Advice On Being an Entrepreneur, Content Marketing, Personal Branding And Much More…
An Exclusive Look into FreeeUp with Founder and CEO, Nathan Hirsch
The following is from an interview that was performed between Paul Kemp, owner of TheAppGuy.co, and Nathan Hirsch, CEO of FreeeUp.com, on The App Guy Podcast. The conversation has been edited and enhanced for your enjoyment and learning.
Throughout the conversation, Paul and Nathan touch on how FreeeUp.com helps business owners utilize outsourcing to free up their time and focus on what is most important to growing their business. The conversation jumps from Nathan’s first business venture to his advice on bootstrapping vs. fundraising. All the while, Paul brings the conversation back to The App Guy audience to provide as much value as possible.
Paul: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, Paul Kemp. This is the show that inspires you by getting interviews with founders and business owners to help you build your own business.
Today I have a great guest. We’re going to learn a lot about what he is doing with FreeeUp.com, a hands-on solution to outsourcing. His name is Nathan Hirsch and he is the owner and founder of FreeeUp. Nathan, welcome to The App Guy Podcast!
Nathan: Thank you for having me ☺
What is FreeeUp.com?
Paul: Let’s talk about what you’re doing. Can you talk me through how FreeeUp works?
Nathan: Definitely. So there are a lot of websites out there where you can hire remote workers, but a lot of my clients have had bad experiences hiring workers in the past. Some are hiring people for the first time online and others just don’t have the time to recruit and interview applicants. They reach a point where they aren’t sure if they are making a good or bad decision while hiring.
FreeeUp is the hands-on approach to hiring workers online. Our clients come to us wanting to spend less time on the front end of hiring, but also have some insurance once the worker is hired. On the front end, we handle all of the interviews. We receive around 100 applicants per week who we bring through a strict interview process. The FreeeUp Marketplace has communication best practices that all freelancers are encouraged to follow so that the client experience is as efficient as possible.
On the backend, we protect our clients. Workers offering their services through the FreeeUp Marketplace rarely quit, but it is real life and it can happen. We mitigate this risk by having replacement workers ready to go. We cover all re-training costs if a worker ever leaves. We’re also very hands on throughout the entire process. We’re there to support the client and will get involved with the worker if there’s any miscommunication.
Paul: I do think that everyone listening has probably heard of Elance or oDesk which is now Upwork. But it sounds like you’re better because if you don’t want the headache of doing all the interviews yourself, cultivating hundreds of applicants to have to sift through, we can go to your site and have trust that there’s a thorough interview process. Is that right?
Nathan: Exactly. You can go on these different sites (i.e. Upwork, PeoplePerHour) if you have time and post jobs and get all these applicants and go through them one by one. Or…if you don’t have the time, you can go to FreeeUp.com and sign up as a client.
You can say, “Nate, I need this worker with these skills, that can work these hours, that has this background.” We pride ourselves on speed. Within 24 hours of receiving your message, you will be introduced to a worker from the marketplace so that you can hit the ground running.
FreeeUp’s Client Base
Paul: So let’s talk about who’s hiring you because we could have a lot of people listening who are potentially suitable clients. What types of companies tend to hire you?
Nathan: Sure. Our main focus originally was eCommerce just because that’s my background. I run an Amazon store that does about 5–8 million dollars in sales a year. I’ve been doing that for six years so that’s how we got started.
However, I do have a lot of clients that are outside the eCommerce industry simply through word of mouth. It ranges from real estate to marketing companies to consulting companies to even lawyers. As we continue to grow, we are focusing on different workers that may be needed by our clientele, i.e. web developers and designers.
Nathan Hirsch’s Personal Background
Paul: Right, okay. Since you’ve touched on your background there, let’s talk a bit more about that. $8 million dollars in sales per year is pretty phenomenal… How did you get that started?
Nathan: Sure, it’s actually a funny story. When I was in college and about 20 years old, I really wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to start my own company. I found out that I didn’t love working for other people through a series of internships so I started by selling books. I would go to the dumpster with my grandfather and they had books that people were recycling or throwing away. I would pick them up, sell them online, and make a little bit of money.
I then got into selling textbooks at my college. Instead of people selling back to the bookstore, they would go to me because I was offering slightly higher buyback prices. I would stockpile my dorm room full of textbooks then I would resell them on Amazon.com. It was all about timing — you would buy them at the end of the semester, hold on to them, and resell them at the beginning of the next semester. That was my first foray into Amazon.com.
The next step was contacting different vendors and manufacturers to sell their products on my Amazon store. From there, it blew up out of nowhere. Before I knew it, I was running a million-dollar business out of my dorm room, hiring my friends, and learning a lot from my mistakes.
As the business grew, I had that need for remote workers. Whenever you’re an entrepreneur, you run out of hours in the day so a friend of mine turned me on to oDesk and I was determined to build a remote army of workers. I ended up hiring over 50 remote workers to do everything for my Amazon store — customer care, data entry, order fulfillment, etc.
From this experience, I went through a handful of growing pains. Anyone who’s hired international workers for the first time knows that there’s a communication gap. You might not know exactly what you’re looking for and that gave me the idea to help other people get through that process a lot simpler. We spent years interviewing, training, and learning from the bad hires that we made. Over time, we developed communication guidelines and strict expectations for how to hire the best online workers.
That’s how I got involved in becoming a hiring expert and now I’m fully focused on growing FreeeUp.com to help other business owners do the same thing.
Advice on Being an Entrepreneur
Paul: So we have people listening who have made changes in their life, Nate. I’m thinking that there’s actually probably a few people listening in a dorm room. Any advice to those listening who are tempted by your lifestyle…is it worth it if they try to emulate what you’ve done and the path you have chosen?
Nathan: It’s worth it if you like to work. It takes up a lot of hours of every day. For me it’s a passion. I enjoy building companies, but my advice would be to try a lot of different things. You never know what you’re going to get into, what’s going to stick, what you’re going to think of in terms of a business idea. Try out a lot of different ideas.
You have plenty of time when you’re young and it’s a time to take chances and risks. If you find something that you’re passionate about that beats the standard 9 to 5 job then it’s absolutely worth it. Just be prepared for a lot of ups and downs, and make sure that you’re emotionally stable for the challenges you will endure.
Key Traits of the Best Online Workers
Paul: I love that. That was great. So let’s switch gears back to the FreeeUp.com. I think there’s a lot of people listening who are part of the appster tribe who have had the same pains that I’ve had: you hire people from these platforms that let you down and possibly even make your job harder as a business owner.
What should we be looking out for as a great person to work with? What are the questions to ask when appointing someone remotely?
Nathan: Great question. My strongest belief is that I want to hire workaholics. I want people who love to work, who have a lot of free time to work, who are very passionate about my clients’ businesses, and who treat my clients’ businesses as their own. Those are my targets.
If I find someone who has an extra five hours a week because they have another job and this is just a side gig, that’s not good enough for me. I want someone who’s committed to whatever job they take, is passionate about it, and is looking to be there long-term to help grow their client’s business.
Content Marketing & Personal Branding Advice
Paul: Right. Nate, you’ve done a lot of work with marketing and growing successful companies — What could we be doing through social media and other outlets to grow our own personal brands and businesses through content marketing?
Nathan: Definitely. Whenever someone comes to me looking for marketing advice, I offer three pieces of guidance.
First, I recommend hiring a content writer. If you’re like me and you have a hundred things to do every week, you run out of time to write content and content is extremely important. You want to get your ideas and your opinions on the Internet so that people can read it. Whether it’s blog posts, guest blog posts, different public relations tactics, you need to get your voice out there. Hiring someone who’s a very good writer that can take your ideas and your notes then turn them into great content is key to building your personal brand.
Second, I recommend hiring a social media manager. You want someone with a lot of social media experience running Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn pages. They should have the ability to create their own content and be familiar with the advertising strategies of each social network.
Third, I recommend hiring a lead generation specialist. This individual will be similar to your day-to-day VA, but they should have a lead generation background. That’s actually how I found you. My lead generation specialist spends time reaching out to different podcasts, connecting with people in the eCommerce industry, and doing a lot of LinkedIn networking. They are a perfect assistant for getting your name and content out there. Again, it all comes back to my time. I could spend all day sending different e-mails, but I just don’t have time for that. Having someone do it on your behalf can really give you a hand up.
Paul: Alright. Does the staff tap into your e-mail and send it as if it’s communication from yourself?
Nathan: Exactly. And I’ll make sure that I proofread any content or any e-mails that are representing me, but at the same time yes, that’s how we do it.
Paul: This is great stuff because I guarantee there’s a lot of people listening to this who don’t do this and try to do everything themselves. That could be a recipe for disaster because what they’re doing is not focusing on their own time.
Nathan: Exactly. And off of that, I always recommend writing down a list of everything you do on a week-to-week basis and everything that you want to do on a week-to-week basis. Put it in priority from easiest to hardest then circle the things that you either enjoy doing or the things that you can do better than everyone else. Everthing else on that list, you should try to find someone better than you to do it or try to find an assistant that can do it for you so that you can focus on expanding your company with the things that you’re good at. You’ll find that if your expertise isn’t social media, you can hire a social media expert who’s going to get a lot more out of it than if you do it yourself.
The Shift Towards Mobile
Paul: Yes. I’ve unfortunately had the problem in the past of spending lots and lots of time researching information from Google and Youtube thinking I can do it by myself. So we’re learning a huge amount from you.
I guess this is a great show for app entrepreneurs and people in the mobile space so I wanted to ask: In your experience, has there been a shift towards mobile in the work that you’re seeing?
Nathan: There’s definitely been a shift towards mobile, especially in eCommerce. A lot of eCommerce shoppers are buying online and browsing through mobile apps. I have clients that sell through those apps with Amazon being the most popular.
Personally, I don’t deal with app development as it’s just not my background, but I’m interested in working with future clients that do build apps as their source of business. I think that we can be their support around hiring online workers so that they can focus on what they’re good at…building the apps. Meanwhile, my team can handle the other stuff.
Paul: Just out of curiosity, have you worked with many podcasters?
Nathan: I’m trying to think… I have about 120 clients right now. I do have one called the Marketologist who runs different podcasts. I do a lot of work with him for social media and digital marketing. Working with podcasters is definitely something we’re interested in doing. Anytime you’re dealing with someone who’s an expert, there is definitely a need to have virtual assistants in place.
Bootstrapping vs. Raising Funds
Paul: Nathan, I think the way you have gone about sharing what you’ve built is amazing. The fact that you have grown this huge eCommerce platform and now you’re actually solving a need that you had yourself is tremendous. I’m guessing that you funded all of this from your own revenue.
From your perspective, is that the best thing to do? Rather than take money from VCs…
Nathan: So, I’m a big fan of staying out of debt and bootstrapping. Both of my businesses were built through bootstrapping. On my original Amazon business, I started with 20 dollars and built it from the profits of the company. FreeeUp is being built the same way.
I’m a big fan of bootstrapping…if you can do it. It’s obviously not always possible depending on how much initial investment is needed to get off the ground especially when you’re dealing with app work, but I always recommend bootstrapping if you can.
It really takes a little while before you see whether a business will be successful or not. There is a period where you see if it gains any traction. So before you make a huge investment that can put you in debt for the rest of your life, you want to get some kind of clarity whether that business is going to be successful. For me, you always bootstrap until you can’t bootstrap anymore.
The same thing goes for if you’re going to get funding. If you’re making a lot of money and you’re growing at a rapid pace and you can get by with bootstrapping without taking additional funding and giving away your equity, that’s the path to take until you can’t do it anymore. Or until you get so big that the funding leads to something like going public or being acquired.
Paul: Right. Absolutely fascinating advice. Before we say goodbye to you Nathan, I’m curious… as you’ve grown your eCommerce business and you’re growing FreeeUp.com now, what would be the biggest single piece of advice that you could give the appster tribe listening in at this stage as they’re starting out? What would you suggest?
Final Piece of Advice: Value your Time
Nathan: My biggest advice is to value your time. You only have a certain amount of time in a week. You don’t want to live your entire life just working a hundred hours a week. You have to allow time for friends, family, and whatever it is that you enjoy doing outside of work.
Know how much time you have in a given week to work and value that time. Make sure you’re maximizing that time and make sure that you’re spending that time on things that expand and grow your company. Stop doing day-to-day or repetitive operations and make sure you build a great team around you that can really allow you to do that. That’s how the most successful entrepreneurs will grow, and grow quickly.
How to Contact Nathan Hirsch & FreeeUp
Paul: That is great advice. And of course, anyone who is interested in connecting with me, you can go to TheAppGuy.co. This is episode 466 and there will be show notes with links for you.
But in the meantime, how best can people reach out to you and connect?
Paul: Wonderful, Nate. I’m also guessing that it’s not just clients who may be excited about this, but also that you have an interview process as well for remote staff. Is that the same thing that they should do — go through your interview process?
Nathan: Sure. You can apply online or you can e-mail HR@FreeeUp.com
Paul: Wonderful. Nathan, thanks for this conversation and for coming on to The App Guy Podcast. All the best with the wonderful journey that you seem to be on.
Nathan: Awesome. I really appreciate your time, thank you.