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Hiring for Your Art Business

(previously published on

Is your art business gearing up for expansion? Taking your creative company to the next level begins with hiring the right creative people to get your organization off the ground. While you may be looking for someone with an accounting background or experience with administrative management, creativity, and deft problem-solving skills should be a prerequisite for employees at any creative company.

Hiring is hard work, and it becomes even more difficult when you’re looking for creative people who can also handle the day-to-day tasks so many art business owners need managed. With ever increasing competition for talent in today’s market, finding your next star can be difficult. For an art business just beginning the employee search, finding the right hire can feel like playing the lottery: pick some numbers and hope that your choices win. With limited funds (and very often limited time), every early stage art business hire (or non-hire) can mean the difference between reaching the pinnacle or shuttering the doors. Follow these steps to up your chances of winning the employee lottery.

Take Your Time and Plan for the Hiring Process

Don’t wait until the last minute to begin searching for your creative company’s next stars. Whether starting an art business or gearing up for the next phase of your creative company, have a hiring plan in place will help you identify the key hires you will need for your art business. Craft this plan at least six months in advance of initiating the hiring process.

Hiring the right creative people will help your art business thrive.

If you wait until you feel the pain, you raise your chances of making a hurried decision, which in turn will make your odds of hiring a star plummet faster than Donald Trump’s approval rating.

Beyond identifying the hiring needs for your art business, identify what it means to be a team member at your creative company and incorporate that philosophy into all your hires. Are you the type of art business that takes company culture very seriously? Do you offer the type of environment where creative people can flourish and thrive, or do you simply need people to help you get the little jobs done? The sooner you think about these factors, the clearer your path will become.

Do You Need Generalists or Specialists?

In a burgeoning creative company, you shouldn’t focus solely on whether you need a generalist or a specialist, instead, try to look for creative people with a so-called “T-Shaped” skill set. In a nutshell, a generalist is someone who has a broad set of skills across many subjects (a jack-of-all-trades, so to speak) while a specialist is someone who has a focused skill set or knowledge relating to a particular field (the expert in a specific field).On the other hand, a ‘T-shaped’ person is both well-versed in particular areas and agile enough to work across multiple fields.

Popularized and defended by IDEO CEO Tim Brown as a method to build interdisciplinary teams for creative processes, the vertical bar on the ‘T’ represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single specific field, while the horizontal bar represents the ability to collaborate across multiple disciplines with persons in other fields, and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than their own. T-Shaped people have both depth and breadth in their skills and have the ability to fit into and work across different areas. These employees will allow you to bridge the gaps in the early days and will help you propel your art business forward.

Be Prepared for Anything

Miguel de Cervantes said it best: “Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory.” People can tell when you are ill-prepared. Make sure you take the time to do your research on your interviewee – knowing and using their name when speaking is a great start. Review their resume and credentials BEFORE you meet them.

Interview preparedness goes both ways – be ready to wow your candidate.

Plan out intelligent, thoughtful questions and insights. Creative people applying to work with you will likely want to feel inspired by your mission and purpose, and showing them that you’re engaged in every aspect of the business will make your company a more desirable option for their career.

Know your company, including its history, culture, benefits, plans and interview procedures. Nothing derails the best-laid plans quite like being unprepared – so don’t let your planning go to waste.

Make Your Art Business Seem Like a Gotta-Have Gig

New art business ventures are inherently risky, and your interviewee is taking as much a leap of faith working for you, as you are in hiring them. Put your best foot forward and remember that your creative company is also being interviewed. Show that you respect the process and be prepared and on time for the meeting.

Make sure that anyone meeting with your interviewee is a true representative of you and your art business, and also takes the process seriously. A star hire will see warning signs and run, so don’t let this happen to you. Show them what you and your company believe in, and what you are striving to achieve with your art business.

Cut Through the Candidate’s Interview Persona

One of the hardest choices to make when hiring for your art business is deciding between a few final qualified candidates. It is easy to become enamored with the glossiest resume and smoothest-talking interviewee. Often times, it’s tempting to hire someone who is just like you. When coming to this crossroads, do not be afraid to challenge your finalists.

Figure out whether this candidate would be a good cultural fit. A hire who works for you should feel like they just won “American Ninja Warrior” – both elated and extremely challenged – and this should not be a walk in the park. Don’t create or use cookie-cutter questions.

Do prepare some questions or quizzes that will reveal qualities that you are looking for in an employee of your art business. Find out whether your candidate possesses the characteristics of a critical thinker.Seek out and try to reveal key traits, like grit, empathy, curiosity, impact, ownership, accountability, teamwork, and polish. Hit your interviewees with some tough questions to make them think on their feet and reveal what’s beneath the shiny surface of their “interview self.”

Take a Risk for the Right Candidate. You didn’t get to this point by playing it safe – don’t start now! Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks on potential. Don’t be afraid to hire your replacement or someone who may be smarter than you. There’s no room for ego in the growth necessary for your fledgling art business to survive.

Reach outside your own comfort zone and make hires that will have true impact. Don’t be afraid to hire someone who has different skill sets than you possess; the right hire may not be your carbon copy. At an art business, you are looking for complementary skills and want diversity and depth when hiring – otherwise, you run the risk of stifling creativity. They may bring a whole different set of skills that you do not possess to the table. Imitation is not the highest form of flattery in this sense and a sequel is almost never as good as the original. This is true with cases such as Baby Jordan, Oasis, The Matrix Reloaded, Joey on NBC and your hires.

Tie it All Together

At the end of the day, hiring can be a taxing and arduous process, and hiring smart can feel nigh impossible. Don’t get discouraged. Trust yourself, your team, and the process you worked so hard putting in place. With the right foundation in place, you CAN hire the right creative people to help your art business flourish. Now, get out there and win the employee lottery.

About the author

As the founder of Advisable, Gregg Perez combines his love and passion to help law firms, start-ups, and companies of varying size reach their best potential with the experience gained from working with Fortune 500 companies, law firms, and start-ups. As an Administrator, COO, VP and consultant, he brings years of consulting and real life experience to the table for his clients. Gregg is also a former US Army Cavalry Scout and once beat Contra without the Konami Code.


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