Welcome to Episode Seven of the Cannabis Business Made Easy Podcast. I’m your host Brandie Bee Founder of the cannabis leadership accelerator Sativa Science Club and creator of #ElevatedAdvocate.
I’m here to help you increase your credibility, grow your influence, and make your impact in the cannabis industry.
In today’s episode, I’m answering a listener submitted question from Canna-Karin who says:
“Hey Brandie, I’m LOVING the new podcast!! As a solopreneur trying to build a business in a prohibition state, it’s amazing to be able to listen in and know that you actually “get it.” I’ve followed you on IG for years, and I love SSC, but this podcast is everything. So, I’m writing because I’m starting to feel really overwhelmed trying to do “all the things” and I’m wondering when it’s the right time to bring on my first employee? Is there a magic revenue number I should hit first? And when I do hire them, where should I be looking!? It will have to be virtual because I’m the only cannabis advocate in my area. Keep up the great work, and thank you so much for everything!"
Well first, thank you Canna-Karin! For being a voice for cannabis in your prohibition community and for reaching out to me directly! Little notes of encouragement like this keep me going. I’m SO GLAD to hear that the new podcast is supporting you in the way you need, and I can’t wait to release a fresh new episode for you every week.
If you are in the same boat as Canna-Karin and you’re wondering how to go about hiring your first employee for your cannabis company, stay tuned because I’m going to break down for you exactly how I would go about hiring my first freelancers.
Okay, let’s be real here because we all know this can happen. You start your business off as a solopreneur with the best of intentions, and it’s not long before you start to realize. . .
“Wow, there is a whole lot to this business thing!”
All of the sudden, you’re so preoccupied trying to wear all of the hats and learn all the things that you have zero time to do the things that bring profit which, let’s be real here, is key.
Next thing you know, you’re burnt out, low on funds, and ready to light the whole thing on fire and run away screaming. I know because I’ve been there myself! It’s an ugly and discouraging place to be.
So If your business is sucking your happiness dry, it’s time to make some changes. One way to free up some of your time is to hire a virtual freelancer.
And I’ll be honest Hiring your first employee can certainly be intimidating, especially if you’ve never been through the hiring process before. But with a little bit of forethought, It can be life-changing.
The number one excuse I hear from small business owners is that they can’t afford it, or they are unable to delegate any of their business tasks. But I would argue that you’re full of bologna and you can’t afford not to!! Hear me out:
If you continue down the path you are on, you’re going to spend weeks, months, maybe even years of your time trying to learn how to do everything. And while you’re busy doing that, you’re not going to be making anywhere near what you could be if you were only focused on your improving your product or service and making your people happy.
I say this because I did it myself. Like I explained back in episode 6. I spent YEARS trying to be all the things. And I try not to think about all the money I lost during that time because I was too busy to hire employees. I mean, what an oxymoron that turned out to be!
If I could hit the reset button and do it all over again, here’s how I would have gone about hiring a team...
The very first thing I would have done is decide precisely who and what I needed. I’m a firm believer that every business owner should hire a business coach, a bookkeeper, and a virtual assistant at the very least. As a general rule of thumb, try to outsource all of the small tasks that A- you don’t know how to do yourself, and B- do not directly make you money.
Answering emails is a great example. Sure, you can do it yourself, and you may even connect with a few customers along the way. But a new entrepreneur can expect to spend an hour or more a day on email alone, and those hours rarely translate to direct profit. Hiring a VA with customer service experience to answer (or at least sort) those emails for you can save you loads of time that you can use to do something that pulls in profit.
And this approach makes you feel better about hiring a team in the long run because, for every hour you are paying out an employee, you are actively focused on bringing money in. So it goes a long way towards alleviating anxiety. The work is getting done, and you’re making enough cash to keep your employees and your customers happy. As a business owner, you can’t really ask for more than that.
And if you’re sitting there thinking, “what if I can’t afford to hire anyone right now?” My answer to you is it sounds like either A- what you have is less of a business at this point and more of a hobby (so consider taking on a part-time gig until you get to where you need to be) or B- you just need to buckle down and figure it out.
So I’m going to break it down for you from A-Z.
First, clear a week. It’s time for some tough love here, and the truth is that whatever you’re doing can wait. If you continue like you are, you’re going to burn yourself out.
So here is your full-proof action plan:
Day one, think of the tasks that you could be delegating. What do you absolutely hate doing, what is a drain on your resources, and what should you outsource to an expert because you’re too in the weeds. Write it all down and decide what’s essential vs. what would be niced down the road when you have the money.
Like I mentioned before, I think a business coach, a bookkeeper, and a VA is a great place to start for any small company. It’s just enough to take the edge off so you can start making some real headway.
Day two, get crystal clear on your goals for the year. One HUGE mistake I see entrepreneurs make is that they hire a team all willy nilly because they just want to dive in and get going, only to find that they really should have put more thought into their business model and products and they wasted hundreds if not thousands of dollars paying people to do work that they didn’t need.
Spend a full day thinking about your 3, 6, and 12 months goals and what’s essential for you to accomplish. And limit this only to the things that will bring you a return on your investment. You can get fancy later. For now, you need to ensure some financial stability.
As a caveat here, be sure to download the Advocacy Essentials Kit in the show notes. This PDF is a great jumping-off point for your brainstorming session. And for those of you inside of Sativa Science Club, you can always revisit the Ultimate Goal Guide if you’re ready to go extra deep.
Once you have a clear idea of your goals, spend day three thinking about what kinds of coaches and mentors could help you get to where you need to be. Do you need someone 1:1 to keep you in check and hold you accountable to your goals every week?
Or maybe an online course, group, or membership site to fast track your growth with step-by-step training? There are business coaches for everything from mindset and confidence building to managing your money.
I suggest picking a coach who has done what you want to be doing successfully. For example, if you’re a cannabis coach and you plan to sell online courses to your community, look for a coach like Amy Porterfield who has made millions as an online course creator and had a step-by-step action plan to help you design a course in just a few weeks. Find yourself someone who has “been there done that” so you don’t have to make the same mistakes with your time and money.
Day four, get your finances in order. Super not fun or glamorous, but you need to be on top of this kind of thing. Consider getting a QuickBooks account and taking a short class that covers the basics. Then get as ready as you can to hand this task over to someone who actually knows what they are doing. And you don’t have to get it perfect. When you do hire a bookkeeper, they will let you know if they need anything. But get as prepared as you can for the time being.
While you’re at it, consider your budget. What do you have now, what do you expect to make every month, and if you had a small team helping you, how quickly do you expect to see more income? Will you be able to launch your first (or next) product a little sooner than expected with a little help? What would that extra revenue mean? If you can set aside at least $250 a month, that’s more than enough to start building your team.
And if that sounds pretty steep, I challenge you to look at where you’re money is going. Is there any software or subscriptions you could cut to make ends meet? Maybe that old gym membership. Or perhaps you go without Netflix or Hulu for a few weeks? Spend the day looking for ways to be more frugal. If you can’t do it right away, start looking for side hassles that can bring in a little extra money.
By now, you’re making some progress. You know who you need and why you need them. You have a few coaches or teachers in mind, and you have a better grip on your money. On Day five, create a big huge list of the daily administrative tasks that you could be outsourcing to a VA every week. I try to have my VA cover things like answering emails, checking voicemails, returning phone calls, setting appointments, staying up with likes and comments on social media, publishing podcasts, blogs, videos, that kind of thing. The stuff that I can do myself, but it’s zapping my time and energy from what matters.
When you’re done creating your list, start thinking about what you would need to do to be able to delegate those tasks to someone on your team. For example, do you need to create templated email responses that your VA can copy/paste for the most common email questions? Maybe you need to organize your drive or dropbox so they can find everything. Make a second list of the tasks you need to get out of the way before you can bring someone in.
And I would consider making little screencast training tutorials using a free web extension like Screencastify, or at the very least, consider writing out a detailed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that goes over the bullet notes of what your VA could and should be doing every morning.
I know that’s a lot of ground to cover, so let that spill over into days six and seven. Start laying the groundwork so, when you do bring people on board, the transition is nice and easy.
Now that your game planning week is over, It’s time to start actually looking for your team. And I use two different sites for this. If I’m looking for long term help, I always hop over to UpWork.Com (not sponsored at all I have just had the best luck over there) And what I love about Upwork is that they make it so easy.
You create an account, write a post with your job description (they even have templates you can use and customize for the more common requests like VA's and bookkeepers). Once you’ve posted your ad, you can search through thousands of freelancers who have been vetted by the Upwork community.
The rates are all over the place depending on where the freelancer is located. Depending on the task (for example; if it’s just copy/paste data transcription) you can find freelancers for as little as $5/hr all the way up to $50/hr. For virtual assistants, I suggest starting on the lower end at $10 an hour or so just to take a little bit of stress off your plate.
You can always hire a more advanced VA a little later on. Or give your cheaper VA a raise as you add more complex tasks to their to-do list. I found my first Customer Service VA for just $7hr. I pay her $17hr now, so her job description and task list grew with the company.
Another pro tip here, I try to find freelancers who have four stars or above with glowing reviews and who have made more than $10K on Upwork. And all of this information is right there in their profile, which is brilliant.
In addition to that, Upwork handles the contracts, payments and has a standard NDA for all freelancers, so you never have to worry if you have your bases covered. Just add your bank info or even a credit card, list your wanted ad, find your freelancer, and when you find the right fit, they handle the rest with their standard freelance contract.
Another cool feature is that you can interview your potential new hire right through Upwork using their video chat as well, and I really encourage you to do that.
As a rule of thumb, try to interview 3-5 candidates for each position. Pay attention to their qualifications, past work experience, communication style, and, most importantly, if it feels right. You can come up with a hundred interview questions, and your candidate may give you a hundred perfect answers, but if anything in your conversation gives you pause, or something just doesn’t feel right, follow that instinct and move on.
As I mentioned, I would try to find a bookkeeper for around $25 a week who can help you stay on top of your finances. That’s a HUGE stress relief right there. Then I would look for a virtual assistant for 2-5 hours a week who can help with reoccurring administrative tasks.
So that’s UpWork, and I suggest this hands down for longer-term hires. But for shorter project-based tasks, you might want to check out Fiverr.
While Upwork is excellent for bookkeepers and VA’s, I use FIVERR for one-off projects. As the name suggests Fiverr started off as a kind of marketplace where people would charge $5 for anything you could ask. Nowadays, people create special project packages called “gigs” and sell them for anywhere between $5 and $500 depending on the task.
While I DO NOT recommend hitting up Fiverr for things like blogs or customer service, I DO recommend using it for things like Video or podcast editing, lightroom or photoshop tweaks, etc. I use it for things that I could probably fumble through myself, but someone else could do it faster and better for $5 flat.
It’s similar to Upwork in that you can sort by 4&5 star rating, read reviews, and check out examples. I’m not going to lie, I’ve gotten some not-so-awesome work done there, but I’ve also found some amazing freelancers that would have cost me an arm and a leg to hire somewhere else. If you do decide to check out Fiverr, look for level three sellers with five stars and glowing reviews and always start by buying their smallest package to test it out.
Another phenomenon I see with new Fiverr buyers is that they kind of get that kid in a candy store syndrome where they buy dozens of gig packages that they probably don’t need because they get a little too excited. (“Oh! That will save time, and that will save time”) Trust me, as tempting as it may be to buy a pack of 1,000 done-for-you email templates, I promise you don’t need them. And (let’s be real here) they're likely total garbage. Only buy what you need when you need it, or you’re going to end up getting side-tracked. But, if you use it thoughtfully, it can take a load of stress off our back.
Another thing I like about Fiverr is that, if you own a business, you can apply for a pro account, which is what I have. When you “go pro,” Fiverr actually hooks you up with a staff liaison who learns about your business and the qualifications you're after and hooks you up with 5-star freelancers. This is great for more complex tasks like copywriting and web development.
Full disclosure, I am a Fiverr affiliate because I use them so much, so if you do decide to check them out, and you use the link in the show notes and I get a little kickback.
Once you have your bookkeeper and VA from UpWork, and your smaller projects are taken care of on Fiverr, I would start looking for a mentor, teacher, or coach to help you stay focused and on task. This one is going to be a little more spendy ($100-$500 a month depending on the coach and the package) But, It’s, going to save you thousands of dollars waffling around trying to figure everything out. Just be sure you take the time to find the right fit, and that you fully understand what’s included in your contract. From here, your coach can help you determine when and how to make any future hires beyond that.
So there you have it Canna-Karen; if I were going to hire my very first virtual team, I would first clear one full week to put some real thought into it and get organized. I’d try to budget at least $250 a month. I would find a bookkeeper, and VA on Upwork and hit up Fiverr for one-off projects. When you have those bases covered, I would plan to invest in a coach to help me manage my time (and employees) a little better and stay on task.
I hope that you got some great insight and ideas today, and don’t forget to check out our show notes for those links and downloads! And If you have a question that you would like me to answer in Cannabis Business Made Easy Podcast, send me a DM on Instagram or an email to [email protected] for your chance at a featured episode shoutout.
Best of luck to you and until next time, onward & upward toward elevated advocacy.
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