooked. Are you hiring to grow your business, or simply to keep up with where you're currently at? Are you trying to increase profits, or save yourself work and headache?
If you can answer the why, you'll be better positioned to answer the what and when questions.
What do you need help with?
Once you know why you're thinking about hiring additional help, you can begin to determine what type of employee you need.
Many service businesses struggle with answering the phone. This is often because service-based business owners are busy performing services for Customer A when Potential Customer B calls. It can become increasingly annoying and painful to constantly go from work mode to sales mode. If you aren't good at switching between work, sales, and customer service modes, this can lead to missed job opportunities. Customer service and keeping up with calls are often one of the first jobs a service business looks to fill when hiring help.
On the other hand, if you're struggling to hit deadlines, or you're killing yourself trying to keep up with work, it might be time to hire another worker. When you're hiring a worker, you'll need to know if you're planning on having them work alone on their own jobs, or work directly with you to get the same jobs done. There are pros and cons to both, but a big part of it comes down to the skill level of the employee and your trust in them as a representative of your business. The more skilled the new worker is, and the more you trust them, the easier time you'll have letting them do work on your company's behalf. It will also help you grow, as your business will be able to handle more than one job at a time.
Is it the right time to hire?
Once you've decided why you need help, and what you need help with, you have to figure out if it's time to hire. While it can be difficult to know for sure when it's the right time, and there's rarely ever a perfect time for hiring, there are some common things worth keeping in mind.
Money is always going to be Factor #1 in deciding if it's the right time to hire.
Does your business have money in the bank to pay another person? If it does, then you might find deciding to hire is a much easier decision. If not, however, you'll have to take a serious look at whether you have enough work booked to support paying additional help. When you make the decision to hire your first employee, you officially become a boss. That comes with a certain responsibility to your employees, who will be relying on you for their income. If you aren't able to hand over a paycheck on time, every time, your relationship and your reputation with employees will be severely damaged. We've all heard stories about business owners who don't pay their employees—nobody wants to work for them, and they usually don't stay in business very long.
If you're overly stressed and struggling to keep up with the work you have, it's probably time to get some help.
Stress makes running a business feel more like a living hell. That's not to say hiring someone is going to be a silver bullet, of course. Having employees can bring new kinds of stress. However, if you're serious about your business, you probably can't take on those bigger jobs you're looking for, or add more jobs to your schedule to increase your income without additional workers. It might take a few months when you're first starting out, but you'll get a feel for how much work you can handle on your own. Once you consistently start exceeding that limit, it's time to start saving money in your business bank account. Keep your jobs under control for the time being, while you do your best to save up and prepare yourself for that first employee.
Who should you hire?
This one could either be the least important or most important question of all.
Deciding who to hire depends on your answers to the why you need help and what you need help with questions. Don't skip answering those questions before you try to figure out who to hire!
If you're looking for customer service or someone to answer the phones, you want someone who is pleasant to deal with, someone who is good at remembering (or noting) details, and someone with good availability to answer the phone. It also will probably help if they have a good phone voice—if you don't like listening to them speak, you can bet your customers won't like it either! It's important to understand that answering phones for a service business is often a sales position wrapped up in customer service—you want the person who takes calls to always be on the lookout for opportunities to get more work, as well as ensuring customers are always 100% satisfied. Be sure to look for that in an employee, and make it clear to them that this is part of the job if/when you hire.
If you just need a part-time helper, and your business isn't dealing with skilled labor, the who question can be of less importance. You want someone reliable—they know how to show up on time, have their own transportation, and are dependable when it comes to showing up. You also want to be sure you find someone who is happy to work for what you're able to afford in pay. Don't go looking for an expert when you can only afford to pay beginners' wages! You definitely want a someone who is a reasonably hard worker. You're probably not looking for, and shouldn't care too much about their work history because it's an unskilled position and you'll be watching over them.
If you're looking for skilled labor with solid work history, you're going to have to learn to rely on your own skills to assess their ability. You want someone that's trustworthy, hardworking, and reliable, of course. But when you're hiring someone with more skill, you'll also want to consider whether you'd like to put them on their own jobs or not. If so, they'll need to have good communication skills, as they'll be dealing with the customers directly. Finding skilled employees who can also be trusted to work on their own as representatives of your business is one of the easiest ways to ensure you can take on more jobs and grow your business.
Where to find your first employee
Finding good help is hard. You'll probably make a few mistakes before you end up with someone that works well for your business. Don't worry about that. Everyone goes through it, and it's all part of learning how to build, run, and grow a business. However, knowing where to look is a great way to get your pick of applicants.
Craigslist is a great place to find help. You can post a free work ad yourself, or browse the professional services list to see if anyone in your area is trying to start their own side-hustle and might consider working with you.
Post something on Facebook to let your network of friends know you're looking for help. They've got friends, and those friends have friends. It's a great way to get the word out to a lot of people quickly, and Facebook has built-in messaging so anyone interested can reach out to you directly.
Friends and family
You'd be surprised how many cousins, 2nd cousins, in-laws, friends, and family friends are looking for work or a side-hustle. Reach out and see if anyone is looking for what you need help with. It's always a little tricky to let friends and family go, or deal with conflict, so keep that in mind—you don't want to wind up discovering your second cousin is a lazy worker, and deal with family drama at the holidays because you have to let them go.
Are you ready?
Hiring your first employee is a big responsibility, but it's also an exciting step for your business. There's a lot to consider, but following the questions we've outlined here, and making sure you take the time to answer them, should help you not only make a decision, but it should help make the best decision.
Good luck, and let us know if you've got any questions or have any hiring experiences to share.