As an Amazon entrepreneur, you can move your business to new heights by hiring agencies and freelancers. If you’re reading this, you probably already know that passing off tasks is the best way for you to grow your business. By hiring agencies and freelancers, you are saving money while leaving tasks in the hands of experienced professionals.
The question now is, “How do I do it?”
This guide takes us through the process from the logical and practical bases of hiring agencies and freelancers to the steps to take to get started.
(1) Biggest Frustrations of Selling on Amazon
Amazon is a completely different animal from any other eCommerce platform when you get down to it. It probably took you a while to figure it out, so you know that it takes a special skillset to work the platform efficiently. Either you invest more time you don;t have into continuous learning, or you hire someone who already has the experience you need to add into the mix.
When Amazon entrepreneurs get together to talk about workload, several topics invariably come up, which can be summarized buy the following three statements:
- I want to get into [insert task], but I don’t know enough about it.
- [Insert task] is important for my business, but I can’t afford to invest in someone to do it.
- I need to get [insert task] done, but I’m always stuck on [insert task].
These statements center on the three key frustrations of the Amazon business owner:
Ability, Money and Time
Can you relate?
Everyone is good at some things, but no one is good at everything. It just doesn’t work that way, no matter how much we would all love to be the boss in all aspects of Amazon. At some point, you are going to need help from someone else to get things done right – someone who has specific skills in areas of the vast Amazon marketplace that you don’t.
When that time comes, you may hesitate because you don’t think you have the income to support another person. The reality is, you don’t have to. Hiring agencies and freelancers frees you from a big chunk of the financial responsibility that traditional hiring would place on you as an employer. It’s totally affordable because you can control exactly what you spend and exactly what tasks it goes into.
Business owners are always busy. It seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. But it’s important to remember here that everyone has exactly the same number of hours in their day. So how is it that some people are able to accomplish so much while others look like they’re getting things done but have very little to show for it?
From ability to money to time, it’s all about what you put value on and how this guides your focus.
(2) Valuing Your Time
Gone are the days when you could just list something on Amazon and it would sell. There are so many sellers on the marketplace and Amazon has been pushing their own private label brands hard. The competition is just too fierce for one person to handle.
Knowing how to value your time as a business owner is vital to the success of your Amazon business. You are the ship’s captain, and everything will follow your lead.
Have you ever asked yourself these questions?
- When you were just starting out on your own as an Amazon entrepreneur, how did you manage your time?
- In the early stages of your business, what did you focus on and what effect did this have?
If you are disorganized and leave things half done, it’s going to show in the results that you produce. If you lack focus or focus on the wrong things, your business is going to reflect that attitude.
In the beginning, you may have been doing everything from product sourcing to customer service because you understood that you have to know at least a little bit about everything as the head of the business. You also may not have had the means to bring anyone else on board. Or, simply because this was your venture, your baby, and you were going all-in.
As your amazon business grows, however, you need to refocus. Things change after the foundling stage. You need to adjust priorities and learn to delegate such tasks within operations so that you can stay focused on growth. Otherwise, your business will remain the same forever. Just like a plant, if you don’t give it a bigger pot, it won’t be able to stretch out its roots, and consequently, it’s branches will never spread out.
You need to shed supporting roles like inventory management and supplier communications to free up your time so that you can do the tasks that you should be doing – the tasks that need your focus.
(3) First Steps to Outsourcing Your Amazon Business
The above gives Amazon entrepreneurs like you a better picture of what your main considerations are when hiring agencies and freelancers: ability, money, and time. Logically, you should form your hiring decisions based on these top concerns.
To prepare for the first steps in hiring agencies and freelancers, you’ll need a nice document to anchor you, which I call a TATMA sheet. (I like to use a spreadsheet for this because of the easy filtering options.) So go ahead and open an Excel file or a Google Sheet. Then set up the following categories in the first row: Task, Ability, Time, Money. Filter the rows so you can easily manipulate the information later.
Next, think of all the tasks in your Amazon business that you have been doing and list them out under “Tasks”.
Here are a few tasks you might want to include:
- managing returns that are outside the FBA window
- updating keyword research and listing optimization
- filing and monitoring Amazon reimbursements
- running PPC campaigns
- managing supplier lead times, creating purchase orders and maintaining relationships
- multi-channel customer outreach and traffic generation
It’s perfectly okay if you can’t think of them all; more will come to mind as you proceed through the steps below. If it helps you to create another column for sub-categories representing different areas of the business, such as Advertising, Fulfillment, and the like, go right ahead and do that. Organize it in whatever way makes sense to you so that using this document will be as comfortable for you as possible.
You may even think of tasks that aren’t getting done at all – like responding to feedback and figuring out the right balance for inventory levels – which are essential to business growth. Add them in!
Here’s a few lists of the most common tasks Amazon businesses can hire remotely for.
Draw on them for inspiration:
Now let’s get down to business.
What Are You Unable to Do Well?
It can be difficult for the self-made man to admit weakness. Allowing yourself to realize the things you aren’t able to do well, however, is a very important step. It allows you to accept that a certain task needs to be done expertly for the sake of your business, and to start reorienting towards that goal.
In this step, you are going to rate your own performance on each of the tasks you have listed out. Use whatever rating scale you prefer, but for the sake of this example, we’ll do the old 1-10, 1 being so poor almost anyone else could do it better and 10 being so awesome no one can ever compare to you. (For tasks that aren’t getting done at all, or are being significantly ignored despite your best efforts, give a score of 0.)
Remember, if you think of more tasks as you proceed, just add them to the bottom of the list.
You are going to have different reasons for not doing these tasks well. Whatever the reasons, just focus on the results you are getting and be honest about it. We are looking at the product of your efforts here, aiming to improve results. Thinking about the reasons, however, can help you accurately rate your performance and identify additional tasks to add to the list.
- What tasks bore you or cause you to drag your heels?
- What tasks simply don’t appeal to you for whatever other reason?
- What tasks do you not have the talent or training for?
What Takes Up Your Time?
In the same vein as the above, rate each task in the Time column for how much time it sucks out of your day. Just rate the actual time you spend on it and don’t think about its value for now.
A score of 1 in this area means the time-suck is killing you and / or your business. A score of 10 means it’s perfectly under control.
To rate time accurately, an easy way is to first think about how many hours you dedicate to your business every day. Then think about how many hours each day you spend on the first task and average that out. Do the same for the other tasks.
It might help to ask yourself:
- Why is this not getting done?
- What do I feel like I’m always stuck on?
- Why am I stuck doing this?
- Should I be doing this?
What Can You Afford?
And again, rate each task under Money according to what you have already allocated in your budget.
Don’t start reworking your budget at this point, no matter how tempting it is! If you come up with any bright ideas, just make a note of them on a separate sheet – you will absolutely get back to this later. Right now, just focus on what is already being invested into each task, or what available funds you have to invest.
Use the same averaging concept as above, only this time, it’s the proportion of your budget for operations, advertising, etc. that you’re looking at. Now pay attention to this: you’re looking at allocated budget, but you’re scoring based on value.
Give a score of 1 to truly value-adding tasks that are either being properly spent on, getting next to no budget because you think it’s too expensive or it was set aside, or there’s a lot of money going in but you’re not getting comparable results. 10 is for tasks that get little investment because they’re not important.
To keep your memory going, ask yourself questions like:
- What am I spending on advertising/marketing? How is it divvied up among the different related tasks (social media, PPC, email marketing, etc.)?
- What am I spending on operations? How is it divvied up among the different related tasks (supplier communication, inventory management, customer service, etc.)?
When you’re done rating, make sure all your rows are included in your filter in preparation for the next step.
(4) The Hiring Process
Choose the Task
To choose the task you’re going to outsource first, you need to analyze your data. Filtering the scores you’ve given for the tasks in each column will help you to quickly see what needs immediate attention. Filter them from lowest to highest. The low scores show tasks that need your attention.
Look at the Ones first, then think about how vital they are to your business. Highlight the most crucial ones – in that same column – in red, then move to orange and finally yellow for the ones that can wait. Then go to the Zeroes and do the same.
You can now focus on the value aspect of each task in this category. Look at the Ones and think about how much value each task brings to the business both in itself, and from the perspective of your time. For instance, inventory management is extremely important to your Amazon rating. But you as the owner don’t need to be spending your time on it. It’s therefore super value-adding in the first case, but not in the second. These ones get highlighted in red.
As you go through each task, highlight in red, orange and yellow as before based on first how important they are on their own, then adjust to one level lower if you really think you should take care of them yourself.
Look at the Ones to see what your current business priorities are. These are the truly value-adding tasks. Then think about what’s being invested in each. Forget any fears you have about what it’s going to cost to outsource and focus on how it’s going to help your business grow and thrive to get them taken care of. Mark these red.
Now look at the Tens. It’s time to start moving some of that wasted budget up to your priority tasks. You’ll start with the Ones because you need to figure out how much hiring agencies or freelancers for these tasks is actually going to cost. Then you can go to the Twos (orange) and the Threes (yellow) and on to the Fours and Fives as you see fit and as budget allows.
Identify the Perfect Hire
Take all your red tasks – the more red you see over the three column, the more urgent they are – and filter them again so they’re ranked accordingly. Starting with the most urgent, prepare to write out task descriptions for them. These are the tasks that you need to start hiring agencies and freelancers for as soon as possible.
As you begin writing your descriptions, keep the following key points in mind:
- Your budget, based on industry standards – but for freelancers, not employees.
- Consider where you are willing to hire from – if you’re not stuck on your local area, the possibilities are almost endless. It all depends on what specific aspects you are willing to be flexible on, like language fluency, time zone, and the like.
Use Platforms Online to Find Reliable Talent
You need a reliable outsourcing partner – this is absolutely key. You can’t take on yet another task at this point! You need a partner to help you find the people you need without putting another drain on your time and energy. Focus on finding a hiring platform that has the four Ps:
- Pools the very best – you never want to compromise; hire only people with the right skills and experience, true professionalism and great attitudes towards the tasks.
- Provides you with support – without basing its quality or time investment on your dollar.
- Puts both you and the person you’re hiring first – you want to know that they care about both sides or you won’t have a good experience because one of you won’t be happy.
- Puts you in touch fast – you are busy and your business is suffering because of it, so you need to hire good help ASAP.
Onboard and Set Very Clear Expectations
With the right platform, you’ll find the right people, but this is by no means the end of your involvement. You must have very clear expectations laid out before you leave anyone to a task. This step is just as important as detailing the task you want done – the what with the how and why is the formula for getting the results you want.
Let them know business and personal preferences such as:
- Work times and days off, taking into consideration any time zone differences;
- What processes you want to keep, and how free they are to suggest / implement changes to improve them; and
- How you want them to communicate with you and update you on task progress.
At the end of this meeting, conclude on a high note by giving the agency or freelancer you hired an idea of how their input is going to help the business. This makes them feel how much you value their contribution and motivates them to perform at a higher level.
Repeat for Other Tasks
As you set the first task in motion, move on to the others on your list in order of priority, one by one. Don’t try to hire for everything all at once even though it seems like it would save you time. This is actually very inefficient and will make your head spin so hard you might just drop the ball on everything else, too.
Just follow these steps and before you know it, you’ll have an awesome system in place with the people you need for each task and all your processes running smoothly.
If you’re hiring for multiple tasks and you don’t have the time or energy for oversight, consider hiring one more person to project manage for you. It’s as additional expense, but it will help you so much by freeing up your time and giving you a single point of contact to streamline the management of everyone you’ve hired.
Stick to the steps and you’ll be fine. Feel free to make adjustments as it makes sense to your business, but don’t go off half-cocked, especially if it’s because you’re flustered or frustrated by everything that needs to get done and not having everything set up yet. One step at a time – do it right and you won’t have to keep dealing with issues – and they absolutely will keep coming up if you don’t take your time with it in the early stages.
Julia Valdez is a professional teacher and decades-long lover of the art of words on paper, the stage and the big screen. She spends most of her time doing freelance eCommerce content and project management, adventuring with the Greenhouse Christian Fellowship, volunteering with the Philippine Advocates for Resilient Communities, and sharing lots of laughs over little crazy things.