[Podcast] 'Inbound & Down' S07 E14: Growing Your Business With Virtual Assistants ft. Outsource School's Nathan Hirsch
On this episode of 'Inbound & Down,' host Jon Sasala talks to Nathan Hirsch, Co-Founder of Outsource School, an online education platform dedicated to educating entrepreneurs on how to hire and scale their business with virtual assistants.
Nathan walks us through the benefits of virtual assistants, how to best leverage VAs for your business and how to create standard operating procedures that lead to success.
Do you have questions about virtual assistants? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the episode transcript below.
Sage Levene 0:00
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Brian Halligan 0:22
This is Brian Halligan and you're listening to Inbound & Down from Morey Creative Studios.
Welcome to Inbound & Down: The Art and Science of Inbound Marketing with Jon Sasala, president of Morey Creative Studios. Hey, it's Sage here! Today we’re talking to Nathan Hirsch co-founder of Outsource School, an online education platform dedicated to educating entrepreneurs on how to hire and scale their businesses with virtual assistants also known as VAs. Nathan talks us through the benefits of a VA and how to best leverage a VA for your business. Plus, a bunch more actionable tips along the way. Okay. Here's Jon and Nathan!
Jon Sasala 1:09
Today joining us we have Nathan Hirsch. Who's the co-founder of Outsource School among many other very interesting entrepreneurial endeavors that he's been involved in. Nathan, thank you so much for joining us here on Inbound & Down today.
Nathan Hirsch 1:19
Yeah, thanks for having me. It's always good to just talk about business and scaling and should be a lot of fun.
Yeah. This conversation goes in many, many different directions, but before we dive in, I'm going to give you an opportunity just to kind of tell me about your career path. You've been through a lot of really incredible stuff. So just tell us about, you know, what happened coming out of college and kind of how that puts you on the trajectory you're on today.
Yeah, I mean, it all really started going into college. I had a bunch of jobs and at that point I knew I did not want to work for someone else. So, I kind of set out on a mission when I got to college to start a business. I just didn't know what that business would be. And I started off just buying and selling people's textbooks, competing with my school bookstore to make a little extra side money. I don't think I ever saw it as a long-term business, but I actually created an affiliate program early on and people started to line up outside my door to sell me their books. And then the school bookstore found out about it and they sent me a cease and desist letter.
So that was my first glimpse into being an entrepreneur, and from there I had sold some books on Amazon—I discovered Amazon and it was now bursting onto the scene. This was 2008, 2009. I was now a sophomore and I started just doing trial and error on what products I could sell on Amazon. And I remember going to this—it was the called the dump, but it was really like this little store outside the dump that you can just pick up these different products and I would just list products on Amazon. And eventually through trial and error, I came across baby products and I had the idea to partner with these different manufacturers who would actually make the product and ship the product, which I knew nothing about and they didn't know anything about selling on Amazon. So, it was kind of a win-win for both parties.
And that business started to scale quicker than I could imagine and I had to start hiring people. So, I tried hiring college kids, they were really unreliable. I tried hiring people in the US, I spent a lot of money hiring people $50,000 to $70,000 a year, and I kept looking for a better way. And finally, a buddy of mine told me about the virtual assistant space. So I hired my first VA, she was awesome. Hired my next few and they were not as awesome. And I then set on a path to figure out how to hire virtual assistants effectively, because I knew that if I could figure out a good process to just consistently hire a player and keep them around and plug them in my business, then any business I start going forward just become scalable.
So, my Amazon business started to take off. I liked VAs so much that I started this marketplace called FreeUp on the side to compete with Upwork and Fiverr. It was a more pre-vetted version, faster, better customer service and FreeUp quickly outpaced my Amazon sales, that business grew. And I built that business completely on virtual assistants with my business partner. And we scaled that from a $5,000 investment to eight figures in four years. We were acquired by one of our clients at the end of last year, which is a whole another story, we can talk about it if you want. But from there, we set out on a mission to teach entrepreneurs how to scale with virtual assistants, and we're really working on three different things right now.
We have Outsource School, which is teaching entrepreneurs, our systems, our process, how to hire, how to plug operations and marketing systems into your business, how to reduce turnover. We have a software called SimplySOP. That's a tool for creating and sharing standard operating procedures that we throw in as a bonus for Outsource School, and we’re also building an SOP marketplace that'll hopefully come out by next year and all three of them kind of go together. So that's the long short version of how I went from books to baby products to FreeUp to now Outsource School.
Yeah, just as a fun kind of conversation around the need for used books, you know, textbooks are very expensive and if you can get a little bit of that back and for somebody who maybe can't afford to buy the textbook from the school store, what a great value. And then you say, you know, you kind of came across the opportunity with baby products, toys, clothing. We see that I have a seven-year-old and a nine-month-old and like, we go through clothes so quickly that are in really great shape. So, you see in real-world examples an opportunity for a business and you start pursuing that.
And it's just the things that you're learning, and your day to day operations about, you know, you mentioned you were hiring a bunch of virtual assistants and essentially, you know, a gig economy of freelance people that can help you out—the learning you had there inspired FreeUp. Now, you had mentioned that you built FreeUp as a competitor to Fiverr or to Upwork. What were the challenges that you saw when trying to leverage Fiverr or Upwork that you said I can probably do build a better model here?
Yeah, so, I really hated posting a job and getting 50 people to apply and then having to go through them one by one. And then if anything happened, I didn't really have anything to go to if that VA was causing issues, it’s not like Upwork is going to take responsibility for it. And if someone quits, I just have to start that process all over again. So, I really started off by just looking for the marketplace that vetted people, matched me up quickly, had good support and covered replacement costs if someone quit. But I also didn't want an agency. I didn't want to talk to a project manager who was then dealing with the VA. I wanted to work with the VA one-on-one. So, I kept looking for that over and over. And when I couldn't find it, I said, you know what? I'm going to build this myself.
And when you say VA, like I immediately, I know businesses that leverage virtual assistants and, you know, book time with my coworker, meanwhile, she's just a VA who happens to live in some other country. And I really do think of just the assistants, right? You know, a personal assistant kind of role, but you're talking about more than personal assistants. You're talking about servicing in many different verticals, be it from SEO support, content development. Can you talk about the different types of people you are hiring and said, these are the types of job opportunities that should be in this marketplace?
Yeah. So, I like to divide it up into followers, doers, and experts. And we live kind of in a day and age with COVID where everyone that works from home is a virtual assistant, right? But when I'm talking about virtual assistants, I'm just talking about the followers—five to 10 bucks an hour, not in US, they're there to follow my systems, my process, If I don't at least have the starting point of a process for them to hit the ground running—not that they can't make it better or become a team leader or show that they can own that process—but I have to have something I can't just say, ‘Hey, you're hired, go run my Facebook Ads.’ I don't know how to run Facebook Ads.
And then you got the doers, the graphic designers, the video editors, the writers. You're not teaching a graphic designer how to be a graphic designer, but they're not consulting with you either. They're there to do that one thing at a high level. And what I've done over the years is I built up a Rolodex of multiple graphic designers, multiple video editors, multiple writers that all know my style. They know how to work with me. They know to hit deadlines. They know I don't work with people that don't hit deadlines.
And then when something comes up, I don't have to just start interviewing people. I go to my graphic design, Slack channel, and I post in there and whoever can get to at first, gives me a due time due date, I either approve it, or I see if someone else can get it done faster.
Then you got the experts, the high-level freelancers consultants, agencies. They could be 50 bucks an hour, they could be a hundred thousand dollars an hour, but they're there to bring their own process, their own strategy, their own systems, their own process to the table. And just like, I wouldn't hire a follower without systems, I'm not going to hire an expert and say, ‘Hey, I'm going to pay you top dollar. You've had a lot of success doing it your way. I'm going to train you how to do it my way,’ that doesn't make any sense either. So, understanding the different levels, understanding that you need all three levels to grow as an entrepreneur, but if you're starting off, you want to start with the followers. Because if you make mistakes there it's a lot cheaper than making mistakes with the doers or the experts.
But for you to engage with a follower, it’s important that you have mapped out your standard operating procedures, that you have a playbook. You've got something to hand to them that says, this is how we do things, this is our style guide. You know, it's very clear what I'm asking you to do. What is the process of building out those systems and documenting it? Did you have some learning when you were trying to build your own, that you said, ‘I need to build a better system for this?’
Yeah. We built a lot of bad SOPs for years, just trying to figure out how do we get the information that's in our head into someone else's head, but also figure out a way to have them avoid issues that we know are going to frustrate us, that's going to make us want to just do it ourselves, which is the opposite of what we want. And that's even why we built our software SimplySOP, that that just makes it easy.
But what we've found is breaking down SOPs into three different steps, or three different parts where you've got the why, you’ve got the steps and you've got the important reminders. So, the why gives people the big picture. Why are you doing this task? What does success look like? What does failure look like? And so many people skip this. They just give the virtual assistant, ‘Hey, here are the 10 steps, do it’ and the VA doesn't really understand why they're doing it or what the point is. And it actually makes them a lot better their job if they understand the why.
Then you go through the steps and video’s better than text, but videos get outdated quickly. You need a video editor, you have to refilm it. So that's why we created a software that breaks down the video and text into steps so you can easily sub in and out, but you have the steps there. But then the last thing is key. You have the important reminders or what I like to call the ‘do not do list,’ because what a lot of people do is, they'll hide the important steps in part 10 section C and, and then the VA misses it and then the entrepreneur becomes frustrated and doesn't want to hire anymore.
So, we take all the important stuff and we put it at the end. Like I have a VA that runs my inbox. She wakes up an hour before me every day, clears my inbox, gives me a head start to every day and our SOP at the bottom are important reminders and if my accountant emails me, if my lawyer emails me and my business partner emails me do not respond to those emails. So, it's very cut and dry, black and white and we make it easy. And to kind of feed off of that, once you have the SOP, the key is to give the virtual assistant the SOP and have them prove that they can at least learn 70% to 80% of it on their own. Don't start off by doing one-on-one training, because then you fall into what I call the training trap, where you've trained someone for a week, they’re not very good at it and then do you train them for another week? Do you start all over? You’re kind of just stuck.
So, building out that standard operating procedure, it’s kind of allows you to also pivot from human to human. If they leave you, you can say, listen, I've already kind of built out what are the important things to know and how to operate when they're servicing that, you know, going through the inbox, which is brilliant by the way. Having somebody who's going to go through and just keep you on point and make sure that, it's not up to you to clean out a lot of the garbage that might make it into an inbox. What a brilliant move right there.
And, when you have a marketplace of people that can affordably service you in that way, this starts to reveal that it's not just for entrepreneurs and startups and young companies there's value that can be pulled out of Outsource School that can be for established businesses. And we're seeing this firsthand where as a marketing agency, five years ago, we were maybe 10 people. And then we were 20 people. And now we're 30 people and soon we'll be 40 people and then 50 people, and as we scale, there are new challenges that are kind of presenting themselves and making sure that we've documented our processes and making sure that we can onboard people consistently and not have to go through that long teaching process. You can probably find value as an established business, like Morey Creative Studios. And I think that's maybe where that SimplySOP kind of comes from. Tell me a little bit about that tool and the other tools that established businesses can be leveraging?
Yeah. I mean quickly about Outsource School. So, I mean our whole thing—and big businesses, small businesses, whether you're hiring a VA for the first time, or you're so busy, you just give Outsource School, to your project manager, to your virtual assistant, we have VAs that are going through our content so that they can hire and train other VAs. It really comes down to four things like how do you hire eight players consistently? How do you do it quickly? Because we don't want people doing three hour interviews every time you need to hire someone. How do you either take our processes or quickly create your own processes in a way that value your time while you're training someone and how do you—once you've done all that—how do you reduce turnover or eliminate turnover and reduce issues? Because what's the point of hiring eight people, if you're just retraining people over and over again.
So that's kind of the key there and with SimplySOP, we started off just because we always created text SOP. When we sold FreeUp, we had 50-page text SOPs, which is not ideal. Like I said, video is way better than text. But, when you're growing a company and you're one through four, your SOPs just change all the time. You're always updating them and for us to just refilm videos over and over was a pain. So what we set out to do was create a software where as you're creating a video—so like a Loom—you’re marking steps as you go, and you can actually give your VA access to the SOP, so either you or someone on your team can just update steps as you go, whether it's a video or the text. And there's other SOP tools on the market, but they try to do project management, they try to do workflows, they try communication. We just want to be the simplest software on the market for creating, sharing, storing, giving access to your client’s, access to your team standard operating procedures. And it can connect to your Trello, your Asana, whatever tools you want to use. So that's really what we're focused on.
So that sounds like, you know, specifically with SimplySOP, it sounds like it is software, right? You have a system that is built to generate—it systematically generates standard operating procedures. How much of your company would you say is software driven and how much of it is just your incredible intellectual property of the learning that you've kind of established over the way?
Yeah. I mean, we're filming this in month, five or month six of starting Outsource School. So, Outsource School has a much bigger head start. I mean, we started Outsource School in March, SimplySOP only launched a few months ago. So, it's probably 70 to 30, something like that but you have to remember, we're including SimplySOP in Outsource School. So, a lot of the members are using a software, even though they're not buying it through the software plan, they're buying it through Outsource School.
And Outsource School, it is a subscription, right? For people that want to leverage that full suite there, a monthly subscription.
Yep. You can pay 97 bucks a month or 997 a year to get full access to our library. It's kind of like a Netflix, but for systems and processes and our libraries of SOPs, plus community support. We do live coaching calls every Wednesday. We're really there to help.
And in addition to being able to build those standard operating procedures, that SimplySOP, what are the other different tools that you have access to when you do subscribe?
Once you know how to hire a player—so, we're going to give you our exact hiring process, interviewing onboarding, training, and managing. Everything from the exact interview questions you asked to how you onboard, our meeting templates, our firing checklist. Once you have that down—and some people that joined already have that down, or some people need it from scratch—other people have a good process and they just take parts of ours and plug into theirs. Then it becomes where is your focus? Is your focus to get your time back, or is it to grow your business or to market.?And so, if it's to get your time back, we have playbooks like the inbox management playbook that I mentioned before, how to have a VA run your inbox, calendar management, bookkeeping, customer service. Stuff that's not necessarily going to make you money.
Although you can argue that great customer service reps might save you money on refunds or something like that, but they're really designed to get your time back. But we grew FreeUp with virtual assistants, our entire marketing team, lead generation team was virtual assistants. So, we have SOPs for lead generation for getting on podcasts, which you and I were chatting about before the show, for partnership programs, for reaching out to influencers. We have all these playbooks and we have new playbooks coming out every single month and our community, our members, our partners, our affiliates, are also helping us grow this library. So, you're getting access to tons of SOPs plus our community, which is very active. I mention we do live coaching calls every week and our support along the way. So, if you're creating an SOP, you have a job posting you want us to review, we're there to help.
You know, knowing that this is a reoccurring expense, it's a subscription. You know, when you dive in, I'm looking at some of the tools that I was aware that you guys offered it and thought, you could probably, as a business, leverage this community, and after six months, a year, 18 months, whatever it might be say, okay, I've gotten everything that I can probably get out of Outsource School, but it sounds like all of those things that you just went through and the fact that you're continuing to roll out new playbooks in ways that are helping completely flip a business model on its head and saying, ‘I don't need an internal staff of people to do X, Y, and Z,’ because you're trying to address that across the board and all that new content is kind of, what's going to incentivize people to stay on the platform and continue to see what's next.
I would love to dive deeply into each of these playbooks that you are kind of throwing out there. I know we don't have that much time but just generally you had mentioned getting on podcasts and developing a playbook. This is something that entrepreneurs or business people in general could really, really benefit from. What do you learn when you go through the getting on podcasts playbook?
So, first of all, you should know why you're getting on podcasts. Like, it's not just to grow your name although brand awareness is great, but it's good for networking. Guess who the biggest people in the space or guess what the biggest people in the space do? They have their own podcast. So just getting on podcasts a good way to meet people that you want to know, if you're in the real estate space, if you're in the marketing space, e-commerce space, whatever it is/ I's great for back links and SEO. When we sold FreeUp, and there's an SEO rating from zero to a hundred, we were at 70, Amazon's at a hundred to put that in perspective.
So, four years into our business, we were at 70. That's pretty good for spending no money on ads. And a big part of that was podcasts. With Outsource School we're at like 30 or 31, we've only been in business for five or six months. So, going on podcasts is great there. It's great for getting in front of thousands of people at once, usually for free, although there's some podcasts that you might have to pay for. And it has a snowballing effect, it leads to better and better opportunities. Roland Frasier had me on his podcast recently. Would have had me on his podcast if I'd never been on a podcast before, my guess is probably not.
So, and I could go on and on, there's a lot of benefits. So, in this playbook, I'm really going to teach you the exact process that I use to get on podcasts. I've been on over 300, probably 400 now podcasts. I go on one podcast every single day. You're my podcast today. I'm usually booked out three months in advance. And even if you don't have to go crazy like that, if you're not going on one podcast a week, you're really missing out on a great free tool to promote your business and also get the back link and network and content and all of that. So, we teach you multiple ways on how to hire a VA specific for that task, how to do multiple forms of lead generation, how to actually reach out to the host. We give you our templates, the exact templates that I send out to people, probably the same template that I sent to you. And I include bonus stuff like what I do before, during, and after our podcast to make sure that I'm getting the most out of it. So, most of it has to do with virtual assistants and how you get them doing the work, but there's some other bonuses in there as well.
So, I know when you were with FreeUp, you had a podcast over there as well. One that you managed yourself, it was your own community. Can you tell me the difference when somebody is considering, should I start my own podcast, or should I just really leverage a VA to try and get on as many other podcasts as possible?
Yeah, I mean, in the perfect world, you do both. I tend to be of the mentality that I build a business, make sure I have my messaging clear, and then start a podcast. Other people disagree with me. You have to remember that having your own podcast is an ongoing expense. And you know this probably better than anyone, not every business wants to commit somewhere between $100 to $500 per show ongoing. It's also a big-time commitment on your end and that's the reason why I tend to avoid podcasts that don't have more than a hundred episodes, because there are a lot of people that'll do episode one through 40, and then realize they don't have time. They don't want to do a podcast anymore and I want to value my time better than that. So, it is a time commitment. It is a money commitment, and it's something that doesn't get overnight results, just like building any kind of community or following.
Whereas going on podcasts, I spend less than $20 a week. The people that use my podcast outreach formula spend less than 20 bucks a week on their VA. You don't need a full-time VA getting you on podcasts and there's really no other costs. I mean, I have a VA that does my social media, that when you send me the show notes and the episode, we'll promote it on our end and do that. But it's relatively inexpensive and you can scale it up or scale it back as much as you can. If you have a podcast and you just don't do any for two months, it's hard to pick it back up. If you are going on one podcast a week and I'm going to take two weeks off the next month, it's totally fine. So, there's a lot of benefits for getting in front of other people's communities that they've already spent time and effort to build versus building your own. And like I said, in the perfect world, you're doing both.
With your subscribers when they come in, they might be looking for specific playbooks, right? They might be coming in saying, ‘I need to find the playbook for hiring and teaching me better interviewing techniques and how to do this properly.’ They're not expecting to see a how to get on podcasts, playbook, or how to leverage influencers. So, there's so much more value than what people might be expecting whenever they do subscribe with you guys. Let’s talk about the partnership playbook or the influencer playbook. Can you tell me a bit about those?
Yeah. So, partnerships are another great way to grow a business. By the time we sold FreeUp, we had over 300 partners who were constantly promoting us. And we started off by saying, ‘Hey, we're going after Amazon sellers because I was an Amazon seller.’ So, with FreeUp, we went after Amazon sellers first. We went to every single Amazon software company and we said, ‘Hey, we both go after Amazon sellers, I don't provide Amazon software. You don't provide virtual assistants. Let's do content swaps and content swaps could be blog posts, newsletter blast to each other's audience. It could be a podcast. It could be a webinar. It could be a YouTube video together. It could be a co-sponsor networking event back in the day when you could actually go to conferences,’ I've done a few of those.
So, it can be as much or as little as you wanted to and we have a virtual assistant and we have them at FreeUp. We have another one at Outsource School doing the same thing. If anyone's interested in being a partner, email email@example.com, she'll respond. Her name's Sheila. She's incredible. And she'll manage that partnership after the fact, because not every partner you want to commit to doing a blog post every week for like, you only have a certain amount of resources and we help you map out, Hey, we're going to do content swaps every six months. This is a good partner, this is a smaller partner and maybe you're doing more podcasts or maybe you're doing more blog posts, but really scheduling it out. So, you have these partners and you want to take charge. If you're relying on everyone else's partnership program, chances are stuff’s going to fall through. So, you want a VA on your side, reaching out to people saying, ‘Hey, it's been six months. What do you want to do together?’ And really keeping that organized across the board while also communicating with your content team.
And when you look at that some of the other playbooks, you've got a customer service. You may be thinking, I don't need to have a staff of people that are managing my customer service. What are you going to learn when looking through that playbook?
Yeah. You mentioned influencer too, which I forgot. I mean it's really a lead generation process to reach out to influencers, plus my tips for getting influencers to respond and actually work with you. I mean, customer service is one of the hardest, most intensive jobs to train someone on whether they're US or non-US. If you're hiring a customer service person, you better make sure that you're hiring the right person and you're putting them through the right steps, because you don't want to get to the end of training and realize, Hey, this person can't write emails or this doesn't understand my company, or they're not very good at customer service.
So, it's a very step-by-step process where you put them through and you have them prove to you that they master each step before you move on to the next one. And you cut people off that can't get past that step and the first step off the top of my head is learning your business. Before any customer service rep opens emails or starts dealing with customers, I have them listen to podcasts of mine, go through my website. I give them information about the company and I ask them questions, because at the end of the day if they don't get my business, I cannot proceed onto step two. Whereas a lot of people will say, ‘Oh, this is how we do track emails.’ So, there's a certain step by step process that we walk you through and how to reduce your chance of hiring a bad customer service VA.
So that does then tie back into building out those SOPs. You need to be documenting how things are done so that they have the tools in front of them. And you know, like we said before, if you need to move on and bring on additional people for customer service, it's already been documented and you've kind of laid out the path.
Yeah. We're really providing—we call them playbooks and formulas, but they're SOPs that you just have to fill in a certain part. Like let's say we have a calendar management playbook. The reason the calendar management playbook works is because I know what my ideal day looks like and I'm able to show my virtual assistant, Hey, don't book more than one podcast today. But if you use my exact SOP that it's not going to be the same, you don't have the same ideal day. So, we show you exactly how to set it up. You have to spend a tiny amount of time just saying, ‘Hey, this is what I want my day to look like.’ And that turns it into an SOP for you, that you can then give to your virtual assistant.
Beautiful. I had noticed on your website, on the outsourceschool.com, there is a testimonial video on the site. And the gentlemen who's speaking says, ‘I used the lead generation playbook and immediately had 40 leads to deal with those are too many leads for me to even follow up with.’ What was it that this person is doing? Is it—you’re just giving them an e-book and a couple ideas? How can this be so actionable?
Yeah. I never want to promise anyone that's going to happen, but we do have a lead generation formula that is the exact process that we've used on three businesses to have lead generation run behind the scenes. With our Amazon business, we used it to find manufacturers. We had a VA every day, we gave them the specifics, really what your customer, client, or manufacturer avatar looks like and we give them—we start a feedback loop so that they learn exactly what to find. And we ended up working with over 500 manufacturers and the VA found 80% of them.
With FreeUp we had lead generation running in the background to find Amazon sellers, to find marketing agencies, to find influencers, to find partnerships. You can tweak it just depending on what you're trying to find and with Outsource School, we do it very similar to what we did at FreeUp. So, we show you again, exactly how to find a VA that's good for lead gen because a lead gen VA is not exactly the same type as customer service and we give you the exact systems that you still have to fill in one chunk of it because your customer avatar is different than mine. And you have to follow our steps to start that feedback loop and get them rolling and then it can run behind the scenes.
That's great. I think something that maybe I didn't take away when I was originally researching your website and your company was, this isn't just a playbook to teach you how to do lead generation. It's a playbook to teach you how to leverage people to do lead generation. And that component is something that I think people are going to listen to and be like, ‘Oh, wow, it doesn't have to be on me to do that outreach, to go and find the resellers to go and set up an affiliate program.’ Like you can be outsourcing some of this stuff and having other people do the heavy lift.
Yeah. There's really nothing you can't outsource. With FreeUp, I mentioned when we sold FreeUp, it was an eight-figure business. It was run entirely by virtual assistants. Everything from billing clients $200,000 a week to responding to every customer service email—happy customers, angry customers—all of that to our social media, our marketing efforts, our content, our blog, like all these people remote. I've been to the Philippines one time on vacation. I don't have an office there. I also don't have an MBA, but you can set this stuff up in your business if you have the right hiring process and the right SOPs after the fact and there's really no limit to what you can do with the gig economy, that remote workforce that you have at your disposal today.
So, I think people might be listening to this and might be a little bit apprehensive about trusting so much of running their business to people who aren't necessarily working in the same office or who they didn't have a chance to sit face to face with. What would you say some of the challenges are, or maybe the misconceptions there are around hiring VAs?
Yeah. And this is by far the biggest objection I get. And I usually try to address it early whenever I'm speaking. I mean, bottom line, you're going to have to hire, if you want to grow your business. If you're not open to just hiring in general, you've automatically put a ceiling on your business. There's very few solo, $1 million a year entrepreneurs out there. It just doesn't exist. But then in terms of hiring VAs, the average virtual assistant, let's say living in the Philippines, cares so much more about providing for their family and keeping you as a client and getting referrals from you and staying on the marketplace you've got them on than they do about hurting or jeopardizing your business in any single way. There's just almost no benefit for them. And yeah, you can do things like Last Pass, which is great and you can give them permission and access over time and build trust, which is also good.
You can even have them sign an NDA, but are you really going to chase someone across the world over a piece of paper? Probably not. The real way to protect your business is to build a relationship with the people that you're working with. Get to know them, their family, their interests. Treat them well. One of my favorite questions is, ‘Tell me who your favorite client is. And if it's not me, I want to know. And I want to know why that's your favorite clients so that I can do more things to become your favorite client.’ That's my goal with every VA hire, how do I become this virtual assistant’s favorite hire or favorite client and make it a win-win.
So, if you focus on building the relationship, the risk is a lot smaller than you think. I've hired thousands of VAs, I've never had a serious issue. FreeUp billed by the time we sold it at 19 hours a week, never had a serious issue. The risk is smaller than you think. Obviously if you bill enough hours, eventually something will happen, but you can't let that stop you from really the only option of growing your business and a huge competitive advantage that you're going to have over your competitors that are not open to using virtual assistants.
So, I want to jump over to the idea around lead generation. And you know, when you do have your business, when you establish your website—I did see a lot of great content in your blog environment, talking about a lot of the stuff that we're discussing here, but tips around hiring and how to make sure that you're vetting people or getting the wrong people to not apply. How much of your community growing and your business growth is related to your online presence specifically? I’m looking for maybe some inbound marketing techniques or is this really all just ground and pound VA-driven expansion?
It's very much VA-driven expansion. They probably do 90% of the work, but it's incredibly diversified. I mean this is really what, what happened, right? We didn't know how to hire when we started our Amazon business. So, it took us years to learn how to hire. When we finally figured out how to hire, we could hit FreeUp with the ground running. We hired eight players on day one. The same people we hire in month one were with us in year four. They got a large bonus when we sold FreeUp, they were rockstars, but we had no idea how to market. Like we came from the Amazon space where you pay Amazon 15%, they get you the customers, and that's kind of the agreement. So, we had to learn how to market.
And so we learned what worked and what didn't work and what worked was podcasts, back links, partnerships, influencers, writing, blogs, and putting out consistent content, lead generation, all this stuff we've kind of been talking about. But when we sold FreeUp, we actually never really mastered paid ads, only because FreeUp was a very difficult platform—not impossible and I'm sure the new owners will do a better job than we did, but because it's free to sign up, there's no minimums, there's no monthly fee, just very tough to track ROI on it and people that sign up through Facebook Ads or something like that.
With Outsource School, we know how to hire. We've hired players, people that join, we'll meet Anna and Grace and Andrew they're rockstars. We know organic marketing. We're using the same playbooks that we used with FreeUp the same playbooks we teach our members and now it's time to learn paid ads. We're running Facebook Ads now. So, it’s not one single way that people hear about us. People might hear me on a podcast. They might get a Facebook Ad. They might read a blog article, a partner might promote us. We have an affiliate program that pays 40%. They might hear it from an affiliate. So, there's lots of different ways and people start seeing you over and over and over and to me, that's how you gain traction and really any business that you want to start.
The thing that I'm excited to see is all of the lists that you just ran through, how there's going to be an accompanying playbook to help people learn about what you guys have gone through and grow in those different spaces. And just seeing how this is going to really be shifting a lot of people's mental space around what does growing a team look like, and how do I do this at scale, and how do I find success? I really do think that people are going to listen to this episode and get excited about the possibilities around how they can maybe grow their business in a different way. But I want to give people an opportunity to learn more about Outsource School. Are there any tools or freemium products or anything that you'd like to point people to on your website?
Yeah. If you go to outsourceschool.com/vacalculator, we have this cool tool that we use to figure out our budget each month. So, you can plug in information about your business. They'll tell you how many virtual assistants you can afford right now. So outsourceschool.com/vacalculator.
Very cool. And when you are a guest on all of the podcasts that are out there Inbound & Down included, do you share that on social? Is that something like, if I wanted to hear you other places, I just need to find you on LinkedIn or Twitter?
Yeah. I mean, if you Google ‘Nathan Hirsch,’ you'll find lots of podcasts, lots of content and stuff like that. We try our best to promote we do. We promote every podcast that I've been on, on our social channels and on our stuff as well.
And would you like to point anyone to your social platforms? Are you big on LinkedIn? Are you big on Twitter
Yeah. Nathan Hirsch on Facebook or LinkedIn? RealNateHirsch on Instagram or Twitter. I put out a lot of content there, so feel free to connect.
Okay. We'll find you there. And Nathan, I really greatly appreciate you coming on. I think you've got a lot of people's heads spinning out there because you have certainly turned my thinking upside down here. So, thank you very much for all of this knowledge.
Yeah, it was fun. Thanks for having me.
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