Hiring Employees, Consultants, and Student Interns

Q: "Should I hire a Web designer to create my e-commerce website and my eBay Store, or should I try to do as much of this myself as possible?"

A: As with any business decision, you have to weigh the costs of hiring a Web designer against the benefits of freeing up your time for more important things, such as sourcing the right products to sell on eBay, researching closed listings to find out what's selling and what isn't, and building your eBay brand through blogs and other content-oriented marketing activities.

The question you should be asking yourself here is "How many more items will I have to sell on eBay each year to cover the fees of my Web designer?" If it's going to take an additional one hundred successful listings on eBay to cover her fees, you have to ask if that's doable or not.

A couple of other things to keep in mind when hiring a Web designer:

• Your Web designer should be just that—a designer only, who makes your website look pretty; all decisions about website content should be made by you or your management team.

• If you allow your designer to have too much ongoing control over your website, she will become indispensable to you after a while and will have tremendous power over what does and doesn't happen on your website.

That makes it difficult for you to change designers (or take over the reins yourself) when the time comes.

• You should always own the Internet domain name (URL) for your website. Never work with a designer who insists that ownership be in her name "for security reasons," as she will then be in a position to hold your website hostage if you get into a dispute.

Q: "Should I hire student interns to help with the more mundane aspects of selling on eBay, such as listings and answering buyer e-mails?"

A: Just about every community college in the United States has a graphic design program, and the kids who take these classes are hungry—starving, sometimes— to do Web-related work, because they realize that's where the money will be in a few years. Hiring interns can be a very cost-effective way to manage a business on eBay, as well as doing good for your community by giving young people their first real work experience and marketable skills.

Just keep a few things in mind before you hire your first intern:

• Interns are generally inexperienced, and the quality of their work will be erratic. Make sure you view samples of their Web design work before you hire, and make sure you will be able to teach them to do things your way.

• Student interns are teenagers, for the most part, with all of the issues that teenagers have everywhere in the United States. By hiring interns to work in your office you are acting in loco parentis ("in the place of the parent") and will be responsible for everything the interns do, both online and off, while they are working on your premises.

• Because they are teenagers, student interns haven't always learned to distinguish business from personal issues. Make sure your interns are emotionally stable and mature (at least for their age) before you allow them to deal directly with your buyers and other eBay community members.

• Student interns are employees when they are working even part-time for you. Make sure all interns sign a W-4 form and an I-9 form when they come on board, show you proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency, and otherwise comply with federal and state child labor laws (see Chapter 20 for details).

• Some states (such as California) have laws regulating the number of hours student interns can work, as well as working conditions, which you must comply with. Just because they are low-wage employees doesn't mean you can treat your interns as indentured servants.

 
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