When is the right time to start hiring for your business? How do you decide what to take off your plate first? How do you set up a strong communication pathway with virtual assistants and freelancers? What should you be focused on as the business owner? So many (many) questions… Never fear, Nathan Hirsch of OutsourceSchool.com is here!
Nathan Hirsch is an entrepreneur plus an expert in remote hiring and eCommerce. He co-founded FreeeUp in 2015 with an initial $5,000 investment, scaled it to $12M per year in revenue, before its 2019 acquisition.
Today, Nathan is co-founder of OutsourceSchool.com, a company working to educate entrepreneurs on how to effectively hire and scale with virtual assistants through in-depth courses.
Additionally, Nathan is a social media personality and loves sharing advice on scaling remote businesses via a range of platforms, including the 300+ podcasts he’s appeared on.
A serious baseball lover, Nathan is also partial to The Office and gaming (specifically playing Last of Us 2 on PS4).
Points of Interest…
How Nathan Got Into The Virtual Assistant/SOP Game 1:50
The Four Phases of Hiring a Virtual Assistant 4:34
Prioritizing When Outsourcing to Virtual Assistants 8:13
Freelance/VA Economy and The Way Work is Changing 15:12
Key Takeaway 17:30
How Nathan Got Into The Virtual Assistant/SOP Game
Kicking off proceedings, I ask Nathan about what he does, who he serves, plus how he co-founded OutsourceSchool.com. Here is just a snippet of what he said…
“I spent four or five years making every possible mistake you could make hiring virtual assistants, wasting time and money. I wished there was someone who could simply say, ‘Hey, here are the interview questions you ask. Here’s how you run meetings, your things not to do. Here’s how you prevent issues in the future’.”
So, what did he do? Yep, you guessed it, he co-created VA and freelancer marketplace FreeeUp. Upon its 2019 acquisition, people started reaching out to see if he could teach them his systems. This led Nathan to help build a community of entrepreneurs who, through his experience, get to bypass the tricky trial-and-error phase of hiring.
How do you do that?! Well, it involves nailing an old friend here at #APP – the Standard Operating Procedure. There is an SOP for everything. Hence why Nathan’s team had a dream of “building this big library of SOPs” so that – once people know how to hire – they could then simply plug these SOPs into their business.
This brings us neatly to Nathan’s tool. Entitled Simply SOP, it gives you a crash course on how to hire expediently and accurately; helps you to reduce turnover issues; while also providing the support of the Simply SOP community.
The Four Phases of Hiring a Virtual Assistant
Now that Nathan has given us the holy grail of hiring, what are you going to do with all of your free time?! You’re going to effectively scale up your business, of course.
Through his work to date, Nathan has been a conduite for thousands (upon thousands) of people hiring virtual assistants and is, therefore, well aware of what works and what doesn’t. It’d be remiss of me not to ask him to highlight just some of the repeated mistakes he’s seen over the years – the most notable is not being unaware of the Four Phases of Hiring SOP…
- Best practices for interviewing a virtual assistant
- How to onboard a virtual assistant efficient
- Virtual assistant training
- Managing virtual assistants
Virtual Assistant Onboarding
In Nathan’s experience, even the most seasoned entrepreneurs seem to fall at the second hurdle… virtual assistant onboarding.
“Let’s say that you interviewed Jane from the Philippines. Do you want to hire Jane for five bucks an hour? The average entrepreneur or average agency would say: ‘Jane, that was a great interview. I want to hire you for five bucks an hour. Let’s get started on Monday.’ Well, what we give at Outsource School is a process in between the interviewing and the training, where we go to Jane and say: ‘Hey, Jane, that was a great interview. I want to hire you at five bucks an hour, but first, let’s go through what we call our SICC Onboarding Methods’.”
We all appreciate a good acronym, so here’s the breakdown of what SICC is…
- Schedule: ascertain your potential VA’s client load. Are they already working a hundred hours a week? Is there any overlap?
- Issues: some recurring VA issues include personal events, internet speed, computer power, and so on. Best determine what the potential backup plan is if/when such scenarios occur.
- Communication: define a communication method for your VA to inform you if/when such issues occur. Go through the array of comms tools you use and see which platform suits them best.
- Culture: Irrespective of how good they are at the job, they must be a good fit for your unique work culture.
All of the above should be communicated within a 20-30 minute meeting. It shouldn’t take longer because – you know – efficiency.
So, if you take but one away from this podcast, make it this: ensure you have an Onboarding Process so everyone is aware of what they’re signing up to before the training begins. This will save you both time and money.
As for “Jane in from the Philippines”; we dive into onshore outsourcing around the 12:27 minute mark to provide some necessary context.
Prioritizing When Outsourcing to Virtual Assistants
As agency owners, we’re spinning lots of plates. Wouldn’t it be nice to start offloading a few of those plates to your newly hired VA? What are some of the thought processes that we should go through to identify what needs outsourcing. Usually, it’s determined by what you don’t like doing and what you find time-consuming.
“The two things that I’ve outsourced first in all my businesses are bookkeeping and my inbox… If I do my bookkeeping, that’s time I’m not spending doing sales, doing marketing, doing expansion – booking is not actually making any money… I also want to get accurate reports, especially in the first year of my business. So, I can make business decisions based on accurate numbers, which is incredibly important.”
Additionally, Nathan and his community favor an Inbox Management Playbook. This involves having a virtual assistant filter your emails, leaving you with only the most important messages so you can hit the ground running every morning. While your inbox may seem personal in nature, and overwhelming in volume, it is a huge time suck and definitely something to consider outsourcing ASAP.
In the formative years of a business, you’re looking at approximately 5-10 hours a week for these VA roles. Consider it 10 hours you can put towards sales, marketing, and expansion, which is what business owner’s should be focussing from the offset – giving you a shortcut to the fun stuff.
Then, as Nathan can attest to, you can hire VA’s for ROI generating tasks and even add a trial and error component to set up affiliates, lead generation, etc. We dive into Nathan’s Lead Generation Formula at the 11:10 minute mark.
“We scaled free up to eight figures in four years without spending any money on ads largely because we had an incredible virtual assistant marketing team – running our partnerships, setting up networking calls, plus going after potential clients, and potential influencers.”
Freelance and Virtual Assistant Economy and The Changing Face of Work
In these current COVID times, everyone is still working from home – which is highlighting how fractional jobs can be. Things seem to be increasingly more project-based than career focussed. So, where does Nathan see freelancing and outsourcing heading at a macro level?
“I think it’s only going up, right?! You have all these people that thought that their nine-to-five job was really secure – then they realize it’s not as secure as they think it is.”
This, dear readers, can be viewed as a positive instead of a negative, for employees and employers. Should you find yourself going into business for yourself – due to COVID or otherwise – you might find that having a few regular clients suits you, without the rigidity of having to haul yourself into an office every day.
Conversely, if you’re an established employer, perhaps our current circumstance has provided you with an insight as to what your business actually needs to function successfully.
It gives you increased flexibility when it comes to hiring – you now have access to talent worldwide, not just in your locality. If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re not sure about taking advantage of outsourcing, you’re not hiring VA’s or freelancers – then, you may find your competitors have a huge competitive advantage.
“You don’t necessarily need a unique business model, but you do need to be able to hire really good players consistently and keep them around. And that is what’s going to end up making difference for a lot of businesses over the next 10 years.”
Key takeaway…just start with a VA for five hours
So, maybe your inbox isn’t being managed yet. Perhaps, you’re still doing a bunch of stuff that you don’t need to be doing – managing your finances, or booking your own meetings. Here is Nathan’s advice to those of your foraying into hiring a virtual assistant for the first time.
“Start with five hours a week… You can always increase it later. You can even start with less than five hours, but five hours is a great place to start. That’s 260 hours a year – so it’s going to cost you about 1300 bucks to get six-and-a-half weeks of your year back.”
You can start small. For example, start with your easier tasks – that way, if they mess up, it’s not going to drive your business into the ground. That’s the starting point. Because – from there – you’re going to learn a lot.
Need more Nathan in your life? Check out…
Did you learn anything new from this episode? Let us know in the comments below! Our next installment of #APP, on April 7th, will see us chat with Zach Rego. While our previous blog with Peter Winik is over here…
Marcel is an agency profitability optimization consultant, keynote speaker and the CEO of Parakeeto. He’s on a mission to help the average agency get the information they need to be more profitable. From sharing educational content and resources to creating tools at Parakeeto to make measuring the most important metrics easier – everything he does is aimed at making agency profitability more accessible.
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