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Interview with Nathan Hirsch of Freeeup About Scaling Multiple Online Businesses Past 7-Figures Without Getting Burnt Out

If you're wondering how to go about scaling your online business efficiently to avoid getting burnt out, then you're in for a treat. In this episode, I interviewed veteran online business owner Nathan Hirsch of Freeeup about scaling, team building, and outsourcing efficiently in a way you can keep working on your business instead of constantly getting stuck working in your business.

 

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Trevor Fenner:
Welcome to the eCommerce Paradise Podcast. I'm your host, Trevor Fenner, and today on the show is special guest. He is the co-founder of freeeup.com, a platform, a marketplace, to find some of the best freelancers and virtual assistants and agencies to help you grow your E-commerce business. His name is Nathan Hirsch. Welcome to the podcast, Nathan.

Nathan Hirsch:
Thanks so much for having me. Excited to be here.

Trevor Fenner:
Yeah, I'm excited to have you on. You guys have built a really awesome platform for E-commerce store owners to actually go out and build their business and hire a team to do that. Can you talk a little bit about how you got started with the business in the first place and how you grew it?

Nathan Hirsch:
Yeah. I started off as an E-commerce seller, way back in the day. I got in at a really good time, back in 2008, before anyone really knew what Amazon was. I grew up this business out of my college dorm room and I looked to hire people. I went to college kids, I tried people that are older than me and it just became tough. College kids weren't that reliable. No one who was 30 wanted to work for me as a 20 year old. So, I turned to the remote hiring world, the Upworks, the Fiverrs, and I got pretty good at it. But it just took forever for me to post a job, get a hundred applicants, interview them one by one. I kept looking for something faster, so that I could focus more time on expanding and growing my business, rather than just doing interview after interview after interview.

Nathan Hirsch:
So, after looking for a while and not finding a faster way, I said, "I'll build it myself." And that's really when the idea of FreeeUp came about. Where we get thousands of applicants every week, virtual assistants, freelancers, agencies from all over the world, vet them, take the top 1%, let them in, make them available to clients quickly, with 24/7 support and a no turnover guarantee. Where if they quit for any reason, we cover replacement costs. So, we really tried to take everything that we liked about the other marketplaces and change the things that we didn't like, to make it a much better experience.

Nathan Hirsch:
In terms of growing it, I mean, we started off with two things. We created a referral program, where you get 50 cents for every hour that we bill to someone, forever, that you bring to the platform. That goes on the freelancer side too. And we focused on getting on podcasts, getting in front of thousands of people at once. I was pretty big in the E-commerce community. I'd sold over $20 million on Amazon. So, I had a little bit of expertise there, and we really used the referral program and podcast to scale it up for the first year and a half before we really invested in marketing.

Trevor Fenner:
That's amazing. $20 million in sales on Amazon. That's a huge accomplishment. Congratulations. That's amazing.

Nathan Hirsch:
Thank you. I mean, I did get in at an incredible time. Back then, it was me and two other people on every listing. [inaudible 00:02:39]. It was a different animal. There wasn't the gurus, there were no courses. [inaudible 00:02:46]. I've kind of seen it ground up and now you have PPC campaigns and all this other stuff going on.

Trevor Fenner:
Yeah, I got you. Yeah, the landscape has definitely changed for internet marketing in the last even two or tree years, much less the last five or 10 years. It's a whole different game now. But it sounds like you guys work with a lot of different types of companies, right? What are the different types of business models you guys help businesses outsource for?

Nathan Hirsch:
From a marketing side, you can't target everyone, right? So, we target e-commerce, which the Amazon, Shopify, eBay sellers fall in there. And then we target the marketing community, whether you're an influencer or an agency and marketing kind of branches out into all other types of business. So, we have real estate agents, we have non-profits, we have software companies. But from [inaudible 00:03:33] side, I mean we have over a hundred skillsets on the platform. Those skills apply to any real business model. Unless you need a warehouse staff or a cashier in your brick and mortar store. Anything else can get done remote and it really caters to all sorts of different businesses.

Trevor Fenner:
Sure. Yeah. And I see here on your website, it's really interesting, you guys have sort of like a three tier system for the virtual assistants and the freelancers and agencies you help businesses to grow the business with. You have like a basic level, a mid level and an expert level. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you guys kind of like figure out the right type of person that a business should be working with to build a business?

Nathan Hirsch:
Yeah. Keep in mind, these are real people and they don't always fit into perfect categories and we're a marketplace. The freelancer set their own rates. This is more of a guide to help people hire the right people. So, if you think of basic, mid and expert, a basic level freelancer is $5 to $10 an hour, non US. They probably have years of experience because we're not a marketplace for newbies, but they're followers, they're going to follow your systems, your processes. So, if you're someone that's stuck in the day to day operations and you need someone to free up your time and get you hours back, that's perfect for you.

Nathan Hirsch:
Mid-level people are more specialized. Maybe they're graphic designers, bookkeepers, writers, they do the same thing, 8 to 10 hours a day. You're not teaching someone how to be a graphic designer, but they're not consulting with you either. They're doers, they're for clients that have these different projects building up and they can take those off your plate. And then you've got the experts, the 20 and up, the high level freelancers, consultants, agencies and they come with their own strategy, their own system, their own process. They can audit your business, they can execute high level game plans, they can project manage. So, if you're taking on something new, let's say you want to run Facebook ads and you don't know anything about Facebook ads, you're going to really struggle hiring a basic level freelancer. You need to hire that expert to come in and see what you're doing and create a plan and execute it.

Nathan Hirsch:
So, those three things are less of, "Here are our services you can buy it from FreeeUp. Again, we're a marketplace. But more along the lines of do you need a follower? Do you need a doer, or do you need an expert to put you in the right mentality to find what you're looking for.

Trevor Fenner:
It makes a lot of sense. And for the people that are listening in here, I want to make sure that you really understand this. So, if you're an E-commerce store owner and you are looking to free up your time, there are people out there that are willing to work for a lot less money, then you would probably to pay somebody like in the USA, somebody who's working in a actual office space or something like 10 or 15 bucks an hour. You can pay somebody in the Philippines through free up, $5 to $10 per hour to actually do those same tasks that you're having to do every single day.

Trevor Fenner:
So, that's awesome. And for E-commerce store owners, business owners, that need logos design, banners design, anything like that... Really a development work done mid level would be perfect for you and expert level is actually an interesting place and I can consider myself, I wasn't even thinking about maybe signing up for a freelancer, account with you guys now just now and offering my expert level services with you guys. It might be a kind of a cool way to offer my services. What do you think about that?

Nathan Hirsch:
I love it. I mean one thing that we're really pushing this year cause I feel like last year people start to look at us as an outsourcing company, which is fine. I mean we have lots of really talented Filipino virtual assistants, but we have lots of agencies on our platform too. These are really high level agencies that we've pre-vetted and hiring the wrong agency can be detrimental to your business. I mean you hire the wrong VA on fiber. Yeah. It sucks up your time. It wastes a little bit of money. You hire the wrong agency on Upwork or somewhere else. And I mean that's costing you a ton of money. It can be wasted ad spend and all that. We take a lot of pride in the upper level talent that we have on our platform, which is US non US really scattered as much as we do. The, the lower in the mid level .

Trevor Fenner:
Makes a lot of sense and I think it's a really, really helpful service that you guys are actually connecting people, business owners specifically that need this really badly to the people that can help them actually do it and actually get the work done. I think that's awesome. You guys are doing a great thing out there.

Nathan Hirsch:
Thank you.

Trevor Fenner:
It sounds like you really love your job too. I can kind of hear and sense the enthusiasm in what you're talking about.

Nathan Hirsch:
Here's the thing. When I was running my Amazon business, don't get me wrong, it was fun, it was exciting. I was a young 20s on numbered entrepreneur and I was experiencing everything for the first time, but I wasn't selling a product that I had a patent for that I was passionate about. I wasn't passionate about selling baby products back then. I'm still not passionate about selling maybe products now. Who was I really helping? At the end of the day I was helping me, my bank account, my team and my manufacturers and I just kind of secluded from the rest of the E-commerce community and I wasn't growing my brand at all.

Nathan Hirsch:
I wasn't speaking on podcasts. No one knew who I was. No one knew that the name of my Amazon business. So with Freeup, when we started it and we started to take off and we eventually surpassed our Amazon sales. It's exciting. I mean I get to help entrepreneurs achieve their dreams. I get to help freelancers grow their freelance business and provide for their families. I get to hopefully provide actionable advice that people can use, whether they use my service or not. And I'm surrounded by an amazing team, a great business partner that our community, whether it's clients, freelancers, partners, I, I couldn't be happier about. So it's almost like a refreshing, refreshing being a part of Freeup and helping it grow. And you're right, I'm super excited about it.

Trevor Fenner:
That's awesome. And you know what people love doing business with people that love what they're doing. I mean it's just the bottom line. So you guys listening out there, you can. Nathan's really excited about his business and he's one of the founders of the business. If we have to get a company to work with, I would definitely recommend them. We use them for hiring VA's and we're, we've had some great success with them. Nathan, can you talk about some of the common mistakes people tend to make when they're first trying to outsource the business and how they can avoid them?

Nathan Hirsch:
Yeah, so one of the common mistakes I see and, and hiring is hard, right? So you make a few bad hires and you finally find someone you like, you trust them, they're a hard worker. And what do you do? You, you load them up with everything. What a lot of entrepreneurs don't realize is how much risk that puts your business at. I mean, people get sick, people quit, things happen. If you have your entire business dependent on one person, it can really hurt you as a startup.

Nathan Hirsch:
I learned this lesson the hard way. I spent six months teaching my, I call it the manager of the day, and it was great. At first, I could sleep better at night, I could be anywhere the business would run, but the guy quit on me when I was on vacation once and it took me months to replace him. But I learned a very valuable lesson about diversifying and making sure that I hire people for certain tasks that if they quit, it's always going to suck to some level, but it's replaceable. It's not going to take you a week or two, it's not going to take you months. And I think that is by far the number one trap that successful entrepreneurs fall into.

Trevor Fenner:
I have to agree with that. I think the number one thing that's held us back from growing a bigger team than normal is just knowing that it takes a lot of time to go out and make these job postings. It takes a lot of effort to decide the person that you want to actually work with, to do these interviews and to vet these people. You guys actually go out and do that for the entrepreneurs that are looking for these outsourcing agents, can you talk a little bit about that process?

Nathan Hirsch:
Yeah, so I mean keep in mind, we're not a recruitment company. It's not like you tell us what you need and we go find it. We have these people ready to go. We get about 4,000 applicants a week to get on our platform and we vet them for skill, attitude, communication. For skill we don't need you to be a 10 out of 10 you can be a five or a three in terms of skill. As long as you're honest about what you can, cannot do and and you're priced accordingly. We talked about the different levels, so we have skill tests that are specific to their an Amazon expert. We have Amazon questions with our graphic designer. We look at their portfolio, so that's different depending on what scale and what level they're saying they are. The attitude and the communication, which we've found is the key to making good hires is the same.

Nathan Hirsch:
No matter what your skill set is for attitude. We do one on one interviews. We look for people who are passionate about what they do. They're not just in it for the money. If they're a bookkeeper, they love bookkeeping. As much as I love being an entrepreneur, we look for people that don't get aggressive the second that something doesn't go their way. We look at people who actually contribute to a community and want to be a part of something and are aren't selfish or can take feedback without taking it personally. Those are the types of people, attitude wise, we look for and then communication. Communication is everything. I can't tell you how many bad communication issues had, so we made that the core focus of the free up community, it's by far the fastest way to get kicked off our platform by poor communication.

Nathan Hirsch:
We have 15 pages of communication, best practices that I wrote myself based on past experiences that they have to memorize and get tested on before they get onto our platform. So it's really a combination of the skill, the attitude, the communication and once they're on the platform, we hold them to it. If they're taking on projects that are above what they are and we're not a place to experiment on our client base. If you have a bad attitude, if you lash out on a client or we all know what that looks like, or if you don't respond within a business day, people have to chase you down. You can't estimate due dates, stuff like that are all ways to get quickly removed from our platform.

Trevor Fenner:
Wow, that's incredible. What you just dropped was like some wild, crazy knowledge and this is like stuff that you have to go to get an MBA degree in college. To learn this kind of management skills. Nathan, did you get an MBA or did you go to college to get these management skills? I mean, how did you learn all that stuff? Just through experience?

Nathan Hirsch:
Yeah, I don't have an MBA and I would actually argue that they don't teach you this stuff in college. I mean, I once took a college course on how to apply for a job. It didn't necessarily teach me how to do the job correctly. It just told me how to answer interview questions and how to build my resume. Very focused on that skill aspect. And for me, I mean it was years of hiring really talented people.

Nathan Hirsch:
Maybe they were had five star reviews or they had a list of references or they had all this background experience and it blew up in my face over and over and over and along those bad hires were some good ones. I kind of reflected back, okay, what separating the good from the bad and it really came down to that attitude and communication. If I think back, I mean I can't think of any time where I'm like, Oh wow, that guy had a great skill set. Exactly what he said. He had an amazing attitude. He had great communication skills. But that ended up being a terrible hire that that just doesn't happen. And once we figured it out, it really changed our hiring mentality and led to a lot of success.

Trevor Fenner:
That's incredible. And you guys listening, I really just want to make that point driven home a little bit more. Nathan, you learned this stuff through experience. I think that's just the key to everything that you don't necessarily need to go to college to get these kinds of skill sets that if you just go out there and fail forward and learn this stuff, that you can actually learn how to do it better than somebody who has gone and paid $100,000 for a college degree. Think that's Epic. That's really cool.

Nathan Hirsch:
For sure. I mean the college was a great experience. I mean I learned a lot. I met some amazing people, lifelong friends, and there's just no substitute for the real world though. And I studied entrepreneurship in college and it was kind of cool studying and learning while growing this business and some stuff apply, some stuff doesn't apply, but no one teaches you how to handle someone quitting it and transfer them over to someone else and handle turnover, to handle drama within your business. I mean there's so many stuff, there's so much stuff like that that pops in week in and week out that you just don't get from the textbooks.

Trevor Fenner:
I agree 100% and all of these little nuances of running a business, much less an internet based business with a remote team. Like there are a lot of different things to deal with them and at the end of the day you're dealing with real people here, right? It's not software specifically. The software just helps you find the people, but the people are people just like you and I, we have our hangups, we have our good sides and our bad sides. We have our good days and our bad days. Right?

Nathan Hirsch:
Exactly. I mean there's so many aspects and even if you switch the focus from the hiring to sales, to building partner relationships, I mean there's so much stuff that you're only going to learn just from going through the experience.

Trevor Fenner:
So what does the process look like for somebody signing up with free up and hiring their first three minutes through Freeup? How does that work?

Nathan Hirsch:
So we try to make it as easy as possible. It's free to sign up. There's no monthly fee, no minimum, no obligation. You can stop using us at any time. It's in our best interest to get you people you actually like. It takes a minute to create an account and then whenever you're ready, you click request to freelancer. There's no browsing. I think that's where a lot of people get confused. You put in a request, tell us exactly what you're looking for. Within a business day we fill it. We send one option by default. Most people come to us cause they don't want to meet 20 people. But if you say, "Hey, send me three, send me five." More than happy to do it, you can meet with them, make sure you like them. If you like them, you can hire them, you can negotiate rate, you can agree to fix price. If you don't like them, you can click pass and provide us feedback and we'll get you someone else based on that feedback. It's really that simple of a process.

Trevor Fenner:
And as far as tracking the VA or the virtual assistant, the freelancer or the agency that you're working with. You guys have a built in tracking system right? Tracking hours and billing and things like that? What does that look like?

Nathan Hirsch:
It's all, it's all in our software. I mean they can start time, end time, send adjustments. You can set weekly limits. So if they, if you set a weekly limit for 10 they can't go above 10 without you raising it. You can pause and unpause freelancers. Let's say it's a graphic designer used for a week. You can pause them and then come back to them in three weeks and unpause them. So you're really in complete control. And as for the billing, our billing periods are Wednesday to Tuesday. We charge you every Thursday and then you have a full week to dispute anything before we pay the freelance for the next Thursday.

Trevor Fenner:
Nice. I think it's really cool because instead of working with the VA one-on-one and you have to kind of manually do the whole system, maybe using spreadsheets and sending payments through PayPal, you have a whole software dashboard to work with. So you just log into Freeup as an entrepreneur, as a business owner, and you get to manage your VA's hours right there and take care of their billing. They get paid, you make sure the work gets done and everything's happy.

Nathan Hirsch:
Yeah, I mean we're really proud of the, not just the software but just the systems and the processes is really there to protect the client, to protect the freelancer. And we've had people who have brought in their outside freelancers and put them on our software and we've got a program for that too. So we love feedback. We always want to know how we can improve. We would probably have a hundred pages of dab updates that we're working on as fast as we can and we're always trying to improve the experience. But yeah, we're very proud of that process.

Trevor Fenner:
So what's one of the number one things people should do before they get started with outsourcing, before they get started with kind of trying to free up their time in a business to prepare for this.

Nathan Hirsch:
So one thing I encourage you to do is look at the numbers and figure out how much you actually making every month and then how much do you want to reinvest back in your business. If you want to be more aggressive, which some entrepreneurs do, you can be in that 40 to 60% range investing that money back into your business making hires. If you want to be more conservative, maybe you have a family or you want to pocket more money, maybe you're in that 10 to 30% and once you figure out what that number is, let's say it's 25% then you can say, okay, this is how much money I have to work with. Let's see where I can make the biggest difference in my business. Is it the followers, the mid level specialists or is it the experts?

Nathan Hirsch:
Before you understand the numbers and what you can actually invest, you're kind of just guessing and that's where I see a lot of people that will hire someone and then realize they can't afford it or they'll wait too long and they really should have hired someone a month ago and they were even wished they did instead of having that money in their pockets. So you've got to really figure out what that number is and there's no right or wrong. Sometimes you have to experiment and the next month you can raise it or lower it, but once you figure out what that number is consistently, that's going to help you a lot as an entrepreneur.

Trevor Fenner:
That's very smart. I think it's really important for your E-commerce companies, especially small businesses that are just getting started out to look at the data and to analyze that kind of stuff. You guys aren't looking at your data on a consistent basis. Look at your revenue, look at your profits, look at your conversion rate, look at your traffic and make sure that you're at a level where, with customer service, that if you free up by hiring that customer service agent and then hiring somebody to run these other little tasks for you, you'll be able to spend your time on the more important things in your business. I think that's definitely the point at which you should hire. And when it comes to high ticket drop shipping, cause I know you know, most of these listeners are interested in high ticket drop shipping. I usually tell people when you get to like the 30,000 to $50,000 revenue amount for a month, you're really looking to hire at least one or two virtual assistants to run your customer service and sales for you.

Trevor Fenner:
Because you're going to get a ton of different things going on. You're going to get all sorts of requests for shipping and you're going to get requests for new products and repeat sales and stuff like that and you don't want it to do that stuff constantly. I remember working probably six to eight hours a day when our business was doing a good like 50 or 60,000 per month. Although that's awesome, that's online and you're in a location dependent, you don't want to spend all day working at your laptop. You want to relax and live the lifestyle. That's what this is all about, right?

Nathan Hirsch:
100% agree.

Trevor Fenner:
This is what this is what outsourcing can do for you as a business. So you guys, if you're interested in signing up with free up and hiring a virtual assistant or a freelancer or a high level expert or agency to grow and expand your business and to free up your time, go to freeup.com it's free E-U-P dot com so check that out guys. The link is in the description as well so you can watch there. And Nathan, do you have any last tips for E-commerce store owners that are looking to really just expand their business and take to the next level?

Nathan Hirsch:
Yeah, and one quick note on that and then I'll give a tip. If you go to the freeup website, my calendar's right at the top. If you want to book a meeting with me, you can also mention this podcast, get a $25 credit when you sign up to try us out and I encourage you to look at hiring it as a percentage. You're not going to get out 100% hiring record, but if you can change from a 40 to 60% in terms of good hires to a 70, 80, 95% that's a huge change in your business and it's something that's going to help you as you grow.

Trevor Fenner:
I agree 100% and one thing I read recently, it was a comment, I believe it was from one of Russell Brunson's podcast episodes, but he was talking about the difference between hiring A players versus hiring B players and how much of a difference it made in his business when he switched from paying more money to hire A players for his business as opposed to paying a lot less money and getting a lot of B players that it made night and day difference. That he was able to expand so much faster and really grow to the next level just because he made a little bit more investment in the personnel he was bringing on.

Nathan Hirsch:
Yeah, I completely agree.

Trevor Fenner:
Well, that's awesome. Thank you so much for being on the podcast, Nathan and sharing all this super valuable information, E-commerce business owners out there and go check out freeup.com, link in the description. Again, $25 credit. If you mentioned E-commerce Paradise Podcast and schedule a call with Nathan and one of the team members will get back to you on that. Thanks so much for being on the podcast, Nathan.

Nathan Hirsch:
Thanks for having me.

Trevor Fenner:
Cool.

 

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Trevor Fenner

Hey there! I'm Trevor, the Founder of eCommerce Paradise. I have been an Entrepreneur since a young kid and I've been selling things online with eCommerce since 2005, and I've been doing High-Ticket Drop Shipping since 2010. I'm an internet marketer, YouTuber, podcaster, digital nomad, and world traveler. I have lots of hobbies including spending time with my girlfriend, Skateboarding, Surfing, Scuba Diving, Photography, Tattoos, Animals. I'm currently based in Bali, Indonesia.




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