Leveraging Virtual Assistants(VAs) to Scale a Local Service Business: Tips From Nathan Hirsch

Are you frustrated with hiring and working with Virtual assistants(VA) for your local business?

Nathan Hirsch (founder of Outsource School) and I just went deep into the techniques for hiring and working with VAs effectively.

The Power of Virtual Assistants in Diverse Workforce Development

Nathan emphasizes the tremendous potential of broadening the hiring horizon globally. By tapping into talent from diverse regions, businesses not only diversify their workforce but also create opportunities for individuals in developing countries. This holds true even for industries like plumbing or HVAC, which may not seem initially tailored for virtual assistance.

He underscores the versatility of VAs, suggesting that they can be deployed across various facets of business operations. From handling marketing tasks to managing customer service inquiries, VAs can alleviate the administrative burden, allowing resources to be redirected towards core business functions. This, in turn, facilitates the expansion of the on-ground team, whether it entails hiring more plumbers or contractors.

What’s particularly compelling is how integrating VAs into the business model can confer a competitive advantage. While some may cling to traditional methodologies, harnessing virtual assistance can streamline processes and enhance operational efficiency. By staying at the forefront of innovation, businesses position themselves as leaders within their respective industries.

Nathan’s approach to pushing the boundaries with VAs is both innovative and inspiring. He cites examples of VAs adeptly handling sales calls and representing him on podcasts, illustrating the breadth of their capabilities. It underscores the untapped potential of virtual assistance in reshaping conventional business paradigms.

Empowering Virtual Talent: Fair Pay and Flexibility for Virtual Assistants

virtual assistant
Dennis Yu and VAs

Unlike traditional VA agencies that often exploit the pay gap between what clients shell out and what VAs actually receive, Nathan’s model, epitomized by Outsource School, takes a refreshingly different route. Instead of functioning as a typical VA agency, Outsource School equips businesses with the tools to streamline their hiring processes effectively. Nathan made it clear that they parted ways with the VA placement business back in 2019, focusing their efforts on providing a robust hiring process that businesses can seamlessly integrate into their operations.

During the conversation, Nathan highlighted the marketplace aspect of their former venture, FreeUp. One of the beauties of FreeUp was its rigorous vetting process for potential VAs. They ensured that only qualified individuals made it onto the platform, swiftly weeding out those who didn’t meet their standards. What’s more, VAs had the autonomy to set their rates and choose the projects they wanted to undertake, adding a layer of flexibility often absent in traditional agency setups.

Nathan emphasized that while Outsource School still charges a fee for their services, they operate with a hands-off approach compared to traditional agencies. Instead of micromanaging every VA or freelancer, they step in only when necessary, ensuring a smooth experience for both clients and VAs alike. This approach not only fosters scalability but also promotes a sense of independence and empowerment among VAs, who are already skilled professionals seeking meaningful work opportunities.

Overall, Nathan’s insights shed light on a more equitable and efficient way of leveraging virtual assistants to scale a local service business. By providing businesses with the tools and resources they need to navigate the hiring process autonomously, Outsource School is redefining the paradigm of working with VAs, one that prioritizes fairness, flexibility, and mutual success.

Nathan’s Guide to Strategic VA Selection

So, why should entrepreneurs navigate through the plethora of options like Upwork, FreeUp, or other similar platforms to find a suitable VA? Nathan navigates through the noise, underscoring a fundamental truth: If you’re serious about scaling your business beyond a one-person show, hiring additional help becomes inevitable.

Drawing from his own experiences, Nathan recounted the early struggles of attempting to juggle all tasks solo, particularly during peak seasons like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The result? Burnout and missed opportunities. It was a sobering realization that his business couldn’t thrive without additional support.

He experimented with various hiring methods, from recruiting unreliable college students to engaging costly professionals who failed to align with his vision. However, it was the discovery of virtual assistants that truly revolutionized his operational framework.

Nathan meticulously dissected the hiring landscape, elucidating the nuanced pros and cons associated with each approach. Whether it’s opting for the cost-saving route of posting a job in a Facebook group or seeking the assurance of platforms like Upwork or FreeUp, each avenue presents its unique set of trade-offs.

He highlighted the significant consideration of marketplace fees, emphasizing that platforms like Upwork and Fiverr do not provide recourse if your VA disappears. In contrast, FreeUp offers coverage for replacement costs, providing a layer of security for employers.

For those inclined towards premium services provided by agencies, the allure of accessing top-tier talent and streamlined processes can be compelling. However, Nathan cautions that thorough vetting of these agencies is imperative to ensure alignment with your business objectives and values.

Ultimately, the decision hinges on whether you prefer a direct hiring approach, leveraging the convenience of marketplace platforms, or entrusting the process to a reputable agency. 

While each path presents its own set of challenges, with meticulous planning and strategic foresight, leveraging virtual support to scale your local service business is not just a viable option—it’s a transformative strategy poised to yield substantial dividends.

Ensuring There is Accountability: Strategies for Handling Disappearing VAs

“Payment structure is key,” Nathan emphasized as he delved into his approach. “We’ve adopted a delayed payment system, mirroring the structure of corporate jobs. This means VAs receive their compensation with a delay, akin to my wife’s corporate payroll cycle. This setup serves as a built-in incentive for accountability—if a VA disappears without notice, they forfeit their pay. We establish these terms upfront, clearly outlined in the initial email agreement before onboarding.

Yet, ensuring accountability extends beyond financial incentives. Nathan stressed the importance of collecting comprehensive emergency contact information from VAs, including details of spouses, family members, or close contacts. “Having these backup contacts allows us to swiftly address any unforeseen circumstances or sudden absences,” Nathan explained. “It’s about fostering a sense of responsibility and ensuring lines of communication remain open, even in challenging situations.

However, the cornerstone of Nathan’s approach lies in the meticulous onboarding process. He introduced the ‘Sick Onboarding Method,’ a comprehensive pre-employment procedure designed to set clear expectations and mitigate potential issues. “Before a VA even starts on day one, we conduct a detailed onboarding session,” Nathan elaborated. “We discuss schedules, address common personal and technical challenges, and outline our communication protocols and cultural values. Crucially, we provide VAs with the opportunity to opt-out if they feel our expectations are misaligned with their capabilities or preferences.

Moreover, Nathan highlighted the value of leveraging specialized platforms like FreeUp to augment the hiring process. “Platforms like FreeUp offer an additional layer of security,” he noted. “We make it explicitly clear that any VA who ghosts a client or abruptly quits will face immediate expulsion from the platform. This reinforces a culture of accountability and professionalism, ensuring VAs understand the consequences of their actions.

Yet, preempting potential issues before they arise remains paramount. Nathan outlined his CARE approach to the interview process—Communication, Attitude, Red flags, and Experience. “By scrutinizing a candidate’s job history and delving into the reasons behind any previous departures, we can identify potential red flags,” Nathan elucidated. “For instance, if a candidate left their previous role due to personal issues, we probe whether similar challenges might resurface.

In essence, Nathan’s approach to hiring and managing VAs is rooted in meticulous vetting, clear communication, and proactive mitigation of risks. By implementing these strategies, he has not only minimized the likelihood of VA disappearances but also cultivated a team of dedicated professionals aligned with the goals of his business.

Key Takeaways

Global Talent Pool Expansion:

  • Nathan Hirsch advocates for tapping into global talent pools to diversify the workforce and create opportunities for individuals in developing countries.
  • Despite industries like plumbing or HVAC seeming unsuitable initially, VAs can be deployed across various business operations, from marketing to customer service.

Competitive Advantage Through Innovation:

  • Integrating VAs into business models can streamline processes and enhance operational efficiency, positioning businesses as leaders in their industries.
  • Nathan highlights examples of VAs adeptly handling sales calls and representing him on podcasts, showcasing their untapped potential.

Equitable Model for Virtual Assistants:

  • Outsource School’s model prioritizes fairness and flexibility, contrasting with traditional VA agencies’ exploitative practices.
  • VAs on platforms like FreeUp have autonomy over rates and project selection, fostering independence and empowerment.

Strategic VA Selection Process:

  • Nathan emphasizes the inevitability of hiring additional help for scaling businesses, advocating for meticulous planning in VA selection.
  • Different hiring avenues, like marketplace platforms or agencies, each come with their pros and cons, requiring thorough vetting.

Accountability Strategies for VAs:

  • Nathan implements delayed payment systems and comprehensive onboarding processes to ensure accountability among VAs.
  • Platforms like FreeUp reinforce professionalism by expelling VAs who ghost clients, contributing to a culture of accountability.
  • Nathan’s CARE approach to interviews (Communication, Attitude, Red flags, and Experience) helps identify potential issues before hiring, minimizing the likelihood of VA disappearances.

By implementing these strategies, Nathan Hirsch has redefined the paradigm of working with VAs, prioritizing fairness, flexibility, and mutual success in scaling local service businesses.

Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu is co-author of the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in social media, The Definitive Guide to TikTok Ads.  He has spent a billion dollars on Facebook ads across his agencies and agencies he advises. Mr. Yu is the "million jobs" guy-- on a mission to create one million jobs via hands-on social media training, partnering with universities and professional organizations.You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.