A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

How to Hire an Employee


How to hire an employee
How to hire an employee.
I’ve spoken a lot about hiring employees here on erica.biz, and why it’s so important to start hiring early, especially if you are just starting out and you don’t have a lot of free time to pursue your business. But many people I speak to don’t know how to hire an employee.

With this post, I’ll take hiring an employee step-by-step and show you exactly how I hired someone to help me out at home.

The situation: Brian, my current boyfriend, moved in with me about 7 weeks ago. He’s a freelance graphic designer who builds custom WordPress websites. He works part-time on Whoosh Traffic and takes other client contracts part-time.

He also loves to cook, and we now eat most meals at home. Neither of us enjoy cleaning, and between our businesses, we barely have time to work on the house. If you’ve been reading erica.biz for a while, you know I’m a big fan of hiring out for housekeeping, yard maintenance, etc. We already have a gardener (it’s included in the rent for our house), but we needed someone to clean the house.

I hired a housekeeper when I moved to my current house in December, and she was great. Unfortunately, sometime in February, she flaked out on me (and on one of my friends) completely. It was time to find someone new.

Most housekeepers come every couple weeks and work for 4-5 hours at a time. That may work fine for others, but it wasn’t a perfect fit for our needs. With both of us working from home, and four animals in the house (a dog and three cats), we needed cleaning more often.

First, Envision What You Want…

The first key to grasp is that you don’t necessarily have to conform to what’s out there. Especially in times where the economy is not booming, you can post what you’re looking for and get it, instead of just calling a housekeeping service and hoping for the best.

I started by envisioning what would be my perfect fit in terms of a housekeeper. First, I wanted someone who would do laundry. I don’t mind doing laundry, but I find it’s one of those things I keep forgetting about until I suddenly have no clean clothes and have to do several loads in a day to catch up. I don’t want to live that way, so I noted that my housekeeper should handle that.

I also wanted someone who could work on some organizing in the house. I like my house clean, but I’m not particularly good at cleaning it. Like laundry, I tend to let it go until I can’t ignore it any more, then spend 2-3 hours in a frenzy cleaning everything. With the amount of time we spend in this house, plus the animals, an every-other-week arrangement would have had me (or Brian) doing a cleaning frenzy every 3-4 days. It’s not a workable situation.

Realizing these two things enabled me to figure out that I wanted someone at least a few times a week.

Then, Post An Ad…

The next thing I did was to post an ad on craigslist. This is different than what I’ve done in the past. In the past, I’ve asked for referrals from my friends on Facebook and Twitter. In my experience, asking on social networks may be a good fit if you need a high-end programmer, designer, or other techie, but it’s not a good fit for a housekeeper need. People do send me referrals, but I often only get 1 or 2 leads, and then I have to follow up. I want plenty of leads, so that isn’t the right fit.

So craigslist it was. I headed toward the “gigs” section, where you can post odds-and-ends type of jobs at no charge. I posted in the “domestic” category, and this is what I wrote:

Looking for house cleaner/organizer 3x a week near SDSU (Near San Diego State)

I’m looking for a housekeeper/organizer 2 hours a day, 3 times a week, in the afternoon. I live with my boyfriend, and we are both busy entrepreneurs, so we are looking for someone to help out around the house every day.

I live very close to San Diego State and ideally, you’ll live close too (so the commute is easy.) You are:
* Detail-oriented
*Organized
*Extremely responsible
*Looking for a part-time gig (This is 6 hours a week [2 hours a day 3x a week] afternoon/early evening vastly preferred)
*Willing to clean, do laundry and various household chores (no lawn work needed–all indoor work–cleaning dishes, vacuuming etc.) Also taking items to the post office, organizing, etc.
*On time every day…no excuses
*Good at setting up a schedule and communicating with me when you need time off

Perfect gig for a close-by stay-at-home mom or perhaps a responsible college student.

I’m happy to pay $400-$500/month for the right person. Pay is 1099, based on how many days you work. I can pay weekly by check. The 3x a week/2 hours each time part is non-negotiable, which is why I recommend you live close to SDSU/my house.

Send me your resume, 3 references, your phone number, and your email address to be considered.

Follow Up with Serious Candidates

I received 21 responses back in the next 2 days. From those 21, I filtered it down to 4 people. First, I looked for anyone who had followed the directions in my post. (Some people just sent me their phone number with “CALL ME”…uh, no!)

Most people who had responded sent me resumes. I looked for someone who wrote decent English (it didn’t need to be perfect, but it did need to be readable), and who lived close by (or who explained that they came to San Diego State on a daily basis).

To the final four people, I sent the following email:

Hi [their first name],

I had a lot of responses to my craigslist post, and I had to pick my
top 4 people. Congratulations–you are one of them!

I’d love to have you come over and work for a couple hours. Consider
this a “paid interview”–I will happily pay you as long as you show up
and get the work done. I’m sending this to 4 people, so from those
paid interviews, I’ll pick whoever seems like he/she will work out the
best. πŸ™‚

I can do this afternoon (Friday), Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. Let
me know which of these days you are available. I’ll then send you my
address and confirm date/time. I’ll definitely hire someone by the end
of next week.

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing back from you!

-Erica

Interestingly, all four of the people picked different days, so that made it easy. I paid each of them $35 cash for the two-hour job “interview”–a reasonable rate for my local area. (The rates people want in your area may be larger or smaller…this is where it pays to check with other employers in your local area to see what they are paying for similar services.)

Finally, Pick the Right Person

All four showed up on time (or early!) and did a great job. I think the reason they showed up on time was at least partly due to the psychology of my letter. They knew this was an interview and that three other people were competing for the job. They knew I had a lot of applicants. And there aren’t a lot of jobs out there like this, where they can work flexible hours and get paid.

From those four, it was pretty straightforward. I talked a bit to each of the four when they were out here. Honestly, any of them would have done a great job, but Brian and both gravitated toward one in particular. We plan to award her the job, so by the time you read this, we will have 6 hours a week of our lives back!

I couldn’t be happier with how this turned out, and I don’t feel like I’m chained to someone who is not a good fit. That’s the beauty of the interviewing process vs. getting recommendations–you can pick who really works for you. By the way, had I tried to hire based solely on the emails I sent back and forth with each interviewee, I would have not have picked the woman we hired. That’s why it’s great to do the paid interviews…you can see how each person who wants to work for you really fits in.

Once You’ve Hired

Great–so you’ve found the right person! Don’t forget to have the person you hire sign an employment contract. You can find templates online easily. If you are in the United States, get proof that they are eligible to work here. You can do this by following the instructions at IRS Form I-9. Also have them fill out a 1099 form, so you can send them a 1099 at the end of the year–since you will probably be paying them more than $600/year. Check with your accountant or bookkeeper to see if you can write this off as a business expense–you may be able to.

No Excuses! (Your Questions and Answers)

I always get questions when I post a blog about how to hire an employee. Here are some of the most common questions I get, and my answers:

Question: Aren’t you worried about strangers in your home–that they will steal your stuff?
Answer: No, not particularly. I tend to judge a person by the energy he or she brings to the place. I find that most people are genuinely nice. Besides, I don’t think most people, especially in a down economy, are interested in stealing. They’d really rather have the job.

If you’re really concerned about this, there are organizations out there that will do a background check for you before you hire someone.

By the way, if you plan to hire people, change your door lock to something like this: Schlage keypad. This is the front door lock I have and it’s great. Even if you’ve never installed a new door lock before, it’s pretty easy. Having never installed a front door lock, I followed the instructions and had it up and running in about 20 minutes. You can give yourself one key combination and your housekeeper, babysitter, etc. others–and then delete those key combinations when you no longer employ them. This is far, far better than duplicating keys and it’s well worth the money. Plus you never have to use a key to open your house again. Worth every penny.

Question: Is this really worth it? It doesn’t take me that long to clean my house.
Answer: The answer to this is pretty straightforward. Do you have plenty of time to work on your business, and do you enjoy cleaning your house? If so, then by all means keep on doing it.

If you don’t have time to work on your business, though, you need to seriously consider this, especially if you’ve already cut out most of your TV-watching. If you hate coming home to a dirty house, then do something like this and come home to a clean house most days. I find my mood vastly improves–and I do better, more focused work–when my house is clean. If you find yourself nodding in agreement to this, then hire someone. It’s worth it.

The Biggest Question and Answer

Question: I don’t make that much money. Should I still consider this?
Answer: If you feel you can “arbitrage” those hours into making more money, then yes, do it. I don’t recommend going into debt for this, but I do recommend it if you’re making a bit of money with your business.

Let me be clear on one thing: Look at this as an investment. It’s an investment in yourself and in your business. This is not “spending money” or “wasting money.” This is freeing up your time, which should be more valuable when spent on your business. And it’s enabling you to bring far bigger value to the world. If hiring someone else enables you to serve the world in a bigger, better way, then hire someone else!

This is also a huge investment in your community. It’s arguably one of the best services you can provide to your community–giving someone else in need of money some work. I know in America in particular we tend to want to do everything ourselves, and we take a large amount of pride in doing so. But we also tend to work ourselves into the ground, get less sleep than we need, and get sick more often than people in other cultures.

In other cultures (particularly in African cultures), it’s considered rude to not hire others in your community when you have the money. Take that perspective and stop feeling guilty. You are giving a deserving neighbor/community member some work while allowing yourself the time you need to contribute more value to the world. Realize that your guilt is manufactured due to the culture that we live in, and embrace employing others in your community.

No more excuses. Remember all those politicians who wring their hands about “job creation”? Small business growth is what drives job creation. Let’s go out there and create some jobs–and keep climbing the ladder of bigger and bigger value creation!

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After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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