A question sellers in our community often ask is: should I outsource tasks to a virtual assistant or a freelancer? We’re also asked when to seek help, how much it will cost, how to find freelancers, and what tasks to outsource.
So, we thought we’d partner with Freeeup–a marketplace to discover freelancers–to learn about Amazon FBA outsourcing. This article will (hopefully) help you decide whether it’s right for you!
If you sell on Amazon, you know how daunting of a task it can be.
While the rewards are big, it sometimes seems like you’re keeping track of hundreds of moving parts!
Managing the components of your Amazon business, particularly as your business grows, starts to become difficult. And if you’re going it along, it’s even tougher.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may be considering outsourcing bits of your work. Many Amazon sellers use independent contractors and overseas workers to keep their business on top of things.
But should you?
The truth is, only you can decide.
Whether outsourcing is right for you depends on your business and its unique needs, as well as the direction you want to take it in the future.
When to think about outsourcing
Usually, when starting out, it’s best to do as much of the launch process yourself as you possibly can.
This ensures you are familiar with each step (which also helps with outsourcing later), and that you have a handle on your new business.
But for many, once their product is listed, there are many tasks they prefer to outsource, to free up some of their time. Things like marketing, inventory management, accounts, etc., are often at the top of the list.
So, to help you decide, we’ve collected a list of some of the pros and cons to outsourcing. Hopefully this will give you a better idea of what kind of impact outsourcing might have on your business.
We’ve also included a guide to the rates you might expect to pay for your freelancers.
Finally, we’ve added a series of tips on how to successfully integrate outsourced workers (if you do choose to hire them), and what sort of tasks you could outsource.
Part One: The pros and cons of outsourcing
Here’s a short list of outsourcing pros and cons:
- You’ll have more time to focus on what matters to you, allowing you to find a work-life balance.
- You can offload the tasks you don’t enjoy, or that don’t play to your strengths.
- You can find people who are willing to work odd hours, or are in the same timezone as your suppliers.
- You will need to organize procedures and processes.
- Hiring virtual assistants and freelancers costs money.
- It requires letting go of control and becoming an organizer; you need to become a manager of people.
Many growing businesses get to a point where outside help is needed. And while it does cost money, it will ultimately save you time.
If you speak to any successful business owner, though, most would say that it’s an important step to take.
It can help ensure your company’s continued growth, and that you work smarter, not harder.
Let’s take a look at some of these pros and cons in more detail…
Pro: You’ll have more time to focus on what matters to you
Often, day-to-day Amazon tasks can eat up all of your time.
Between updating your pay-per-click campaigns (PPC), answering customer concerns, and managing your entire inventory, you may not have much time or energy left to work on your growth strategy or your brand positioning.
If you truly want to grow your Amazon business, then outsourcing daily tasks can give you back some of the time you’ll need to make that happen.
Let’s not skip over the other important consideration, though.
Many sellers started on this journey to create a life of freedom, whether financially, location or time-based.
If you want to travel more, spend more time with family, practice your hobbies, etc., then hiring people to run some of your day-to-day tasks is an easy way to make space in your schedule.
Pro: You can offload the tasks you don’t enjoy
Is there some part of the Amazon process you simply don’t enjoy? Chances are there’s someone, somewhere, who would be more than happy to do it for you.
Whether it’s running your PPC campaigns and crunching numbers, sourcing products, or writing your listing copy, outsourcing can be a great way to get rid of the tedium or stress caused by doing tasks you either don’t like, or aren’t good at.
Pro: You can find people who are willing to work odd hours
Hiring freelancers living in different time zones can prove to be an advantage.
Let’s say you need certain pages or inventory levels monitored day and night. By hiring outsourced employees from different countries, you can cover the clock.
An overnight shift where you live means a day shift to someone working overseas, which is something many workers prefer.
Con: You will need to organize procedures and processes
To start, you’re going to have to find and hire your new employee. After all, you need to be able to trust this person to help manage your business and source of income.
And while there are plenty of places to find great virtual assistants–like Freeeup, Jungle Scout Market, Toptal, and Upwork–you’ll still have to put in the time interviewing candidates so that you find the right fit.
Additionally, if you hire a team of at least two people, then you need to make sure they can coordinate properly.
You may (and likely will) have to put policies and procedures in place to help with that.
But, if your processes are well-thought out, it will pay off in the long run. Tips on how to do this (including international communication) coming up shortly!
Con: Hiring virtual assistants and freelancers costs money
Hiring new workers isn’t free.
You’ll need to dole out some extra cash if you want to attract great talent. And certain types of contractors can be particularly expensive.
For a better idea of what you’re getting into, make sure you read part two, to get an idea of these associated costs.
Con: It requires letting go of control
If you’re someone who has to keep a hand in every pot, outsourcing may not be the right fit for you.
That being said, it is normal to feel protective over your business affairs.
So, if you really want to make more time for the things that matter to you, this may be a battle you have to face: time vs control.
And since most employees don’t like to be micromanaged, it’s important you spend time vetting your potential hires.
If you have to give up control of some tasks, you want to make sure you get the most reliable, best-suited person for the job.
Part Two: How much should you expect to pay?
What you might pay for an Amazon worker varies depending on several factors. The very biggest factor, however, may be location, which is why we’ve included it in the list below.
In general, it will be less expensive to hire non-US workers, particularly if they;re from the Philippines and India.
However, you may experience communication issues with these employees, due to potential language barriers.
Regardless, in the list below, we’ve covered some common rates you might expect to pay for various levels of Amazon expertise. Keep in mind that these are just trends though.
There are bound to be outliers as well.
And we don’t recommend going with someone who will work for the lowest wage. Those individuals tend to have little to no experience.
But if you do decide to go with the lowest bidder, make absolutely sure they know their stuff before taking them on.
Tip: Try having a video call interview before hiring a VA or employee.
If you feel like they would be a good fit, set them a small task (paid, of course) and use this as a second stage interview. This should give you a good idea of their level of expertise and work output.
If they’re not a good fit, move on!
Part Three: Integrating your outsourced workers
If you do decide to outsource workers to help you with your Amazon business, then there’s a few key steps you should be sure to take. These can make or break your entire outsourcing experience.
1. Give them the training they need
As the saying goes ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. Proper training can make a world of difference. We encourage you to set up live training sessions and share your screen. Have your new worker share their own screen too, so you can make sure they actually understand the instructions.
Written processes and documents to back up these training sessions are advised too, but if you offer this alongside a live training demonstration you can guarantee to get better results.
One big thing you should train on is how to use the different accounts your company prefers, whether its ad management software or your own seller central portal. If they have access to it, you should have a training session, even if it’s something they’ve used before. They may not know exactly how you want things done.
There are a few free and paid tools you can use for video conference calls, screen sharing, and even screen control:
- Google Hangouts
Tip: You can also make a recorded screencast for demonstration purposes, by recording your training sessions so your employee’s can revisit them. Or you can record them off air using tools like Screencastify or Loom.
2. Set clearly defined goals
Rather than just giving your new worker instructions, help them set goals in their work (e.g. complete x amount of tickets in y amount of days).
Make the goals realistic instead of overbearing, so that the feel a sense of accomplishment when they finish them. This will help keep them continuously motivated, even when they are far away.
You can also have a process in place for them to let you now if a goal cannot be achieved, and ensure you have an approachable style so they can let you know if they get stuck, or have to spend extra time on a certain task.
It’s much better to have them come to you with any issues, than for them to feel micromanaged by you.
You could try to use a shared spreadsheet like a Google Doc, or a free tool like Trello, to work together on goals and tasks collaboratively.
3. Outline your company goals
If an employee understands your vision, they will be much more motivated to work towards it.
And this holds true of contractors too!
Take a little time to let them know your goals for growth, sales, and other big metrics you’re shooting for this year. As they see the business make progress, they’ll have a better idea of how their own contributions helped out.
4. Set clear expectations for communication
Start setting expectations before you even make the hire.
When you are interviewing, you should discuss how you prefer to communicate, what times you need your workers to be available, and have a plan for dealing with any potential miscommunications that come up, including timezone mismatch.
Make sure the worker is comfortable using the same types of platforms you prefer to communicate through, whether that’s email, phone, or a specialty service like Slack or Skype.
Part Four: Which tasks should I outsource?
This will vary from person to person, depending on your goals, your strategies, and your own strengths and weaknesses when doing these tasks by yourself. Listed here are a few ideas of things you could outsource, and some considerations for each.
Amazon PPC management
Running ongoing Amazon PPC or AMS paid advertising campaigns can take up quite a bit of your time. If it’s not something you enjoy or feel confident with, then you could find a PPC expert freelancer to help. They would need access to your Seller Central account as a user to do this.
- It may be best to set up your campaigns yourself if you can, and then hire them to help tidy them up and maintain them on a day-to-day basis
- You need to set clear goals, how much you are willing to pay for clicks? What ACoS (Advertising Cost of Sale) should they aim for? What is your daily budget?
- Lay down ground rules to ensure that your budgets are not compromised, and make sure they maintain clear communication with you and send weekly progress reports.
- It’s very important to interview well and find someone who knows what they are doing or it could end up being very costly to you.
Product sourcing is very important but it can take a lot of time to reach out to lots of suppliers, get quotes, lay out product specifications, draw out contracts and agreements and so on.
There are freelancers out there who specialize in this, and some sellers choose to do their own product research, before handing over to a sourcing expert. This can actually help you to get the right product at the right price and speed up the process compared to doing this yourself.
- Ensure the person you hire is experienced at sourcing and supplier relationships – as you know this is very important
- Figure out how involved in the process you want to be. If your employee quits on you, that relationship needs to be picked up by you, or you need to find a new freelancer very quickly
- If you hire a sourcing agent who speaks the local language (i.e. Mandarin for sourcing in China), then you will want to ensure they only use suppliers who also speak good English, because then you could end up being left in the dark
As we know, inventory management is a balancing act for the Amazon seller. Too little stock can result in ending up with a stock out and damaging your rank. Too much stock can result in Amazon storage fees.
Ongoing supplier relationships can also be handled with an assistant.
If you hire someone with experience in inventory management, they could take control of ensuring your stock levels are always on point.
- As always, ensure the person you hire is appropriate for this task, once products are launched, inventory management is the lifeblood of your business and profits
- Even when hiring someone experienced, ensure you do your own research and put some processes and goals into place
This is a commonly outsourced task for most sellers. Though it is possible to do some of your own product photography, chances are you will want to hire a professional at some point to take high quality product and lifestyle images of your product.
- Hiring a freelancer is often the cheapest route to getting photography done, but make sure you see a sample of their work first
- You can also hire specialist ecommerce and Amazon photographers too: read more here
Writing out product titles, features and descriptions can be time consuming, especially if writing isn’t your thing. It also involves some keyword research for Amazon SEO purposes, and you may want to revise and improve your listing over time.
Additionally, if you sell in multiple marketplaces, you may have no choice but to outsource to professional translators, to create listings in different languages.
- Hire copywriters who speak the native language that your listing needs to be written in
- If possible, hire copywriters who also have SEO experience, and can do keyword research for you, or skillfully incorporate your important keywords in their work
It’s a common misconception that Amazon handle customer support for you as an FBA seller. In reality, we all know how bad Seller Support can be, and why would we leave our paying customers at the mercy of that?
It’s important to be there for your customers, through both the good and the bad. This ensures they have a positive experience, increases the likelihood of getting a review, and lets the customer know that you are there to resolve any issues or returns. Reducing negative reviews is also important.
Outsourcing customer support is actually really common, and can be one of the more affordable things to outsource too.
- Interview for people with strong customer support qualities: attentive, calm, someone who listens and someone who has a positive attitude towards problem solving
- Ensure you set out your processes and goals, and also create a blueprint for different scenarios, for example, a complaint or a return
- You can also consider automating a huge part of your customer support with smart automated emails using a service like Jungle Scouts Web App.
Theoretically, you could outsource any of these tasks. It’s up to you to decide which is the best fit, and where you can find a good to help you.
There are only 24 hours in the day and only so much one business owner can do.
Whether you are avoiding burnout, or simply freeing up your time for other things, with a little extra work in the outset, you can buy back hours of your time by finding trusted freelancers or employees.
One more thing!
If you are looking for ways to adopt a positive and balanced work attitude as an Amazon seller, then check out this inspirational post.
We hope these tips have been helpful. Have you ever tried outsourcing with Amazon before? What was your experience, let us know in the comments!
About the Author
Connor Gillivan is the author of Free Up Your Business: 50 Secrets to Bootstrap Million Dollar Companies, a serial entrepreneur, and the CMO and co-founder of FreeeUp.com. When he’s not bringing together hundreds of freelancers and business owners, he’s mentoring entrepreneurs through his site, ConnorGillivan.com. He currently lives in Denver, Colorado.