Nathan Hirsch, founder and CEO of FreeeUp.com, lives the life he dreamed of as a high school student. He broke away from the tradition of finding a “real job” and became an entrepreneur who sold over $25 million on the Amazon Marketplace while at college.
Would you like to know how he sold $25 million on Amazon and why he started FreeeUp? I had the opportunity to interview him. So, I asked him…
You have a very interesting background. Before we chat about FreeeUp, tell us the story of how you sold over $25 million on Amazon.
Both my parents were teachers. When I was in high school, they encouraged me to do all these different internships. While the rest of my class was on summer and winter vacation, I was working a full time 40-hour jobs under CEOs of companies like Aaron Inc. and Firestone Corporation.
My dad taught in the town next to us; it was a wealthy town. We were more in the middle class, but I grew up hanging around kids who had more than I did. They didn’t have to work school holidays; everything was handed to them. So, I was sort of motivated by money as a high school student.
One thing I realized while working these summer jobs was that I hated working for other people. This career path of getting good grades at school, going to college, studying for a degree to get a “real” job where I would work until retirement, wasn’t appealing anymore. I wanted more than an average job.
I went to college and I’ll never forget when the college professor of the entrepreneurship program stood up and said, “If you want financial and living freedom, then the Entrepreneurship program is for you.”
I knew this is what I wanted to do. So, I majored in Entrepreneurship.
While at college, I started my own business buying and selling textbooks. The University bookstore was ripping students off. At the beginning of the semester, we would buy the textbooks at high prices only to sell them back to the campus bookstore at the end of the semester for minimum amounts. I started buying other students’ books at better prices than the campus bookstores offered and then selling the books online.
My bookselling business was so successful I received a cease-and-desist letter from the campus.
If you’re buying and selling books, you will come across Amazon at some point in time. At that time, there weren’t any Amazon gurus that could help you learn the business. I learned the Amazon business by playing around on Amazon. I wanted to sell all these cool products, like TVs, games, laptops – but it didn’t work out that way.
I saw this deal on a site selling toy laptops. This opened me up to the baby industry and my business expanded from selling books to baby products.
Here I was, a 20-year-old single guy, selling baby products…
How did your experiences of selling on Amazon lead to FreeeUp?
I had this idea to sell products that were not in my possession. I wanted to buy and sell the product without having to handle the product. It was the concept of dropshipping, a term that wasn’t generally used then. My idea was to try this idea and to stop if customers complained.
The opposite happened. Customers didn’t complain – my business exploded. I was spending hours every day running a multi-million-dollar business from my dorm room. I was a college kid paying taxes, and later, hiring people.
My accountant advised me to hire people, but I couldn’t understand why. I wanted the money for myself, and I thought I could do everything every day.
“Good luck, you’ll soon find out,” was his reply.
And I did find out why…
Shortly after our conversation, it was the busy season for eCommerce… and I couldn’t keep up. I had angry customers, orders that weren’t processed on time… I was working 20 hours a day, barely sleeping, and still in college. I made it out alive and decided, “Never again.”
So, I took my accountant’s advice and hired people. My first hire was Connor Gillivan, author of Free Up Your Business: 50 Secrets to Bootstrap Million Dollar Companies. Back then he was a random college kid that contacted me on Facebook for a job. I even had to pick him up for work because he didn’t have a car! But he was as passionate about the business as I was.
Connor is still my business partner today in our Amazon dropshipping business and the FreeeUp Marketplace.
I hired other college students, too. I only hired college students because a 35-year-old experienced person wouldn’t have taken this young college kid seriously.
When I graduated, I had to decide, was I done with being an entrepreneur? Was I going to accept one of the available internships instead? While considering the pros and cons, my aunt — she is also an entrepreneur — convinced me to do what I wanted to do, what I was passionate about, and not what I was expected to do.
I was living in Stamford and moved to Florida because one of my partners was enrolled in the MBA program in Florida. There, we decided to set up an office. We worked from 9-5 and had overheads we didn’t need.
We had lost our freedom…
We started hiring freelancers from Upwork and replaced all the fulltime positions. I was obsessed with hiring a virtual assistant army. Instead of growing and expanding the business, I was spending all my time interviewing candidates. We soon learned that other business owners were complaining about the same thing…
There had to be a better way…
Our experience in the hiring process of freelancers gave us the edge. We knew the greatest problem was the time the hiring process took. If only it could be faster, easier…
And Amazon was getting old – pushing products – my entrepreneurial spirit was searching for something new.
That is how the idea of FreeeUp was birthed…
For the benefit of those who don’t know, can you explain to us what FreeeUp is and why you are so passionate about it?
FreeeUp is a marketplace where businesses and companies can hire remote freelancers worldwide.
Last year we paid out over $3 million to freelancers.
Why am I so passionate about FreeeUp? It’s the human aspect of getting to help people, to help freelancers grow their business. I have stories of how freelancers have bought houses and cars, of how they are able to support their families. This means so much to me and Connor. We both wake up every day ready to tackle the next challenge and continue building the business. We want to keep spreading the impact that we’re already making to thousands more people.
How are you different from other outsourcing platforms from the clients’ perspective, and from the freelancers’ as well?
What mainly sets us apart from all other marketplace platforms is three things.
First, we do the time-consuming interviewing process for the client. The client doesn’t spend any time sifting through applicants. We do it for them. The client will spend 10-15 minutes in a short interview before hiring the freelancer.
Secondly, clients are protected because we’ve already done the screening for them. We receive hundreds of freelance applicants weekly. Each applicant goes through a unique and vigorous interview process to determine 3 things: the person’s skills, attitude, and communication. Communication is extremely important to the freelancer, the client, and the FreeeUp Marketplace. Fast responses and regular communication with clients and with the FreeeUp Marketplace are expected from freelancers.
Thirdly, we guarantee results. If a freelancer needs to prematurely quit a project, the marketplace has other freelancers ready who can replace that freelancer. The client doesn’t have to start the process of searching for another freelancer all over again.
A final aspect that makes FreeeUp advantageous for clients and freelancers is that we are extremely hands-on in the process. There is always someone that you can speak with at FreeeUp about requesting freelancers, handling issues, and growing your business.
For freelancers, there is a constant stream of requests from clients that they can apply for. One of my assistants is always on duty to assist the freelancers. They help freelancers over the initial awkwardness by introducing freelancers to clients, for instance.
Freelancers on the FreeeUp marketplace know that they are the top 1% of all applicants to the marketplace. Therefore, they are confident to give their best and help grow FreeeUp.
Originally your focus was mostly the eCommerce industry because of your background. But that’s not so anymore. Which industry and clients are you focusing on now?
We started reaching out to Amazon freelancers and sellers because that was our sphere of influence. We knew the eCommerce industry; we were in the Amazon space and we were experts with it.
Slowly, the clients would refer us to their connected communities outside Amazon but still in the eCommerce industry. We began receiving requests for website developers, graphic designers, virtual assistants, content writers, bookkeepers and more.
Although we have clients from all industries and freelancers to service their needs, our core niche is still in eCommerce.
Takeaway and Suggested Homework
Nathan Hirsch’s passion for FreeeUp is noticeable in his daily personal involvement with clients and freelancers. He uses his knowledge and experience — from first hiring college students to growing his Amazon business with freelancers — to helping clients and freelancers grow their businesses.
What are your plans to grow your business?
How can you free up your time? List possible tasks you can outsource to freelancers.
Retha Groenewald is a web copywriter and published author. Her versatile background gives her the freedom to write for the B2B and B2C market. Her writing is featured at Christian Web Copywriter and at Writing That Breathes Life.