Working Solo or Getting an Assistant

Even though you may be a working all by your lonesome self does not mean that you will only be a photographer and nothing else. When you decide to go into the business of photography, then you would have to work like a one-man band, playing different instruments to sound like a complete orchestra. As a professional photographer, you would still need to be a salesman, a marketing person, in charge of operations, maintaining accounting books and doing admin work, managing the occasional part-timer or even volunteer assistant, and nowadays, being your own IT or social media marketing expert.

You don’t need to completely exhaust yourself, unless you’re a complete beginner and jobs are still really few and far-between, allowing you time and energy to do everything else yourself. Do find out about tasks that you can delegate.

Here are a few tips when hiring someone to assist you. In addition to making a list of qualifications for the position(s) that you want to fill, you may want to consider other factors that will help your new-hire to succeed in that job with you.

Place of Residence. Adphoto has always favored those who live in nearby places, preferably even living in the neighborhood. If they lived nearby, they don’t have to go through an inordinate amount of time and expense commuting. Even if we’re willing to shoulder transportation expense, that’s not money that goes into the pocket of our employee – it goes to the transportation company, or if the employee has a car, it is used to buy gasoline or to pay for maintenance at the car repair shop. Today, traffic on our roads are excruciatingly slow and heavy even on ordinary days that people going to and from their offices spend hours on the road, time that the could have spent doing work in the office or resting at home. This does not mean that we do not hire someone who has to travel to come to work, but if we were choosing between two equally qualified candidates, we would take in the one who lives nearby – or, we would offer accommodations to those who live far.

Multi-tasking Abilities. Especially in the beginning when you can’t afford to hire someone who does only something specific, try to find someone who can be an all-around assistant. It would be nice if you had an assistant or a partner who is good at doing paperwork, including writing cost estimates and proposals, yet willing to carry and set up your equipment. He should be someone who will not find it degrading to deliver DVDs or bills to your clients, or collect checks from them. If he is just as proficient with Office software as he is with Photoshop or Lightroom, then you’ve got it made.

Compatibility and Complimentary-ness. If he is going to be your everyday sidekick, you might as well find someone who is compatible with you. This does not mean having a “yes man” as you do need someone who can challenge you from time to time, someone with whom you can brainstorm or test ideas. Look for complimentary-ness, to be strong where you are weak and vice versa. Look for conviviality – someone with whom you can share a laugh or funny moment. When things are difficult, and they would be in the beginning, it helps to be working with someone with a sense of humor.
Find someone whose values you share. More importantly, hire someone who believes in you, as it is very difficult to work with an assistant who thinks he knows more than his boss.

Write an employment contract. Write a simple employment agreement that enumerates his responsibilities to you, and your responsibilities to him.

Compensation. If you are very unsure that you can afford to pay an assistant on a regular basis, you might want to get him on a per job basis – just make sure that you include pre- and post production work as part of his responsibilities for the job. Do indicate how much and how you would pay him (after each job, or when you collect payment from client?). You can start low, if you would pay right after each project, since you would be assuming the risk and advancing his pay, or pay him a higher rate if you would ask him to wait until you yourself got paid. You could also choose between a fixed rate (similar to a day rate, or a monthly assistant’s rate, no matter how high or low your own billings to client), or a fluctuating rate, based on a percentage of the professional fee that you yourself will charge your client.

Opportunity for growth. When you’ve found your ideal assistant or partner, treat him with respect, pay him fairly or share profits with him, and provide him with opportunities to grow with you. The only way to succeed is to bring someone up with you.