Art Business
Art Business

Expanding Your Art Business Beyond You [Part 2]

If you’re an artist or creative professional whose art business is quickly picking up steam, it might be time to start considering an expansion of your staff. But how does one prepare for a bigger employee roster? In our last installment, we discussed employment law and insurance requirements for those expanding their art business. Today, we’ll cover hiring and termination policies, vacation and sick days, and retirement plans.

As we discussed in our previous post, there are a lot of tasks associated with running a successful art business. Aside from identifying what types of employees you need to hire for which tasks, along with managing expenses and employee payroll, you will also need to keep track of how you treat those employees. Keeping a code that both aligns with state law and treats employees fairly is essential when developing hiring and termination policies. Likewise, certain benefits, such as vacation time and retirement funds, are both a good way to attract top talent and in some states, a requirement as well.

Once you’ve determined the types of employees you need (independent contractor or full-time employee?) you can move onto the process of actually hiring these employees. And, if you’d like to shield yourself from the possibility that the relationship may not work out, you should bear in mind that you’ll need to formulate termination policies that you can include in your hiring contract. That way, if the relationship goes south, you can make sure you acted in accordance with your agreement and the law.

Hiring and Terminating Employees in an Art Business

at will exmployee
Did you know that an at-will employee can be fired at any time, for any reason?

The interview process is often a nerve-wracking endeavor, and not just for the interviewee. As an artist entrepreneur that’s getting ready to expand their business, you’re likely wondering whether you’ll be able to identify the best person for the job. While it’s true that most employers say relevant experience and a strong educational background are often the best markers of whether or not someone will be a good fit for an organization, they also often expound on how important it is to identify whether or not that person will also be a cultural fit.

Rather than choosing to focus solely on these initial talent factors, artist entrepreneurs should consider a potential employee’s long-term vision for happiness and success at work, and determine whether that’s something they’ll be able to offer. For example, if you have a particular style of working, you may identify that someone is either too lax or too fast-paced for the work you’re offering.

Similarly, it’s important to determine what an employee might want out of this gig, and that goes both ways. For example, perhaps you’d rather hire someone that is looking to learn from an artist because they, in turn, want to someday run their own art business. Or maybe you want the total opposite and are looking for an employee who’s a whiz at accounting but has no desire to learn anything about art.

So how do you determine the answer to questions that often times require some level of experience? Many would recommend asking an interviewee questions that go to the heart of who they are. What’s their work style? What are they looking to get out of this position? What are their long-term goals? Having an open and frank conversation will, often times, be the best way to determine whether someone is a fit.

Similarly, once you do proceed with a hire, you’ll want to have a hire contract drawn up that states the scope of employment, agreed-upon salary and benefits, and termination policies. In every state but Montana, employers are free to offer at-will employment to their employees. An at-will employee can be fired at any time, for any reason, except for a few illegal reasons. Likewise, an at-will employee is also free to quit their position at any time, which means you can both be left up a creek.

Since most states recognize the rights of employers to hire an at-will employee, we advise that you build an at-will employment clause into your hiring contract. That way, you won’t need to justify your decision to terminate an employee, nor face any legal issues if you’ve decided to do so. Terminating an employee is never easy, hopefully our hiring tips help you avoid firing anyone in your new business venture.

Productive Employees Need Time Off

If you’ve ever been someone else’s employee, you realize how important it is to have a break from work. Vacation and sick leave are two crucial factors that help potential employees determine how badly they want the job. They’re also critical for those times when an employee feels burned out or just plain sick – creating an environment in which an employee has the space to take leave will ensure that they stick around for years to come.

Art Business
Productive employees need time off to create for themselves.

Most employers choose to offer paid vacation leave, but you are not required to do so under federal law, and most states have followed suit. While employers are not required to offer vacation leave, its rare to find a company that doesn’t offer these benefits for full-time workers.

Most companies elect to develop a system in which the employee accrues paid leave based on hours worked. For example, an employee that works 40 hours per week may accrue six hours of paid vacation time, equal to almost one day off. Once an employee has accrued the requisite amount of hours they wish to take off, they may do so. Essentially, this system allows employees to bank their hours and take them as needed.

Most employers use this hour banking system to also offer employees the opportunity to stay home if they’re sick. In this day and age, it’s not unusual for employees to take “mental health days,” and this system seems to offer employees and employers alike the benefit of having an ask-no-questions type of policy. Likewise, both vacation and sick leave requests are often reviewed by employers on a case-by-case basis. It’s not unusual to tell an employee that their requested days off may not align with your company’s schedule, and therefore you are forced to refuse them the time off.

Employee Retirement Plans

Another fringe benefit commonly offered to an employee is a retirement plan. While this is something typically offered by much larger companies, there are plenty of options for small businesses too. In fact, offering your employees retirement plans is often a great way to ensure your own financial future since you’ll also be putting money away into your fund. Offering a 401k plan also affords you certain tax benefits and deductions, which contribute to the growth of your bottom line.

Employee retirement plans generally automatically debit a certain percentage of an employee’s salary into a retirement account. In some cases, the company matches the employee’s retirement plan contribution with their own money, but that is definitely not a requirement of the plan. There are scores of different plans you can choose to offer, and we would advise speaking with a financial services firm that can easily set up these accounts for you. Keep in mind that retirement accounts are entirely elective, meaning your employees aren’t required to buy in.


Expanding your art business is not easy. Hopefully, we’ve put some important tasks — choosing full-time employees versus independent contractors, managing expenses and employee payroll, hiring and termination policies, vacation, hiring, and termination policies — on your radar, bringing you one step closer to starting the process.

About the author

Nicole Martinez

Nicole is a veteran arts and culture journalist. Her work has appeared in Reuters, VICE, Hyperallergic, Univision, and more.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

From the Artrepreneur Marketplace

Support an Artist

Creative Careers Podcast

Insights and advice to shape your passion for art and design into a sustainable creative career.Podcast

Artrepreneur on Instagram