This Founder Started A $10M/Year Freelancer Job Board (With Just $5,000)

John Jonas
Founder, OnlineJobs
$850K
revenue/mo
2
Founders
38
Employees
OnlineJobs
from Lehi, UT, USA
started January 2009
$850,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
38
Employees
4.75K
alexa rank
7.35K
followers
8.09K
followers
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is John Jonas. I’m a programmer by trade, a hard-core family man, and an accidental entrepreneur, and I created OnlineJobs.ph.

I say I’m an accidental entrepreneur” because OnlineJobs.ph was started by a fluke (more on that later), but it’s turned out to be an incredibly life-changing fluke for tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and Filipino workers alike. Above all, it’s been life-altering for me.

In the business world, you hear a lot of talk about the importance and pursuit of financial freedom. I will tell you, there’s something even better. The next level of the freedom hierarchy, even better than financial freedom, is the freedom of creating time. That’s my business, I help business owners create more time for themselves.

I learned from experience that when you find, hire and train the right workers, you can virtually replace yourself in your business. All of the minute tasks and tedium of running a business can be outsourced, leaving business owners freedom and time to grow their businesses and enjoy personal lives.

And I’ve also learned that the absolute best-outsourced workers come from the Philippines.

My business, OnlineJobs.ph, is essentially an online job board made up of 2 million resumes from top-tier, universally affordable virtual workers from the Philippines. I started the business with my business partner, Dan, back in 2009. Since then, hundreds of thousands of western entrepreneurs have used OnlineJobs.ph to find, recruit and hire competent virtual workers to build their businesses.

When implemented the right way, Filipino virtual workers (programmers, web designers, copywriters, SEO specialists, VAs, graphic designers…the list is almost infinite) can take over the life-consuming tasks of a business and help business owners recover their greatest asset: their time.

onlinejobs

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My backstory begins with a simple fact: I suck at being an employee. I can’t stand it. I can’t handle someone else dictating my schedule, telling me how to do things, controlling my paycheck, and only allowing me 10 vacation days a year. Plus, getting paid the same amount (salary) regardless of the quality of my work just doesn’t sit super well with me. So I started my first online business back in 2004.

Before I understood the real power of outsourcing, I hired two guys from the Philippines to help me with menial tasks. I was paying them each $250/month for full-time work (that was over a decade ago, now I suggest researching and starting workers at the current average wage in the Philippines, plus generous raises and bonuses).

Back then, I had no idea that they were going to make me so successful.

They’d worked for me for about 18 months (I spent lots of time training them) when my wife, Kim, was diagnosed with a potentially fatal condition. To complicate things further, she was pregnant with our third child. Out of sheer necessity, I handed the day-to-day operations of my online business over to my two Filipino employees.

What happened next was the life-changing fluke I’ve referred to.

After handing the business over to my Filipino workers, I took on the role of “Mr. Mom.” I was chasing two toddlers, up to my elbows in bathtimes and Kraft macaroni while trying to juggle the household work and take care of Kim. I barely thought about my online business for three months; I was just trying to survive and take care of my family.

After Kim’s recovery and the baby’s safe delivery, I returned to work expecting to find a huge mess. I was more than surprised to find the opposite. My business had been maintained and was functional under the direction of my two Filipino workers.

I couldn’t believe it! I had worked maybe a total of 10 hours in three months, and my business was still functioning and profitable. It didn’t take me long to realize that between my workers’ self-starter attitudes and all of the previous training I’d given them, they were able to pick up the slack while I was caring for my family.

I originally hired my virtual workers to do menial tasks and basic programming. I had NO idea they were competent enough to run my business. It was like being hit in the face with a baseball; I had underestimated and underutilized these guys. So I started looking for more online business opportunities, and I hired more Filipino workers…

I’d tried outsourcing before (through India, Pakistan, Upwork, etc…), but never with such success. As my businesses continued to thrive, I witnessed a pattern: because of the work ethic and moral code specific to FILIPINO culture, almost every Filipino worker I hired was adept and hard-working.

So I started another business called ReplaceMyself where I taught thousands of business owners how to achieve success by outsourcing to the Philippines. But I’ve shifted my focus to OnlineJobs.ph--a marketplace where business owners can find hard-working Filipino employees, and Filipinos can find great job opportunities.

Take us through the process of designing the first version of OnlineJobs.ph.

The first version of OnlineJobs.ph was pretty rudimentary--I built it to recruit virtual workers for my own business. I hoped to get about 100 resumes for a position I needed to fill at the time.

onlinejobs

We didn’t do any design/prototype/anything. I just had a concept, so I made a couple of videos explaining my idea and using examples from other hiring websites and I sent those videos to a programmer. He created the basic website and I hired the virtual workers I needed.

But then the resumes kept coming in. The site continued to grow. And grow.

So we made some design tweaks and opened it up to share with the public. And it exploded.

Describe the process of launching the business.

When we originally launched, I asked my Filipino workers to create posts advertising OnlineJobs.ph on their social media in the Philippines (“Friendster”). That’s all we did to bring in resumes.

After we’d accumulated a few hundred worker profiles (which only took about a month), I started creating content aimed at fellow employers to get the word out about OnlineJobs.ph.

It was a very organic, slow launch. We didn’t do a big hurrah. We just slowly introduced it to our client base. Then they told their friends.

Nothing can change your capacity to balance work and personal life like an extra pair of qualified hands and a capable mind.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

For us, the best way to find and retain customers is to teach them how to outsource for free. Over the years I’ve done hundreds of webinars, podcasts, and videos teaching how and why to hire people from the Philippines. We have a huge database filled with blog posts, how-tos, case studies, and general advice on outsourcing to the Philippines. I also send out a free daily newsletter with tips.

I’ve even written a book, The Outsourcing Lever, that I give away for the cost of shipping.

I’m in an industry where people are problem-aware but not solution aware. They know they need help, but don’t know what exists to help them. Content creation lets me drive and control the conversation. I get to teach what I want people to know. It helps that when employers apply what I teach and learn to outsource the right way, they succeed. Then their businesses grow and they come back to hire more virtual workers.

I’ve been running online businesses since 2004. Content is king. If you create content consistently over a long period, people will listen.

We do all kinds of other things to drive traffic. Social media, Google ads, Facebook ads, and affiliates promoting us. We haven’t found great success with any of them. They’re all a drop in the bucket compared to what we see from the traffic that comes from our free content.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Right now, OnlineJobs.ph has about 2,000,000 resumes of ready-to-hire virtual workers. It grows by 30,000 - 60,000 new profiles every month.

We have 10,000+ active employers each month; hundreds of thousands of employers have used OnlineJobs.ph since its launch. Most of our customers come via word of mouth.

Our employee base is made up primarily of Filipino virtual workers. Right now we have about 40 virtual workers with a monthly payroll of about $35,000.

We’ve had about 50% YoY growth since the beginning. Covid doubled that with 100% growth in 2020.

We’ll end up with very little growth in 2022. We’re not sure why. Economy? So much hiring over the past 2 years? Only time will tell.

But we’re not worried. OnlineJobs.ph has been profitable since day one because our costs are low. This year we’ll break the 8-figure mark in revenue for the first time.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Two things…

Worrying about losing my wife and trying to fill her shoes while she was sick - that was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life. I learned it can be more difficult to reason with hungry toddlers than with stubborn corporate execs. But on a more serious note, I learned that the threat of loss forces you to come to terms with what’s important in life.

I was determined not to spend my life busting my butt at a nine-five, just to come home too exhausted and too broke to enjoy family life. I wanted time. I wanted freedom.

Creating more time and more freedom is the principle that supports the entire framework of OnlineJobs.ph. We help pair thousands of business owners with affordable workers, and it improves the quality of life for both parties.

Outsourcing creates time and freedom for business owners to do what they love and cultivate personal relationships. It also creates opportunities for Filipinos in a third-world country where steady, good-paying work is not always readily available.

Outsourcing has gifted me with freedom I never would’ve imagined twenty years ago. I work 17 hours/week on average. I’ve taken a month off of work to cycle around Europe with my kids. I love to hike and go on regular adventures with my wife. I golf as much as I want. I eat three meals a day with my family, working from home. I’m successful in business. And I know I’m making a difference in the lives of my workers. It’s the best of all worlds.

I’ve also learned from experience with both my kids and my employees - I think the best way to inspire anyone is to care about them. Caring creates a bond of trust and endearment that can’t be faked on either side. That bond secures confidence, and confidence feeds growth. That’s my approach when I teach entrepreneurs how to manage outsourced employees, and I believe “caring” is what makes or breaks an outsourcing (or any functional) relationship. Caring also requires quality time; so I spend quality time providing feedback and training for my employees the same way I spend quality time with my kids.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Basecamp for our project management. We’ve been using it for years because it’s so user-friendly. It only takes a few minutes to teach new hires the ropes and they can start working right away.

We also use Slack for internal communication. Like Basecamp, it’s just really easy to use.

When giving feedback or making a tutorial for my team to use, I usually take screen recordings. It’s easy for me to talk through what I want them to do and show it on screen. For that, I use Snagit.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

4 books have been influential to me:

  1. The Book of Mormon- Correct…not a business book. But I’m a religious guy and the Christian principles in this book (along with the Bible) have had such a profound influence on my life, my decision-making, and my direction in life, that I’d be remiss if I left it off a list of books that inspired me.

  2. The 4 Hour Work-Week - When I read it I kept thinking “This is so similar to how I’ve done things in my business, but he took it a step further.”

  3. Rich Dad, Poor Dad - The conversation about liabilities and assets forever changed my ability to take risks as an entrepreneur. After reading it, I got out of all debt. I wanted as few liabilities in my life as possible. With no debt and no liabilities, I could take any business risk I wanted. Taking risks pays off.

  4. Scientific Advertising - Recognizing I could sell things was a big deal. Learning how to sell things changed what I was willing to try. It changed my ability to succeed.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

It may sound like a shameless plug, but I only have one piece of advice - Outsource. Delegate.

Nothing can change your capacity to balance work and personal life like an extra pair of qualified hands and a capable mind. It works, which is why OnlineJobs.ph continues to grow. Stop trading time for money. Stop selling a service that depends on you. Find ways to hire out the work you’re currently doing. Then care for your workers so they continue to do great work.

You just got hours back into your life. Don’t replace them with more busy work. Replace them with managing better people so the upward spiral continues.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Right now, I am looking for a full-time copywriter. If there’s anyone interested, they might want to take advantage of this. We don’t hire that often because our turnover is low.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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John Jonas, Founder of OnlineJobs
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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