Nathan Hirsch on developing a marketplace for freelancers and VAs – MAF220

My guest this week is Nathan Hirsch, founder of Freeeup, an online marketplace for freelancers and VAs.

We talk about how he built the company and how he helps companies find the right freelancers to help them grow their businesses.

Welcome to episode 220 of the Marketing and Finance Podcast.

Nathan Hirsch on developing a marketplace for freelancers and VAs - MAF220

 

What we talk about:

  • Why businesses need to outsource
  • How FreeeUp Came about
  • How FreeeUp works
  • The freelancer filtering process
  • Who FreeeUp is for
  • The challenges Nathan faced
  • Lessons Nathan’s learned
  • Business results achieved

Who is Nathan Hirsch?

Nathan imagined he’d have a steady job for 30 years, just like his parents did. Working 50-hour weeks at summer jobs, however, he learned he didn’t like working for others.

He viewed college as four years of building his own business before graduation. Nathan sold textbooks cheaper than elsewhere and set up a referral programme and was so successful the school asked him to stop.

He used Amazon to sell products, settling on baby items. Aged 20 and overworked, he realised he needed to find help. College students and sites like Fiverr didn’t work out, which led him to set up his own freelancer marketplace.

Summary

Business owners are perfectionists, and it can be scary to trust other people to help. However, you can only go so far on your own. Hiring early on means business growth and scale. Waiting too long to find support costs you money and loses opportunities.

Nathan wanted efficient freelancers for his own business, and realised other Amazon sellers did too. He took his list of reliable freelancers and began making introductions to businesses. People began to recommend him, so he had to scale quickly. From there, he built up a recruitment team and invested in better software.

FreeeUp gets thousands of freelancer applications every week but only accept a fraction. They have access to project boards and support. Clients can quickly set up an account and create a request for support. Within one business day, FreeeUp suggests freelancers and helps the client find the right person.

Assessing people only on their skills is not enough. Attitude and communication are more important, so FreeeUp look for people who have all three. They want freelancers to be honest about their abilities and price accordingly. There’s a skills test and a one to one interview.

FreeeUp doesn’t focus on a particular type of freelance support, with 100 skillsets offered and both solopreneurs and agencies available. Initially, their target audience was Amazon sellers, then they moved into e-commerce as a whole. Now, they focus their advertising on e-commerce and marketing businesses.

Nathan says his biggest challenge was software, particularly as it lagged behind everything else in the business. They got lots of feedback from different platform users, and had to choose which upgrades to make first. Focusing on the software first has enabled them to scale the business.

Nathan says FreeeUp has been successful for the last four years, but learned a valuable lesson with his first business. He invested six months in training a manager, who quit on the first day they were left in charge. He realised that diversifying responsibility is essential to prevent a business coming to a standstill.

FreeeUp was started with $5,000 and no investment. Growing organically, they spend $1,000 on paid ads and PPC. They’ve gone from $1m to $9m in four years, and are hoping to hit $13m this year.

Nathan hires people from all over the world for his own business. He says the person is more important than where they’re located, and generally, clients prioritise that too. The only difficulty comes when people struggle to understand each other’s accents.

One Thing Nathan Would Like Listeners to Take Away

Hiring is hard, and nobody has a 100% record of getting it right. However, if you focus on what you can control, such as your interviewing and hiring processes, it’s a game-changer.

As an entrepreneur, marketing, lead generation and customer service are all great, but if you can’t get better at hiring over time, you’re only going to grow so far. FreeeUp have a lot of content on how to outsource effectively.

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