If you are a gallery owner with a very small or even no staff, you are familiar with the phrase “Too much to do, not enough time.” You are probably wearing a lot of hats: curator, sales manager, marketing director, customer service manager, artist relationship developer, administrative assistant, janitor and on and on. This makes it very difficult to run an efficient and profitable fine-art gallery. If you cannot hire full-time employees to take some of the load off your shoulders, hiring a virtual assistant may be the solution. A virtual assistant can be very affordable and doesn’t require expensive benefits, office equipment, or paid vacation time. You pay for just the time it takes your virtual assistant to complete a project or task. Many businesses that use these services find that their revenue actually increases because they are free to focus on their core business.
As a fine-art dealer, some important responsibilities require the majority of your attention, such as exhibition planning, collector and artist relationships, and selling art. Other functions, however, can be delegated to a trusted virtual assistant. Some tasks or portions of tasks to consider outsourcing are listed below. As you read them, ask yourself how much time you spend on these, time that would be better spent focusing on what’s most important to your gallery’s success.
Tasks to consider delegating to a virtual assistant:
- Creating newsletters or email marketing campaigns
- Updating social networking sites
- Conducting research (collectors, artists, the art market)
- Creating and submitting press releases
- Producing podcast interviews
- Posting and managing online ads
- Tracking marketing initiatives
- Drafting letters and contracts
- Following up with artists
- Maintaining the gallery website
- Making travel arrangement
- Assisting with exhibitions (catalogue production, catering, promotions)
- Doing data entry (mailing lists, inventory updates)
- Providing IT support
What to Look for in a Virtual Assistant
Like any industry, there are good businesses and bad ones. You want to find a virtual-assistant company that is honest, professional, and accountable. You should ask a few keys questions before choosing who to work with. The answers may determine what tasks you want to delegate. Make sure to ask potential candidates the following questions to ensure a good fit.
- What other clients and industries have you worked with and what projects have you done in the past?
- Can you provide references?
- Do you have a dedicated work space free of distractions?
- What is your preferred way to communicate?
- What is the process for assigning tasks, and how will you provide updates?
- What computer programs do you use?
- What is your average turn-around time for certain tasks?
- Do you have a confidentiality agreement?
- How many hours a week are you available to work?
- How are you paid? By the project or by the hour?
- Is the work being subcontracted, or will I be working directly with you?
Working with a Virtual Assistant
Once you find a virtual assistant who you like and who meets your requirements, it’s a good idea to speak on the phone to get a better sense of that person’s professionalism and understanding of your needs and expectations. Be very clear and detailed about the projects you want to assign. You also will want to make sure that you discuss what information you need to provide in order for your virtual assistant to be successful. For instance, you may need to provide contact or login information for some tasks.
It’s a good idea to have a signed contract for tax purposes. You may need to file a 1099 in some cases. You want to be sure that the contract is clear about your virtual assistant’s status so you won’t be responsible for payroll taxes. Also, make sure you read the confidentiality agreement carefully and have that in place before work begins.
Start off with small projects until you are both comfortable working with each other. As trust grows, delegate more.
To the Point
Hiring a virtual assistant to help your small gallery be more efficient and effective enables you to be an expert fine-art dealer, not a marketing genius or technical whiz kid. It allows you to really focus your expertise on developing collector relationships and exhibiting great art. With this new-found focus on business, you may find that sales increase and that you are not constantly worrying about finances. By delegating some necessary elements of running a gallery, you may also find that your quality of life improves.
Shop around and choose carefully. There are many virtual assistant companies out there; some are locally based and some are international. Any Google search on “virtual assistant” will yield pages of results. It is unlikely that you will find one with specific art-gallery experience. Nonetheless, you are sure to find a virtual assistant who can make a big impact on your job and your gallery business.