Welcome to episode 286 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Emily Perron about hiring freelance help.
Last week on the podcast, we re-shared an episode we shared earlier this year about what to do when you feel like you’ve done everything. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Build Your Team
One of the inevitable truths of running and growing your own business is that you’ll need to hire some help at some point.
But how do you make sure that your job listing is as eye-catching and descriptive as it can be? How do you ask the right questions in an interview? How do you make sure you’re hiring the right person for the job?
That’s what Emily is here to talk about today! In this episode, we dive deep into the world of hiring freelancers, from figuring out when it’s time to hire to all of the boxes you should check throughout the hiring process.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- The toughest parts of the hiring process
- The kinds of job listings that aren’t appealing to freelancers
- Why a hiring process is necessary
- What to include in an attractive job listing
- How to screen applicants
- How to ask the important questions in an interview
- Examples of candidate red flags
- The differences between freelancers and employees
- How to know when you’re ready to hire
- First roles that people hire for
- How to properly pay freelancers
- When to consider hiring
- How to work with Emily
- What to include in the contract when hiring a freelancer
- The first thing to do when thinking about hiring support
- What you don’t know about how long it takes to hire freelancers
- Google Forms
- Tara Teaspoon
- Check out Emily’s site, get in touch, and follow her on Instagram
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Learn more about joining the Food Blogger Pro community at foodbloggerpro.com/membership
Transcript (click to expand):
Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, hey. Welcome to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. My name is Alexa, and happy 2021. I know that we’re all so excited about the brand new year, the brand new start, and we hope your new year has gotten off to a great start. Today is our first new episode of the year. And in this episode, Bjork is interviewing Emily Perron. And she’s going to be talking about hiring some freelance help. One of the inevitable truths of running and growing your business is that you’ll eventually need to hire some help, but how do you make sure that your job listing is as eye-catching and as descriptive as it can be?
Alexa Peduzzi: How can you ask the right questions in an interview? Or how do you make sure that you’re hiring the right person for the job in the first place? And that’s what Emily is here to talk about today. In this episode, we dive deep into the world of hiring freelancers from figuring out when it’s time to hire, to all of those boxes that you should check throughout the hiring process. It’s an awesome interview, we’re excited for you to check it out. So without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.
Bjork Ostrom: Emily, welcome to the podcast.
Emily Perron: Hey.
Bjork Ostrom: We’re going to be talking about freelancing today. What I love about your story as we chatted a little bit and we talked through what the outline of this would look like, your story and how you ended up where you are right now involves you getting stuck in this problem that you’re now helping other people fix. So can you tell us what it looked like for you coming out of corporate America, realizing you wanted to do your own thing and some of those early problems that you had in building a team and hiring freelancers? Take us back to when you started to make that transition.
Emily Perron: Yeah. I spent about 10 years in the corporate world. I was at a Fortune 500 company. First, I worked in event planning, then in marketing. And it was at that point that I knew I was ready to pivot out of the corporate world, and so I started my career coaching practice. This was back in 2015. I actually started hiring pretty early in my business, and the main reason for that was in the corporate world, I did quite a bit of hiring in that space. So I was a hiring manager for a while in event planning. I also, when I was in marketing, I was just that person that people went to when they needed perspective, they needed an extra set of eyes on resumes, someone in the interviews.
Emily Perron: So I was really part of that decision making process throughout my time in the corporate space. And then as I pivoted in to my own business, it just made sense to me I needed help and I needed… I started with a virtual assistant and I just found that hiring was so much harder than I thought it was going to be. I had a master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology and also I had a bachelor’s degrees in psych and English as well, so I just really knew people, I had all this education and experience. On paper, I looked like the perfect person to hire in my business, and I really struggled, I couldn’t-
Bjork Ostrom: Do you feel like-
Emily Perron: Go ahead.
Bjork Ostrom: Hold on to that thought. I’m curious before we get too far away from it, do you feel like it was harder once you were on your own hiring than when you were in your corporate job playing the role of hiring manager? And why do you think that was different, if it was?
Emily Perron: Yes, absolutely, just 100. I mean, part of it is it’s so much more personal when it’s you, and I know this is true for food bloggers as well. I’ve been working with them long enough that they’ve been telling me this too. And I think that the core of it is that the resources are very different. When you’re in a corporation, if you make a mistake hiring, it’s a drop in the bucket, no one cares, it doesn’t matter. You’re talking like billions of dollars. But even like someone making $80,000 a year, it doesn’t matter. But when it’s your blog, it’s your online business, it’s just so much more personal. I think it makes it so much harder for us to make decisions.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. You can imagine a company of 100, if you hire one additional person, that’s 1% change, let’s say, in company culture or payroll, there’s not as big of an impact. But if you’re a team of one, if it’s just you, if your business is you and you hire somebody suddenly 50% of that company is potentially somebody else, what they’re bringing to the table, not only in potentially what you’re paying them, if you’re early on, let’s say your site is making $50,000 a year, you hire somebody at 10 to $20,000 a year to help out in a freelance capacity to do some things. That’s a significant part of the income that you have from your business and it’s felt in a very real way, so what you’re saying makes sense.
Bjork Ostrom: What do you feel like for you were the specific pain points when you got into it and you’re like, “Gosh, I feel like I have all the credentials for this. I’ve been through the process for this.” What were the specific pain points that you felt as you started to get into it hiring for your own company?
Emily Perron: Yeah. I think one of the biggest ones was just getting people to apply. My job postings were not working. Do you want to hear what they were like? I’ll be honest about-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah, yeah, please, sure.
Emily Perron: What’s going on there? So I would post in a Facebook group, and I know we’ve all done it. And we see them all the time. It was a Facebook post that just said, “I need a VA to do some editing and social media posting.” And it’s just not enough for the freelancers, they’re not going to be interested in that because there’s not enough information. And I can see that in hindsight now why that wasn’t working, but I didn’t know at the time.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the problems that you have to… We’re discovering this as we build a team that the things that you were previously good at, you maybe aren’t going to be spending as much time on those things, and you have to get good at new things. And if you’re building a team, one of those new things that you have to start to get good at, which means that you’re not going to be good at it to start, which doesn’t feel good, but you have to start to get good at finding, recruiting and engaging with other people. You have to build a team, if that’s something that you want to do, and one of the components of that is…
Bjork Ostrom: It’s kind of like marketing, it’s getting the word out about a position, because if you can get that in front of the largest group of qualified people, there’s going to be a better chance that somebody is going to connect with you that’s a really good fit, that’s excited about the position. And those are the best type of people to work with because it’s great for them, it’s great for you, and you can have a great partnership. But it’s kind of like marketing. So for those people who are like, “Yes, that makes sense. I get that. I feel like I have a position, I know people would be excited about it, but I don’t know how to let people know about it other than maybe just posting in a Facebook group or maybe letting their audience know,” if you have an audience and a blog. What are some of the other ways that people could tackle that problem right off the bat?
Emily Perron: Yeah. I think the biggest thing is actually having a process, so it’s less about where and more about how you find them, is what I found. Because you can find really good freelancers in Facebook groups, you can find them on LinkedIn, you can find them on the freelancing platforms like Upwork and Guru. They’re there in all the places, your job posting really becomes the marketing for the position. And so you need to include things that are going to be attractive to the freelancer in order to get them to apply, in order to get that big wide group of interest.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s almost like if you’re in marketing, you think of the sales page or the landing page. This is the place that people go and they learn about the thing that maybe they will purchase, or if you have a food blog, really every post that you publish is a version of that, you’re trying to make the recipe as appealing as possible with photos and video and a really solid recipe, obviously. For a job, that thing is the description of what it is. It’s the work that is to be done. So for somebody who’s like, “Oh, that makes sense.” I probably haven’t done a great job of creating an appealing job description, a post about it. What are some of the components that people should be aware of and be intentional about including as they’re building that out?
Emily Perron: Yeah, I think the first one is actually the title itself and making sure to include some attractive details. Especially with food bloggers, what I often include will be sometimes stats. Sometimes we include page views, depending on their role. Like if we’re looking for social media manager, we’ll include something about the following, so 50,000 Instagram followers or something relevant that shows the freelancers that this is a legit opportunity because that’s one of the biggest challenges, is cutting through the noise in the space. There’s so much disreputable, unreputable, there’s just so much shady stuff out there in the freelancing space. And good freelancers are really attuned to that and they can pick out the red flags.
Emily Perron: First, you have to think like in marketing, you have to get them to click on the link first to get them onto the page, and then the copy will pull them in further.
Bjork Ostrom: What are some of the examples, when you say red flags, what does that look like? I think a lot of people that listen to the podcast think of like, “Hey, I’m the business owner, I’m the creator, and I want to be careful of who I hire,” but it sounds like what you’re saying is, there’s a lot of people out there who are freelancers, and they’re saying, “I want to be careful who I work for.” Which that also makes a lot of sense. Do you have examples on both sides what those red flags might be?
Emily Perron: Yeah, definitely. Some of the things that freelancers are looking for is, like I mentioned earlier, the vague postings. So if there’s no details about the responsibilities and if there’s not much in terms of qualifications, they’re not going to take the time. It’s just not worth their time and energy to pursue that. So that repels them. So on the other side, then we can include details, but if you go so far as to make it five roles. So they’re also very attuned like, if I’m a social media manager, I can tell if you want me to be your writer, your virtual assistant, your project manager.
Emily Perron: They can tell if the role is way too broad, that’s not appropriate for freelancing either. They should be much more specialized. And that’s a good thing for the food blogger as well, because they get the best in each of those roles instead, and it really maximizes your investment as well.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So in your experience, would you say, hey, better to work with multiple people in a freelance capacity who are specialized, versus one person that you’re working with more closely who’s doing a variety of tasks?
Emily Perron: Yes. Because it’s really hard to find… They’re almost like unicorns, they’re really hard to find a freelancer that is like a mini version of you, it’s nearly impossible, but you can be really successful with two or three freelancers. And you can spend the same amount, but you get much better service in return.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that makes sense. How about on the other side? So as a creator who’s putting a job description out there, what are some of the things that you should be aware of as people are starting to submit applications or follow up saying, “Hey, I’m interested in this.” How do you get a good feeling of like, hey, this person is a legitimate, pro versus somebody who likes the idea of working from home and that is like their main motivations, versus like doing really good work and being a professional at whatever specialization it is that they’re doing?
Emily Perron: One of the things I do in that space is, I’ve stopped using cover letters. And this helps with that a lot, because once you have a really solid, really attractive job posting, the flip side of that is you’re going to have 30, 40, 50 candidates and that can also be very overwhelming to filter through. So one of the things I started doing is I stopped using cover letters and I started asking specific questions so that I could see. You can really compare the candidates so much better when they’re all answering the same prompts. Because with cover letters, everyone says whatever they want.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right. And it’s, open ended, and it’s hard to analyze from a objective perspective. But if you have the same question and maybe you know something that you’re looking for within that question, you have that process. You talked about that, a process that you go through, which is really helpful. A really specific example that we picked up a long time ago is, one of the questions that we will ask when we’re going through interviews is for people to reflect on a time that something didn’t go well in an area that they were responsible for and talk a little bit about why it didn’t go well. And what we’re looking for with that, the repeatable process part of that is, is somebody taking ownership of something or is somebody passing blame for something?
Bjork Ostrom: It’s a question that we continually come back to, we know what we’re looking for, and we have a little process about that in our interviews that we do. Do you have other examples of good questions to ask or good information to gather when you are reaching out to these people? We’re throwing away the cover letter, but what are the things that we want to make sure that we’re getting and how do we analyze those?
Emily Perron: Yeah. The first one I always ask is, why are you the best candidate for this position? Which is basically taking the place of the cover letter. The second one is, what is your zone of genius?
Bjork Ostrom: Can you explain what that means for people who aren’t familiar with that?
Emily Perron: Yeah. So the zone of genius, it’s like the work that you were just called to do. This is where your brilliant. It lights you up. You are deep, been experienced, you have knowledge, skills, talents, passion, interests. It all culminates in this zone of genius. And so I ask that because I’m always surprised at how many times people don’t really get it, they’ll tell me something… Or maybe it’s just that they’re being really honest, and so they’ll say something that’s not really relevant to the position. And that just helps me see, like, are you the specialist that I’m looking for here? And then the third one-
Bjork Ostrom: Like if you’re hiring for an editor on a piece of content, and somebody says, “My zone of genius is like big picture thinking. I’m not a details person.” It’s like, oh, probably not good for somebody who’s an editor. And that helps you to rule them out as a good fit for that position.
Emily Perron: Yeah. And the third one I always use that I think will really get at your, how do we tell if they’re really a pro, is I always ask, do you freelance on a full-time basis? Because when they’ve been freelancing for a while, typically they’ll tell you like how long they’ve been freelancing. And so if you have someone that’s been full-time freelancing at least a year, those are typically the pros. If it’s been two or three months, they are a riskier candidate and they’re a riskier choice because if they’re pretty new into the freelancing space, they may end up back in a full-time job. So it just depends how you want to work. But typically, that’s what I recommend for my clients and my students as well, that they look for those candidates.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting, it’s like a year is the mark where you know, hey, this person has been able to pay their bills consistently for a long period of time and have proven themselves, which probably means that they’ve been working with people on a repeat basis and there’s some social proof, so to speak, of the fact that they’ve been able to keep their business going.
Emily Perron: Yeah, exactly. And they’re building a business, they’re approaching it like a business and they’ve got that stability layer, like you said.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Anything that you would consider in that process like a red flag where you’re immediately like, “Nope, this person, we’re going to really easily rule out this potential candidate.”
Emily Perron: Oh, yeah. Oh, I have a couple of good ones on this. So one is if they don’t answer the questions. No, I’ve had this happen.
Bjork Ostrom: Totally.
Emily Perron: In some of the platforms, or even if you use a Google Form and put the questions in there, I have had people get on a call with me and they’ll write that as the response to every question. And I’m just like, “That’s a hard no, if you take 10 minutes to…. ” I’m not asking them to write pages, I just want a couple of sentences. So that’s a hard no. And then the other one is pitching other services. I have become relentless in, if you even hint at doing something else, you’re not a social media manager, you’re not a writer. You get a lot of people that will pitch you. Other services, they’ll pitch marketing funnels, they’ll pitch Facebook ads, you name it, but they just find your posting and they will use the application process. So again, it’s trying to keep those on hand-
Bjork Ostrom: So it’s somebody who is like, “Hey, I do video editing, I see you have a post for a photographer, I’m going to go through this.” And like, “Hey, I understand cameras and I can do video editing, I’m going to apply for this job.” Trying to sneak in a different role through an application process for something that’s not the role that they’re applying for.
Emily Perron: Right. And freelancers tend to be really good. And I had made this mistake, I hired someone from marketing funnels once because he was awesome. He was so charismatic, it was just such a good fit, but I wasn’t ready for marketing funnels and it wasn’t the job I posted for it. So that one was a pretty harsh lesson in being really relentless on that-
Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense.
Emily Perron: No additional services.
Bjork Ostrom: And then when you’re gathering this information, are you using a tool like Google Forms? Is it Typeform? That’s what we usually use when we’re doing applications. What would your recommended solution be?
Emily Perron: Yeah. I’d say it’s whatever works. Honestly, it’s whatever works for you. I’ve been using Google Forms. You use Typeform, you could use Airtable, any of those. Anything that will collect the information. Unless you’re using one of the freelancing platforms. So like if you’re using Upwork, which is a pretty common platform, they run the application process through their website. They don’t want you to clicking people off into your own form.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that makes sense.
Emily Perron: But other than that, if you’re just open sourcing your candidates and your applications, then you can use whatever works, whatever you feel you’re most comfortable with.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s like photography where they say the best camera’s the one that you have and the best tool is the one that works for you. I’m a big believer in that. This is actually probably one of the things that we should’ve hit right away. We’ve talked about it in different ways on the podcast before, but for anybody who’s missed the episodes where we talk about building a team or team members, one of the really important considerations is, like a contractor-freelance relationship versus an employee or a W2, sometimes you’ll say 1099 versus W2. Can you explain the differences between those two relationships in regards to the people that you’re working with? What does a freelancer look like and how do you know when somebody is a freelancer versus an employee or a W2 team member?
Emily Perron: Yeah. Now, I’m not an accountant so I can’t go too deep on it, but I typically refer people to their accountants for help classifying those, but I can talk about it at a broad level. And one of the big pieces is control. So the control over when they’re working, what tools they’re using, the actual work product, whatever they’re delivering. So when you’re hiring a freelancer, you’re really looking for a specialist. You can also have a specialist who’s an employee. This is where it starts to get a little more complicated and we start layering in factors like the number of hours, is also a consideration. Or if you’re looking for someone-
Bjork Ostrom: Or like when somebody would work? So if you’re hiring somebody for customer support and you say, “You have to work between 8:00 and 11:00 AM, Monday through Friday,” there’s a gray zone, but that would probably be a point in favor of that person being a W2 employee?
Emily Perron: Yep, exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
Emily Perron: Where with a freelancer, if you just need help three to five hours a week on something really special that they have knowledge and skill that you don’t have, then that’s a good indicator that you can go more of the contractor, 1099 freelancer approach.
Bjork Ostrom: How about if you were hiring and working with somebody, they’re on a freelance role and they have the freedom, flexibility to work when they want, how they want, where they want. Let’s say a freelancer comes to you and says, “Hey, just as a heads up, I’m doing this two-month trip. I’ve been in quarantine, I’ve been vaccinated from COVID. I am now free and I’m going to explore the world.” Not that that means you have a free pass to explore the world. Hypothetical situation, they’re going to jet set for two months. They technically can do that. Where if you were as a part of a team, you’d have time off and you’d take PTO. What does that look like? And how do you manage a relationship like that if there’s maybe a really big project you have to work on in somebody like, “Hey, sorry, I’m not going to be available for a month because of whatever reason?”
Emily Perron: Yeah. That’s a great question. I think one of the things that I do in my own business is I check in with my freelancers before big projects. So if I’m developing a course or maybe a mini course or something like that, I have a focused project, I need a sales landing page, I check in with my writer, I’ll check in with people and make sure that they are available and I full well know… I mean, that’s just part of it, is knowing that they may not be available and you need to find someone else. Maybe it’s more of the downside, is that availability piece can change.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We’ve worked with many, many different freelancers contractors in all different types of capacities and have never really had that as an issue, but just a consideration for people to think about, if somebody is a freelancer, maybe a little less predictability. Maybe not even that though, I think to your point, like anything, you just make sure that you communicate well, and that being on you as the business owner, as much as it is on the person that you’re working with. The other thing that’s worth mentioning, and you talked about this from an accounting perspective is, there’s differences what it looks like from an accounting perspective to hire freelancer versus an employee.
Bjork Ostrom: And to point that out, one of the basic things is as a business you’re not paying any taxes out of the payments that you’re paying a freelancer, whereas if you have a W2 Employee, you are paying taxes and have all of these considerations around like state, federal, workers’ comp, things like that. We work with a PEO called Justworks to help handle that, if anybody’s interested in working with an employee, but on the freelancer side, can you talk about agreements that you have? Do you have a contract?
Bjork Ostrom: What does that look like to set up a successful relationship without getting too overboard with specifics around, here’s exactly what you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it, but also outlining, here’s what our agreement is for working together.
Emily Perron: Yeah. I do use a work agreement. I have a template that I purchased from an attorney, so I have the official document, but there are a couple of things that I made sure to include. And the first is I start with a 30-day trial and I put that in the contract. So just in case we’re not a good fit, you can get out easily on the 30-day mark. I also make sure that I can fire with some phone notice or release. That sounds like me, and then harsh to me, but I think that that’s also important that because maybe it’s six months in and then all of a sudden, they’re not as reliable, they’re not responding to your messages and you need to terminate, then you can. So I keep that in there as well.
Emily Perron: And then I make sure that they give me notice, so I also put in the contract that they have to give me a 30-day notice before, especially if it’s like an ad, with a blog, like for a writer for a blog, that’s usually an ongoing, every month is the same project, so I ask for a month’s notice on stuff like that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think when people think about hiring, especially people who are people, people, one of the things that is a little bit scary to think about is sending that email where it’s like, “Hey, this isn’t working out, we’re going to have to go our separate ways.” How do you do that well, and what does that look like in actual practice of that happening?
Emily Perron: I’ve always kept it really simple. I think it’s best not to include a ton of details, even if you are mad or frustrated or angry, it’s okay to be all those things, but when it comes to what you’re putting in writing, I’m always just really thoughtful about that. And so that’s why I just keep it really simple. You don’t have to explain yourself, you don’t have to explain why you’re letting them go.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep. That’s great. I’d be interested to hear, you work with food bloggers a lot and that’s something that you’re starting to do. Can you talk a little bit about what it is that you’re doing with food bloggers, how you’re helping them. And then from there, I would love to dig into some stories or some ideas around for people who are bloggers in general or online business owners, it’s not just food bloggers who listen to this podcast, what are some of the ways that they can step into this and be really strategic about some of those early hires?
Bjork Ostrom: We’ve talked around it a little bit, but what is it that you do? And it’s interesting that you actually are working with a lot of food bloggers.
Emily Perron: Yeah. I do work with a lot of food bloggers, I’ve been doing that for a couple of years now. And so one of the ways that I work with them, and my methods apply, I’m working too with other online businesses as well, but I just really enjoy the food blogging community. My main service is I actually do private recruiting. So you come to me and we work through, I create the job posting, I post the job, I source everything, I take care of the entire hiring process and the blogger or business owner, they just get to give feedback along the way.
Emily Perron: And it’s lovely. I love it, they love it. They don’t have to be so overwhelmed, they just get to like free up. They don’t have to use their time and energy because it can be a huge time, just a huge time and energy waster.
Bjork Ostrom: It becomes a replacement job for a period of time, especially if you don’t have the systems and the processes and the tool belt, so to speak, to go through the process, it’s like suddenly you’re going out to Home Depot and buying all of those tools to do the hiring process, not literally, figuratively buying those tools, whereas you have those and go through that process. For those who have never hired before and maybe who have hired in certain capacity, at what point do you think that people should start that process? When do you know that you’re ready to bring somebody onto your team?
Emily Perron: A couple of things, one is that you are really ready to let go of control. If you’re feeling like no one can do it as well as you can, that’s a good sign that no one is going to do it as well as you can. So you have to be ready in that way in terms of mindset. And then you also need to be really clear about what you’re looking for, who you want and what you’re going to have them to do for you because that’s how you then find them. If you don’t know what you want, you’re not going to find what you want. It sounds silly, but it’s really true.
Bjork Ostrom: What are some of those first roles that you see people hiring for?
Emily Perron: A lot of the first roles I see are, virtual assistant is pretty common. It’s not my favorite. We can get into that if you want.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Why is that?
Emily Perron: It’s just so broad. One, anyone can call themselves a virtual assistant. When you post a virtual assistant position, you typically get the most number of applications, and there’s just no standard definition. Social media manager, you know what they’re doing, they know what they’re doing. So I try to really encourage my clients to go more specific or as specific as they can. A better alternative to a virtual assistant if you’re looking for that administrative support is a project manager, because they can just manage your projects. That’s often like the detail piece that a lot of people are struggling with, where a VA needs a lot more support from you in terms of what you want.
Emily Perron: I think there’s also a lot of gray area around, should VA’s really be employees if they don’t really have a specialty, so it just gets really murky in there.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about what a project manager is for those who aren’t familiar with that idea of… The title is self-explanatory, but what is a project manager and what are some ways for a food blogger or a blogger or online business owner that a project manager would be helping them?
Emily Perron: Specifically to food bloggers and bloggers in general, they’re really helpful in terms of managing all of the details around the editorial calendar process. In a general business, it could also be like your social media, whatever content you’re producing, they are typically masterful at being super organized with that, and making processes and systems in your business as well. So if you don’t have those… I say that’s actually one of my favorite roles to hire for bloggers has been the project manager, because they’re not systems and process people, and I wouldn’t expect a blogger to be that.
Emily Perron: And so it’s really rewarding then to watch that role come in and see how that blogger has transformed by having repeatable processes, by having systems in place.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about, and you don’t have to share specifics, but are there stories that you can think of creators or bloggers or influencers that you’ve worked with who have had a higher and that transformation that they go through? What does that look like to be, the before and after, so to speak, of being in one place, knowing that you need this, going through the process, doing it, what can people expect to get on the other side as they look to hire? Because I think for people who haven’t gone through that process of building a team and working with other people maybe seems like, “Hey, this is going to be better if I just keep doing it.”
Bjork Ostrom: But my guess is you’ve worked with people who come back to you and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad that we went through this process. I can’t imagine not having this person to work with or this person on my team.” Can you think of any specific stories?
Emily Perron: Yeah. And I think I can use her name too, she’s given me permission, she has a testimonial on my website, but I think of Tara from Tara Teaspoon as a really great example where she was coming to me thinking she needed a project manager and we found the most incredible person. And what I’ve seen from her is just a great sense of relief. There’s just someone else in it with you that’s taking care of the details. So it’s just a lot of weight off of her mind, not having to be on top of everything all the time. And with her in particular, I looked for a project manager/virtual assistant.
Emily Perron: So we did a hybrid role, someone who was willing to manage her calendar and her email box as well as take on managing other contractors and also the editorial process. So relief has been a big one.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure. And I think it’s one of those things where you don’t realize how much you’ve been carrying until you take some of it off. It’s like having a really heavy backpack on for a long time and you just get used to it, then when you take it off, you’re like, “Wow, this feels really good to not be carrying around with me.”
Emily Perron: The best part too about Tara and her project manager is that they still… I did this like a year and a half ago, I recruited for her, and they still send me notes about how much they love working together and how much they love each other. And so it’s so fun. It’s so fun to see that, the relationship that’s developed there as well. And it was just my process really works. That’s when I too was just really building out confidence, this consistently works, I really nailed it.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that I’m guessing will come up at some point is, when you’re in the early stages, it’s just you, maybe have some ad revenue, you work with companies to do sponsored content, maybe you do some affiliate marketing and the accounting bookkeeping side of it forms things like that, are relatively easy to keep track of. But then when you hire somebody, there’s this additional layer of consideration around like, oh wow, now your business and you are accountable to somebody else and you got to make sure that you’re following IRS guidelines, if you’re in the US and following protocol, and paying people.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have any advice for people who are a little bit nervous about that in terms of, how do I properly pay a freelancer or contractor? And at the end of the year, there’s accounting IRS, related forms that you’ll need to send somebody. Is that as intimidating as it sounds, or is it not that bad? And any advice that you’d give for people who are a little bit nervous about the behind the scenes, kind of back office part of it?
Emily Perron: Yeah. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I think that it’s just worth it for the benefit that you get out of it. And it really depends. A lot of it depends too on how your business is structured, so whether you’re a sole prop or an LLC or an S Corp that’s why I really recommend having a good accountant that you can talk to about your specific situation.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I remember the first time that we had started working with an accountant and she emailed us and she’s like, “Hey, we got to send out these forms to the contractors and vendors that you worked with. Just wanted to confirm that these numbers are right. And we send these out for like $75 a contractor per contract or a vendor.” I was like, “Oh, I didn’t know that was a thing.” If you give like $650, or there’s a certain point where if you pay somebody more than a certain amount, you’re having to send out a form to show that a 1099 at the end of the year.
Bjork Ostrom: And so for me it was like this learning experience, but it wouldn’t have happened, to your point, unless we had been working with an accountant who pointed that out and said, “Hey, you paid this vendor or this contractor $5,000, we need to send a form to them to let the IRS know that we paid them so all of that can be tracked from a tax perspective.”
Emily Perron: It’s just been so long since I’ve been in that space and it doesn’t catch me off guard, I guess. That’s something I think about because I just think it’s just so worth it. And the learning curve is quick, once you’ve done it once, you know what to expect for future years.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s just part of the process. And the payroll provider we use, Justworks, Gusto is another one that’s really common as people in the startup space start to do payroll. So payroll obviously would be W2 Employee, but they’ll also allow you to do contractor payments. For Justworks, they handle all of that, the 1099s and stuff at the end of the year for us. So it’s one of the reasons why we like working with them and it simplifies it, but there’s other companies that do that. I can’t think of them off hand, but essentially the purpose of those companies is to manage the process of 1099s for you for a nominal fee at the end of the year. And most CPAs accountants can do that as well.
Emily Perron: Yeah. And the freelancing platforms as well. So if you go through a Fiverr or an Upwork, they do with 1099, I see that as well.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. If somebody’s in the beginning stages, they’re just starting their blog, would you have any advice in terms of business size of when somebody should bring somebody onto their team, even from what you see as you get an inside look from companies, not that you’re able to see like the revenue of a business, but any advice or thoughts around when somebody should bring somebody else in? Do you wait until you are earning the equivalent of your full-time salary, and then you cut back on that full-time salary to alleviate some of the work?
Bjork Ostrom: Or do you get to the point where you’re beyond what you consider a full-time salary and then scale back against that? Or how should people think about hiring and bringing people in, because freelancing is a really good way to do that. You can bring somebody in five hours a week it doesn’t have to be a 40 hour a week position, but even at that point, when would you say would be a good time to do that?
Emily Perron: I think one of the things that I see is, especially for first hire, it’s in that 50,000 in revenue, it seems somewhere in that 50 to 75 is when they’re starting to look at freelancers. Typically bloggers and online entrepreneurs aren’t looking at employees in that range, but it’s like that six figure mark. It’s really hard to go over into six figures in revenue without any support at all anywhere, because you’re maxed out. You literally have a certain time in the day and you can’t do more. It’s in that range that I’ve noticed people, when they start bumping up, they want to go over six figures, but they can’t take on… Maybe they can’t take on more brand work or things like that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that’s great. One of the things that is a mindset shift at that point is you start to think, “Okay, my business is making this much money.” And for a lot of creators, bloggers, influencers, you’re able to do that in a pretty scrappy high margin, high profit way, where the expenses can be pretty low, like you have hosting, maybe you have a couple services that you pay for, but the potential with a lot of hard work is to get to a point where you have a profitable business different than if you had like a restaurant or a brick and mortar business.
Bjork Ostrom: So there gets to be a point where that you need help, but it feels weird to start to invest back into your business, you’re not used to doing that, you’re used to doing it all on your own, but that’s where the business building can become really fun is you can start to think strategically about, what does it look like to invest into this? And what do I expect the return out of this to be? We just had this conversation with the team member this morning as we’re looking to do a consultation on an audit as we’re updating Pinch of Yum. And we want to make sure that we have all of the SEO considerations accounted for as we’re doing a redesign.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s like, “That’s $6,500, but let’s do a little calculation on that. How much traffic would we need to either keep or gain?” And it’s like, “Oh, there’s a relatively small percentage to justify that in the years to come.” And my guess is for those listening, if they do a similar calculation you’d find the same that if you spend a handful of thousand dollars, whatever it might be in the early stages, that your business will get that back. And especially if you find somebody who’s a good fit and extremely capable, which is what your business is all about, Emily.
Bjork Ostrom: So if people are interested in doing that, finding somebody who is that good fit, but maybe don’t want to go through the process themselves, as we wrap up, can you talk a little bit about how people could connect with you, and maybe some expectations around what that looks like, the timeline and what they should come to the table with in order to help move that process forward?
Emily Perron: Yeah. So if they’re thinking they just want me to take this off their plate, it’s helpful for them just to have an idea of the roles that they want to hire. Of course, I’m consulting on… We work together to make sure that it’s the right fit for them, and then I take it from there. So also just being ready to let go of that control like we talked about that they’re feeling ready to hire, they’re just ready to bring someone on, it feels more exciting to have someone there. And then from there, then I take over. Really once we have a contract in place to work together, it usually takes about six weeks from contract to like the freelancer starting, because it takes a couple of weeks to nail down the role, get the job description in place.
Emily Perron: And then once the posting goes live, then we post the first week, week two looks like work sample, which we didn’t really get into in this conversation, but I typically do a work sample, and then week three is screening interviews so that I get to meet with the candidates in the first round. So that if there’s any duds, it’s all about protecting the business owner’s time. And then week four is the final interviews with the business owner. And you typically can expect to meet with two to three people for about 30 to 45 minutes.
Emily Perron: And then I support them throughout that, there’s onboarding support as well. So I’m with them that first month to make sure if any funny situations come up, they have someone to go to so that they can feel more confident in dealing with any tricky situations that come up.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. Just real quick, can you hit on the work sample? I know that that’ll be a little like curiosity flag triggers for people. What is that, and how does that work?
Emily Perron: Yeah. One of the things I really have fallen to be really effective with freelancers because it is so hard sometimes to see who is really the good fit, because freelancers apply to jobs often, so they tend to be good at applying at jobs, I have started using a work sample before the interview. And so typically, I just make sure it’s simple, it’s relevant to the job. A great example of a solid work sample would be, you’re hiring a writer or an editor for your blog and you have them do a little bit of writing and a little bit of editing, so 15-minute project. So it’s really simple and easy to do.
Bjork Ostrom: Example that I can imagine really being beneficial is, you have a designer, and usually they’d have a portfolio, but let’s say you didn’t see the portfolio, you want to see how good the person actually is at designing, or how much it matches up to what you would consider to be good design.
Emily Perron: Right on, even if they have portfolio, it’s really helpful to see it with yours. And then I make sure that every candidate, they all get the same instructions so then you can compare. And it just helps because sometimes people just don’t respond, sometimes they respond two days late and I’m like, “Really? You’re out because you didn’t follow the directions.” So it just gives you that, like, who is really detail oriented, who’s reliable. It gives you some indicators on that front as well. It just makes it easier to decide who to interview.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. And obviously, we’ll link to all the resources that you have Emily in the show notes and whatnot, but can you just talk through for anybody listening, what’s the best way to connect with you if they want to start that process?
Emily Perron: Yeah. On my website, EmilyPerron.com, if you’re ready, there’s a page that’s for an application. So EmilyPerron.com/apply will get you the application, and we’ll just jump on a quick call and see if it’s a good fit. I just want to hear about what you’re thinking, and we’ll go from there. And if you’re not feeling like you’re quite there yet, but you still want to connect with me, I’m on Instagram @Emily.Perron. That’s P-E-R-R-O-N.
Bjork Ostrom: Perfect. We’ll link to those as well. Emily, so fun to talk through this stuff. I know it’s going to be beneficial to people. So thanks for coming on.
Emily Perron: Yeah. Thanks so much.
Alexa Peduzzi: And that’s a wrap on this episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Thanks again for tuning in today. We hope you enjoyed this interview with Emily. I think it was a great interview and just an awesome reminder of all of the boxes that you should be checking as you look to hire some help for your business. And I know Bjork and Emily mentioned some interesting terms at the end of this podcast episode, like LLC, S Corp, taxes, stuff like that. And if you have any questions about blogging as a business, we actually have a whole course about that on Food Blogger Pro.
Alexa Peduzzi: We talk about different business entity types, EINs, banking, what happens if you lose money as a business, how to keep track of receipts, how to do your bookkeeping, what insurance should look like for a small business, a little bit of hiring and a lot more. This course is about a-year-old, Bjork made it, and it’s full of all of the tools, strategies, and tips that Bjork and Lindsay use to run their businesses every day. So if you’re interested in learning more and taking your business to the next step by learning more about that, you can get access to the full course along with all of our other courses, by becoming a Food Blogger Pro member.
Alexa Peduzzi: You can learn more and sign up at foodbloggerpro.com/membership. Otherwise, we really appreciate you tuning in today, and we’ll see you next Tuesday. And until then, make it a great week.