Scale Your E-Commerce Business With Automation & VAs Webinar
By Andrew Maff, on February 9th, 2018 ,
Curious about our next webinar? Check it out right here! On February 7th, 2018 our own Andrew Maff sat down with Nathan Hirsch, the CEO of FreeeUp to talk about how to hire freelancers, where to hire them, what to hire them for and how to get them to help you automate your e-commerce business. Learn More about FreeeUp: http://bit.ly/2UPIksA
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Andrew Maff: We can go ahead and get started here. Nate, I'm going to have you do me a favor, since I'm sharing the screen, I'm actually going to want to keep this bigger. So there's a message option on the bottom right that should take you over to Facebook. It will show you if anyone's messaging us, and we can obviously take questions along the way. We'll be happy to answer them for you guys. Let me know if you have any trouble finding that one, Nate.
Nathan Hirsch: You say it's on the bottom right?
Andrew Maff: It should be up on the right side. You'll have your little control panel thing, and one of them says Facebook Messaging. About myself, I'm Director over at Seller's Choice. We're a full service eCommerce digital marketing agency for sellers on Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Squarespace, you name it. Then of course on marketplaces, Amazon, eBay, Walmart, all that fun stuff.
I love to find new ways to automate things. So that's kind of how Nate and I connected here, and then of course things I can't automate, I like to outsource because who doesn't love their own free time? Nate, this is where you come in if you want to touch on this.
Nathan Hirsch: There's no Facebook thing on my side. I don't know if that's a presenter versus moderator thing. Yeah, a little about me, I live in Florida. I run my eCommerce business. I run FreeeUp. You can see my girlfriend and my awesome puppy, Charlie, over there [inaudible 00:04:06] next to me. I have that financial freedom.
That's what every entrepreneur wants. I can do what I want, when I want. I can travel. I'm going to be in the Philippines in March and San Diego and San Francisco right before then. It's kind of fun running companies remote, because you just have that pure freedom. It was one of the things I hated when I opened an office.
I've hired hundreds of freelancers. I have a team right now of 20 people. I wouldn't trade that for any team in the world. They are incredible. They're monitoring my Skype and my emails right now. When I'm sleeping, they do everything from the social media, to the Facebook ads and the blog writing, and everything, lead generation, you name it. They're incredible. I love working with them, and that's kind of where I'm at.
Andrew Maff: Before you joined on, I had a couple of people tell us they're from Tampa, Florida. Where in Florida are you at?
Nathan Hirsch: I'm in Orlando.
Andrew Maff: You're in Orlando?
Nathan Hirsch: It's like an hour away.
Andrew Maff: I am a UCF grad.
Nathan Hirsch: Oh, really? Nice.
Andrew Maff: Yeah.
Nathan Hirsch: I went to a UCF football game last year. It was pretty awesome.
Andrew Maff: Oh, nice. I love our team though. I was able to open up the questions on my phone, so I got it sitting there. If anyone has any questions as we're going along, or if anyone wants to interrupt and say anything, by all means I'll be able to get your answer right here, okay? Then Nate, feel free to take it over.
Nathan Hirsch: Perfect. Yeah, it wasn't always that way. It's not like I woke up one day to this awesome team. I made a lot of terrible hires, and we'll talk about that at the end when we share horror stories. But I had no idea what I was doing. I talk to clients all the time that they really have no idea. They might have been scared from past hiring experiences, someone that wasted their time, their money, their energy, whatever it is, but I know that it can happen because I've been to that point where I was working 80 hours a week, where it destroyed my social life and I barely got through busy season.
I know the feeling, and I know that it can be overcome. I was introduced to the oDesk [inaudible 00:06:05] to the world from this random guy on my football team when I first moved to Florida. He was like, "Hey, let me introduce you to this worker from the Philippines." I'd never met anyone from the Philippines before, completely changed my life. If you've never outsourced, if you're scared to hire outside the U.S., again, I've been there before.
It took me years of hiring freelancers before I came up with good systems, good processes, good ways to evaluate talent, good ways to get what I want and make good investments. I wish that I'd all the knowledge that I have now back in the day, and I wish that there were webinars and people that would have taught me how to do that, because I would have saved a lot of time and money. You can keep going to the next slide. There we go.
Andrew Maff: Yeah.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah, so now that I have that information, what's awesome about FreeeUp compared to running my Amazon business, which is pushing products and making money for me and my kin, it's I get to help other people. I get to help business owners from around the world. I get to do webinars. I get to do podcasts and speak at conferences with one leg like you can see me there.
From the freelance side, I get to travel the Philippines and meet a hundred people that we influence their lives. I get to know that we paid out $3 million for freelancers last year to help support their families and grow their freelance business. It's awesome to be able to contribute and help people on that level. While also running a business and making money and all that is great, but after doing that for a lot of years, you really do want to give back. This is really my way of helping other businesses.
Andrew Maff: All right, so let's go over a little bit about what we're talking about today. I'll let you start off here.
Nathan Hirsch: Cool. Half of the battle of outsourcing or hiring freelancers is knowing what not to do. Most of the times that clients come to me and they had a situation, there was always something that they could have done to prevent it. Not to say that it's never the freelancer's fault. A lot of times it is, but there are things that you can do to either stop the problem before it happens, or move on before it happens.
You can see the eight common mistakes of outsourcing. These are the things that everyone does, even once in a while, I'm guilty of making a mistake. But if you can avoid these and really focus on them from beginning, and learn them before you dive in, you're going to save yourself so much time and energy.
We'll talk about giving vague estimates and due dates, and not setting them exactly, what happens if you don't set expectations upfront, what happens when as an entrepreneur, you don't get feedback from other people, which is so important, so you adjust your managing style, your leadership style. That's fear of conflict, which is huge. I mean I think everyone has a little bit where you don't want to piss anyone off but you've got to get over it. Those are just a few. You can see a list of them there, and I'm excited to tell you how to avoid them.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. I would say definitely one of the common mistakes I've come across, every time we've hired someone new for freelancing or we've outsourced him in any way is the whole onboarding process, which we'll touch on in here. There's definitely putting together SOPs so you don't have to continuously be onboarding new people or just so that there's not so much lag time in the beginning as you're bringing someone new on. We'll get into that here. Why don't you go ahead and touch on this next slide here?
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah. What's the goal of you being here or watching this later? You want to become better at hiring online. You want to avoid the mistakes. You want to have confidence to go in knowing that you're not going to waste your money and your time. No one has a 100% hiring record. It just doesn't happen. FreeeUp is probably well over 95%, but you're never going to get to that 100.
You have to focus on the systems, the process. You have to have the confidence that even if you make a bad hiring decision, it doesn't stop you from hiring because your business dies if you can't hire, if you can't expand. Eventually, you'll hit a limit. You have to be able to move forward. You have to have the confidence to do it. We're going to teach you how to do it at an incredibly high level.
Andrew Maff: Beautiful. I'll touch a little bit here on what to outsource. I've outsourced tons of stuff over time of different agencies I've been at where we outsourced things that we were doing. I know it's a little ironic to outsource your marketing to an agency that you're essentially outsourcing to and then they're outsourcing things. We really don't outsource too much here at Seller's Choice, but previously at past agencies, we'd outsourced a lot.
Then obviously at the last eCommerce business I was at, we outsourced a ton of stuff, whether it was your basic assistant or our CEO had an assistant who was helping with setting up meetings or handling his email, because I'm sure a lot of these CEOs, a lot of these founders these businesses have a ton of emails coming in that are just full of stuff you don't want to deal with. Social media, you have people out there if you're not aware of how to handle social media, whether you outsource it to an agency or you outsource it to a freelancer, there's a ton of people out there that are helping out with social media.
In fact, I even outsource one platform to FreeeUp, which is how Nate and I had originally met. I have someone helping us out on Pinterest who's doing a great job right now. That's been something that we've kind of outsourced a little bit. PPC, those are things that you can outsource. Everything here, all the Amazon stuff, listing optimizations, all basic keyword research, having them put together spreadsheets or anything along those lines, graphic design, website design and development, there's a ton of people overseas that do very good jobs.
I understand, Nate, what you meant about like a lot of people are really skeptical to outsource outside of the States. Some people just don't want to for their own reasonings. It's to each his own, you can do whatever you want. However, I've worked with people in India, I've worked with people in the Philippines who've done a great job.
I think it really comes down to vetting them appropriately, and you'll actually find that there are people out there who can work with you and do a great job, and aren't just going to spam you and want to work with you, and then you end up working with them and they're awful. There are some good ones out there.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah, absolutely. My favorite Facebook message that I see or Facebook post, it's like, "What should you not outsource?" Everyone posts something on there like PPC, content writing, whatever it is. I'm always like I outsource all this stuff. There's nothing you can't outsource.
Even just hiring remote workers, I mean, at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter where the freelancer is from. It's more about their skills, their experience, their ability to communicate. I've outsourced all that stuff. I've used U.S. people, non-U.S. people. It really is the way forward. It's how you're going to be able to expand and scale your business.
Andrew Maff: Oh yeah.
Nathan Hirsch: Before we kind of jump right into it, if you're watching, I want you to shut your eyes for a second and think, what is actually preventing you from hiring right now? Why haven't you built that awesome team? Why haven't you started? Why haven't you dove in? Is it finances? Can you actually not afford it, which we'll talk about some solutions for that? Are you scared to do it? Are you scared because of horror stories you read online, of past experiences you've had, or other people you know have had?
Have you made those mistakes? Are you afraid of your security, which is the common misconception? We'll talk about risking your financial information, your business information, putting it in someone else's hands. Or you're just worried about not doing it correctly, which we'll solve a lot here. Whatever it is, we're going to focus on getting over that, so that you can start tomorrow hiring freelancers.
Andrew Maff: Yeah, and the big one I've heard of a lot too is actually that security one. I've heard so many people who are afraid to outsource things and worry about the security of their eCommerce business. There are so many ways that you can limit the amount of things that people have access to and they can still do a good job. That's definitely one I've seen a lot as well.
I had a question from Lisa who asked what PPC is. PPC is your pay-per-click advertising. So if you're doing Google AdWords, social media ads, Amazon ads, anything along those lines, there are freelancers or other ways for you to outsource things so that you can have someone else handle them for you.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah, and that could be Amazon, Google, Facebook, you name it.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. Finding the right VA. Last job I was at, I hired so many VAs that I feel like I've finally mastered this. That really helped actually even when I was getting some work from you, Nate, where I was able to find the right person within the first couple of tries.
We always request past work. It's something I always do. There's a lot of people out there who will say, "Oh, I can run your social media account," and then you find out later on that they just have a social media account. They don't know how to do it for business. Requesting references is another great thing. It doesn't hurt to just shoot someone an email and be like, "Hey, I'm about to hire someone. Have you ever worked with them before?" Maybe they respond, maybe they don't, but it is nice that they at least offer those references.
I always like to get on a quick call with someone and actually hear them. Some people can be very well-written and speak perfectly through email, but then you get on a call with them and you realize they're not the smartest person in the world, and they had some help putting this email together, and now you've dodged that bullet of working with someone who may not actually be able to help, especially if you're looking for a blog writer who you need someone who can speak well and who actually has a good understanding of the English language. If you can get on a call with them and they can hold a conversation, then you should be fine.
Vetting in the job description. This is something I used to do. I used to do all of my work through, all my freelancer stuff through Upwork and recently I've come over to FreeeUp, because they basically find them for you. To me, Nate, you guys are kind of like a ... It makes it easier because you guys are like a recruiting agency for freelancers. I don't have to find the freelancers, you do, which is fantastic.
What we used to do is I used to hide stuff in the job description that I would say in a paragraph, I would just throw in there, "Make sure you use this word in your response," so I know if someone actually read everything and if they actually engaged in what I was trying to look for a job for, or if they just kind of skimmed through it and decided to apply.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah. It's funny you mentioned that. Before we get to this slide, I always say that half of interviewing is trying to trick the person. You're looking for red flags. That's the whole goal of it.
Andrew Maff: Yeah.
Nathan Hirsch: We have so many almost like traps throughout our process. I don't want to dive into them because then they get out there, but they're really designed to weed out the people who won't spend the extra time, who won't pay attention, who don't have that attention to detail, who can't communicate. That's half the battle, because I once took a college class on how to do interviews. People know how to do it. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're good at their job. Anything you can do to pull out those red flags is going to save you a lot of time and energy in the future.
Andrew Maff: Yeah.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah, this is a key one. This actually just happened right before. I was talking to a client right before we came on here. She had this other VA from outside FreeeUp, who had missed a deadline and she was like, "This keeps happening to me. They always do this." I always ask a few questions, I'm like, "Who set the deadline? Was it you or was it the VA?"
For me, I never set deadlines for the people. I know what deadline I want, but I'll have them tell me the deadline. I'll even give them a chance to back out of it. I'm like, "Hey, so you know you have to get X, Y, Z done. Are you sure that's the deadline? Do you need extra time? Are you keeping this in mind? What about revisions? What about whatever?" Making sure the estimate comes from them, and making sure that's in writing.
Now, in addition to the deadline, I would get an estimate. So whether the estimate is a fixed price or it is the actual amount of hours, make sure you get an estimate. Make sure they're overestimating it, if it's hourly, so that you come in under budget, not over, and hold them accountable to it. You're not responsible if they go over budget without your approval especially on the FreeeUp platform. When you get these due dates, I always say you're getting two numbers. You're getting that estimate and you're getting the due date, and the due date has the date and the time.
Be incredibly specific. It's due at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time, so that way at 2:01, if they haven't hit the deadline, you can come to me, you can come to my assistants and we'll handle it from there. But I've seen so many people that are like, "Oh, they told me to be done Monday," and in the freelancer's mind, they're like, "Oh, I'll have it done by 11:59 p.m. on Monday," and the client's like, "Oh no, I need it that Monday morning," but they never actually talked about it. Make sure that you're getting not only estimates or the due dates, and very specific due dates that has time and timezone.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. I'm a big fan on giving them a test run. Essentially what I like to do is, especially I do the exact same thing that you had mentioned where I don't like to give them deadlines. I let them pick their own, so that way if they don't reach them, it's on them. They should know how long the project should take if they've done it in the past.
What I like to do is to give them smaller projects. If I'm looking to hire, let's say, a graphic designer to help me do images for products across my entire site, and I have 50 or 60 products, I'm just going to give them one product. I'm going to give them one. I'm going to see how long it takes them to do one. I'm going to see how good it is, and I'm going to tell them like, "Hey, if this product works out, then let's see how it goes."
Then after that, I like to hire hourly, just so I know exactly how much time they're taking. Unless it's on a project standpoint, in which I just say, "Quote me for how long it will take you to do this entire project, and let's stick to that," so that way I'm not getting stuck with someone if I just give them a giant project that I need done. I'd rather take it slow and get it done correctly than speed up the process by giving them way too much to do and then they fail at it.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah. I completely agree. I'll give an example. I give devs very short leashes, because I know if a dev can't communicate, if they can't hit deadlines from the beginning, I don't want to work with that person. We had a developer we hired late last year, I gave them one project. It was a three day project, they missed their deadline, done. I'm not working with that person anymore.
Obviously that's the extreme. I don't necessarily recommend doing that with every single person. I just know developers and how it kind of works with them, but I 100% agree. Give them a test project, if it doesn't go well, you haven't invested your time, you haven't invested much money into it. Cut them loose and get someone else. You really have to look at hiring as an investment. The more that you invest into someone, the longer leash you give them. If red flags come up from the beginning, you've got to jump ship.
Andrew Maff: I agree.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah, so this kind of the same thing with the mistakes. I've seen this before where someone's like, "Oh, that interview went really well. Here's a two month project. Talk to me in two months." You're setting yourself up for failure. You've never worked with this person before. You're kind of basing it on past history. You haven't given them any opportunity to prove themselves.
What I always do with those tests is I'm getting feedback, because let's say I hire a graphic designer, even the best graphic designer isn't going to know every little thing I'm thinking in my head. Me as a non-graphic designer, I might not do a great job of telling them about it. So if I give them a project and it doesn't come out exactly the way I wanted, maybe in a one or two day project, I'll still give them another chance. I'll give them feedback on it.
I'll be like, "Hey, adjust to this. Adjust to this." For me, I care more about how they adjust to my feedback than I do about the original request, because I know how vague me and other clients must seem to them with their creative graphic design minds. I always go into it being like, "Hey, here's the project. We'll interview for it, okay here's a test project. Here's some feedback. Okay, now that you have it done, let's evaluate and see if we can move forward."
I'll even go small projects, slightly bigger projects, slightly bigger projects, before I give them this huge thing. For example, our software right now, we've been working on this payment system for five months. It's a huge project, but I didn't just hire someone and give them a five month project. This is someone that's worked for me for two years doing lots of smaller projects at a high level, so I trusted them for this big one.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. Pretty much the same concept here, what I've always done is I've broken down the role. If I have a project that they're doing or if I have them even hourly, I kind of do a 30, 60, and 90 day evaluation. I want to train them to just get a very simple thing done within the first 30 days, and then over the next 30 days, we'll give them a little bit more of what that role entails, and then over the next 30 days, we'll give them a little bit more.
This way, we're not throwing it all on their plate, and just setting them up for failure. I've had a ton of freelancers who've gotten overwhelmed in the beginning, or I've had freelancers who didn't like certain parts of the projects so that they didn't get involved in it. So I wanted to make sure that I gave them something that they enjoyed at first, so that they actually started to grow with the role and see that they can grow with the company. I do like the whole slow and steady approach.
Then I'm a big fan of creating SOPs. Basically, as we onboard someone and we teach them something, as I'm training them, I'm making notes on things I want to make sure that they're doing, and then as they're learning and as they've gotten really into the role, I have them create an SOP for me, which for those of you who don't know is a Standard Operating Procedure.
What happens is I've had them create a step by step guide to exactly what it is they do, and I spend a lot of my time creating these so that if this freelancer should ever leave, it takes me significantly less time to onboard someone else, because I now have this role basically painted out in exactly what it is I need them to do.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah. I love that. One of the things I've gotten to do that is I get them to create the SOP. When I first started FreeeUp, I kind of know that the processes are going to change. As you get bigger, you have to keep tweaking it. One of the jobs of my assistants, Jane, Ledan, and Azel, who are awesome, I think you met them, is they have to keep the SOPs up to date as we change stuff. I want their ideas. I want their feedback. I want to constantly improve these processes, and as we improve it, they get into writing. God forbid, any of them quit, it's not that big of a deal, because we have those SOPs and they keep being up to date, and they keep being updated.
Biggest mistake I see, I always say FreeeUp is not the Walmart of workers, because it's impossible to hire really good people for that cheap price. By all means, if you've found that $1 an hour worker and they are awesome, stick with them. Treat them well, give them some raises. You want to hold those people around, but a lot of times it doesn't work out and cheap becomes expensive pretty quickly.
If you are going to go cheap, make sure it's someone that's incredibly replaceable. Make sure it's task, for example, I do lead generation and I definitely don't pay high prices for that, because we can teach someone to do it in an hour and if someone quits, it's not the end of the world. It's very replaceable. The lead gen people that go above and beyond, we do give them raises and keep them around.
Andrew Maff: Yeah.
Nathan Hirsch: With that, I'm always against low balling people. You find someone that wants 15 bucks an hour and you're like, "Hey, I'll make you an offer for 12," and at the time maybe they really need a job and they take that 12. But the second that someone offers them 15 or more, they're out the door. They have no commitment to you. We've all had situations where we felt undervalued and we kind despised our boss secretly because of it.
That's just the way it works. It's human's nature. If you can only afford 12, that's fine, but find someone that's looking for 12. Don't try to low ball the 15 and 20, the people that are looking for those high prices. Really know what the market rates are. If you go to freeeup.com/pricing, I tried to make these ballpark pricing because the freelancers are setting their own rates. We're not controlling that, but it gives you a much better idea of how the market is shifting.
Every month, I try to update this as much as I can based on what I've seen in the market. Always have a baseline. Avoid low balling. Definitely avoid hiring college students for long important work. I know a lot of times they're cheap and a lot of times they're really smart, but their number one priority, and rightfully so, is school, and you have to remember that. It's something that I wasted a lot of time and energy. I wish that I'd skipped that whole part where I spent years hiring college students. Don't do it unless, again, it's very easily replaceable work.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. I couldn't agree more, especially with hiring cheap. There are so many times where yeah, there's something that you want to hire cheap for because you want to keep your margins as best as possible, but the thing is if you hire cheap and you just get someone in there just to get someone in there at a low rate, they're going to do a really bad job.
If you hire someone at a rate that you believe is fair, you're going to have a lot more of an easier time coaching them, because you're going to know that you know what, I'm paying you a fair wage. I need you to be doing this. You can expect from them what you want to expect from the role. At a certain point, if you're paying someone $2 or $3 an hour, at what point do you kind of just go, "Yeah, but I'm not paying them that much," so now they're basically half-assing the job and you don't want that.
Nathan Hirsch: Here's kind of a funny tip off of that. People don't realize the nicer you treat people, the better environment that you give them, the more that you make them enjoy their job, the less you have to pay them. We're not talking about you take a $50 person and charge them 20, but that person that might be on the edge of whether 30 is fair to them, if you treat them well and they like working with you, they're going to stick around longer.
If you're constantly yelling at people and mismanaging and unorganized and you make it a bad environment, people are going to want higher prices to work with you. It's just the way the industry works. Keep that in mind when you get to the other stuff like building culture and team commodity and setting goals. Treating people well saves you money, regardless of what you think on a personal level, it's a good business decision.
Andrew Maff: Yeah.
Nathan Hirsch: Here's where everyone messes up, in my opinion. It's the not setting expectations. You go through figuring out what your perfect worker looks like, you submit a worker request, let's say to FreeeUp or whatever platform you're using, you do an interview, you're like this person is good. Right after that, getting on the same page with expectations before you start work, a lot of people skip that or they don't spend a lot of time on it.
Now, expectations could be anything from how you communicate. Is it Skype? Is it Slack? Is it Trello? It could be what you consider successful or not successful, because one VA might work with five different clients, and every single client wants a different thing and they're not mind readers, so you have to tell them this. It could be pet peeves. I have a pet peeve with my assistants. If they message me like, "Hey Nate," and they wait for my response, I just get a thousand [inaudible 00:28:56] every day. I need them to just be direct, tell me what it is, but how will they ever know that if I didn't tell them that upfront.
I set the expectations upfront on what I like, what I don't like. Whenever someone's going off the wrong path or not doing what I want, I take a step back and I reset expectations. I get everything in writing, and then we move forward again. Not until we're 100% on the same page do we do that. If we get it on writing and we've taken that step back and we go forward again, and we're still not on the same page, then I'm looking to switch. But so many issues can be fixed just by taking a step back, resetting expectations, and going forward.
I have a free document that you can use regardless of whether you're a FreeeUp client. I'm sure Andrew will have it in the notes there. You can also find that in the FreeeUp blog. It's called the Client Expectations doc. Fill it out, hand it over to someone, have them read it, answer any questions they have, boom, on the same page, move forward.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. I'll have all the slides going out probably later today, so everyone will be able to access these as soon as we're done here. We're kind of on the same boat where we really want to make sure that we have some kind of expectation on how we're going to communicate with each other. Recently we switched over to Asana. I've used a bunch of different ones, whether it's Trello or Basecamp or all that. We have a bunch of all of our VAs are in different teams, and they're all set up in here.
Basecamp works the same way. Trello is another great one. It's a little less expensive. It's a great way to keep them all communicating with each other, because sometimes there's going to be things that overlap. Obviously I can speak to marketing, so if social media, you're pushing an ad to gain emails, you're going to want whoever you have running emails to be able to tell the social media person, "Hey, these emails are great. Let's keep up that lead generation," or, "Hey, these leads aren't that great, so let's cater to a different audience here." Having some kind of project management, and having some really easy communication is a great way to do it. Whether that's Slack or Skype or anything like that.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah. I love Trello. I feel like I like basic. I like Skype. I like Trello. For developers, we use JIRA, but I have a project manager that manages that. For whatever reason, developers really like that as opposed to the other software. I've heard great things about Slack and Asana. Maybe one day I'll migrate to them, but cool.
So, putting all your eggs in one basket. The caustic entrepreneurial mistake, you find that VA that you really like after a long time searching and you just load them up with everything, do the customer service, do the orders, do the marketing, do the social media. That person quits, that person gets sick, and all of a sudden, it sets your business back months.
This happened to me when I was a young entrepreneur, I had one supplier for my baby products. I had one manager of the day that was responsible for everything. I went on my first vacation after a year and a half, two years of building this company, and on day one I get a call from the manager saying that he had to focus on school. That's what his parents want him to do, college student. From the supplier saying they no longer wanted to work with us, for whatever reason they had.
To top it off, my accountant called and told me someone stole my identity. It was a pretty bad day, but it all comes down to putting your eggs in one basket. When I got back from that trip, I was motivated. I was like, "We are never making that mistake again. We're going to departmentalize everything. One person for orders, one person for customer service. If someone quits, not the end of the world, easily replaceable," the whole McDonald's method. Same thing with suppliers, same thing with revenue streams, same thing with owning different businesses, same thing with diversifying the stock market. As a business owner, you should be trying to diversify everything, and hiring is no different.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. It's the same. We kind of take the same approach, where basically if we have a VA who's doing a great job for us and we want to give them as much work as possible, we always make sure we have at least one VA as a backup. The thing with freelancers is that they can be great. You don't have to have that many people in-house.
It keeps a lot of your overhead down, but you also have to remember that they could leave at any minute. It's not necessarily customary to give two weeks all the time with freelancers, and you don't want someone to just drop out because of something like that or if they have to go to school or anything along those lines. Having backups who also you can give them those SOPs, or even as backup who's just only doing a few hours a week so that the other VA you originally have can show them what they're doing. It's just nice to have a backup, so that you don't have to worry about some things like that.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah. Real quick off that, it's like the worker request I get that's, "Hey, I want a customer service rep, 45 to 50 hours a week, seven days a week." I always contact that client and I'm like, "Listen, I'll fill that request if you want to. You're the client, more than happy to do it. Can I make a suggestion that you get two people to each work three or four days at 20 to 25 hours. You have a backup. They can sub for each other." Usually that light bulb goes off and they make the right decision, but you've got to have those backups.
Andrew Maff: Oh yeah. We had already touched on this a little bit. We use Slack, but I also use Skype. Zoom is another one where Zoom I use a lot when I'm teaching, so we can screen share, but I can also record so I can send it back to them and they can use it as a referral. Basically if I don't have an SOP in place yet, I can walk them through whatever it is we're teaching them.
Then I can just give them that video to keep going through it, so that that way you're not getting 500 questions about, "Oh wait, what did you say about this? What did you say about that, blah, blah, blah." They can go back and use it as a reference. In terms of giving everyone access to things, I'm just a big fan of using Google Drive using the G Suite account.
Basically what you can do is you can just create folders of what these VAs need to have access to and what they don't, because I know a lot of people worry about security and oh, I don't want them to have access to my finances and I have it all in one place, or I have access to this or anything like that. They can really limit the amount of things that they have access to, so it's really nice to have all this together.
Most of these project management platforms that we spoke about a few slides ago, they all integrate with this. Google Drive can integrate with Slack, but it can also integrate with Asana and Basecamp and Trello, so that that way they only have access to the things that they need access to.
Nathan Hirsch: Absolutely. Here is where a lot of people mess up as well. It's almost that stubborn business owner mentality that, "I've had success, so whatever I say is right," and that's not really the best way to go about it. I just did one-on-one meetings with every freelancer on my internal team, over the past month. We spread it out.
At the end of the meeting, after we'd gone through how last year went, what are goals, how do they like our software? We're always getting that feedback. At the end it's like, "Hey, give us feedback on us." If their response is, "Nate, you're the best boss in the world. We love you. We don't want to change anything," we don't accept that. That's not an okay answer. There has to be some way that I can improve as a business owner.
We really put a little pressure on them to get it out of them because we want to hear it. You're not going to hurt my feelings. We're on the same side. I want feedback on everything. I want how do I make myself more better? How do I make the experience better? How do I make the marketplace and the community better? How do I change text?
I had a great example in our time clock right now it says Hire and Reject. Those are the two options. A freelancer comes to me and is like, "You know what, reject is a pretty harsh word. It might turn people off. People might not want to click it," so we're changing it to Hire and Pass. Boom, someone provided that idea.
Some of the ideas that have made me the most money or cut the most cost didn't come from me. They came from people in my network, on my internal team, because we make the environment where we encourage ideas and that it's expected. We don't want robots. It's not do what I say because I said it. It's you're coming in every day trying to do the process and make the process better, and think and provide feedback, and provide ideas. That's really the culture that we've created, and that's what I encourage you guys to do out there. It's to encourage that culture and ask for feedback.
Andrew Maff: Yeah, I couldn't agree more, mainly because if you treat them like employees, they'll act like employees and they will voice their opinions and then they will help you grow your business, and they will come up with ideas that you may not have thought of. If you don't, they're just going to feel like expensable freelancers and they may leave at any moment because they're just not happy. Like, "I don't want to be here. I don't really feel useful. I'm not using my brain. I'm not actually being challenged." Whereas if you actually encourage them to get involved, they're going to help the business grow, and they're going to feel better about things.
Nathan Hirsch: Absolutely.
Andrew Maff: Kind of talked around this too.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah. Not sharing goals. The best example is we have a graphic designer. We have someone who edits videos. They know what our goals are. Our goal, before we broke it, was to build 10,000 hours in one week. They knew what that was, even though they really don't have a direct impact on that. If they know what it is, that means everyone should know what it is.
Even in our network, we're constantly saying, hey, these are the goals. These are what we're trying to do. It gives people a sense of community. It gives people a reason to do it. No one wants to be sent an email being like, "Do this project," they send it in and just get another email being like, "Do this next project." They want to know how the work that they're doing is impacting the business. It is going to motivate them. It's going to reduce turnover extremely by a large amount.
I mean, the easiest way to reduce turnover is to make sure that everyone knows what the goals are and is motivated towards those goals, because people don't want to leave. They want to hit the goal. Giving details, answering questions, always during our Monday morning meeting, we're like, "Hey, these are the goals. Anyone have any questions?"
When they do, we dive deeper. We're an open book. We're not hiding anything. We're going to tell you if we had a bad week, a good week, and whether we hit the goals or we didn't hit the goals. That's really a mentality that I encourage you to bring to your freelancers, your internal employees, whatever it is.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. In terms of encouragement, we always tend to do a little extra incentives. We've had so many, and it's kind of dependent on the freelancer, but everything from giving them a little bonus here and there to let them know that they're appreciated or to just helping them with their jobs. If they're constantly doing webinars, like we're doing right now, maybe you every now and then when they've done really well and they've had a lot of people show up or anything like that, you can buy them a nice camera for their laptop.
Before, we've had a few VAs who've been around for a couple of years, and they were doing really well and they were having issues with Wi-Fi, so we decided that one of the perks we were going to give them is we were going to cover their Wi-Fi bill. One VA a couple of years, we bought a new computer for because they were doing really well. They were always active and they were always helping, but they were having trouble keeping their older computer working, so we bought him a new computer.
It's nice to treat them like an employee and not so much a freelancer. It will keep turnover from getting way out of line. It will keep other freelancers wanting to work with you because they're going to hear that it's so nice to work with you. You can still build a culture within your business, even if you're not all in the same room.
It is still possible to get everyone involved, even having all the freelancers talking to each other and having the access to be able to talk to each other. They may build a friendship. They may build something that will actually keep them all feeling like a family, and actually like they're all reaching for a common goal, as opposed to just they're all here just to work and then sign off at the end of the day.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah, I agree. I mean, end of the year bonuses, always a good call. I've a very popular blog article on the FreeeUp blog about why you should do bonuses, why it's a good investment, and why it will help you the following year. Here's the thing that I probably get this once a week. Clients are like, "Oh, these workers, they're good. I like their attitude. I like working with them, but they're not doing exactly what I want them to do," or, "I think they could do it better. I don't know how to handle it."
I always tell them to be direct. You have to remember, freelancers are business owners. They are contractors. This is their livelihood. They can take feedback. They're professionals. You have to. To be honest, if I give someone feedback and they take it the wrong way and they're mad at me for it, or they take it personally, those are not the kind of people that I want to work with, and I no longer work with those people.
In order to be in my community, in order to be on my internal team, you have to be able to give me feedback. That means you have to be able to take feedback as well, and adjust and improve on that feedback. Obviously, if you're giving feedback and it's not work, you can cut ties.
I always encourage, let's say that you've invested six months into teaching someone something, yeah you don't want to fire them in one say, but there's all kinds of strategies. You can bring someone on and slowly start taking things off that person's plate. Either the light bulb is going to go off and they're going to hit the ground running and do a great job again, or eventually you're going to take everything off their plate and they become dispensable and you can move on.
Before any of that, give direct feedback. Give them a chance to improve. Make it super clear, black and white, no gray area, "This is what I like that you're doing, this is what I don't like. These are the changes I want you to make," and give them an opportunity to do it, give them a chance to ask questions. Give them a chance to give feedback to you, like I said.
When I was first hiring people from the Philippines, I was getting frustrated because I was like, "I've been telling you these things. You're not doing it." Some of the feedback was, "Nate, you think you're being clear, but you're not being clear. You should word it like this instead and they will understand it."
That was a light bulb for me, and I kind of learned how to speak to someone that is in another culture essentially. That's really my advice is don't be scared of conflict. Give honest feedback. Move away from people that can't handle it. If you do do that and it doesn't get you anywhere, there are methods where you don't have to set your business back, and I'm more than happy to help you with that.
Andrew Maff: Nate, we had a question from Chad. He asked the weekly meetings that you hold with your VAs. He wanted to know if you can expand on that a little bit.
Nathan Hirsch: Sure. My meetings for FreeeUp, everyone is there. I usually say welcome. I'm like, "Hey, this is what happened last week." I usually give some kind of update. I'll tell people if Connor, my business partner, if either of us have any days off coming up the next week or anything they should know about where they have to cover. We'll go over any project updates. We usually start with software, "Hey, these things are launching, so pay attention to this."
Maybe there might be a theme of the week. For example, last week, freelancers weren't sure if they should reach out to clients on Skype, and so we sent out an email about that. I had one of my assistants to really encourage them. So just certain themes of the week. It might be like, "Let's build more relationships." It could be, "Hey, let's really focus on accounting and make sure that we're caught up to date," whatever it is.
So we go over last week, we go over the future week, and then I have every single team, the accounting team, the social media team, the blog writers, the recruitment team, they get individual updates, and people will ask those teams questions to get more information, to figure out how their team can help that team achieve their goal.
It starts off more overview, last week, future week, Connor and I giving updates, then it goes individual teams. Then we have, "Hey, anyone have any last feedback, ideas, suggestions?" Talk about that, and that wraps up the meeting. Sometimes it's an hour, sometimes it's 20 minutes. We get through it fast, especially in the middle of busy season when we all have a ton of work to do. But just having those meetings to get on the same page are so important.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. Obviously in our scenario, we are the outsourced work most of the time, but some of the things that we do with the few people that we do have outsource is we just go ahead and set a time in our calendar. Whether it's weekly or whether it's monthly, and we just put it in everyone's calendar so that they know that we are going to follow up with each other at this time to see how things are going. Even that way if you're not getting a group cohesive conversation together, you're at least having that opportunity to touch base with them and make sure that things are going on.
Even if that means you're getting on a call or if you're just shooting them a message and saying, "Hey, it's Monday. I just want to get a quick update on how things have been going," so you can stay on top of them, but at the same time you can see how they're doing. You can see how they're feeling, and you can see if they're struggling with anything at their job. Towards the end here, as we're all going to have a Q&A. Just had a really good question from Lisa that I know I want to touch on, but I'm going to wait till we kind of get to the end here. I'll let you keep going here, Nate.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah. Just keep in mind, I said this at the beginning, no one has a perfect hiring record. You're going to make mistakes. You're going to make bad hires. Focus on the system. Focus on the process. I always relate this to baseball. You hit the ball, run in a line and you hit it at someone and they catch it.
Are you going to change your swing? No, because you did everything that you could to have a good experience, and then there are some things you can't control. Focus on the systems. Focus on the processes. Focus on the things you can control, and that's how your 100% just goes up, even though you'll never hit 100%. If you do that long-term, you'll be able to grow your business effectively by hiring.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. All right. I wanted to put this in here, because I know you're going to have some good ones. I've got a couple, but we have some people sending us messages, so we'll do a Q&A towards the end. If you guys have any nightmare stories that are really good, please share them. I'll make sure to read them out loud. Nate, I'm going to let you kick this one off. I would love to hear the worst thing that's ever happened to you from working with a freelancer, and then what you did to kind of fix that.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah. I'm like yeah, I don't even know where to start. I had this one freelancer we hired for customer service. We vetted them, we thought they were good. They were probably on day four or five of training. This was back when we had an office, and Chris, who run my customer service for my eCommerce business, he finished training, he left his laptop in this glass room facing out towards us. So the entire office is here, the glass room is facing this way, he had been screen sharing with the worker, and the worker forgot to turn screen sharing off and he started watching porn.
So the entire office is watching this freelancer watch porn, and it took like I was out to lunch. I walked in and obviously was horrified, and God knows the HR nightmare that it could have caused. Luckily we shut that down pretty quick, but I always think back because that's one of the funnier stories looking back, although it wasn't funny at the time. Obviously I immediately fired that guy and moved on, but that was a pretty interesting experience.
Andrew Maff: Oh man. See? I knew I should have gone first. I don't think I'm going to be able to top that. Actually just recently, here with our own marketing in-house, we always tend to keep our clients first. So we want to make sure that our clients marketing is steady and done before we worry about ours. We actually have hired a handful of bloggers who've been helping us out or freelancers. Actually Nate, I just mentioned this the other day that I have one that's driving me crazy.
We have this guy who I've been working with him forever. He's always done really good work, but I had worked with him at the other eCommerce company and never really gave him a lot more to do. He only had a little bit to do here and there. More recently, he was like yeah, I'd love more work. I'd love more work, so we gave him a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit more.
It started to get to a point where all of our blog posts started getting way backed up for our clients. I like to be way ahead of schedule, so blog posts that are going out next week or a week after or three weeks later are all scheduled and kind of ready to go. We got way behind to the point where he was turning them in like the morning they were due.
So some of our clients, they were getting really nervous about blog posts and things going up on time. That's really my most recent nightmare story of just having to figure out how to fade away from using him. Luckily, I found a pretty decent blog writer through FreeeUp, so now I have him helping us out and he's been able to take on more.
We're phasing away the other guy, but it's definitely one of those scenarios of be careful with how often and how fast you give new freelancers more work even if they ask for it, because you never really know if they're just going to be like, "I lied." Yeah, a few of these are pretty bad. If anyone's got any good ones, go ahead and send them in. We'll see if we can read them out. We're getting towards the end here, so I'll let you keep going here, Nate.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah. The FreeeUp marketplace, I mentioned we get hundreds of applicants every week. We vet them for skill, attitude, communication. We take the top 1%. One out of every 100 applicants, let them in. They're available to you, first come, first served. You put in a request, as Andrew knows, we fill requests within 24 hours, we're pretty fast, usually faster.
On the backend, you get access to my awesome team of assistants who are on 24/7 to help you if there's any issues, and we have a no turnover guarantee. If the worker quits for any reason, we cover replacement cost, get you a new worker right away. Because I was late to this webinar for technical difficulties, I'm going to double that credit, 25 to $50 free credit if you sign up. Again, my apologies. I'm usually better than that. Yeah, if you have any questions, my calendar is right at the top of freeeup.com with three Es, and I'm happy to meet with you about your business, and how I can help.
Andrew Maff: Beautiful.
Nathan Hirsch: Don't forget to mention Seller's Choice as your referral to get that $50.
Andrew Maff: Yeah, thanks. We'll do a Q&A here. Guys, if you have any more questions, I know we have a few in here that we can go through. Start sending them in, we'll go through a few Q&As. I'll close up here on stuff that I have. I'm a huge fan, as I mentioned, of automating as much as possible and then getting freelancers for anything that I have no desire to do. I'm a big fan of finding new apps and new software and things like that, especially ones that can automate.
Here at Seller's Choice, if you don't know who we are, we're a full service digital marketing agency for strictly eCommerce sellers. We have some sellers that are brand new and have just launched products, and then we have others that are well, well into eight figures and doing great. I have compiled everything that everyone is using and found out what their tech stacks are, what apps are they using on Shopify, what software are they using to help them do product research on Amazon, what plugins are they using on WordPress, and their WooCommerce sites.
We've compiled everything for Shopify, WordPress, and then marketplaces on what everyone's using. We just made a cool little graph out of it, and you can download it for free. They're not going to ask you to create an email or anything like that. It's just a simple bit.ly/techstacks, so go ahead and fill that out. It will download for you right away.
Then I'm giving away a 30-minute marketing consultation, very simple. I'll sit down with you for 30 minutes and we will go through anything that you could be outsourcing. We'll go through anything that you could be using some help with anywhere, and I promise you, not a sales approach. I'm just going to simply help you out. We can do anything you want from social media to email marketing to Amazon to eBay to Walmart.
I'll help you out any way you guys want, so all you've got to do is fill that out and I'll pick a few of you guys out, and I'll shoot you an email, and we'll set something up. We can start going through some of these questions. Lisa asked a really good one earlier, and I have a few answers here, but Nate, I think you might have a better shot at this one. What type of tests can you give to a prospective freelancer?
Nathan Hirsch: Sure. We break it down into three things, skill, attitude, communication. For skill, it's very much skill specific. We obviously ask an Amazon expert different things than we would ask a web developer. You can even find different tests online. We've bought web development tests that we give people, because I'm not a developer. I'm not an expert. Testing for skill is good in that regard. What we'll also do is we'll hire experts to come in and help design that part of our interview process.
With the attitude and the communication, that's where a lot of those tricks come in. We're looking for people that have a positive attitude. I know Andrew you've met people on the community. They're very similar minded. They care. They're not aggressive. They're peaceful, kind people who are genuinely in it to do good things and to help people, and they enjoy doing what they're doing.
A good example of that is I hate doing bookkeeping more than anything else in the world, but I love being an entrepreneur. So, the people I hire to do my bookkeeping need to love bookkeeping as much as I love being an entrepreneur. That's really what I'm looking for, for attitude.
Communication, I mean that's everything. I don't care how a good attitude someone has, how talented they are, if you can't communicate with them at an incredibly high level, it's never going to work out. Communication is as simple as people who show up on time, people who speak the same language, people who if they are having a family emergency, they tell you before they miss a meeting, not afterwards.
People are going to have stuff like that. To me it's not about the personal issues. It's not about the things they can't control. For example, the webinar issues I had before, it's not like I just showed up 15 minutes in and was like, "Oh, sorry, I was having issues." I was in constant contact with Andrew the entire time. It's very similar. If I have assistants that come in and I have to chase them down or me and my team have to chase them down, they don't last very long in the network. That's really what we're vetting for ahead of time.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. I personally actually am not a huge fan of tests. Like I had mentioned earlier, I am actually more of a fan of getting past work so I can see if they've done something similar to what I've asked them to do, or what I'll do is I will ask them for the references. Otherwise, there's a few things out there that you can get. Like Nate had mentioned, there are tests out there that you can buy and have them take or someone might be able to get them free.
If not, if you're hiring for like AdWords or Facebook, or Hootsuite or anything along those lines, some of those companies have certifications, and you could just ask them if they're certified. If they're not, you could ask them to be, because some of them are free. That's sometimes an approach I would take.
Nate, you had a question about those meetings you were doing. Do you do them on U.S. business hours or for some of your freelancers that are in other countries? Do you request them to be on U.S. time when you're doing those meetings, or do you try to ... How do you do the timing of those?
Nathan Hirsch: Sure. That's a good question. My Monday morning meeting is at 10:00 a.m. every morning. I meet with some people at 9:00, but the main meeting is at 10:00. That overlaps a little bit. It's night for a few of them, but it's only once a week. It's usually not that big of a deal. I also have a calendar. I think you use it, and I block off so Monday and Tuesday nights, people can book me at nights, to my girlfriend's dismay, and then during the week, I have times that people can book and people can double book.
It doesn't matter to me. When people book it, they can always find a time in there that works for them. Usually, yes there's always that timezone difference, but it also depends what it is. I have Ledan who covers my Skype in the afternoon. Her work time is like 1:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., which is the opposite for her a.m., so it's not an ideal schedule for her, but she knew what she was getting into upfront. I treat her very well. I made sure that she was happy with it before I hired her.
For my graphic designer and my video editor, I just have to be able to meet with them for 20 minutes here and they're on my time when I'm working, and then I don't care when they edit it, as long as they hit the due date. For the meetings, we try to pick one time every week, maybe get some feedback, get some suggestions from the other people. But for the other meetings, set up a calendar where people can pick times that work for them.
Andrew Maff: Yeah, nice. Chad asked me if I manage the client relationship myself or if any of my VAs have direct client access. None of my VAs have client access, none of my VAs have access to anything that our clients have. Most of the stuff that we have outsourced are things that are actually for ourselves and not for our clients, with the exclusion of some blog writers, but they simply write it up in a Word document, and then we edit it as we see fit, make it all SEO friendly and that fun stuff, so no one touches our clients.
That's really just on us. I don't like people to have access to things that they don't need access to. Our clients are obviously our number one priority here, so I don't mind them having access to our stuff, but not my client stuff. Someone asked, I don't know if this is your real name, but her name or his name, I can't even tell, Ear Mitts Bandless Ear Muffs, it looks like a person, but it's a company. They want to know if we're going to be at [inaudible 00:57:57] next month. I'll be there. Are you going, Nate?
Nathan Hirsch: I am not. I'm be in the Philippines, but we're sponsoring it, so you'll see our logos inside the goodie bags or whatever you call them. But yeah, hopefully next year. The timing didn't work out. I'll be in the Philippines from March 5th to the 20th or something like that.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. Have fun. I'll be there. I will say hi to everyone in honor of you, Nate.
Nathan Hirsch: Put in a good word [crosstalk 00:58:24]. I know them.
Andrew Maff: All right. Let's do, I've got one more. What if the individual is just starting out as a freelancer and doesn't have an example of their work, individual is transitioning from corporate to freelancing? On my side, I mean yeah that's tough. If they don't have anything to show you, it's kind of all dependent on what it is you're hiring them for.
If they are running social media accounts or anything like that, then they can tell you that they can provide you with the profiles. You can either A, take their word for it, or B, my preference would be to get references. You might be able to get their past jobs references, or if you know they're doing graphic design or anything like that, they can usually provide you with past work they've done. If not, taking the test route might be another way to go, giving them a test on one way.
Or to play it safe, sometimes you can offer them a lower rate for a test and be like, "Hey, if you can prove that you actually know this, since you don't have any kind of examples, then I can hire you on at X rate, in the future to take on the rest of the project." That way you're giving them that shot that they're looking for. Chances are if they're really looking for a chance to just prove themselves to break out into freelancing, they'd be stupid not take that anyways. You should be fine doing it that way.
Nathan Hirsch: Yeah, I agree. From the freelancer side, if I was starting to get into freelancing, I'd post on social media, "Hey, I do writing. Anyone want some free work? My only requirement is you let me use it for a portfolio later," boom, helps you build your portfolio. From the client side, get some references that show that he's a reliable person, that he isn't going to steal your stuff, even if it's not related, about the work, you can still get references from anyone that's worked or interacted with this person before.
Yeah, those test trials, give them maybe extended test. Give them a cheaper rate, like you said, free work if necessary. I mean, we've gotten to the point where you're not getting into the FreeeUp marketplace unless you are an experienced freelancer, but there are ways to build up your profile, and you can do it.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. Cool. All right, I think that wraps this up. I appreciate everyone joining us. I will have all these slides out to everyone later today. We'll also have the replay up. It will stay up on our Facebook and we'll also put it up on our YouTube, and all those things. I'll send out an email to everyone.
I'm always active on social media, so feel free to reach out anywhere @AndrewMaff. I love answering questions and helping people out. It kind of makes me feel good, so I like doing it. Then Nate, you have Nate's email here, and you can set up a meeting with him. Nate, do you have any closing words?
Nathan Hirsch: No. I really appreciate it. Sorry, again, for the technical difficulties, and I look forward to working with a lot of you, including you, Andrew.
Andrew Maff: Thanks, Nate. I appreciate everyone. Thanks for joining us, and we will see you all next time.