Million Dollar Company You Could’ve Built

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Yaro Starak had a problem we all experienced: too much email. It was important, but it also kept him from doing real work. So he hired an assistant to answer his email. It’s a bit scary to pass your inbox to someone else, but it worked. The weight was lifted. He was more productive.

So he decided to try offering it as a service. This is the story of how that service went from idea to million dollar a year business called InboxDone.

Yaro Starak

Yaro Starak


InboxDone is a service where virtual executive assistants can answer your email with the same tone and approach you would and get you to inbox zero.


Full Interview Transcript

Andrew Warner: hey there, Freedom Fighters. You know me. I’m Andrew Warner, your friend who goes out and finds his friends who’ve done well in business and then brings them on here to talk about how they did it. And joining me is an old friend of mine, Yaro Starak. And he created this business that looks so simple that I want to understand it because I think there are other businesses that could be created like it.

Yarrow created a company called Inbox Done. You know how you have a busy inbox and it’s challenging? Well, think about an executive or an entrepreneur who’s growing a business and how maddening their inbox is. He created a service where an outsourced virtual assistant can handle their inbox and make it a lot easier for him.

And then he added more and more features to it like calendar is a nice obvious extension and others And when I first saw him come out with this business, I thought It’s a little late for this has this been handled software’s handling it people And I watched from the sidelines a little bit, especially as the ads kept flying on me on twitter And then he emailed me a few weeks ago and he He gave me a sense of the revenue and I was, like, in awe and shock and I couldn’t believe that he’d done so well with this and I invited him on here to talk about how he did it and to talk about how if, uh, you know, you who are listening to me are thinking about, well, Maybe there are other businesses, other services that I could handle for people like this fairly straightforward.

How do I do it? Let’s learn from Yarrow’s experience. That’s the vision here. And we could do it. Thanks to my sponsor, which will help you hire developers. If you need them, it’s called lemon. io. And if you use lemon. io slash Mixergy, you’ll get an even bigger discount than others do on phenomenal developers.

But I’ll talk about that later because first Yarrow, me like the revenue. What can you give me a, what can you tell me about revenue? How much are you doing?

Yaro Starak: Uh, seven figures business. I know, um, Yaro StarakInboxDone it’s a phrase everyone loves to hear, but what does it really mean? You know, it means, you know, we’re doing a million dollars a year in revenue.

Andrew Warner: Um, a million or more.

Yaro Starak: a little more now. I mean, we, we crossed over late last year. So, you know, some months are a little bit more than that, but pretty much seven figures is, is a good number.

Andrew Warner: Recurring revenue because people are signing up for subscriptions, right? What about this? It feels like the expenses in this business must be huge because you’re hiring people to do the work. It’s not like software is behind the scenes doing it.

Yaro Starak: Yeah, I mean, we, and we pay our team. We’re, we’re, uh, not outsourcing to the Philippines or lower cost labor too. So, you know, we’re paying American Canadian competitive rates. So, you know, it’s not going to have the margins of a SAS business. Um, or in my background, I was selling digital courses and things, which are like, you know, 95% profit margins.

So those are wonderful, but it’s a business and I have to give full credit to my co founder, Claire. She’s like the chief of operations. And, um, You know, when you streamline it, when you have systems in place, you have tight control over how many hours people work, what work we’re doing, um, amazing onboarding process to set expectations, there’s definitely a margin and it’s similar to any services agency.

You’re probably anywhere from 30 to 50% margin, depending on, you know, the month and if you’re taking some of that money out to put into growth or not, you know, those sorts of things.

Andrew Warner: But net margins come out to 30% or higher.

Yaro Starak: Uh, 30 to 50, and to be fair, that’s, like, when I say this, it’s a choice that Myself and Claire make, how much do we want to pay ourselves? How much do we want to put that into growth? So, I will be absolutely honest, the first three years, I said, I don’t want to take anything. Um, I want the money to go back into the company.

And then once we hit the sort of fourth year, the numbers were a bit bigger. I was like, I definitely need to start taking some money from this. Otherwise, like, why am I doing this? Um, and then it’s, you know, it’s, it’s every single month we just get on a call and we decide, all right, we have this much money to spend.

Do we want to take it out in dividends for the owners? Do we want to put more towards it? And that number, thankfully, keeps growing as the company keeps growing.

Andrew Warner: Is it 50 50 ownership?

Yaro Starak: Yes.

Andrew Warner: Okay. And how long have you been running it?

Yaro Starak: So we, we did an experiment behind the scenes in 2016, uh, but 2017 was when we built the website, registered a company, you know, did all the, the real grown up business things. Once we had some customers and we saw it was working.

Andrew Warner: Um, you were before this selling digital products like courses and eBooks and things like that.

Yaro Starak: Yeah, you know, Andrew, we did a podcast on my show, I was trying to think it was like 2009, maybe it was a long time ago. And you had probably just started a Mixigy, I think around that time, or maybe a year or two into it. Um, around then I was knee deep in teaching blogging and email marketing and having a, essentially a digital product business, which was, a wonderful business model.

I loved it. But the reason why I kind of switched over to an agency effectively now is, um, I wanted to build something that was more of a team, that it wasn’t the Yarrowface, you know, the personal brand. I was having to be creating personal brand content and being the teacher and the expert, so to speak.

So it’s been nice to see a company that, like, I’m sitting here in Lisbon and there’s a whole team of 50 people doing things for our clients, and I don’t have to go and, you know, do some content teaching something every single day like I used to do.

Andrew Warner: And I feel like back then you had to keep coming up with new ideas too, that it was a constant study of what’s next, and if you hadn’t come up with it, somebody else would have come up with the thing, and then we’d all have paid attention to them, and truthfully that did happen. There was a period where a lot of us were paying attention to you because you were teaching how to teach and sell online, and then there would be some other dude who I don’t even remember anymore who would come in, and then they would disappear, and then it would be you again, and then…

Yaro Starak: hasn’t changed. It’s still the same. Go to YouTube. Everyone’s teaching something,

Andrew Warner: Right, right, you’re right. That whole thing has moved over to YouTube and to some degree to TikTok, and it does keep changing and changing, um, and the names are much more, much less recognizable lately. So that was one of the motivations. How did you happen on this as a business idea?

Yaro Starak: Uh, as common a personal experience. So, you know, it’s funny you said I was late to the game, but this idea was all the way back in 2003. Um, I was actually running another agency. It was an essay and thesis proofreading company. And, you know, this was before the, for our work with Tim Ferriss, before this concept of a digital nomad, but I really wanted to travel and that business had the problem of email.

I was, I remember this clearly. I went to Sydney for a conference, and this is really dating me here. I had to go into internet cafes in order to basically run the business. I might have had a Blackberry, but it wasn’t good enough to really coordinate the business with. And I didn’t have a holiday, or I didn’t really get to experience that trip because I’d have to.

See if there was a job sitting in the inbox and make sure I got to the client and the editor and back and forth. So after that I went home I hired essentially a stay at home mom who was a friend of mine, it was an experiment Can she do my email, can she take over customer service admin and even just the day to day sort of emails that I might get into that inbox.

And it took a month or two to train her and then I woke up on like on a Monday and I as you do turn on the computer and go to your inbox and it was zero and I thought, Something’s broken, or the website’s down, there’s no sales, but no, she had waken up and done the email before I did. And from that point forward, it was like, um, standard.

I would, no matter what business I had, I always had someone in email as soon as I could afford to do that because it was, and still I believe is, the best productivity hack out there because email is the thing that usually takes the majority of time and people treat it like a to do list. So, that was the germ of the idea, but I was so busy just enjoying being, you know, a content creator, a blogger, a podcaster, that it was always on the back burner.

So, around, yeah, 2015, 2016. I wouldn’t say burnt out, but I didn’t want to do another relaunch of digital marketing, blogging, and that sort of thing. So I said, you know, I want to see if this idea could work. And my co founder, Claire, she was one of my email managers. She was actually managing the inbox for this blog teaching business for me.

And she was great. Um, she was, she was funny though. She was very, um, motivated. Like every time, like every six months she’d come to me and, and, Basically, ask for a raise by saying how many sales she generated for my company, and I love the enthusiasm, but I also noticed there’s some clear leadership qualities here.

So I proposed the idea to her and said, listen, I’m not sure if this will work, but we can do an experiment, get a client. You can be the first email manager and maybe there’s a business model here. So, you know, that was the experiment we did. And then when we got our first two clients from that, uh, we made sure it worked.

Is there a profit margin? Um, is the client happy? Cause we were Doing this for me, which is a teaching business and then our first two clients were like a, uh, one was, um, uh, a libertarian podcast person and the other one was a, uh, like a dissociative disorder, sort of therapist type person. So very different types of businesses, but they have email and we rolled out the same systems that we had for me on their inboxes.

It worked and then we decided, let’s see if this can be a real business and you know, in my mind, I’m like, everyone should have this. We’re going to be like a. Ten million dollar business within two years, for sure. There’s gonna be so much demand for this, so, you know, a little slower than I expected, but I’m happy we are where we are.

Andrew Warner: I remember when I first brought someone on to go through my email, it was… I went into a kicking and screaming. I didn’t want someone to go into my personal email where my wife would send me messages, or my doctor appointments might come in there. I didn’t, I didn’t know if I could trust someone with the personal stuff.

And it wasn’t until I was at a mastermind where people said, You have to do this. I’m doing this. And we went around the table and said, Seems there are a few people who are doing it. And then I, at the time I’d emailed drew Houston from, um, Dropbox and his assistant had responded a few times and I realized, okay, there’s enough people doing it and I’m in such a desperate situation.

I will tell my wife not to send me anything person personal, and I’ll just go and pass this on to someone who I trust. And it was a lifesaver, but it was really challenging to let go of my email. As much as you try your personal and your work are combined. What do you, what was the, has it, did people have that hesitation?

Did you have it?

Yaro Starak: I didn’t, personally. I was, I mean… If there were going to be personal emails that I think no one should see, then I would separate that into a separate inbox. But I never, I never did that. It was always, I’m fine with it. That being said, the main issue, if anyone has an issue, is letting go. It’s a habit.

It’s an addiction for a lot of entrepreneur types as well. They need to see what’s going through the inbox to feel like they know what’s going on with their business, you know, in their life. So that can be a bit of a learning curve. However, the majority who come to us are actually so ready, like they want to go do the thing that They consider creative, you know, that zone of genius phrase that a lot of people like to use, and they’re stuck in the inbox, often doing admin, customer service, coordinating, project management type stuff.

So it’s easy. The biggest thing is we have to go through like a month or two month long handover period where we essentially clone them. And that’s an experience and that takes some time, but once we get through that, yeah, most people are well and truly happy, but like you said, it’s something that has to be managed very carefully, um, because an inbox is a very personal thing.

It’s, it is like getting into someone’s brain in some way. So yeah, gotta be careful.

Andrew Warner: And then do you just have them go in through email using the, what is it called? The, there’s a way to assign email in Gmail. Did you do that? Or did you sign up for like help desk software? Like help scout?

Yaro Starak: You know, everyone’s different. Um, the way we work is we actually assign two assistants to every client from day one, and they’re both going to clone you. Um, we do that because we want to offer redundancy. Um, if you ever work with virtual assistants, it’s really frustrating to hand over something, especially as important as email.

And then they’re sick or they disappear and suddenly you’re right back in there. So we always have a backup with two people. When it comes to sharing, we try to design things based on what you’re comfortable with. So most clients actually like some kind of shared password thing. Um, back in the day, I would say LastPass, but obviously they’ve had some not good situations recently.

So, you know, Bitwarden, whatever you might want to use as your, your password sharing. Some just create user accounts because they’re using a tool already, like maybe a front. Some of our clients have Superhuman, and we’ll just go in and work with that. Some, most of them are Gmail or Outlook. And we’re just like, we’re going in, we’re in the same shared inbox.

We’re writing as if we’re your assistant, not pretending to be you. There’s been a few times we’ve done that. And, uh, you know, that’s how we access everything. Whatever other software you need to use. Like we do CRM, to do list software. We just get some kind of shared password access.

Andrew Warner: The first customers I imagine came from your email list. Right.

Yaro Starak: You got it, yeah.

Andrew Warner: Okay. And how did you know what to charge them?

Yaro Starak: Uh, well, we didn’t. Um, we had an idea. So, initial was like, let’s just see if a thousand dollars is a good starting point per month. Um, is that going to, like, it would cover maybe two hours a day of clearing an inbox and any other tasks. Is that enough? Um, and when I say that, that’s… The company taking a margin and the assistant getting paid.

Back then it was just one assistant. Uh, short story is it worked. Um, we did over time increase our prices. For the classic reason we get a better quality client, who’s better to work with, and we kind of keep away the time wasters, and we can pay our team better. So it’s, yeah, the price has gone up over time.

Andrew Warner: Um, when you wanted to go beyond, it was just into your email list, into your audience and keep getting customers. And as you were doing the first ones, how did you know what to systemize? How were you paying attention to what, let’s talk about the product and then we’ll talk about marketing. How did you know what to systemize?

How did you come up with a process for duplicating them?

Yaro Starak: Yeah, so I went through this. So, um, I understood what it was like to be the customer and had all those concerns like, They don’t know my expertise. They can’t answer questions that are unique to my knowledge or some kind of relationship I have. I know Andrew, but my assistant doesn’t know that I know Andrew, and if Andrew emails me, how do we, you know, know how to deal with that?

So, what we do is, when we, when we roll in, it’s funny, this sounds so simple, but it’s been refined, so… Your assistants will get some kind of access to your, your email. You’ll decide how you want to communicate, whether it’s a Slack or Microsoft Teams. Um, we’ll determine what you need to know about urgent, urgently.

So, we call it triage. If there’s certain messages you want to be told about straight away, because they’re from your wife, or they’re from your biggest client, or, you know, you’re getting sued, or something like that. Um, or maybe the kid needs to be picked up from school. It could be simple like that.

Versus maybe important, but not urgent. And then everything else, which hopefully we can deal with. without communicating with you at all. Because we’re trying to get you out of the loop. Then when we know the triage, we then actually enter your Ascent folder. And this is where the magic really happens. So, we go into your Ascent folder, we see how you write, what’s your tone, what’s your style, who do you write to, um, you know, do you have any systems in place, any templates, any reminders, redirects, folders.

We just get a lay of the land for everything you do, who you email, and how you write. And that’s just a learning process for us. Often we’ll come in and take our systems in, so we might build some redirects, create some templates. Um, now we’re starting to roll in AI if we think it’s going to make things faster as well.

And this takes a few weeks, and then we’ll switch to the most important part. We start writing draft emails, so we’d go to you, Andrew, we’d enter your inbox, and we say, we’ve written drafts, we want you to, maybe once a day or every second day. Check the drafts. Tell us, are you happy with how we’re writing our replies?

Give us feedback. Give us changes. Um, send the email when you’re happy with it. And then we’ll do that again. And then hopefully, and always this happens eventually, you’ll say those drafts are great. You can start sending them, um, without us, you know, without you reviewing them. Um, but there’s a, a process where you might be happy with the simpler emails, but you always say, you know what those proposal emails to land the clients I want to always or at least for the next month review them before you send them because they’re very important maybe a little more complex um And of course there’s going to be new situations that hit an inbox.

So if we get a question from someone who says hey Andrew, this person says they met you at this conference and you offered to, you know, uh, have them come visit your house on Tuesday at 2 p. m. And then we slack you and say, is that true? Can we confirm that and say that’s okay? So there’s always going to be dynamic situations like that, but they’re assistants.

They’re there working with you, hopefully mostly without you, but, you know, it’s a bit of a two way process. But that kind of, we call it a handover process. Once it’s done, um, there’s always going to be more learning, but once we’ve gone through that. We call it the cloning process. We know 80, 90% of the situations.

We’ve got templates for common situations. We can step in there and just roll with that without you ever having to go back into your inbox. And we can go even further than that and separate you from social media inboxes, calendar scheduling, all of those things. But I’ll stop pitching my company now and throw it back to you.

Andrew Warner: So if I’m understanding you right in the beginning. A customer doesn’t even have their inbox handled all the way. The customer doesn’t have that quick win. They don’t have an experience where they can say, I signed up and it’s out. It’s more like I signed up and now I have even more work to do with these people to see how they wrote and to tell them in an uncomfortable situation that they didn’t really get my voice right.

And that seems like the opposite of what customers are looking for, which is instant results.

Yaro Starak: Yeah, I think with email, there’s an expectation that instant results are very unlikely. And in fact, I’d be dubious of anything, like, the closest. Maybe instant result is AI right now. You can press a button and it would write an email. The challenge there is, would you trust that email to be sent without some kind of human review process?

And probably not. So, you know, we can step in and just start writing emails, but if you’ve never seen us write a reply to your email, are you going to be comfortable with that? Are you going to trust that? So we, I’d say we’d almost go the opposite of that. We don’t. want people who come into this process expecting, uh, uh, we’ll be replying tomorrow.

We’re going to carefully learn, uh, about you, your systems, what you do that we, you know, we learn who else do you work with in your company. So we know who to redirect information or ask questions. So we don’t have to ask you. So, but. To be fair, to my team, a lot of this is not involving you. Like, if we did this for you, Andrew, we’d be doing all, like, 80% of this without involving you.

We’d be learning without you. We’d be connecting

Andrew Warner: the customer would have someone studying their inbox, or their send folder, and then someone going in and just writing some drafts, and the customer then gets it. I guess what you’re saying is, they’re not getting the quick win, but they’re getting a step further along the process. Because you’re right, seeing a draft in my inbox and being able to edit or give feedback on it or hit send is much better than seeing a bunch of work for me to respond

Yaro Starak: Oh yeah. Well, we, um, you know, there’s a lot of competition in, in the virtual assistant agency market, and, and you said like, we came late to this. And I, I’d actually love to talk about that topic you said about, you know, entering this space and with the service and, you know, the listeners could potentially start businesses in a, a similar strategy, but, um, one of the things that is a challenge with virtual assistants is you hire one and then you say, go do this thing for me.

And chances are, You have to train them. I’m sure you went through this yourself. So if you hire a VA and say, do my email, they’re going to always be coming back to you asking questions or worse, sending emails, making mistakes, and then you having to go and fix and apologize. And, you know, potentially they’re saying yes to something you don’t want to say yes to or vice versa.

So our system is in place for a reason. It’s something needed to carefully go through and take over an inbox.

Andrew Warner: So let’s talk about marketing. One of the things that I always admired about the way you did marketing was you would understand how people express their problems and then you’d come back to them and, and reflect to the next customers that same issue.

How did you do that in the beginning? What were the words that you were picking up on that allowed you to find more customers?

Yaro Starak: Where did you hear me doing that, Andrew?

Andrew Warner: Oh, dude! I remember you did this one YouTube video where you said I bought this house. Now let me sit down and you sat down at your coffee table. I think you were like on the floor at the coffee table and you were showing us these messages that came to you from people, uh, where they were expressing their problems.

Then you said, I use that in my, in my ads to get the next person to understand how these problems affect them to. I’m using my own customers, words back at future customers. And you said, basically it’s this process that allowed me to buy this house. And I thought, Coming from anyone else, that would seem very much like a get rich quick idea, but it’s Yaro.

He’s so proud that he’s got this house. It probably, I don’t know, it’s his first house ever, and

Yaro Starak: the house that blogging bought, that one. Yeah, yeah.

Andrew Warner: Yeah, yeah.

Yaro Starak: Yeah, you know, it’s, it’s funny looking back now. Um, it’s marketing and sales 101 really, isn’t it? Like, um, I do the sales calls, the discovery calls for inbox done now, not all of them, but some of them. And it’s an amazing way to just understand your, your customer, right?

Um, And we have, wow, like back then my customers were kind of the same person who wanted to start a business often with something like blogging or content. Now it’s the same solution, email, but it’s a rabbi, it’s a used car salesman, it’s an accountant, it’s a online hair loss coach, you know, it’s so diverse and different people, backgrounds.

Businesses, but they all have the same problem. They’re in their inbox and they’re doing admin tasks and calendar and all that. So, you know, the words they use when they talk to me on a discovery call, I’m, I was thinking that the emotions they express the problems that the email and the things that are.

In there that are keeping them away from doing the things they want to do whether that’s travel Grow their business write a book spend time with family exercise. I remember all that myself, too Like I I have had all those desires and I really do think you know the whole four hour workweek. It’s the same thing It’s like this whole idea that you want to be doing the thing you want to do where you want to do it So if it’s two hours a day of writing or working or whatever, that’s what you’re aiming for.

So getting rid of everything else is really important. And that’s the core ethos of being an entrepreneur. So even though I’m selling email, I feel like that’s what I’m also selling, this idea of breaking free. Um, but as a marketing technique, I mean, it’s copywriting as well, right? It’s, it’s, um, customer avatar, learning about.

Who you sell to, what you sell to, their emotions, their problems, and then I use that in copy everywhere. So, uh, and that’s obviously learned from the blogging days as well. But I feel like I’m seeing a question on your face, Andrew, so I’m gonna, I’m gonna stop there.

Andrew Warner: You know, I’m noticing as I look through the copy that one of the things that you emphasize is here are these people who we’ve hired, they are in the US, they look like you. I have not hired someone who is culturally different from you and wouldn’t understand the references. And I’m guessing that that came up from one of the concerns that customers repeated to you.

Yaro Starak: Are you looking at our, uh, about section with our

Andrew Warner: on inbox, inbox done. com and the video that was there was a woman who, I couldn’t tell who was the client and who was, uh, who was the service provider, for example, as I went through the video,

Yaro Starak: Well, if you keep scrolling down and you get to the section of all the faces of our team or a lot of our team, you’ll actually see it’s, it’s quite a diverse and, you know, I’m not saying this is because we deliberately, we’re trying to grow a diverse company, which is, you know, great. It just happened organically with, with looking for the right talented people, but it’s actually been, um, Interesting, because some clients have come to us and said, Oh, we like how you have this person on your team.

And they, they, they look like me in some way. And I’m not saying a white male. You know, it could be anything and everything. So, but maybe you’re referring to the fact that we’re not outsourcing to the Philippines and India. Is

Andrew Warner: what I mean that you’re, that you’re emphasizing that it’s not being outsourced to the Philippines. It’s here in your country, people who are like you. And I’m assuming that came up a lot in customer conversations.

Yaro Starak: You know, it is one of the things that people do choose us over some options. Um, it’s something we just did from the beginning. We email, you need English as a first language. You need emotional empathy, attention to detail. And I don’t want to rule out entire country worth of people. There’s great people in the Philippines and great people in India.

And I’m sure there’s people capable of doing your email. But when we started the company, we said, we want to just. Play it safe. We’ll stick to North America to start with. We do have some other people overseas. Um, they help Australians, they help Western Europeans. Uh, sometimes just the best person happens to pop up in South Africa, you know, and we hire them.

Um, but it’s definitely been a point of differentiation. I think that actually kind of points to what you talked about earlier about being late. So… Correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like we’ve been talking about Filipino virtual assistants for like 20 years now as a, you know, outsourcing option. Um, I remember the first time I heard that probably 2005, someone said you can hire Filipinos for 2 an hour.

And, you know, that sounded great, maybe a little exploitive. I wasn’t sure 2 an hour, it was, you know, a living wage in the Philippines. Maybe it isn’t now, but it might have been then, but even now it’s 5, 6, 7 US. Um. I went on that train. I hired a few people and most of the time it just didn’t work out because I didn’t train them well.

I didn’t know what I was hiring them for, but I would never put them on my email because English would not have been strong. But, um, now it’s like there’s so many great companies that specialize in, you know, um, help desk and phone support, live help. With Filipinos, India, you have a sponsor that focuses on Eastern Europe for developers.

So you want to throw that in there

Andrew Warner: let’s bring that up. Yes, it’s a lemon. io Alex, the founder of

Yaro Starak: I’m doing a job for you, Andrew.

Andrew Warner: He said he was in Israel just traveling through there and people said, Hey, you’re Ukrainian. He goes, yeah. Thinking that maybe they’re going to talk to him about his culture, about the country he lives in. And instead they said. Can you help me hire some of those inexpensive Ukrainian developers that I keep hearing so much about and he goes sure and so he would introduce them to people he knew and after a few times of doing that he said there’s a business here of being that matchmaker people would pay for this and of course businesses would pay to get Developers who are solid and they’re good and or not in North America and these other places where it’s expensive and so he turned it into a business and um Then, obviously, the war broke out in Ukraine, and he said that all his developers were now in the war, and he ran into a huge crisis, and he had to figure out what to do, and he decided that what he would do is push himself to do the thing he should have done before, which is expand to other countries where there are also Phenomenally smart developers who are also paid less than their US counterparts But want to live in their countries and have all the quality of life upsides that they get and so he is now Doing this in multiple countries and he’s still doing the whole matchmaking thing and it’s still the same kind of connected Personal touch that you would have gotten if it was just him making an introduction to his friends He still wants to make sure everyone has a good fit Um, and usually I wrap back and forth with my guests, but you’re not even hiring developers.

You keep your whole thing simple, so I can’t rope you in here and have you talk about that.

Yaro Starak: can actually. I have some Ukrainian developers. It’s not for Inboxton, but I am a little side hustle software project for, you know, the creator space. And I actually lived in Lviv, Ukraine for about six months in 2017 and I’ve got friends there now. Um, and my Ukrainian developers are working fine and in fact I would encourage, you know, in hiring in that part of the world because we need to support their industry and they’re very talented and I’ve been working with them for about 18 months.

Oh, not quite that much. Maybe a year and a quarter, uh, on some software and, um, everything like your sponsor, your soft, uh, Lemon. io does, it’s more affordable. Um, talent is readily available and, you know, you can get the whole team. Uh, and that’s what I’ve got, like a little team in terms of front end, back end, and they’re all Ukrainian.

And I, I love working with them, so I’m all for it.

Andrew Warner: Well, if you or anyone else out there needs more developers, I’ll tell you lemon. io will get you great developers. But this URL that I’m about to give you will get you an even bigger discount on their already low prices. And frankly, they’ll do the whole matchmaking service for you. So you have nothing to lose.

Just go contact them and see who they could put in front of you. And if you love them, great. If you don’t move on, here’s a URL where you get all that for a better price than everyone else. It’s lemon. io slash Mixergy lemon. io slash Mixergy. He said that these ads have been, uh, these and the Jason Calacanis ads have been the most effective ads that he bought, which is phenomenal to hear. All right. Um, when you wanted to go beyond your audience, how would you advertise this? Where, what worked for you?

Yaro Starak: Yeah, I mean, most of the company growth has been beyond my audience. To be absolutely honest, Andrew, it was only enough to get our first maybe five, six, seven, uh, customers. So, it’s been a challenge. You know, marketing is, uh, it’s a, a game I know well from having grown some other businesses, but you know, you got to start from scratch.

So We have a philosophy of just experimenting with something with a you know, a small test maybe a thousand dollars Getting a result or not and then if there’s some kind of result, you know doubling down and going deeper so right from the early days We had some success with podcasts, much like we’re doing now.

So I went on and actually paid for, you know, podcast agency to get me onto some shows. I also reached out to a few friends. Um, it’s, it’s a long time coming here to be on Mixergy as well. Uh, and that, that was hit and miss, you know, um, Entrepreneur on Fire was great. Um, Jenny Blake from the Free Time podcast has been great because the topic is right, you know, lines up with ours.

Um, but majority have not. Brought in any results that I can conclusively say, but you know, helps get the word out. So that got us a few more clients and then, you know, it’s, it’s such a cliche, but Google and paid advertising as well as organic has become our greatest source of new leads, but we really focused on that.

So, you know, I come from a content marketing background, so I initially wrote content myself for the site, but then I brought on, you know, some. Keyword research guys. I feel like you got a question on your face again, Andrew. I can’t help it. You go It’s it’s ready to come out of your mouth there. So

Andrew Warner: Um, I, So you did the first thing you did was, uh, podcast advertising. Did that work

Yaro Starak: Well

Andrew Warner: me? Uh, appearances,

Yaro Starak: yes, they call it. Yeah. It um, it is still our second best source of brand new leads. Yeah. Yeah

Andrew Warner: You going on talking like this about other, uh, about your business on other podcasts that are aimed at business people. Interesting. That makes, that makes sense to me. And then the next thing you did was you wrote content on your site. So the people who are searching for solutions for this would come to you.

Is that right?

Yaro Starak: Yeah, in tandem. We did that from the start. So as soon as we built a website, I always knew we need to have a blog post that covers all these things. We need articles in every service we offer. We’re going to try and rank well. You don’t rank well from day one. Twelve months later, you start to rank better.

24 months later, hopefully you’re, you know, 3 in the right position. So there was organic, there was building some links. The benefit of doing podcasting is you also hopefully get a link back to your own site, which helps a little bit with your, you know, organic results. And then I, I, this, but Google having an intention behind a search is great for us.

So, um, as you can imagine, there’s a person like an entrepreneur, it’s 11 PM at night, they’re answering their emails, the kids have been put to sleep, they’re really frustrated. And they’re like, I can’t even go to sleep because I’ve still got 15 miles in the inbox, they go to Google and say, how do I hire someone to handle my email for me or something like that.

And then we show up. So whether it’s an organic result or paid result. Um, and we’re very niche. We do that. We specialize at that one thing in particular. So, you know, we’re often going to be a top choice in that. So that’s, if you put podcasting, organic Google, paid Google, um, referrals now that we’re a little bigger, we’ve got a team of 50, all the clients we’re working with, they do talk to other people and bring in new customers.

Um, outside of that, you know, I’ve experimented. You, you saw me. Play with Twitter ads, I believe you saw that. Um, LinkedIn ads, sponsored a conference, a little bit of YouTube ads. Um, I love it. I actually really enjoy playing with it. I want to do some influencer marketing, um, you know, anything and everything, but we have a budget we have to work within.

So, you know, like, like all companies.

Andrew Warner: Yeah. I did do a search for hire someone to handle email and you showed up at the top of the list. And then underneath that is Upwork 27 best freelance email handlers for hire

Yaro Starak: There’s the competition. Yeah.

Andrew Warner: Uh, that Twitter thing, I’m assuming it didn’t work, but it was running for a while.

Yaro Starak: Well, it did actually work enough, as in we got one client from it, um, pretty quickly. And then nothing. So it’s one of those things where, oh, this worked, let’s keep it running. And then, you know, it was, it’s often a trade off. You’re like, well, I could take that money and Google’s doing better, let’s increase our ad budget, or podcast’s doing better, let’s double the number of shows we go on.

So that’s what happens.

Andrew Warner: One thing that I’ve seen others who are in this type of business do is they partner with someone else, like someone who runs a mastermind who says, don’t do any work yourself, you should be hiring outside. And then they partner and they, they have that relationship there. But with email, you don’t get that, right?

There’s not another service provider, another support system that encourages people to outsource this, this kind of thing. Right,

Yaro Starak: Not, I mean, the software, you know, in fact, I’ve contacted superhuman and said, you know, for those people who want a little extra help with human touch on email, we’d be a great connection, but didn’t get it. No, no, no email back from those guys. Um, but I do feel like. You know, as a great partner, Tim Ferriss has always been my dream because he, obviously, in the 4 Hour Workweek talked about delegating his email to, back then, I think it was Indian Assistance.

So, I’m still hoping one day to get that, uh, 5 Bullet Friday shout out and be completely overwhelmed with too many clients and, uh, deal with that. So, Tim, he used to answer my emails. He’s been on my podcast a few times, but he’s too popular nowadays, so.

Andrew Warner: Think he’s a little bit disconnected to he seems to have really gone offline except for his podcast

Yaro Starak: Yeah, and I think the four hour work week as a topic is probably less than that. It’s a long time in his history now. He’s interested in other subjects, so.

Andrew Warner: Yeah, different types of medicine it seems like is is the obsession

Yaro Starak: Yes.

Andrew Warner: How do you keep? the people you You hire from taking a credit card number and and moving on or using someone’s login Information to log into their bank account or something like that, right? You can trigger a lost password and get access to anything

Yaro Starak: Yeah, it’s probably the biggest concern, if you’re going to go that far. Like, not everyone wants to hand over… You know your PayPal login or your bank details or whatever it is. Um, I went through this I Back before I had the company I brought on email managers and at one point I said here’s my customer Selling tool my checkout tool.

I want you to now handle refunds and upgrades and here’s my paypal account I want you to And that was obviously not the first thing I gave them. Day one, they started working for me. I built some trust with them. Uh, you know, we had a relationship established of several months and then I said, all right, we’ll do that.

So there’s, I do recommend that to our clients too. You don’t necessarily want to be handing over everything from day one. Let’s get comfortable, get to know each other. Obviously from our side as a company, our hiring process is all about finding the best people. Background checks, reference checks, you know, are they good people?

Um, we have some hiring parts of our process that are unique to us in the sense we’re training on email, we’re training on how to work with a client, we’re training on security and privacy. But at the end of the day, it’s character. Ultimately, you know, you have to find people with good character. But it’s, it’s usually, you know, your references and that kind of background.

Andrew Warner: hard, even a good person could end up, you know, doing a bad thing

Yaro Starak: Well, that’s life. I can’t, I can’t.

Andrew Warner: ends up right. So you don’t have any, you don’t have any systems in place to avoid that, to, I don’t know, somehow restrict what, what they could

Yaro Starak: yes, in terms of password sharing and locking down access to certain tools. But if you give someone a login to PayPal, you can like control their access

Andrew Warner: seems like an easy answer. There, there are different account levels in PayPal, so you can give them access to an account where they could give refunds, um, but not do, but not take money out of the account. It’s more like bank logins that are a real problem, or other types of financial logins where they just trigger the, in fact, come back to PayPal, they could, they could go to PayPal, say I forgot my password, and

Yaro Starak: Exactly. Yeah, yeah. It’s not safe either. There’s no, uh, once you give someone access to anything, I mean, even think of your, your email. Let’s take money out of the equation. I don’t want to scare people away, but you could have someone just to send nude pictures to every single contact in your email account, um, losing all your customers, your clients, your friends, your family

Andrew Warner: that I, I worry about less, I think, all right. So it’s not like that’s been, that’s been an issue. Let me talk a little bit about people then, since you’ve talked about how good they are. If you have a million dollars in revenue, 30% net margins, right? That means you have, let’s say 700, 000 in. Wait, what am I looking at?

Yeah. Let’s say that means you have 700, 000 in expenses in the business. Divide that by the 50 people that you have in the company who are not you. That’s 14, 000 per person. And if they’re all working for you, you can’t pay someone 14, 000 a year. Are they a lot of them super part time?

Yaro Starak: Oh, yeah, this is, um, for the majority of our team, this is not a full time job. We’re very, like, you take on as many clients as you want within a limit. So some of our, this is a side hustle for some of our people. It’s a remote traveling job. So they’re, you know, some have one client, some have two, some have three.

I think the most will be four or five. But,

Andrew Warner: it. So they might wake up in the morning in a different country, different time zone, handle email for a bit, and then pass it on to the next person on the team who the other, the second person on the team was

Yaro Starak: Yeah, so that was two. So, um, one usually does a morning check in, clears all the email, does all the tasks. The other one does an afternoon check in. Same story. Um, and they, you know, they work in tandem, support each other. But yeah, they’re, you know, it’s two hours, uh, maybe each a day and, and that’s it. So maybe, like, if they really want to take full time, we probably could load them up.

Um, but we’re also hesitant to do that because it creates one person a lot of responsibility. So.

Andrew Warner: All right, the other thing I noticed was it went beyond it So it starts with email like that’s the that’s the opening into the relationship But the natural next thing is well, can you also calendar for me handle the calendar and then well I’m also doing some research. Can you handle the research?

And so they become virtual assistants essentially and Instead of competing in the virtual assistant space where you’re competing against tons of companies you’re in the we handle your inbox and by the way our Level up is all these other services,

Yaro Starak: Yeah, I, ultimately though, people come to us for email first, maybe calendar second. Those services, like you said, we, we call ourselves an executive assistant service. Maybe we’re, you know, concierge sort of one, very specific around the topic, but a good. Email writer is a good communicator, so you could certainly have them do your social media replies, your inbox in Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram.

So it’s natural for us to be asked to do that. Um, email follow up, lead nurturing, how far you go is up to you. But, you know, most of our clients, they have a team, and they might actually have a virtual assistant who does their social. And then a… an ad buyer and maybe a bookkeeper and then we’re in there and we work with all those people.

So it’s, it’s up to you how far you want to take it. But most people just they dig into email. They want to get out of the inbox and then they might go, wow, actually I really like my two assistants. What else can I delegate to them? And that’s, you know, that works.

Andrew Warner: All right, let’s close it out with maybe someone’s listening, and maybe they’re in a situation like me, where I have constant research work that I do, and the basics of research are pain in the butt because it’s put together a list, make phone calls, answer these basic questions, and then move on to the next stage, which is a little bit more investigation, right?

But the first step is pretty basic. So if I were to have that and hire a research assistant for myself and then say, you know what, maybe there are other people who need this. I might reach out to my own universe and say, does anyone need a research assistant? Here’s what this person will do for you. It’s great.

If I get two people, now I have an understanding that there’s some possibility here for, for revenue. Talk to me about the problems that I should anticipate in building out this research as a service business that’s similar to inboxdone. com’s business.

Yaro Starak: Yeah, you just described my life, I think, Henry. You know, once you’ve built one of these businesses, you see opportunities for service agencies everywhere in specializations. Um, just the other day, I was trying to get thumbnails done for YouTube videos, and I was like, there’s gotta be a specialist agency that just focuses on thumbnails, and it wasn’t.

Like I couldn’t find lots of freelancers, lots of Upwork people and graphic design studios, but none that said we’re YouTube specialists. So immediately I go and register a domain name, I own Thumbnailers. com and like, I’m going to start a business. Like, no, no, focus on the one you’re doing. Right. Um, but to answer your question, yes, I think the, like all industries at the start, they’re broad in general.

So I think, you know, 15 years ago, virtual assistants were do anything, be anything. And that was fine. People hired them for that reason. And then they started to specialize, and how far you go with that, you know, it could be virtual assistants for industries, dentists, doctors, accountants, whatever. Um, it could be virtual assistants for skills, graphic design, bookkeeping, uh, phone support. So it’s natural to keep fragmenting along those paths. And I think that’s the opportunity. If you wanted to start a services agency right now, obviously you have to hit on a problem that has enough demand and need and people willing to spend a certain amount of money to solve it. Um, you have to be able to access and train the talent.

Um, you know, where that is for you depends on what you’re going to sell, Philippines, onshore, offshore, um, American, so forth, um, how much you’re going to pay them. That part plays a big part in this as well. And I think honestly, one of the biggest, Challenges of this is marketing because you have to be able to position what you’re selling with copy with case studies, um, understanding the pain points because that’s how you present the specialization.

So, you know, when I was thinking about this thumbnail, YouTube thumbnail business, I’m like, Well, what other things do I want? Oh, I’d love a service that actually does data based research. They’re split testing thumbnails and they have research on all these other thumbnails that other people are using, which ones are converting better, and they are designing their thumbnails based on that research.

Cause I’d be like, that’s the person I’d want to hire. I’d pay a premium for that. You know, so you need to find, it’s classic, um, business 101 points of differentiation. Competitive advantage, all those sorts of things that make you sound different from everything else out there and, and specialized,

Andrew Warner: right, I think you’re right. I think there are businesses in all of these spaces. And I wonder what, beyond thumbnails, what else do you see as being a really good opportunity? Or is it, I wonder if there’s a way to go into Upwork and see who their top, like what the top virtual assistants say they do. You know, because that becomes a

Yaro Starak: you know, it,

Andrew Warner: that maybe could be turned into a similar business.

Yaro Starak: yeah, I’ve done this game. Like, uh, I’m, I was surprised that what I thought was too broad and general still works like content writing for SEO purposes, I would have thought. Well, well, and truly saturated by a million different agencies, but it’s, there’s plenty of freelancers out there who are just writing blog posts, even with AI, you know, they’re still just producing content for all those businesses that need posts.

They want to rank in Google and so on. Um, so I think there’s a lot of opportunity, even with that, just be the content producer for a specific industry or a specific type of person. Um, one area I’m only mentioning this because I’ve heard it. The other thing that I’ve heard talked about in so many YouTube channels and podcasts is, um, the chief operation person, the COO, second in command, whatever you want to call it.

I keep hearing about that role being needed for influencers, creators, entrepreneurs. So, uh, I’m sure it exists, but I don’t like it’s, it’s not common and it’s hard to, to fulfill it’s, it’s a specialized talent, but, um, it’s definitely a need. People need COOs.

Andrew Warner: You mentioned earlier writing content. One of my past guests, John Doherty, he created Editor Ninja. Which just to edit your content and if you’re writing content yourself, you need an editor before you publish to find all those mistakes and to help you clarify your writing. And if you’re doing AI writing, you even more need an editor because you need somebody to make sure that it sounds human, that it actually comes across to the way you mean it to.

He’s built that as a service, and now there are content agencies and businesses that use content for marketing that are using him on a regular basis. I’ve been a customer of his. I really like the work, especially if you pair it. He’s got an upsell where you can get some SEO work, um, in addition. And then he gives you real detailed SEO advice, and in addition, he says things like, Well, you should have a call to action at the end of this because I think you’ll get customers from this, and don’t leave it to your template to do that heavy lifting.

Yaro Starak: And once you thought editing was like well and truly saturated and old, I mean, I was

Andrew Warner: I would have thought Grammarly would have handled it. Yeah.

Yaro Starak: 2001. I was running a proofreading company, so it’s clearly well and truly established service yet. And this is the lesson. I think for entrepreneurs, there’s so much demand online.

So to get to a seven figure business in what you would think is a saturated market. It’s just finding those 50 to 100 customers who keep paying for your service.

Andrew Warner: Alright, the website for anyone who wants to go and sign up is, um, is what? it here in front of me.

Yaro Starak: Inboxdone. com

Andrew Warner: I’ve been referring to it. I have so many tabs here as you are talking. I keep going and researching and then I went through. You said that you handle the calls personally and I said he uses tally. Why is he using tally before he gets me to the calendar link?

And so what? What is tally? Tally is the form system. So I guess you’re trying to get information from someone before you put the call. So I have all those. It’s inbox done dot com. Uh, thanks so much for being on here. And now people know that they could, you know, hit that book call button and talk to you directly.

Yaro Starak: Most likely. We do have a couple of others who do them. Good chance you’ll speak to me, yes.

Andrew Warner: All right. Thanks, Yarrow. Thanks, everyone. Bye.

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