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24

Outsourcing Life for a Working Professional – How to Achieve More Balance in Life

I have written in the past about how entrepreneurs can boost their productivity and overall business by hiring virtual assistants (VA). In this post I want to discuss how successful working professionals can boost their careers while achieving more work-life balance by doing the same.

Let me emphasize that outsourcing is not only for big companies who send their call centers and accounting work overseas. Outsourcing for working professionals works equally as well, and in this post I will discuss just some of the tasks you can outsource to your VA to create more balance in your life.

The single biggest aspect of life that busy successful professionals lack is time. We all have 24 hours in a day and we all crave for more. We can always earn more money, but none of that will buy us just an additional second of time if we wanted.

There always appears to be more work than there is time, and outsourcing part of your life in a controlled manner is one solution to creating more free time that you can enjoy with your friends and family doing the things you love doing.

Outsourcing is not only for business owners and internet marketers.  Career professionals are leveraging outsourcing today to enable living unprecedented lifestyles while achieving maximum success in their careers while enjoying life at its fullest. How do I know this?

I know this because one of my niche sites is a site that discusses a lucrative career field or profession.  Outsourcing part of one’s personal life is one of the topics I discuss on that site. To give you an idea, the average reader of the site is someone who works in a large corporate setting making anywhere between $120,000 to $220,000 or even more per year.

I can’t tell you the number of personal thank yous I have received from the site’s newsletter readers who have leveraged methods of outsourcing for working professionals that have not only boosted their careers, but at the same time enabled them to spend more time with family and friends or on hobbies and interests. I can personally vouch for the results because I not only outsource business related work, but also part of MY personal life.

I have friends who I have conveyed this option to who have experimented with it with tremendous results as well. Many have outsourced part of their lives so they can take up more special projects at work and get on the fast track to promotion. Others use it to free up time to acquire more business, and some to perhaps start that long pending internet business that they hadn’t had time to start up before. Outsourcing for working professionals clearly works.

For someone working an hourly job, one can easily benefit from arbitrage resulting from wage difference. For example, if you make $12 an hour and you can outsource an hour of your life at $3, you can work more hours and make an extra $9 ($12 – $3) for each hour worked.

While some C Suites have personal assistants that not only help in the office, but also in their personal lives, the rest of us average folk will just have to do with virtual assistants. The good news is that we can affordably and effectively do so. This is definitely the way to go.

So now that we have discussed why one should consider outsourcing part of their life, here are just a handful of tasks you can send away.

Tasks You Can Outsource

  • Dinner reservations (Almost seamless, provide them with your zip code and cuisine preference. Some can even call and make the reservation if needed)
  • Trips and outings with friends (golf outings)
  • Travel (My VA maintains a spreadsheet of my loyalty program information and travel preferences – over time they become more efficient as they get to know you and your preferences)
  • Send flowers to your spouse and write them emails (I have mine draft an email which I will then modify and send)
  • Billing matters, working with freelancers, managing small business tasks especially if you use shared service software where you can set up your VA as a user
  • Word processing, word smithing, beautifying something
  • Data entry tasks – bookkeeping and spreadsheet maintenance
  • Online bill pay – email with the bill, they schedule payments (set up wire authority with your bank and block international wires unless provided with your security parameters)
  • Manufacturing products – you would definitely need to consider having your products be manufactured offshore especially if you’re a startup business. Forewarning though, you should make sure you do due diligence and do a background check about the manufacturing company you will be working with. Only trust companies that have a solid background and experience in manufacturing (www.asianprosource.com).

This is not by any means a comprehensive list of tasks you can outsource to your VA, but just a handful of tasks that I and a few friends of mine outsource.

As a rule of thumb, if it takes a longer time explaining a task as it would take to do it yourself, you might as well do it yourself, unless it is something that once trained can be executed repeatedly over time. That is a time investment worth making.

On a day to day basis, I normally outsource those tasks that are easy to communicate in a single email. As long as the email is elaborate enough and provides for various if / then options, I have found that competent VAs can fly with it to your satisfaction most of the time.

What I am experimenting with right now is instead of relying on email, is to use Google Docs with a running TO DO list arranged in terms of priority. I have my VA going into it once a week, with all “urgent” tasks sent via email.

This way, I can update the list at my convenience, and my VA can view it at hers. She simply checks off tasks that have been completed, and since Google Docs allows you to share a working version of a document, all changes are real time and tracked.

Overwhelmed yet?

All this is just the surface of this topic. There is no end to the list of what you can outsource. What you cannot outsource however is doing dishes, or mowing your lawn. For those you can hire local maid and lawn care services. But for everything else, outsourcing works, and it doesn’t have to be all business related either.

For example, we just back from a 2 week trip to Europe. While there we took 500+ pictures. One of my VAs is cropping them for me right now, fixing the rotation, lighting and I expect to see all the images done and uploaded to our shared drive within the next 24 hours.

In the past I even had one VA research the entire procedure to get dual citizenship in a country I was interested in and obtain all the forms for me to fill out.  It took about a week to do but the process saved me countless mind numbing hours. She put together a summary of benefits and important tips/things to keep in mind, most of which I already knew from my research but it was good to get validation.

Where Can You Find a Virtual Assistant?

There are several places where you can find virtual assistants to work with, and these resources are only increasing as people are starting to become more comfortable and understand what outsourcing part of our lives to VAs can do for them.

The two resources I recommend and personally use are the following:

Odesk – Odesk is a business through which you can find pretty much any kind of a VA that can do pretty much anything. I have used Odesk to hire part time and full time VAs. The advantage of using Odesk is that there is no upfront fee to you, and you can hire VAs on a part time or task by task basis depending on what you want to get done.

On Odesk, you do all the screening and interviews yourself to select the right candidate for your job. You can always rehire the same VA for other tasks in the future if you had a good experience with them.

Virtual Staff Finder – This is a more customized service that is particularly beneficial if you are interested in hiring a full time VA. My friend Chris Ducker owns this Philippines based company. Chris has been in the outsourcing business for as long as I can remember and I can’t think of anyone better to go to for VA related matters other than Chris.

Virtual Staff Finder is like a VA headhunting company. You provide them with your customized requirements and what you want yourVA to be capable of doing and they go find the best candidates for you.

They will set you up with the top three candidates who you can interview before deciding on who to work with.  They charge a small fee for this service, a fee well worth what you get in return (a match made in heaven) particularly if you are making a full time commitment. You specify and they deliver.

There is a third resource I want to mention, which is a comprehensive program that teaches you how to select the right person to work with and how to train them. This training program is really meant for you so that you get the most out of outsourcing as possible, and emphasizes the biggest mistakes people make when they outsource and why outsourcing doesn’t work for many. It also provides you with all the tools and resources you need to train your VA in pretty much any task you can think about.

The program is called Replace Yourself (you can literally) and it’s developed by my friend John Jonas, who has been in the outsourcing business for well over a decade, specifically in the Philippines (where I was born). If you are contemplating hiring a full time VA either for personal or business help and don’t have prior experience, I highly recommend you check out John’s program before getting involved with outsourcing.

How Much Will Outsourcing Life Cost You?

Hiring a full time VA can cost you anywhere between $350 to $850 per month. Understandably, you will end up paying more per hour if you periodically hire VAs on a part time basis for tasks here and there.

On the lower end of the price spectrum, you will find VAs well versed in communication, word processing, basic data entry and clerical tasks. On the higher end of the price spectrum, you will find VAs who are fluent in programming, graphic design and other more advanced technical skills. Imagine a US based programmer who earns a $150,000 salary outsourcing a lot of his or her work to a VA for just $850 a month? Think about how much time that would free up in the programmer’s life?

VAs are flexible and they understand our working hours, therefore they are willing to work during our normal working hours if you so specify. You can also have them mimic the work week in your country. A typical VA working full time for an American would work a 40 hour week between Monday and Friday and take the weekends off.

Although many don’t expect paid holidays and vacation, I personally give them the same benefits a local employee would receive, aside from insurance and 401k type benefits of course. I do however periodically send surprise spot bonuses, especially when business is going very well.

Concluding Thoughts

I don’t want to conclude this post by making it seem all is as smooth as butter in the personal outsourcing world. Like any other worthwhile initiative, outsourcing “life” comes with its unique challenges as well, but nothing that cannot be overcome easily.  By understanding the main challenges, you can better prepare for outsourcing your life and avoid the same mistakes many (including myself) initially make.

Make sure that your VA has a strong command of English. As long as you can clearly communicate with them, all else can be taught. And in order to truly assess their communication skills in English, you want to request a face to face interview with them over a program like Skype (free).

Many savvy job seekers often have prepared answers and sample documents that may seem a lot more polished than their true communication skills really are. Live interviews are great for separating the serious contenders from the pretenders.

The only other challenge worth mentioning is whether or not your VA is actually working a full 40 hour work load. It won’t take longer than a week for you to know based on the deliverables you get back and the quality of what’s being provided to you. There are also tools you can use to monitor their work hours.

Personally, I am able to assess the work ethic of a VA on a week to week basis. Whenever in doubt, confront them nicely and immediately. Many times they are just stuck spinning their wheels and won’t ask for help as a matter of pride. Make it clear that the communication doors are open when they need help.

I am at a point where I have even provided one of my VAs with a credit card. I have discussed spend limits both with her and my bank, as well as daily transaction limits. A bank can also block charges from predetermined vendors (i.e. vendors based in my VA’s country). You can set these controls up with your bank upfront for added security measures.

None of these challenges should preclude you from hiring a VA if this is something you are interested in. Look at it this way – what do you have to lose aside from some time and maybe half a month’s salary ($175)? That won’t happen, but I wanted to show you the worst case scenario.

Totally worthwhile in my opinion considering what you get back in return. And yes, I’d do it again and again if I were to repeat all over. In fact I’d do it much sooner. I am a user and an affiliate of all three VA service companies mentioned in this article. I’d be happy to answer any of your questions if you are contemplating using any of them.

How do yo feel about outsourcing part of your life to create more balance in life? Is $350 a month worth more free time with friends, family and activities that bring you pleasure? What reservations do you have?

26

Best Ways to Leverage PLR Articles – Your Own Private Label Rights Web Content

PLR articles are one of the more under-discussed topics in internet marketing for reasons I can’t figure out. I struggle to understand why not more discussion takes place about these because of their versatile application.

Easy PLR

PLR articles, or Private Label Rights, are unique articles you can purchase in bulk and do a variety of things with.  Only a few buyers will have a copy of these articles, therefore it is limited in its spread or availability.

Before I get into the details of why PLR articles can be a solid addition to your internet marketing arsenal, as well as the various ways you can use them, view this quick 4 minute video where the founder of Easy PLR Nicole Dean explains what PLR articles are in her own words.

These articles are available to anyone looking for content for their websites, blogs and newsletters (many often don’t think of newsletters as an application for PRL articles).

Why would anyone buy these articles? Well let’s see . . .

  • To break through from mind blocks when you can’t think of what to write
  • To add fresh content to your web properties
  • To provide your newsletter readers with something useful
  • To save time and brain energy
  • To increase productivity
  • To save money – in their most optimal package these articles are only $1.00 each on average.  You cannot beat that.
  • Many other reasons . . .

How Can You Purchase PLR Articles?

Because of the high demand, there are several companies that sell PLR articles.  I get mine from Easy PLR because I know, like and trust the Nicole, the company’s owner.

Further, I have repeatedly done business with them and have always been pleased with my experience and the quality of the articles. Articles come in various packs (number of articles). They each come in word doc (.doc) and text (.txt) format.

Rules of Using PLR Articles

There are no rules when using PLR articles you purchase. However, there are search engines who we need to keep in mind when using PLR articles.

When you purchase PLR articles, you own the rights to them immediately – along with a few others as well (it could very well be that only you purchased the set you did but companies often sell the same set to a limited number of buyers).

When you post PLR articles to your website or blog, you don’t have to link back anywhere because you own these articles just as if you wrote them, however, because a small number of others may possess the same version, it is best to modify the content and add your unique twist to it before publishing it online.

There are people that buy PLR articles and post them online as they are. Not that there is anything unethical with this approach, but personally I like to modify the articles to add my own voice to them, as well as avoid any duplicate content penalties imposed by search engines.

My approach to using PLR articles is one of collaboration, where I look to leverage existing content and make it fit my tone, personality and experience. I don’t use PLR articles as filler content just to have something to post online or send in an email newsletter, however, you can and many do.

What Topics Can You Get PLR Articles On?

I have seen them all across the board, but there are certain areas or topics that get more attention than others. I am assuming because PLR companies produce more of what sells. I would too if I was running the business.

I have seen a ton of PLR packages in areas like financial services, general business, abs, weight reduction, self development, time management and technical articles on websites and blogs among others.

If you don’t see articles on a topic you are interested in, all you’ve got to do is email the company. This does not guarantee that you will soon find articles on the topic you are interested in, but there is a chance you will.  You don’t know until you ask.

Where and When to Use PLR Content and For What

The good thing about most PLR content is that it is evergreen in that it will hold true and fresh yesterday, today and tomorrow, which means you have a broad application for these articles. Not only that, you don’t have to worry about updating the content once you use it.

This is where and how I suggest PLR content should be used:

Niche Site – found some profitable keywords from conducting your keyword research and want to establish a niche site? PLR articles can be the quick solution. I have taken this approach before (see below). Larger, authority sites are a different story.

Article Marketing – this one is a gimme isn’t it? Purchase them, tweak them and submit them.

Social Media Marketing – often not thought off immediately, you can use parts off, or the entire PLR article and post on your Facebook account. You can chop off an article into a multi-part series as well.

Email Newsletter – using PLR content in newsletters don’t even require you to modify the content. Newsletters go straight in your reader’s inbox and are not seen by search engines.

Blog Post – there are many bloggers who rapid blog for the sake of creating content.  PLR content can be a quick way to boost content, or provide for filler articles (not an approach I take or recommend but there are many who do this).

Thought Starter – you don’t even have to use the PLR content. Simply refer to it to get your brain juice flowing for a particular topic.

Ebook / Free Report Giveaway – this one is also a gimme in my opinion, and one where you don’t need to modify the PLR articles. Simply compile them in a free report and wala you have something to give out to your readers for free and build rapport. Of course I am not advocating you do this without ensuring you add your own touch and see to it that the freebie delivers solid value.

Concluding Thoughts on PLR Articles

I have several websites that I generate passive income from. Of those, 8 are sites that I did not write the content for.  They are a combination of ghostwriting (I hired freelancers) as well as use of PLR content that I modified before posting.  All 8 are profitable, with 6 of them still on page 1 of Google (in spite of the drop some of my other sites have experienced due to algorithm updates) for their respective keywords.

I am currently focusing on other initiatives such as my iPhone applications, a couple new ebooks and the local SEO firm that I started, which is actually doing very well (we have secured a couple out of state clients and a few relatively good size local clients).

If I ever shift focus back to niche site creation, or to update some of my existing sites, I will certainly consider using modified PLR articles and share my experiences with you on this blog. In fact I’ve been wanting to create a site just with PLR content and do a case study.

I’ve always been curious about whether a site can do well with just PLR content as its foundation. It appears however that this would be a difficult task given how search engines have evolved but we don’t know that for a fact until we try. Too many interesting projects to do but very little time nonetheless.

If you are interested in trying out PLR articles, you can check out Nicole Dean and her Easy PLR company here

Note: I have been using PLR articles for various marketing initiatives and am an affiliate of Nicole’s Easy PLR company. I’d be happy to answer any questions if you are contemplating a purchase.

Were you aware of PLR articles before reading this post? What do you think about them? Would you consider using them? For what? What are your reservations? If you are already using PLR articles, please share how and your overall experience with them?

8

How to Set Quick Reference Static Calendar Dates in Google Analytics

I love the free Google Analytics program, but I have royally hated the fact that the default calendar date range on the platform changes each time you log on. It always shows the most current month’s numbers.

Here is what I mean.  Have a look at the screen shots below.  Notice the date ranges are different in each screen shot?  That is because these were taken upon logging in on two different occasions.

Google Analytics Dashboard

Google Analytics Dashboard

But what if you like to measure your website’s traffic growth from the time you launched it?  Manually changing the date ranges is easy by simply either browsing back in the calendar or manually inputting the date range by clicking on the date box.

Google Analytics Dashboard

The process is simple but 1) it takes time to do this – yes, even a little bit of a detour can impede progress significantly 2) it’s  flat out annoying and 3) why should you have to go through this?  There should be an easier way one can set the start date to a static date (i.e. the date of launch or any other date you wish) to avoid the annoyance every single time.

In addition, what if you have multiple websites within various accounts and sub accounts (see image below).   I hate having to scroll through the list and keep changing accounts each time I want to view the statistics of another web property. Again, there has to be an easier way?

I don’t think I am being too unreasonable am I? I know at least one other person who is equally, if not more annoyed about this missing feature.

My friend Tai who I train at the gym with has been real vocal about this “glitch”. He has pulled out a lot of hair strands trying to figure out how he could work around the system and set his Analytics account so that it always shows the life to date traffic pattern of his blog.

Good news! Tai recently showed up to the Gym ecstatic that he “beat” Google and found a work around this feature – or lack of it. So here is how it goes.

1)      Log into your Google Analytics account

2)      Set the start date to whichever date you want

3)      Leave the second date box untouched

Google Analytics Dashboard

4)      Run the report

5)      Bookmark this page / URL

Aha.

The next time you want to view your Analytics, simply click on the bookmarked link and the program should show you your traffic progress from the start date you had initially set for that particular website.  Create multiple bookmarks if you have multiple sites with different start dates.  Yes!

My friend Tai managed to “Crack the Code” on Google Analytics. Congratulations buddy and thanks for sharing how you did it with me.   I know you are reading this.  Since you don’t have an Internet marketing and business blog, I took the liberty to share this information with everyone to benefit from.

Can you see this being useful in your initiatives?  Pardon my ignorance if the new Google Analytics platform already has a feature wherein you can pre program requirements. I am relatively new to it and have not found it yet.  I am all ears if you want to share a better / easier way?

Sunil
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