In this episode Josh talks with Nathan Hirsch from FreeeUp.com. They discuss using Virtual Assistants.
Nathan Hirsch is a 30-year-old 10-year entrepreneur and expert in remote hiring and eCommerce. He started his first eCommerce business out of his college dorm room and has sold over $30 million online.
He is now the co-founder and CEO of FreeeUp.com, a marketplace that connects businesses with pre-vetted virtual assistants, freelancers and agencies in eCommerce, digital marketing, and much more.
He regularly appears on leading podcasts, such as Entrepreneur on Fire, and speaks at live events about online hiring tactics.
In today’s episode you will learn:
- What a virtual assistant is?
- Why you might want to pay attention to VA?
- Besides a social media strategy, what other things might a virtual assistant do for your company?
- How you should treat your virtual assistant?
- What’s the cost and how to find a good VA?
Narrator: Welcome to “Cracking the Cash Flow Code”, where you’ll learn what it takes to create enough cash to fill the four buckets of profit. You’ll learn what it takes to have enough cash for a great lifestyle, have enough cash for when an emergency strikes, fully fund a growth program and fund your retirement program. When you do this, you’ll have a sale ready company that will allow you to keep or sell your business. This allows you to do what you want with your business, when you want in the way you want.
In Cracking the Cash Flow code, we focus on the four areas of business that let you take your successful business and make it economically and personally sustainable. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning, and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable and allow you to be free of cash flow worries.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at Cracking the Cash Flow Code. My guest today is Nathan Hirsch. He is the CEO and founder of a company called FreeeUp. Now, I’ve been working with VA for a long time that VA. VA stands for virtual assistant, which is somebody who’s working in your company, but not in your office.
I’ve been doing this stuff for a long time and Nathan’s a little hook with their firm. Today actually interview and find the VA’s for you. You don’t have to go out and do that yourself. We’re going to talk today about how we can use VAs in a blue collar business and why you might want to be thinking about that. Let’s bring Nathan on. Hey, Nathan, how are you today?
Nathan: I’m doing great. How are you doing?
Josh: I’m doing well. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Nathan: Yeah, excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Josh: So just to start off, tell us a little bit about what a virtual assistant is and why you might want to pay attention to that?
Nathan: Yeah, so a virtual assistant to me is a more of a vague term. You can call them a remote worker or freelancer. I like to divide up remote workers into three sections: you got the followers, you got the doers, and you got the experts. You can hire all three to help with your business. The followers, which when a lot of people say virtual assistant that’s what they mean, or in that $5 to $10 an hour range, non-US they have years of experience working online, but they’re there to follow your systems, your processes.
If you hire a customer service rep in the Philippines, they might have five years of customer service experience, but the way you do customer service is different than the way another person does. You’re going to teach them how you want it done. You could use them for lead generation or posting on social media. The goal is to get out of the day to day tasks.
If you look at everything you do on a day to day, week to week, month to month basis and say, “Hey, I’m spending two hours a day on this, five hours a week on this and started giving these tasks to other people and take them off their plate.” That’s usually what a virtual assistant is for.
Now, the mid-level people are specialists like graphic designers, writers, bookkeepers. Some people also refer to them as virtual assistants because technically they are. To me, I put them on that Freelancer category. They’re there to do that one task at a very high level. You’re not teaching someone how to be a graphic designer, but they’re not consulting with you either. They’re doers.
Then you got the higher level, the experts, the freelancers, consultants, agencies that have their own system, their own processes that can bring a strategy that can execute high level game plans. If you don’t know how to run Facebook ads, you’re not going to hire that follower that virtual assistant and say, “Hey, here’s my budget, go run it.” You’re probably not going to have a good experience. You need to hire those experts who can hit the ground running. To some people, all of that falls into the virtual assistant category. To me, if someone says virtual assistant, I’m thinking about that follower.
Josh: With your company, do you guys do all three of those levels?
Nathan: Yeah, we’re a marketplace for all three: virtual assistants, freelancers and agencies. We get thousands of applicants every week from all over the world, over 100 skill sets from $5 to $100+ per hour fixed prices, too. We vet them, top 1% get on our platform and then we make them available to people.
Clients create a free account, they put in a request. We don’t go out and find the people. We already have these people in our network we’re ready to go. We’ll match it up and then on the backend we have 24 seven support in case people have even the smallest issue and a no turnover guarantee.
If someone quits, we cover replacement costs and get them a new person right away. That’s really what FreeeUp is all about. The pre-vetting, the speed, the customer service and the protection.
Josh: You mentioned three levels of skill servers. I like the way you break that down a lot. If I’m going to be hiring the level one you have a typical VA, you said is $5 to $10 an hour. What’s the cost for the other two levels?
Nathan: Yeah, so the mid is in that $10 to $30 and the experts in that $30 and up. A lot of them made in the experts will do more fixed pricing, too. You can hire a marketing agency for $2,000 a month or whatever it is. You can hire graphic designer for x amount per design or per logo.
Keep in mind, these are real freelancers, real people. They don’t always fit into perfect levels. Depending on the market and where people are located and stuff like that. They might be slightly above or below that price range. That’s a good basic template of $5 to $10, the $10 to $30 and the $30 and up.
Josh: That makes a lot of sense to me. I’m a blue collar business. I own a construction company or manufacturing company. In my case I used to own on a food service and vending company and my employees are local. I absolutely believe all my employees have to be local. Why am I wrong?
Nathan: It’s funny because when I first started FreeeUp, I was really tailored towards online businesses obviously. Through different referrals, we started to get in touch with blue collar businesses. People that had an actual office or office space. There’s actually a sushi restaurant that I really liked called Sushi High. They’re located a few streets down and they are a client of FreeeUp.
They obviously don’t use FreeeUp for the people that are actually making the food or taking the order, stuff like that, but they do use them for their social media. They don’t need to hire an in house social media person to sit in the sushi restaurant and make all their posts. That person can be anywhere.
If you’re limiting yourself to just your town and the towns around you, you’re really missing out on a big opportunity. If you open yourself up to remote, you get access to people all over the world at different price points. You don’t have other businesses coming in and trying to swipe them because there’s a limit for talent. You also don’t have to hire everyone full time.
You can hire someone part time. You can hire them project based. You can hire someone to build your website and never talked to them again and not have any kind of commitment afterwards. It gives you a lot more flexibility as an entrepreneur.
Well, I do agree that there are certain things like if you need a warehouse staff, you obviously can’t do that remote. There are a lot of things that you can do remote to really support the people that you have in your office or at your location.
Josh: So besides a social media strategy, which makes sense and can be done with a relatively minimal amount of training from you as a business owner, what other things might a virtual assistant or a non-local workers do for your company?
Nathan: Yeah, I mentioned customer service or responding to inquiries, lead generation. Let’s take PR, for example, or newspapers. Let’s say you want to get into different articles, get in front of people. You can hire someone for an hour, two hours a day. You give them a few templates. They’ll do research. They’ll reach out to different local newspapers for you.
That’s something that probably takes up a little bit of your time. You can hire someone for your bookkeeping, if you’re a business owner and you’re spending time every month and I did this my first two years of being an entrepreneur and it was awful doing your books. There’s probably someone out there that can do it at a reasonable price and probably do it better than you can so that you can focus on bigger picture stuff.
We’re in the age of content. So video editing, blog articles, graphics, stuff like that can all be done remotely. I know for me, whenever I go to a conference and you could do this in your restaurant, you could take pictures of all your food. Send it to someone. They’ll edit it up, maybe pass it over to your social media person. They’ll post it up there.
Then of course, you’ve got the higher level stuff the development, the marketing, having people redesign your website, having people create a funnel, having people run actual ads whether it’s Google or Facebook, or whatever it is. I can go on and on. Those are just some examples of how you could use the followers, the doers, and the experts remotely for your office business.
Josh: So your experts would be sort of like to consultant I might hire who’s down the street that does marketing, for example and they also do website design. The thing I like about what you guys do or what a virtual agency can do is you’re improving the talent pool that you can get to work with you. Often at a price as much, much better than the person down the street.
Nathan: A lot of times. Yeah, I mean, you’re not going to find someone local in Orlando for $5 to $10 bucks an hour to be your virtual assistant. You have to go to the Philippines to get that. Price is a part of it, but it’s not something that I would make the main focus. The main focus is how do you get the flexibility and the freedom and make business decisions that make sense putting in those followers, those doers, and those experts where they make sense to actually grow your business.
Josh: The thing I think is really important is I always encourage people think about this, if you were to say and write down what you spend your time doing all day long and then put the dollar value for what you could hire somebody else to do that job for, you’re going to find that 30% 40% 50% of your time is spent on things that cost $25 an hour or less.
And if you’re spending your time on $25 activities, I can promise you, you’re wasting your time in your business. Your business is not being nearly as successful as it would be if you found someone else to do that work for you.
Nathan: I’ll even take it a step further. Back when I had an office, which is probably one of the worst businesses I ever made. This was six years ago. I was hiring people for $50,000 a year, $60,000 a year. What I realized was the people that I was paying that much were spending 40% of their time on, like you said, $5 to $25 an hour tasks.
So what I did is I went in there and I said, “Hey, I’m going to give you an assistant. I’m going give you two assistants. They’re going to cost seven bucks an hour and everything that’s not a $50,000 an hour tasks, I want you to teach them to do it and they are going to support you. I want you to spend as much time as possible on those high level $50,000 an hour tasks. So it does work for you, as a business owner, you should definitely be doing that.
I encourage my clients to do the exact same thing that you said to figure out all your tasks and the dollar value. You can also do it with your business partner and your team and figure out how can I make this business as efficient as possible?
Josh: It absolutely is true. I go back to my thinking about my days in my vending company. There was probably—here’s the nice thing about virtual assistants I really like. It’s not full time work usually. I mean, sometimes you get to that where you hire an administrative assistant will be full time, but I use three VA days and none of them do more than five hours’ worth of work a week.
Nathan: I have 35 VAs. Most of them are full time. I hire them all on the platform. I really practice what I preach. I’m all through FreeeUp. They cover my Skype, my email, my live chat 24/7. They do our billing every week, paying people, charging clients. They run our social media. They do our recruitment and our vetting. We have a lot of full time people. I also use some part time people as well.
I mentioned some lead generation stuff, some PR, some marketing, different tasks that for whatever reason just don’t require 40 hours a week and really supporting my team. You really get the flexibility to implement it however you want. I think the important thing to remember is, I didn’t just wake up one day and hire 35 full time people. I started off with hiring one.
I gave him two hours a day, like you said, and I had them just clear out my inbox. So I’d have them work for one person work from 5am to 7am. I would wake up at seven and they would clear out my inbox. They would say, “Hey, Nate I left these three emails for you.”
Because I taught them hey, anything from legal, anything from accounting, anything from x gets left for me. So instead of spending the first hour or two of every day clearing out all my emails, I got a head start to the day and I could just respond to those and get going.
As FreeeUp grew and our revenue grew, I increased their hours. I hired a second VA and I grew from there. That’s kind of the starting point to get into the VA world. You’re going to learn a lot just from working with that one part time VA that’s going to make you better at better at using the next VA and the next VA.
Josh: So let’s talk for a minute about how you should treat your VA. Because I think this is something where I see business owner’s fall down a lot of times. They treat their local people with respect.
They treat them the way that you would want to be treated, but for some reason with VA I think they should treat them differently, or they can treat them differently. In my experiences, a VA is a member of your company. You should treat them like a member of your company.
Nathan: Yeah, for me, I just believe in treating people well to begin with. I see this a lot with clients who are high stress or maybe don’t have that as much experience managing people or managing remote people. They’ll tell and they don’t realize how the tone really translate to someone different part of the world or they’re having a bad day.
They’re stressed out and they’re going to take it out on someone else. It’s important to treat people like you would want to be treated. Like you said, make them feel a part of the business. No one wants to be handed work and do the work and hand it back and get more work. They want to know how the work that they’re doing is contributing to the big picture. Perfect example of this.
We just hit a new record and billed hours for a week. 19,000 billed hours and every single person, all 35 VAs knew that that’s been a goal for the entire year. They were all pumped up about it when we told them, “Hey, we get it. Because our billing day closed yesterday.”
Everyone was really motivated to all the hard work that they’ve been doing responding to customers, doing lead generation. All that was with a purpose, with a vision and they felt a part of something big. To me, that’s what’s important and that’s what you have to do to retain VAs over time because turnover is expensive.
Turnover is expensive and person turnover is expensive remote. You can always pay people more money, but to be honest, that’s not the best way to keep people. The best way to keep people is to make them feel involved in a part of what you’re doing and obviously treat them well from a niceness standpoint.
Josh: One of the things that we do when we hire VA, which I find is worked out really well for us. By the way, my VAs has been with me, some have been with me for five years now, which is a pretty long time for that sort of thing. But when we put in our ad, what we do is we start with our values. We talk about our values first and then whenever finding is that the virtual assistants that want to work with us identify with our values. That’s one of the reasons is keep sticking around.
Nathan: Right, a hundred percent. I mean, values is everything. Even with a business partner, my business partner and I could not be more different skill wise, but we have the same values, the same core beliefs. We believe in treating people well. We want to hire VAs and freelancers and agencies that have those same values.
For me, when I come across someone and here’s a good example, just from yesterday, we had an agency that we were going to work with. They told us they had a no refund for any reason policy. Well, that’s against my values and beliefs.
I’m a big proponent of, “Listen, if I mess up, I’m going to take ownership of it. I’m going to make it right with people.” That’s just a part of what I believe is good for customer service and good for business.
So no matter how good of an agency they are, if they’re not willing to take responsibility when they mess up, and another unreasonable person, I’m talking about realistic situations then that’s just not someone that I want to engage and do business with. That’s just a small example. Overall, figuring out what your beliefs are, what your values are, what you care about as an entrepreneur, and you’re surrounding yourself with similar minded people is incredibly important.
Josh: I’m curious about how you decide to start your business the way you do. Most VA agencies don’t vet and they don’t bring somebody to the table. They leave it up to you. Why did you decide to do this in the way that you guys did it? By the way, congratulations on 19,000 hours. That’s a big deal.
Nathan: Thank you. I appreciate it. To clarify, we’re not a VA agency. We’re a marketplace. The freelancers set their rates. You can negotiate. We’re not project managing the work like if you hire VA, they’re not reporting to us. We’re not looking over their shoulder.
All your business information is confidential between you and that. There’s no agency component to it. I built the FreeeUp marketplace based on my own hiring experiences. I was a big amazon seller. I started in 2008 out of my college dorm room. I had no idea what I was doing when it came to hire.
One of my first hires was my business partner, Connor and I got lucky. I just posted on Facebook. He was in one of my classes. He responded. I hired him without even interviewing him. He ended up being an amazing hire. After that, I made bad hire after bad hire after bad hire. I quickly realized that college kids were not very reliable and that no 30 year old wanted to work for a 21 year old entrepreneur figuring it out. So I went to the remote hiring world.
The Upwork, the Fiverr and hired some okay people, some good people are still with me today, a few of them, but I just hated the process. It just took forever to post a job. Get 50 people to apply. Interview them one by one. I always wanted something better and faster. Those forces I mentioned before the pre-vetting, which is so important. I don’t want to go through 50 applicants. I just want to meet good ones. The speed, which to me is the key of entrepreneurship is how fast you can move at a high level.
Because if I need a website today, I don’t want to wait two weeks to go through applicants. I need to get them to get started right now. That speed is keep the customer service because we all know that hiring is an imperfect business, stuff happens. When stuff happens, I want someone to be responsible and to fix it quickly for me so I have to stop what I’m doing and fix it.
And that no turnover protection because I mentioned that turnover is incredibly expensive. Turnover kills businesses, kills startup. Those are the four things that were really important to me. I kept looking and looking for a marketplace that could give me those things. When I couldn’t find it. I said, “You know what, I’ll build it myself.”
Josh: Makes sense. I can’t tell you how many businesses start that way is that the owner of the business says, “This really stinks. We need to have a different way of doing this. I’m the person to bring it to market.”
Nathan: Yeah, those are the best types of businesses, right?
Josh: Well, it’s always the best type of businesses, but it’s amazing how many businesses– I mean, sometimes these are technicians who are already an entrepreneurial cramp is Michael Gerber would say. Those type of folks really aren’t built to build a business. So, Nathan, how old were you when you first started your first business?
Josh: Okay, so you’re a little bit on the old side believer. A lot of entrepreneurs start businesses like selling candy when they’re seven years old and cutting lawns and doing house painting and recruiting people to work for him to do house painting when they’re 16. By the time they’re 18, they build businesses that are reasonable size.
Nathan: Yeah, so it’s funny. I always knew I kind of want to be a business owner. I remember I opened up like a lemonade stand on my street, but I’ve had a pretty slow street so that didn’t go anywhere. I was always like mowing grass and trying to like make that extra buck and set my own rates and negotiate prices. I remember I became, I was an umpire in my town for Little League.
I actually convinced them to make me the head umpire so I would manage all the schedules decide who does what games, take what games I wanted. I got a little bit of management experience there. Even though when I got some jobs and some internships, I was negotiating rate. I didn’t want to be at the bottom. I wanted to get that internship status. I want to work under the CEO and learn from him. I always like wanted to get to that top level. But there was no like, great business idea that I had when I was like 10 to 18 that really had any substantial.
Josh: My experiences, entrepreneurs don’t have great business ideas until they’re older, but they tend to start these little stupid sort of things along the way that say, this person probably shouldn’t be an employee. They probably should be working from themselves.
Nathan: Right, right. Exactly.
Josh: That was definitely my thing when I grew up because I was one of those kind of Misfit kids. It didn’t really fit in, couldn’t fit in but didn’t fit in. At the same time, I kept starting this little project some might along the way. I keep starting little projects along the way and maybe someday one will work.
I used to build a business with 90 employees, so I had to [inaudible 00:20:13] actually get work quite well. So any rate, if you were to give a tip to somebody in the blue collar business coming from where you’re coming from, what’s the most important thing you think you could tell them?
Nathan: To me, there’s a certain amount of trial and error when hiring remote that’s good, that you want to experiment with. You kind of have to go into it mentality that not everything is going to work. For me, I’ll hire lead generation person for a few hours and having contacts from news outlets or some podcasts. If that doesn’t work, I’ll tweak it and adjust it and that doesn’t work maybe I took it again or I pull back and I try it again later.
The guy hire a graphic designer to make some catchy graphics and I throw them on social media and one out of three of them work so that I make more graphics like that. I think sometimes business we get so caught up with either the day to day operations or what the courses and the gurus are telling us to do, or the textbooks, and we lose sight of that experimentation.
There’s no better way to experiment than with freelancers and contractors that doing different project based up local men with hours. If you try a lot of different things that are all pretty affordable, all low risk, high reward things, some of them work.
You put more money, more time into them and it leads you down a good path. Others don’t and you tweak it and maybe you pull it back and you try again. To me I’ve had a lot of success in business doing it. I’ve been doing it using remote hire.
Josh: Cool. Hey, Nathan, unfortunately, we are out of time. I’m going to bet that there’s some folks listening to us that want to use your company and find you and maybe even have a conversation with you if you’re willing. How would they go about doing that?
Nathan: Yeah, go to FreeeUp.com with three E’s. My calendar’s right at the top. You can book a meeting with me with one of my assistants. Join our Facebook group, Outsourcing Masters. We post a lot of great content on VAs and freelancers there. Create a free client account. We’ll give you a $25 credit if you mentioned this podcast. I look forward to helping the audience with their hire needs. Thanks for having me.
Josh: Cool. I also have an offer for you, too. One of the things that I really see a lot with business owners is they would like to achieve financial freedom from their business. I’ve also learned that folks don’t really have a good tool for knowing if they’re on the right track to do that.
Actually have a term I call Perma Phi, which means people are not on the right track to do that. So I developed this little thing here called the four boxes of financial independence. Used to do it on a legal pad one by one. I had made into a program earlier this year.
It’s really easy to get. All you got to do is go to https://thecashflowcode.com/. That’s https://thecashflowcode.com/. Click the big orange button when you see it. Spend seven, eight minutes doing the quiz. You’re going to find out whether you’re on the road to cash flow freedom from your business. I hope you do this.
Hey, this is Josh Patrick. We’re with Nathan Hirsch. You’re at Cracking the Cash Flow Code. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to the “Cracking the Cash Flow Code” where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?”
If you’ve liked what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 extension 102. Or visit us on our website at www.sustainablebusiness.co. Or you can send Josh an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening and we hope to see you at Cracking the Cash Flow Code in the near future.