A common question we get from the sellers in our community is, should I outsource tasks to an virtual assistant or a freelancer? Plus all of the questions that come along with that, including when to seek help, how much it will cost, how to find freelancers, what tasks to outsource. So we thought hey, you know what, let's team up with the team at Freeeup, a marketplace to discover freelancers, and answer of all of those questions!
If you sell on Amazon, you know it can be a daunting task. While the rewards are big, there are what feels like hundreds moving parts to keep track of. Maybe it’s just you, managing those parts, and as your business grows, it starts to become difficult to manage. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may be considering outsourcing 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, it’s entirely your own decision. Whether outsourcing is right for you depends on your business and its needs, as well as the direction you want to take it in the future.
When To Think About Outsourcing
Usually, it's best when starting out to do as much of the launch process as possible yourself. This ensures you are familiar with each step of the way (which also helps with outsourcing later), and that you have a handle of your new business.
But for many, once you have one, or a handful of products, there are many tasks that you would prefer to outsource, to free up some of your time. Being an Amazon seller can certainly be considered as more of a passive income than managing your own fulfillment. But there are still many tasks to manage on a daily or weekly basis, like marketing, inventory management, accounts and so on.
To help you make a decision, we’ve collected a list of some of the pros and cons to outsourcing, so you can get a better idea of what impact it might have. We’ve also included a guide to the rates you might expect to pay your new Amazon workers. 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 1: The pros and cons of outsourcing
Here's a list of pro's and con's in short.
- You have more time to focus on what matters and balance your lifestyle
- You can offload the things that you don't enjoy, or don't fall within your strengths
- It's possible to find people who work odd hours, or in the same timezone as your suppliers
- You will need to organize procedures and processes
- Hiring VAs and freelancers costs money
- It can be hard to find reliable workers, and it can be difficult to communicate virtually
Many growing businesses go through this stage. It requires letting go of control and becoming an organizer and a manager of people. It costs money but it saves time. If you speak to any successful business owner though, most would say that it's an important step to take, to ensure continued growth and to ensure that you can 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
Often, day-to-day Amazon tasks can eat up all your time. Between updating PPC, answering customer concerns, and managing your entire inventory, you may not have much 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 the time you need.
Let's not skip over the other important consideration. Many sellers started on this journey to create a life of freedom, whether that is financially or location or time based. If you want to travel more, spend more time with family, practice your hobbies, then hiring people to run some of the day-to-day tasks is an obvious way to make space in your schedule.
Pro: You can find people to work odd hours
If you do end up hiring in different time zones, this can also prove an advantage. Say you need certain pages or inventory levels monitored at all times. Or maybe you have a 24-hour customer service hotline. An outsourced employee from another country can more easily work an overnight shift, since that fits perfectly with their time zone.
Pro: You can say goodbye to your least favorite tasks
Is there some part of the Amazon process you simply don't enjoy? Chances are, there’s someone, somewhere who’s more than happy to cover 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 of those tasks you least enjoy.
Con: You’ll need to organize a lot and interview workers
Finding someone to outsource to is a task that falls on you. After all, you need to be able to trust this person to help manage your business and source of income. There are plenty of places to find great virtual assistants, like Freeeup, Toptal and Upwork – but you're likely going to need to put in the time interviewing and finding a good fit.
Additionally, if it’s just you covering everything, then there’s not as much of a need for set processes and procedures. However, if you have a team of three people, then you need to make sure they can coordinate properly.
It can feel like a chicken and egg situation when you are spending the hours organizing and putting together processes, but if you do it well then it's going to pay off in the long run. Tips on how to do this (including international communication) coming up shortly!
Con: You’ll spend 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, keep reading in part 2 to get an idea of the associated costs.
Con: You’ll have to let go of some degree 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 do want to make more time for the things that matter, then this may be a battle you have to face. Micromanaging employees never bodes well, so it's important to spend the time vetting people and introducing structure and solid process.
Part 2: How much should you expect to pay for outsourced workers?
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 Non-US workers, particularly from the Philippines and India, will be cheaper than their US counterparts. However, you may also experience more gaps in communication with these employees.
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; there are bound to be outliers as well.
We actually don’t recommend going with the very, very cheapest workers, since they usually have no experience. For instance, if you have a customer service candidate who only wants to charge you $2 an hour, 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 3: 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's 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 the worker 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! 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 4: 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 this 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 Jump Send.
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.
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