Nathan Hirsch is a serial entrepreneur and expert in remote hiring and eCommerce. He started his first eCommerce business out of his college dorm room and has sold over $30 million online. He is now the co-founder and CEO of FreeeUp.com, a marketplace that connects businesses with pre-vetted freelancers in eCommerce, digital marketing, and much more. He regularly appears on leading podcasts, such as Entrepreneur on Fire, and speaks at live events about online hiring tactics.
Welcome to the podcast Nathan. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here. Yeah, not another problem really excited to have you on you know, today we're going to be talking about lead generation and the hiring remote Freelancers to help with outsourced marketing and you know lead generations and those types of things and so I'm really excited because we hadn't really delve deep into those subjects on the podcast yet.
But before we get into all of that I want you tell us a little bit about. Your background and how you got into what you're doing today. Yeah, so I'm at one time entrepreneur. I I never had a real job. So to speak. I started a multi-million dollar amazon business out of my college dorm room and I really started as a broke college kid started buying and selling people's textbooks to make some money on the side.
Came across amazon.com. I mean this was back in 2008 before they were courses and gurus and no one really knew what Amazon was and I got in at a great time doing a lot of trial and error to see what would salad and what wouldn't finally I found the the baby Product Industry. So if you can imagine me as a 20 year old single guy sewing baby products on Amazon.
That was me and I grew that business and I remember growing it and getting the point where okay, I had to pay taxes for the first time and meeting with an accountant and he's asked me when you going to hire your first person I kind of said, why would I do that? Right the classic entrepreneur that I could train them as money out of my pocket.
They're going to kill my business. They're going to steal my ideas write that stuff and he just laughed in my face said you're going to figure out this lesson on your own. And sure enough my first busy season the fourth quarter when everyone's buying a ton on Amazon comes around. I'm not prepared I get crushed from I'm working 20 hours a day to survive by grades plummeted.
I social life goes down and I make it out to January and I think to myself man, I got to start hiring people and that was really the beginning I lucked out my first hire I posted a job on Facebook down my business partner Connor thought that that meant that hiring was easy and you could just post a job on.
He's broken people show up and make your life easier and make you more money and quickly realized that that was not the case and I proceeded to make a bunch of bad hires after that learning that hiring college kids. Not that reliable. No 30 year old expert wanted to work for me. So I got thrown into the remote hiring world the up works of fibers made some pretty good hires.
But it also took me awhile. I post a job you get 50 people to apply you interview them one by one and that's really when I had the idea. Build my own platform free app where we get thousands of applicants every week that them take the top one percent let them in make them available to people quickly with great customer service and no turnover protection on the back end.
So that's kind of the short version of how I went from a broke college kid to starting to businesses, you know that story, you know, you were kind of a resourceful entrepreneur there in your college Years. Instead of a deal with Amazon sewing and then just kind of took it from there. So yeah, that's that's really great to hear interesting really how you got into of course the the area of remote Outsourcing.
It's definitely something I'm very familiar with we've done a lot of that here and I'm me stars some very familiar with the process and the different sites that are out there. Of course the up works of the world. These days is a ton of them, you know, and so it's definitely a good space to be in.
You're an e-commerce marketing podcast that the topic for today is really, you know, kind of utilizing these outsourced. Employees specifically for marketing tasks for an e-commerce business and I know a lot of our listeners probably haven't really thought of that they're you know, most business owners are probably thinking yeah, I got to do all of this stuff in-house, you know, the marketing is really up to me.
I got to have my hands around it all at all times, but I take it you beg to differ and so specifically speaking about. You know lead generation. And before we kind of get into the hiring aspect of who you would get to do that. Why don't you share with us a little bit more about how an e-commerce business.
First of all would actually structure a lead generation campaign. Yeah. I mean II only generation to grow in my Amazon business over 25 million dollars in sales. I. When I first started I had one supplier. I kind of got lucky an opportunity presented itself and they didn't really know Amazon. So I built that relationship and it actually backfired on me because I started focusing on this one supplier and selling all their products and one day they decided not to work with me anymore.
So I learned a very valuable lesson about diversification. And from there. I was pretty devastated and I said man, I can't let that happen again. We got to build relationships with lat. Different suppliers, so I built up a lead generation team. To reach out to these suppliers and I came up with different pitches.
It was a lot of split testing to see hey did they like a short email or a long email and how much information you can we give them a front end it with the goal of getting them on the phone and we could hire someone pretty affordable from the Philippines or on five bucks an hour give or take and and we would have them we did them.
Hey, these are our products. We like. These are our Brands we like and at first we kind of knew what we like if we looked at it we could be like, oh we could sell that product or we couldn't just because we had done it for a while, but actually getting that on paper being like look for this stay away from this is a whole nother process in and of itself because we had to get that information out of our heads and to the virtual assistants.
So from there, they would go on the website. They would grab the person's email address try to get as high up in the company as possible. Nowadays, we use LinkedIn to I can't remember if we did Lincoln back then. I don't think so. I think it was mostly grabbing emails and we were mail merge it if you haven't downloaded yet another mail merge.
It's a great app. I have no affiliation with them and it's like 20 bucks for the year. But it allows you to send out mergers and split testing you can see how many of them get open. So that's really how we built our first lead generation team in it. It resulted in us working with over 500 manufacturers and we use that same lead generation team for free up to get on podcasts and connect with influencers and find different conferences that have different opportunities and we've gotten even some of our biggest clients using that same real simple method.
Okay. Wow. All right. Yeah, that's really. Forward I mean, it's just like you said just the Outreach that you've set up in your case. You kind of set up a couple of models because you were using an initially that lead generation to look for those suppliers that could provide, you know products that you would be able to sell via the Amazon and you know informal costs and yeah really interesting, you know, like I said earlier a lot of the businesses that are listening are.
You know, sometimes it's already good for people to get around the fact that a lot of the tasks that they're doing, you know on a day-to-day basis can quite easily be you know, be outsourced then and handed off and including the marketing as long as you have things systematized and you know have.
Your Sops and your standard, you know, your standard operating procedures in place. So they know exactly what to do. So, you know, if there's a business that's considering this in most cases would you say doing lead generation Outsourcing it rather would be more you'd be more effective doing that Outsourcing that rather than having people do that in-house or you know paying a dedicated person in house to do it with what do you think?
Yeah. I mean, I think both of us are pretty biased right we run rather remote businesses. I'm under the impression that you can get anything done better and sometimes cheaper and people are different price points, but remotely and I always see in Facebook groups like oh you shouldn't Outsource this or you shouldn't hire remotely for this and.
Either I'm doing it myself. Normally. I mean I use 40 Freelancers virtual assistant to every week or I have clients that do it and unless it's Warehouse staff or you need a janitor or you need a cashier. That's actually in person almost anything else can can get done remoting. You think it would just logically I mean if you do it remote you're you're really limited or if you do it internally, you're really limited to your town and the towns around you and you're competing with all those businesses for that same Talent where if you open yourself up to remote you get all these different skill sets people with different experiences and backgrounds at different price points for from all over the world and lead generation, especially once you get into those those really lower task, which I kind of consider that 5 to $10 an hour basic level following directions tie.
Virtual assistant, of course, you're going to get a much cheaper price going overseas, whether it's Philippines India, whatever it is. Yes, that's that is very true. You know, so it does depend on the task, of course, so, you know this point, let's just say the majority our listeners are sold. They say, you know, you've got me sold.
I think you're right. I'm going to go ahead and explore, you know, freelancing marketing tasks and lead generation task. So what are the steps to finding the best? Freelance marketing manager that's going to be managing your whole lead generation efforts for me that lead generation is one of those things where the manager will eventually emerge.
I mean to me lead generation is such a trial and error process. I mean what worked for me isn't necessarily going to work for you. Even if you use my exact same process. So for me, I like to. Treat a little bit more collaborative than let's say a customer service for customer service. I have a customer service method I plug someone in if I get someone with 10 years of customer service experience, maybe then they can become a leader and make it better with lead generation.
At least in my experience. You're you're kind of creating the system from scratch. You're seeing what works what doesn't work and then whoever kind of takes the initiative takes the lead then you promote as the team leader, but there's probably situations where you can get someone with more.
Friends, I can bring their own system and their own process and that's true for any team. But and for my experience, I haven't done that. I had more promoted from within for that particular role. Okay. Gotcha. Gotcha. Yeah, that makes sense. I mean before you get to that level really of. Finding out who's really going to be the manager.
You kind of have to start at least with one initial employee that you have that's outsourced where you know, you've given them some specific tasks and he does that and as you grow and as you're able to afford others to do similar tasks, but just on a wider scale, like you said the leaders will emerge from that you'll see who's, you know, they're most responsive who seems to be able to.
Man is the tasks most efficiently and then you know, you'll it'll be pretty clear. Who's that that Marketing Manager for your team. So that makes total sense. Now. I know one of the key things with. Managing these out sourced employees and these Freelancers is is a communication. It really all comes down to that.
So how do you typically set up strong communication with your Freelancers? And this is one of my favorite things because I have a lot of clients to overcomplicate it then and there are clients that use a science lack and there's people that are way more successful than I am. I have a 40-person remote teams.
I mean my virtual assistants are outsourced to the Philippines. All the day-to-day tasks all the high-level stuff. The Facebook ads the blog articles for our blog. It's all us Freelancers that work for other clients to and and we hire from the free app platform. But we do all of that using Skype and Trello and Gyro, which is a ten dollar program and WhatsApp Viber and email and that's it.
And those are all free programs and. You can use Skype to we have a group chat for billing. We have a group chat for customer service. We have a main group chat with everyone and people know that there once a week meetings are going to be in that group chat. So we have a main meeting every Monday.
We have a group meeting throughout the week every team that has one meeting a week and that's really how we've organized this entire structure with very little cost and I would challenge anyone to be more organized with that many remote people. I mean, we're pretty on top of it. So it just kind of proves that you do.
Don't need every single complicated software out there and I'm sure that there are advantages of certain ones, but you can keep it simple as long as your organize and structure and you're doing the same thing which week in and week out. Yeah, that's those. So true, you know all of those Solutions like you said, it's this chat applications and Skype.
All of that is free. We use slack a lot and that works for us. I don't know what your experience is with slack what a little bit more structured for, you know, kind of a closed team where you can have specific only specific members. Your team, you can sort of different groups and that really works.
Well also, so I'm a big advocate for for slack. Now as far as the hiring of these Freelancers and people that are going to be doing your lead generation and to the various marketing past. What do you recommend hiring one specific freelancer for everything or just multiple Freelancers for you know, kind of each specific task.
What do you think? I like to diversify Within? Reason, I mean, I just like I have that supplier happen. I ate a very similar situation where I fell into the Trap that a lot entrepreneurs do I mean hirings hard so you make a few bad hires and you finally find someone that you like. So what are you doing you load them up with everything and and and with that you add up a ton of risks to your business and I had someone that I trained for four to six months and had them quit on me.
I'm like first day of a vacation. It was brutal, but I learned a very valuable lesson about. You're buying and I came back and I had one customer service team one listing team and one person for repricing. So if someone quit it wasn't the end of the world so diversification is definitely important.
Now if you're getting 10 emails a day, do you have to hire three people know but within reason you want to diversify and when you do find people that become an integral part of your business, whether they're full-time VA in the Philippines or freelance graphic designer that you just like it because you can go to them and.
Point when projects come up. Make sure that you treat them well and you make sure they're happy and you ask them how you can improve and keep them around I mean turnover is incredibly it it really hurts businesses and keeping people is incredibly important. So I think a lot of people lose sight on that.
So there's two parts of it. There's the diversifying to protect yourself but also the going the extra effort when you find people you really like working with keeping them around. Yeah that that is very true because a lot of times as an entrepreneur sometimes you can be kind of one. Did you know you're looking from the entrepreneurs point of view on everything you're doing how you're relating to your employees, but you know, as you know, you know, we're doing a million and one things and so in trying to manage everything and you can often lose sight as to.
These employees perspective on things and so that's very true. You want to definitely treat them right? You want to get their opinion on as much as possible, you know the task that they're doing if there's anything that could be improved because you never know, you know that breakthrough idea that can really simplify things.
You know could be, you know kind of buried in the head of one of your your employees, but if you don't, you know, open up the lines of communications and the opportunity for them to speak up then, you know, may stay stay buried forever. So they're definitely you know, some some great advice there now, you know as far as these outsourced employees you talked about of course.
You know hiring different people for different tasks. We really just kind of depends on the amount of tasks that you that you have done. Is there specifically for marketing tasks if I'm out there and I'm looking for somebody to do these lead generation tasks. Would I want to look for someone that has a certain set of experiences and is done certain things before to kind of make it easier for me to sort through things.
So I like to divide it up between three levels and I mentioned free up provides virtual assistants Freelancers and agencies. So you've got basic mid-level and expert level the basic level. We kind of talked about five to ten bucks an hour non us. They have years of experience because they're not we're not Marketplace for newbies, but their followers and their follow your systems your processes.
The mid-level people there more specialist their graphic designers bookkeepers content writers. You're not teaching someone how to be a graphic designer, but they're not Consulting with you either. They're doers. They do the same thing eight to ten hours a day and you can tweak what they do to figure needs and then you got the expert the.
High-level Freelancers Consultants agencies, they have their own strategies and their own expertise their own systems our own processes. They can project manage. They can actually cute high-level game plans and handle a big budget. So a lot of times when you once you get into the marketing realm unless it's more lead generation or you have more of a marketing background where you're saying, hey follow this process you tend to lean more to that mid-level and expert level and the mid-level is great as that complementary piece.
I mean getting we. In an area where content is key and content can be gave me videos Graphics written combination of everything and there's also certain specialists in each Niche which is an Instagram video specialist stuff like that. So those core pieces are good as you projects come up, but people need to turn to those experts the people can come in and execute a strategy for a specific thing.
And that's what we're doing on free up. I mean, there's so many channels that when we started it was. Barking and you add Instagram and then you add Twitter and you kind of build it up from there. And what we've done is we've had we've had an expert for each one now that we're a bigger and each one of those has complementary pieces that they can use more of those mid-level specialist.
Yes seems interesting now you mentioned. Okay, it'll make a basic level you you may be hiring somebody overseas, you know, five ten dollars an hour or something like that. And you know, of course it's going to vary depending on their level of expertise so it could go up from there. I've talked to some other people in the past and they've talked about specifically with lead generation because you can kind of almost quantify it in a way as far as what they're doing and how many leads that that actually pulls in and your.
Have you ever tried doing a paper performance where it's just strictly really just kind of a commission-based thing where you're paying someone? Based on you know, the amount of a lead the amount of leads that they're pulling in. Have you ever tried that and what's your take on that? I've never found that the paid by performance to work out that well, I mean to me either one of two it's never like a perfectly even thing either from the the higher inside you're getting a much bigger deal because you're only paying per lead and that means that it's much harder to get lead.
So that means that the person working for you / lead is probably not going to be happy very long less there. There's. Some rock store star and if they're not going to getting leads. Usually opens up other opportunities for them more than just getting paid by lead. And and from the flip side if it's so easy to find a lead that it's actually worth it for them to get paid per lead.
Then from the hiring side. Why wouldn't you just pay them per hour with with some bonuses depending on their performance? So I found that that finding that perfect balance is so tub it it's kind of like that the head on for newer that's looking for a business partner because they can't hire developer and the developer comes in and.
Like why would the developer ever take equity in a business when they can go out and get it development job and less that business was such a great opportunity. They can't pass it down and if that was the case and why would the business owner get Equity away from his business? It's very similar.
Yeah, that's that is so true. And I guess the main thing you have to think about it was what you said initially with that is that. You want to keep people happy and with the paper performances. It's kind of tough because you got somebody sitting around there trying to do as much as they can. But if you're not paying them unless they perform then it's it's tough.
It's tough to keep somebody motivated. So yeah, like you said it's. Going the route of of paying them of a kind of a fixed rate or a fixed salary is seems to be something a little bit more common. Well Nathan, yeah, you definitely provided some great insight as far as this is concerned because I know a lot of the listeners with regards to freelancing and specifically with marketing tasks.
Like I said because I talk to Ecommerce entrepreneurs all the time that you use our software and I don't think too many of them actually think about. Outsourcing their marketing activities, you know people I think are really. To Outsource other things like, you know web development graphic design all of those things, you know, they don't they don't think twice about that logo design, you know video editing stuff like that.
This is they don't think twice about it. But when it comes to marketing, it's just for some reason people think oh, they've got a hold those tasks close to their chest, you know only people in house you do it. It's not the the owner them it's themselves. So but yeah, you've really opened our eyes to to the.
To deities that are out there for outsourcing marketing person lead generation person for sure. I always like to have one final closing question that I asked all of my guests. What's one thing that our audience would be surprised to know about you how a man one thing. So I was actually it's funny cause I live in Florida now, but I was a pretty big snowboarder and skier back in the day.
I used to do that all the time and I also used to be a little bit of an adrenaline. Junkie. I used to go off jumps and do different flips and stuff like that. Until one day I broke my wrist on the first day of this really long Canada Trip and ruin the trip for everyone and now I no longer participate in the trucks.
Although I will snowboard here and there a few times a year. Gotcha. Gotcha. Yeah. I've gone skiing before I still go skiing actually win a couple years ago and. I had tried snowboarding. I don't know if I will said Thanksgiving is enough for me. I think with the snowboarding you have the tendency of being on the ground too much in hitting the ground is a little bit more than I want that want to handle.
I want to go back to the room and have to soak in a tub of ice. Yeah. I feel your pain with that broken wrist. Yeah, that sucks. But yeah, thanks for sharing that appreciate that. Now, you know if our audience members anybody listening wants to get in touch with you Nathan. How would they do it?
Yes. I'm pretty easy to contact. If you go to free up.com with three he's my calendar is right at the top. You can book a free meeting with me and you can create a free account get a $25 credit mention this podcast and I you can find the free up Blog the free up YouTube channel and our group Outsourcing Astros on Facebook.
Okay, great. Great. That's awesome. I appreciate you providing that wealth of information in the ability for. Easy access to what you have going on. So yeah, we appreciate you being on the e-commerce marketing podcast Nathan and you thanks again for joining us. Thanks for having me. Thank you for listening to the e-commerce marketing podcast.
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Co-founder and CEO of FreeeUp.com