Today we’re talking to Nathan Hirsch and Connor Gillivan.
They’re the founders of Freeeup.
And it’s their personal mission to help entrepreneurs grow their business with the help of virtual assistants, freelancers, and agencies.
They started Freeeup after frustrating years of hiring through platforms like Odesk, Elance, Upwork, and Fiverr for their Amazon business.
There were glaring problems when hiring virtual assistants and decided to create a better freelance platform.
Nathan Hirsch and Connor Gillivan grew FreeeUp to over $800,000 per month with no employees besides themselves.
They use workers that log 1200 hours per week! No amount of sleepless nights can give you that amount of productivity. And you can't scale your business quickly and keep costs low any other way.
Table of Contents
Freeeup Fast Facts:
- Founded: October 2015
- Currently zero employees
- 30+ VAs in the Philippines all hired from the FreeeUp Platform
- 15+ Freelancers from all around the world that other FreeeUp clients get access to
-100% remote, no offices
- Investment: Bootstrapped entire way
- MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue): $800,000+ monthly run rate
1. Can you start some background and what you're currently working on?
My first online business
In 2009 while still in college, I started my first business buying and selling textbooks on Amazon.com.
What started as a side hustle to earn some extra spending money quickly turned into an obsession with the Amazon Marketplace.
I saw how fast I was able to sell textbooks and saw Amazon expanded into offering other goods, such as toys, baby products, and home goods.
So I started creating relationships with suppliers and manufacturers around the US that didn’t know how or what to sell on Amazon.
First Business Highlights
That first business taught us a tremendous amount about building a company from the ground up and it led us to the idea that sparked the creation of FreeeUp.
In 2015, Connor and I started FreeeUp with the hopes of creating a better way to hire Amazon talent online.
Today, I continue to drive growth for FreeeUp and manage the daily operations of the business.
It’s been an extremely exciting experience building FreeeUp into what it has become today and I’m optimistic about the future of the freelance economy and FreeeUp’s position within it.
2. What motivated you to start Freeeup?
We spent years hiring workers on these platforms:
And we realized that there were 3 key frustrations we had with these types of platforms:
3 Key Frustrations
We finally looked at each other one day and decided that we were going to try to build a better solution. One we wished we had while hiring for our Amazon business.
The goal was to start the platform and make it different by focusing on the three major frustrations that we had.
To start we had to keep the marketplace focused on helping Amazon sellers specifically.
3. How did you start building Freeeup?
The first year of building FreeeUp was super interesting.
We actually took a more diversified approach to start the company.
Instead of solely focusing on offering pre-vetted virtual assistant/freelancers specialized in Amazon, we offered three core services.
First Core Services Offered
Freeeup's First Year
In that first year, we wanted to test the market to see if our idea was even going to be attractive to other Amazon sellers and eCommerce business owners out there.
By offering the Amazon consulting and the Amazon course, we met some amazing sellers, built some initial relationships, and landed our first trial customers for the marketplace.
Over the course of the year, we saw that most of the sellers that took the consulting or the course eventually then hired pre-vetted talent for their Amazon store from us.
It was at this point that we decided to drop the consulting and course to focus on growing the marketplace.
4. How did you attract users and grow Freeeup?
Growing from 0 - 100 Customers
Finding our first 100 customers came in the first year of business as we offered the three services that I outlined above.
We focused on building strong relationships with the sellers. We would get in touch with them and ask them for referrals to other sellers they knew.
The first 100 customers were all about the hustle. We were eating, sleeping, and breathing FreeeUp so that we could get it off the ground.
Growing from 100 - 1000+ Customers
Growing past the first 100 clients to 1,000 plus was a different story.
By this point, we were 100% behind building the freelance marketplace so all of our efforts and focus was on scaling clients using that service.
To date, we’ve had over 15,000 businesses register an account with FreeeUp.
And they’ve come from many different marketing tactics that we’ve deployed to attract more business.
Best Marketing Tactics We Used to Get 1,000
Here’s three that have worked best for us:
5. Looking back, what was a key decision you’re glad you made?
I’m glad that we created the Referral Program.
It wasn’t something Connor nor I was familiar with going into building the business.
But we knew that if we wanted to tap into the power of word of mouth from our clients, it was the best option to give it a shot.
I couldn’t have predicted how successful it would be for the company’s growth. In 2018, we paid out over $250,000 in referral earnings to the community.
I think that number speaks for itself in terms of how amazing of a program it’s been for the business.
$250k Affiliate Payouts
6. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
One of the biggest challenges facing FreeeUp has always been the building of the software and its experience for both clients and freelancers.
Being a marketplace, you’re expected to have top-level software that makes it super easy for users to perform the actions they want to.
Neither Connor nor I are technical developers.
We’ve been lucky enough to have a technical lead that’s been with the business since its founding.
And who has built out the entire software experience, but it’s always been an obstacle working with them and making it as easy as possible for users.
If I could do something differently, it would have been having a larger focus on the software design and overall experience from the very beginning.
It’s an area we’ve been lagging behind that we could have fixed earlier on in the business.
7. Advice for entrepreneurs starting out? What system would you recommend break through the 6-figure mark?
Focus on systematizing your business as early and often as possible.
Create a set of systems and processes for everything that you do within your business.
That way you can eventually pass work off to someone else and you can stay focused on growth projects.
To hit the 6 figure mark, it’s most likely going to require more brain power than just you.
If it’s just you, you’re probably going to be working 15+ hour days, 7 days a week.
Look, I build my own business with the help of freelancers. I'm drinking my own cool-aide!
That's 1200 hours billed to myself that I couldn't even dream of working myself.
My advice is to strategically build out the different areas and operations of your business.
Do the processes on your own at first.
Then document them so that you can pass them off to someone else.
Repeat this process for the first year and you’ll put yourself in a position where the business is not solely reliant upon you.
So now you have time in your day still where you can work to keep growing the business rather than handling all of the operations.
8. What are your goals for the future?
Since Connor and I started the company, we’ve always wanted to build an online marketplace where all digital businesses can hire from.
My goal for the future is to continue to cater our entire experience to the feedback of our users and make sure that we are always providing the best service possible to business owners.
Right now we have 85+ different freelance skills that can be hired for.
9. How do you remain sharp? Do you have any resources that you can share with us?
I’m an entrepreneur that loves learning from trial and error and also from the experiences of others.
I’m less of a resource/reading guy and more of a “hey, I have an idea…let’s test it and see what happens” type of guy.
Every single week, my team and I are trying out different ideas within various areas of the business.
Then we track the results to see how they worked out.
Additionally, I’m meeting hundreds of entrepreneurs every month, learning their stories, and taking away lessons they’ve learned to apply it to my own business knowledge and philosophies
10. Where can we go to learn more about you and what you're doing?
Head over to FreeeUp.com to learn more about the FreeeUp Marketplace.
You’ll find tons of resources and guides on hiring, outsourcing, and freelancing on the FreeeUp Blog.
You can also connect with me on Facebook where I’m most active posting business advice and making new relationships with business owners every day.
I’d love to meet anyone reading this article so we can learn from each other and continue the entrepreneur growth process.
Thanks for taking the time to read Nate's story.
Comment below if you have any questions for him or if you have any questions about using virtual assistants to grow your business!
We have been using freeeup for years and love it!