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Hiring Amazon Virtual Assistants – Nathan Hirsch

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After starting off buying & selling student textbooks out of his dorm, he’s now sold more than $30 million on Amazon across a 6 year period and for that business, has worked with over 150 employees globally.

Through his extensive freelancer hiring experience, he co-founded Freeeup, a marketplace that connects business owners with the top 1% of online freelancers… with far less hassle than Upwork or Fiverr.

With a resume like that you, I couldn’t think of anyone more qualified to talk about hiring your first GVA or General Virtual Assistant to help you scale up your Amazon FBA businesses. I’ll pass it off to Nathan Hirsch!

-Danny Carlson

Nathan Hirsch’s Start in Entrepreneurship

Nathan Hirsch here! Back when I was in college, I grew up my parents were both teachers so I had this mentality that I was going to go through life, go through college, get a job, work for 40 years, retire and that was going to be it.

But I didn’t want that 40-hour a week job. I wasn’t motivated & I didn’t enjoy it… so I knew I had pretty much till the end of college to build some kind of business or else that was going to be my life.

So I hustled. I tried to find every possible way to make money. And the first way I found was buying and selling textbooks.

Before I knew it, I had lines out the door of people trying to sell me their books to the point where the school actually sent me a cease-and-desist letter because I was taking up so much of their business.

And you don’t sell books for very long without learning about Amazon. Back then there were no courses, there were no gurus, Amazon was just becoming more than a bookstore.

I started experimenting with sporting equipment, DVDs, computers, and I failed over and over. I couldn’t get anything to sell. And it wasn’t until I branched out of my comfort zone and found a niche in the baby products that my business really started to take off. So if you can picture me as a 20, 21-year-old single college guy selling baby products out of my college dorm room, that was what I was.

As this business grew, I needed to start hiring people and the only people around me were college kids, which I quickly found out were very unreliable. I was really forced into tapping into the remote hiring world to find talent to help me build these businesses

What I realized was how long it took me to actually get access to good talent on platforms like Upwork and Fiverr, and that’s really when I came up with the idea for FreeeUp.

Scale Up with Low Risk, High Reward Tests

I don’t use mentors. I don’t use gurus. I don’t take courses. For me the fun of it is trial and error. Figuring out new things and trying to replicate what other people are doing.

I like to look for a low-risk-high-reward situation. For example on Amazon I was drop shipping baby products. What’s the risk? If I made a few people angry, I’d refund them. But the reward was I could build this drop shipping business…

Recently I hired someone to take over my Twitter account. Worst case scenario I’d spend three months, a few hundred dollars and I fire them & delete their bad tweets.

But best case is it becomes a great lead generation tool, my social media presence goes up, and I never have to deal with it anymore.

So I’m constantly trying new things low risk and high reward. When something works, I put more money into it and when something doesn’t work, I reel it back.

By experimenting new things, I tend to find new things that work before other people do.

The Best First Hire for Amazon Sellers

What I recommend doing is coming up with a list that everything you do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

It could be customer service, bookkeeping, sourcing, any kind of data entry or work that’s actually business operations. Then order it from easiest to hardest and get a virtual assistant to start taking the easy things off your plate.

Get an hour or two in your day back where you can focus on big picture stuff, the sales, marketing, and expansion. You can hire someone in that five dollar an hour range to handle a lot of this stuff.

And with FreeeUp we only have experienced freelancers, these aren’t people doing trial and error on your business. Sometimes you’ll find these people are better at doing repetitive tasks than you are… and that’s why I implemented three-month rule.

The 3 Month Rule

I don’t do anything longer than three months without outsourcing it to someone else.

It usually takes me around three months to try it out, see what works and what doesn’t, fix the bugs in my process, then train someone else to do it. Give them feedback, start that feedback loop, and take it off your plate!

I’m not talking about outsourcing my core competency. I’m talking about the day-to-day repetitive mundane operations.

This could be

  • people that will monitor pricing
  • people who do sourcing whether it’s wholesale or going through different manufacturers
  • lead generation

We use it for lead generation on FreeeUp as well where we have them research, “Hey, this person dropships and this person allows FBA. Okay. They’re within this size or price range. Okay. Here are the templates. Email them. Contact them. Try to get them on the phone with me.”

So you can really get creative once you have that virtual assistant you rely on. Try different things, try outsourcing different parts of your business, and even try to outsource parts that expand your business a little bit.

How to Build A Knowledge Base to Scale Training

I use Trello to split up between day-to-day, short-term and long-term projects. So all the VAs that work for me, they’ll have day-to-day stuff they’re responsible for everyday. It’s Kind of like a checklist.

Then I’ll assign short term stuff. It could be a project here like “Hey, get me a list of 500 leads for this” and then I’ll have more long term stuff that might take a month or two. When you get to a Friday and it’s dead it’s slow, they can start chipping away at these long term projects.

For Developers, I use JIRA which is just a more advanced version of like Asana or Trello.

And then I have my stuff on Google Docs for the actual documentation. But I don’t have time to create update it these training documents all the time. What I do is I create the basic outline and then I make it the person that I hire’s job to update it as I teach them, and update it over time.

I’m a systems and process person and my systems and processes are always changing so I almost never make training videos because they just get outdated incredibly fast.

When we tweak or change something, I encourage people to bring ideas and feedback on how to make these systems better.

Nathan Hirsch’s Ecommerce Team Structure

With my e-commerce business, the way I had it set up was I had an accountant, a U.S. bookkeeper and a non U.S. day-to-day billing person who can keep everything up to date. I would spend less money on the U.S. bookkeeper and the U.S. accountant that I use twice a year.

Then I would have someone overseas who was in charge of listing things on Amazon & pricing.

I’d have a customer service manager in the U.S. with few people in the Philippines underneath them and that was really the core team.

We had a group of order placement people as well. Whenever we wanted to ramp up, we would just plug people in underneath. So when we got closer to a busy season, we were at in 3 customer service people & 5 order people.

We had those structures there that we were just able to put people in because we have those documents. It didn’t take us six months to get someone on the same page. It took us a week or two.

Nathan Hirsch’s Freeup Team Structure

So with FreeeUp, we did it a little bit different. FreeeUp is entirely remote. We have no employees, it’s just Connor and I and freelancers.

We hire freelancers from the FreeeUp marketplace, the same that are available to our clients. Last week freelancers billed me about 800 hours so I do really practice what I preach.

It’s about 80 percent non US freelancers. People that cover my Skype, email, customer service, billing for clients, etc.

For our social media we’ll have someone who manage the posting and surround them with a graphic designer, surround them with a video editor and then add a US Facebook AD person and a US email marketing expert.

So for high level stuff, we’ll plug in those U.S. freelancers and for a lot of those repetitive tasks which most of it ends up being you built such good processes, we’ll plug in the non U.S. basic-level freelancer.

Biggest Hiring Mistakes Amazon Sellers Make

A lot of it goes into mentality. So what I like to do is divide it up into three levels. You’ve got the basic level freelancer, the mid-level and you got the expert level.

Basic level – $5 to $10 bucks an hour, non US.
They have years of experience, but the way that they do something is going to be different the way that I do something. They’re really there to follow your systems and processes.

This could be sourcing products, customer service or even listing products, but they’re there to follow the way you want it done.

Mid level – $10 to $30 range
They could be graphic designers, bookkeepers, Amazon listing specialists who do the same thing eight to 10 hours a day. You’re not really teaching them, they’re not really there to consult with you, they’re doers.

Experts – $25 and up
They can project manage, audit your whole account, and give you systems and processes. They consult with you & can do high-level stuff. Maybe it’s PPC. Maybe it’s external traffic. Maybe it’s really do getting you onto another marketplace like on Europe whatever it is.

A lot of people hire the wrong person where they really need an expert. So what I really want you to do if you’re listening is focus.

  • What do I actually need for my business?
  • Do I have my systems and processes in place to the point where I can hire a lower level person?
  • Do I just need something done, I just have all these projects that I haven’t been able to do. I don’t have the manpower. So I can plug in these specialists to do them?
  • Or do I have no direction? Do I need an expert to come in and help me create a game plan to eventually create those system and process for the lower end and that’s where I see people go wrong?

How to Overcome Business Failures

Back when I started this Amazon business and I’m 21, I’m making more money than I should…

And I had this brilliant idea to hire a manager of the day to day. The business was stressing me out, I was working so much, so I spent six months training this person.

After six months he was great, I could sleep better at night & he could do everything.

On the manufacturer’s side, I was crushing it with this one manufacturer. I didn’t bother spending time going out and selling new ones, I put all my eggs in one basket.

So I go to take my first vacation after a year and a half of building this Amazon business… I’m on top of the world ready to party and on the first day of the vacation, and I got three phone calls.

  • One from the manufacturer telling me they no longer want to do business with me.
  • Second from that person I spent six months training telling me that his parents wanted him to focus on school and he was quitting (learned a lesson by hiring college kids.)
  • And last from my accountant telling me that someone had filed a fake tax return in my name and stolen my identity and I was going to have to deal with that when I got back.

So I go from this unbelievable high to this bottom low. Everything I just worked for for the past year and a half was out the window and I hadb to come back and start from scratch.

Regaining My Confidence to Push Through

Obviously, it hurt. It hit me hard, but when I’m problem solving, I’m usually able to remove all emotion from it.

I gather all the information first.

  • How did this happen?
  • How much money do we have in the bank account?
  • What resources do we have?
  • How Long can we continue before we have to shut down?

Whatever it is get all the information.

Step 2 is execute a game plan. Okay we have this much money we have these people even though they’re mostly low-level people but we at least have them as resources.

What’s the plan? The plan is to go out and contact more manufacturers. We diversified and built contact relationships with all these manufacturers.

Once we started building, next was putting steps in place to avoid making the same mistakes again.

We didn’t just hire one person for everything so if someone quit on me it took me a week to get a new person in the system rather than six months.

I’m very fortunate that that happened to me in year one and not in year five. I learned so much from that and that’s really the mentality I take from problem solving. I mean we’re dealing with real people, real freelancers on FreeeUp. 99 percent of the time they do a fantastic job and I spend very little time dealing with issues but every once in a while something pops up and we go through the exact same process.

  1. Get all the information.
  2. Figure out what the options are.
  3. Execute one of those options and put steps in place so that can never happen again.

Rapid Fire Questions

What entrepreneur, project or company today inspires you the most?

I’m a huge fan of Zappos only because I actually buy their shoes and I know their customer service and I was such a customer service freak.

I just know that focusing on the long term big picture and the relationship just always outweighs the short term and I’ve had people tell me that I’m crazy the way I go about it.

We’ve had clients who will come to me for like let’s say that a freelancer missed a due date by a day or something. And I will gather all the information like “oh that person billed me three hours.” It was a three-hour refund plus some free hours of a new work where I get them a person right away and boom they’re just blown away.

The value of that is you can turn someone that’s super upset into a lifetime client, right? It all comes down into running business and when you have that philosophy, you’re going to build a very strong long term business.

 

What’s the last book you finished?

Start With Why by Simon Sinek, that really resonates with me.

So with my Amazon business, you have to remember I wasn’t doing private label, I wasn’t building my own product. I wasn’t necessarily passionate about the baby products & even today I don’t have kids.

Running this Amazon business for a while was great. It was exciting, it was fun, but after I realized I wasn’t going to build it into a hundred million dollar company I lost the passion for it. There was no Why. I was just doing it to help me, my manufacturers, my team, and my paycheck.

But with FreeeUp, the Why is incredible. I get to talk with podcasters like Danny Carlson, do webinars, speak at conferences. I get to help clients all around the world free up their time & grow their business.

On the freelancer side we paid out over 3 million dollars to freelancers last year. I was just in the Philippines and people were showing me their houses or cars, things they were able to buy for their family.

So the Why is so important and I feel like sometimes people miss out on that when they build their business and I know that I will personally never make that mistake again.

 

3 best pieces of advice for hiring freelancers?

#1 Set Expectations. Too many people just go through applications, interview people then boom, let’s get started.

They skip the step where they need to give expectations. I have incredibly high expectations but I lay it out.

  • These are my pet peeves.
  • This is how I communicate.
  • This is what’s expected from you (I even give them a chance to back out. I would much rather the person backs out and doesn’t waste my time, energy or money than have them just proceed forward because they think that they can make me happy.)

#2 Diversify Your Risk. Don’t put yourself in the shoes where it takes you six months to replace someone in your business. So many entrepreneurs make so many bad hires that when they finally find someone they really like, they load them up with everything which puts their business in a huge amount of risk.

#3 Start a Feedback Loop. Some of the ideas that made me the most money or cut the most cost came from other people.

That’s because I create an environment where I can give feedback to them and they won’t take it personally. They also feel save giving feedback to me so I can improve as a person, manager and leader.

They give feedback on the systems or processes. I take feedback from the clients & freelancers & I’m constantly always asking for feedback.

Its the best and easiest way to grow your business and if you have a culture where you’re constantly talking down to people and you’re the boss and you’re in charge… you’re gonna miss out on a ton of great ideas.

Back in the day I had really bad turnover around 50 percent. I had the third person for the same position quit on me within 3 months so I asked them for a one-hour exit interview.

We’re sitting across the table from each other. He doesn’t like me, I’m pretty pissed at him for wasting my time butI just listened to him. He went off about our culture, about the people I was hiring, our hiring process, me as a person, me as a manager, me as a leader and it was brutal… It hit me to the gut.

But I should have written that guy a check right there because the information that I gained from that helped me turn the entire thing around and move my retention rate of past 95 percent because I actually listened to that feedback.

So if you are someone out there that is having those issues or your team isn’t working or you’re not having the culture that you want, dive into the issue and the people that know the roots of the problems and the people that you’re working with.

$50 Hiring Credit to Freeeup Freelancers for Kenji ROI Followers

Nathan made a SUPER generous offer for Kenji ROI’s audience. He usually only offers this $50 credit to large organizations & influencers, but has agreed to pass it along to you as well.

Use the $50 credit to hire freelancers to:

  • Design your company logo
  • Handle customer messages on your Amazon account
  • Build a Shopify store
  • Or any variety of freelance work to get off your plate

You also are saying thank you to us for creating this content (if you enjoyed it) because we get a small commission for referring you to them. We only refer clients to companies we trust and also use ourselves and we’ve had a great experience with Freeeup thus far 🙂

http://go.kenjiroi.com/freeeup Use Code Nathan50 for $50 credit

Nathan also mentioned “The Ten Most Common Mistakes of Outsourcing.” e-book which you can find here

Full Podcast Interview with Nathan Hirsch & Danny Carlson on Actualize Freedom

  • 01:11 – Nathan’s journey from the beginning and the motivator behind it.
  • 04:43 – The story of FreeeUp.
  • 07:28 – The most common first hire for Amazon sellers.
  • 08:36 – The 3-Month Rule..
  • 11:04 – Knowledgebase tips and structure.
  • 13:42 – Nathan talks about team communication.
  • 16:42 – Common issues Amazon sellers encounter when outsourcing.
  • 19:28 – Nathan talks about the time when his business was really down.
  • 21:13 – How he dealt with the issue.
  • 23:31 – Nathan is a great fan of Zappos
  • 26:27 – Nathan’s three pieces of advice when it comes to hiring freelancers.

 

Resources from This Interview:

Leave Some Feedback:

  • What should I talk about next? Who should I interview? Please let me know on Facebook or in the comments below
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Disclaimer: As with any digital marketing campaign, your individual results may vary.

Nathan Hirsch

Nathan Hirsch

Nathan Hirsch is the CEO of FreeeUp and an online hiring expert. He has helped thousands of business owners start hiring online to build their own remote teams. He is regularly featured on top podcasts, webinars, and speaking circuits sharing his knowledge of hiring and managing remote organizations.

Nathan Hirsch

Nathan Hirsch

Nathan Hirsch is the CEO of FreeeUp and an online hiring expert. He has helped thousands of business owners start hiring online to build their own remote teams. He is regularly featured on top podcasts, webinars, and speaking circuits sharing his knowledge of hiring and managing remote organizations.
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