Trade Secrets: Incentives and Thank Yous

Trade Secrets- Incentives and Thank YousWe recently had a reader ask:

"I'd really like to know what incentives you give your team. Do they get paid? Or do they willingly contribute their talent and time? I have a small business and friends help me from time to time but I don't know how to pay them or how to 'thank' them." -CHICKYTHING

First let me explain a little bit about our staff structure at our business. For our website (this one here!) we have a small staff comprised of Elsie, me, Trey, Katie and Kinsey. At our local shop we also have two other gals (Christina and Haley) who work 1 to 2 days a week. Everybody gets paid, because everybody is an employee. (I guess that's pretty obvious. Sorry guys, just trying to explain.) We also have a few independent contractors who help in various capacities. For example, the blog has contributing writers who are paid a set rate for each article they contribute. We also sometimes offer special projects to folks with super awesome skills. For example, we recently collaborated with Elise on an e-course (she receives a percentage of every sale) and right now our friend Mallory is in town working on a few sewing projects with us (she is also paid for her work as well as travel expenses). 

We are super lucky to have so many fantastic people to work with. Collaborating with other talented people can really strengthen any business. We are also lucky that our business can afford to employ awesome people. But there are other people who help us, or have in the past, who were not employees. For example, most of our Red Velvet models were volunteers (we thanked each of them with a dress of their choice every time they modeled for us). Also I have to admit that our dad helps us with almost every wood project you see here on the blog (THANK YOU DAD!). He doesn't get paid an hourly rate, but we try to find other ways to show him we appreciate the time and expertise he donates to our business.

No matter if your business is at place where you are ready to add employees or not, chances are you probably have friends and family who help you from time to time. Finding ways to say thank you are super important but can be a little intimating. Here are our top 5 tips for saying thank you:

1. Celebrate with them! Taking your staff, your interns or just your helpful friends out to a celebratory dinner is a great way to say thank you at the end of a big project. Yes, it will cost you money. BUT. Think about all the money they probably saved your business by being so awesome.

2. Be specific. Whether you are writing a thank you card or giving a toast to someone say something meaningful and specific about their contribution. This takes planning. Or at least it does for me, as I'm not always the best with words. Take the time to be specific.

3. Thank them publicly. Finding a way to show your appreciate in a group or public arena can add emphasis. We all like to know that we've done a good job. It feels good. So finding a tactful way to thank someone publicly can really go a long way.

4. Give a thoughtful gift. I really think this is a great option when you are looking to thank a family member or close friend who has help you a lot. Sometimes offering money or payment for their time/talent can feel less personal or just not special. Instead try gifting them with something you know they will love or appreciate to show them how thankful you are for their help.

5. Just a nice handwritten note. It might seem a little old fashion but a hand written thank you shows that you took time (more than an email or a printed, mass letter) to say thank you—just to them. Handwritten thank yous are more personal.

Thank someone this week! xo. Emma

  • I believe in the importance of a hand written note – I love getting them in the mail when I help friends. Who doesn’t love mail that isn’t a bill?!

    Expressing gratitude can go a LONG way. When my husband helps me with my Etsy shop … I call him the Director of Logistics and bake him cupcakes or muffins as a thank you. He loves it!

  • I do a lot of volunteer and might-get-paid-but-not-sure work, so being nice, valuing my time and work and saying ‘thank you’ really goes a long way for me.

    It goes a long way for me even for paid work – it makes me loyal to a company… I always give my all, but appreciation makes me want to push that little bit harder for them.

  • I love giving out thank you cards! It is a great way to run a business, and to run friendships. Everyone likes to be acknowledged!

  • I love that, it is inspiring. I opened a coffeeshop last year but it’s non profit. Everyone gets paid fulltime but not the «owners» who had the half of a pay. And because no one was the boss it was kind of hard finding how to «do» things, I really love those tips! (Of course, the coffeeshop dont work that same way now, we all learn!).

    Thanks, Olive xox

  • Wonderful post. I love thank yous <3 It’s so nice to appreciate those who help us reach our dreams!

  • This is so great! My mom is a part-time illustrator and does invitations, cards etc., and often-times our family members take advantage of her and never even thank her or ask how they can appreciate her. I hurt for my mom! I try to overly show her how much I appreciate all the things she’s done for me. Wish my family would read this. 😉

  • This is such a good post, I’ve recently been thinking about these things as my friend and I are seriously considering starting our own business. It’s great to see what other people do!

  • Thanks so much for sharing this post. It’s really insightful and you mentioned a number of great ideas on how to say thank you.

  • well i thank you Emma for sharing this, because is great, sometimes you simply don’t know how to say thank you to someone who helped you in some way, now i have a few ideas 🙂

  • Nice! that’s always good to know! 🙂


  • WHERE CAN I FIND THOSE CLOGS???????? I am totally IN LOVE with them <3
    I am a huge costarican fan of you guys.

  • This is such a wonderful post Emma! It must be amazing to work with you guys.
    Ronnie xo

  • Great post. I have a pretty strict rule of not make money off of my friends, but it is really appreciated when they can reciprocate the favor or say thank you in someway. Something as small as picking up the tab at Starbucks makes all the difference.

  • These are all great tips. Helping my BFF with her bakery is always fun for me, and we bounce creative ideas off each other all the time. It’s still nice when we both take the time to thank each other in a direct way.

  • I made the decision just this week that I am going to start my own business in the near future and this piece was something that I realized I hadn’t even thought of. Thank you for sharing! It was just what I needed. A Beautiful Mess is one of the only blogs I follow and I love it!

  • What a great breakdown! Thanks so much for letting us know how it worked!

  • Thank you for the reminder to publicly thank our employees. I’m sometimes too stingy with the compliments, and really need to remember this. Great advice! Thank you!!

  • Love the tips to say thank you! They’re also very helpful when you don’t have your own business…

    xoxo, Femke

  • It is true that even just a thoughtful, handwritten note makes more of an impact than a few bucks or a small gift card. Great post, loved the insight into your ‘world’!

    Strive to Thrive,

  • this is something that for some reason i’ve always wondered about red velvet.. thanks for sharing! i’m sure it can come in handy whether you own a business or not. :o)

  • This is such a nice post.
    I’m not a business owner or likely to be one but I am a teacher and often have helpers and volunteers in the classroom. I feel like showing some one that they’re appreciated is so important both professionally and personally. I’m not the best at doing it all the time but I’m going to bust out my thank you cards and get writing.

  • Love the advice of giving handwritten notes. It’s actually one of my goals for this next year! They just feel more genuine and personal.

  • Great ideas. I have some contributors for one of my blogs, and it isn’t paid, but a gift would be appreciated I’m sure. Thanks for sharing your business tips with us!

  • How lovely! Thanks for the insight into your world and business! I know when friends help me I often buy them lunch and a few drinks as a thank you. Upon graduating from my undergrad I wrote my favorite teachers notes and left them in their mailboxes (except my mentor…I handed him his along with my final exam). I thought a wonderful handwritten note was grande because if they chose to they could keep them forever.


  • I get a lot of family friends who want to help with festivals I do or shows which is wonderful. They don’t ask for anything but I always offer something I make and give them a nice note. I also like to make sure that I make it fun so they always want to help next time!

    I think being thankful for the small things is something that will get you far in any business!

    Great Post!

  • Great article and definitely useful! It is also nice to know how the structure of this wonderful business works!
    Almost Endearing

  • Very helpful post. I have been doing everything on my own, but I do have a craft fair next weekend that a couple family members are helping out with. I can’t wait to plan something to thank them 🙂

  • i love this. and i love the trade secrets series. it’s so nice to hear behind-the-scenes. your tips are great, girls!! 🙂 love!

  • Really, really great post. I always find here something great. Perfect job and nice friday.

  • I cannot agree more with what you’re saying. It’s so important to show your appreciation. At the least, say ‘Thank you’. It doesn’t cost a thing and it can mean a lot to people!

  • Beautiful post…I really enjoyed it! Saying “Thank you” is so important…I will take the chanc and I do it with my bf!

  • I really think the tips you’ve listed are great as not only business tips but life tips as well. Thanks!

  • As a graphic design student I get asked to help my friends out every so often with little projects (Band posers, business cards, wedding invites etc) and although I never accept payment from those I love a sweet hand-written note, it definitely makes me feel appreciated. Thanks for the great article Emma 🙂
    Becky, K.

  • Something as simple as a handwritten note goes a long way, I especially find this important in the office setting!

  • I really love that you gals take the time to address our questions. I love your blog not just for content but for the beautiful people that you are. I’m glad your dog was found Elsie. I sent all kinds of positive thought your way.

  • This is a great article, thanks for sharing! I have a little business & often a good way of paying people is a work swap. I have a photographer friend who took my pictures & in return I make her a dress. It’s a good way of giving back the time as well as the money that they’ve invested in you 🙂

  • Thanks so much for this info! I appreciate it a lot. Thanks for listening to your readers. This post is so helpful!

  • This is great advice. Thank you! It is so kind of you to be so generous with your advice. I really appreciate it!

  • I’ve always wondered about how you guys worked with things like this. Pretty cool to get a bit of insight. thanks for sharing 🙂

  • You just inspired me to write a note to my mom for her help and gracious gift of time. She helped me on a project for my small business and while the outcome wasn’t what I expected, I’ve been stumped as to a way to express my gratitude. Thank you.

  • You are absolutely right, a little gratitude and appreciation goes a long way.

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