October 8, 2018

Hi, I'm Sandra Lewis, Founder & CEO of Worldwide101. AMA!

Hello, Indie Hackers! I’m Sandra Lewis, Founder & CEO of Worldwide101, a subscription staffing company ($275,000/mo). We employ US-based marketers, project managers, executive assistants and more with 10+ years of experience, and make them available to successful businesses on a fractional basis, on a simple, hassle-free monthly subscription.

Ask me anything!


  1. 5

    Hi Sandra! Such a cool business! :) So a few questions for you:

    1. What were your first 5 customers like? How did you find them?

    2. Where do most of your leads come from?

    3. What are some of prospective customer objections? Especially on on higher hour plans (like the 160 hour one)

    4. Why didn't you focus on staffing just full time remote positions as opposed to mostly part-time like you do now?

    1. 1

      Hi Thomas,

      Thanks for the questions!

      What were your first 5 customers like? How did you find them?

      We started off by doing some freelance work on different platforms and that’s how we found our first few clients. The work then took off as these few clients started referring their friends and colleagues - in fact, this is what gave us the idea that there was a need for such a service whereby small business owners got to work with handpicked professionals that they could trust instead of freelancers on huge platforms - which obviously was and still is the luck of the draw! We were lucky that our first few clients were quite established - we supported a well-known author and a couple of e-commerce companies. All 3 were trusted in their communities and their referrals were a launch pad to getting us started as a proper business!

      Where do most of your leads come from?

      A combination of organic Google Search and referrals.

      What are some of prospective customer objections? Especially on on higher hour plans (like the 160 hour one) Actually we get very few objections on the higher plans because companies that are looking at that kind of size, immediately recognize the value to them - no recruitment hassles, no payroll, no back office admin legal burdens, etc…but instead a simple monthly payment and an experienced high calibre professional they get to integrate into their teams right away. Any business - large or small - who has tried to fill key positions knows the value of having experienced staff quickly to grow. Our job is to make sure that our messaging is clear enough so that using our service a no brainer!

      Why didn't you focus on staffing just full-time remote positions as opposed to mostly part-time like you do now?

      We specialize in providing high calibre staff to business owners who don’t want full time but still want someone of the same calibre as if full time! If you are a solopreneur why should you have a full time marketing professional and a full time EA and a full time PM when perhaps all you need is 1 hour a day of each speciality. With subscription staffing - that’s exactly what you get! Our customers have told us over and again that what’s been most important to them has been the ability to tap into fractional resources that they can trust to support them for the long term.

  2. 3

    Sandra, your company, business model and journey are all very intriguing. Many of these concepts have already been validated over the past decade from job posting/hunting online, to an increase in remote work, to subscription model being appealing for all involved. It seems you've combined multiple product ideas (or maybe business models) that did not seem possible to combine. I'm curious, what made you think this would work? And did you think it would work out as well as it has?

    1. 1

      Hi Ryan,

      We started out in 2012 as a Premium Virtual Assistant company, and the business has grown organically since then primarily based on referrals -- I never imagined that when we started out supporting a few clients that we’d grow to where we are today!

      Over the last year or so we saw that the term virtual assistant was starting to suffocate us -- our larger corporate clients can’t relate and many people have a concept of the virtual assistant as either AI or just someone that can do basic admin. So since our team are supporting clients with project management, marketing, executive level assistance and have 10-15 years of experience, we felt we really needed a better way to explain what we do -- and that’s where subscription staffing was born -- taking a proven concept (virtual business support on a monthly subscription) and making it even more accessible for a mainstream audience.

  3. 1

    Hey Sandra, I hope you get back on this one. Before I raise my question, I have to tell you that I loved your website. You and your team are doing an incredible job and I am a fan. Can you tell me how did you get clients apart from referrals? I work at a startup and we are finding it hard to get clients. Your answer will greatly help us. Thanks!

  4. 1

    Hi, congrats on the success! I'd love to understand the margins on a business like this. Would you be able to share any details on profitability? Thank you

    1. 1

      Hi Zee -

      We’re averaging around 10-12% net. Around 65-70% of expenses are COGS which includes employees directly supporting clients and credit card processing fees. Remaining costs are legal, admin, marketing, insurance, and other typical overheads. We run a pretty lean ship and marketing spend is minimal as we get a lot of referrals. With our business model, where we handle compliance so that our clients don’t have to, there is a surprisingly high legal and administrative cost of having remote employees (so doing business) in multiple states.

      1. 1

        Thanks for the transparency, much appreciated!

  5. 1

    Hey Sandra!

    Some really insightful answers in here already!

    I have 4 questions! One a little selfish!

    1. How did you manage to stand out in such an overcrowded freelance market?

    2. You mentioned leads from Google search. Any content marketing lessons/insights from your experience that could help businesses that are just starting out?

    3. Is your revenue evenly spread out or is there a segment (design, marketing, office management, accounting etc ) that creates lion's share of the revenue?

    4. Do you currently (or intend to) partner with relevant companies or products that are ridiculously useful for your customers?

    (you guessed it, this is the selfish question!)

    1. 1

      Hi Rahul, thanks for the questions:

      How did you manage to stand out in such an overcrowded freelance market?

      The key for us was to find a “niche” market so that we could speak directly to our potential customers’ pain points. In the early days, we looked for business owners who needed “experienced” professionals in certain fields and then pitched these businesses that we had these exact skill sets. I would say - avoid being a generalist if you want to get anyone’s attention in a crowded market. Specialize, and specialize some more.

      You mentioned leads from Google search. Any content marketing lessons/insights from your experience that could help businesses that are just starting out?

      We partner with a lot of great sites who have audiences in our target niches. We’ve found our ROI and SEO outcome is higher when we are able to tap into these established audiences. The first step is dedicating the time to research what would be really useful to these audiences and then of course - you need to write really good content that they will want to read! Establishing great partnerships with sites that will amplify your content has proven to be really useful for us.

      Is your revenue evenly spread out or is there a segment (design, marketing, office management, accounting etc ) that creates lion's share of the revenue?

      50% of our revenue comes from providing executive assistance to c-level executives, 30% from marketing and the remaining 20% comprises the other services that we offer.

      Do you currently (or intend to) partner with relevant companies or products that are ridiculously useful for your customers?

      Well, you never know - but not right now! We are still very much focusing all of our efforts our core service offering and making sure to be the best at what we do!

  6. 1

    Hey Sandra, I loved your website the moment I laid eyes on it. The user interface is compelling which makes it a breeze to navigate through the website. I'm working on a startup and I had a few questions which I think will help me prepare for the upcoming challenges.

    1. How did you recruit the first five members to your staff? Where did you find them and how did you convince them to join you when you were starting out with Worldwide101?

    2. Does a member of your staff work exclusively for a single client or are there multiple clients at times?

    3. How do you handle customer disputes?

    1. 1

      Hi Taran,

      Thanks so much for the compliments about our site - that’s really kind of you!

      How did you recruit the first five members to your staff? Where did you find them and how did you convince them to join you when you were starting out with Worldwide101?

      Back in 2012, we posted our jobs on sites that focused on promoting part-time, remote or freelance work hoping to find people who were looking for “nontraditional” jobs. We also posted our opportunities on mum and dad FB groups - again, hoping that these folks might be looking for a more flexible work environment.

      Does a member of your staff work exclusively for a single client or are there multiple clients at times?

      Most of our team have multiple clients. Since our clients subscribe to monthly plans starting at 10 hours a month - some of our team can have up to 4 clients that make up for 100 hours a month of work for example (so in this instance they might have a client who is subscribing for 40 hours a month and 3 other clients subscribing at 20 hours/month). On average our team supports 2 to 4 clients ongoing - we try not to have our team with more than 4 clients to maintain our premium service and to ensure that every client is really well supported.

      How do you handle customer disputes?

      Our approach is very collaborative. We’ll speak with the client, we’ll speak with our staff and we’ll consider the situation very carefully to determine how to best solve it so that it’s hopefully a win for everyone. In the very rare event that the match was not successful - we’ll replace the staff member.