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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.

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?

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24 Responses to “Outsourcing Life for a Working Professional – How to Achieve More Balance in Life”

  1. When I first read in 4-Hour Work Week about the idea of outsourcing your work, I thought that it felt ethically funny. Your employer is paying you to do the work. Not paying you to find someone else to do the work. Why shouldn’t your boss just cut out the middle man and hire your VA?
    Of course, for entrepreneurial endeavors, there is no problem. You are the boss and you are hiring an employee.
    For the personal side of things, I don’t see it any different than a concierge. A great idea, but not something that I personally would probably ever hire.

  2. Catherine says:

    I have had mixed experiences with VA’s. My first took my money and did nothing (my fault for paying in advance), one from ODesk practically begged me not to give him negative feedback. My current VA, again from ODesk is brilliant! Strangely, my experience of ODesk shows that you don’t necessarily need the higher priced VA for the best service.

    • Sunil says:

      using elance and odesk to start out ensures your funds are protected through the escrow, etc. the systems are meant to favor us as employers more. later on as you gain more experience hiring/outsourcing, you can certainly take more risks. agree on price points. when I find the right talent, I am willing to pay more, but higher price doesn’t necessarily mean better quality.

  3. If you are NOT outsourcing then you are NOT taking advantage of all you can. There are skills that you are simply NOT too good at. For example, why would I waste a whole day trying to get a photoshop image right when someone can do it for five bucks at Fiverr?

    Time is the most valuable thing we all have. Those who learn to delegate tasks (or outsource them) get more done in life. However, outsourcing can be tricky if you don’t know how to go about it. It’s just as complicated as hiring any employee. It becomes even more difficult if you have to deal with someone who’s at the other end of the world. However, done right, it’s well worth it.

  4. I would love to eventually hire a VA to handle personal things for me. I used VSF for finding a full time VA writer for me awhile ago and they did a great job. Makes finding a VA really easy – highly recommended.


  5. Hiring a VA can really be helpful. They are willing to work with you and usually are very open to what hours you need them to work. With Skype you can check in with them and you can set up and email that both the VA and yourself have access to and make sure things get done. The key is finding one that fits what you need and personality. I have gone through 2 at the moment but after reading this I think I should find a full time instead of part timers.

    • Sunil says:

      there is a place for part timers, but there is a lot of good to be said for full timers as well. while I have several full time, reaching out to part timers for selected tasks works well for me

  6. Eddie Gear says:

    Actually its quite hard to find good developers on or I’ve spend so much money trying to hire a good developer to get some products built. Apparently, the good ones are really expensive and the ones that offer their services for lesser price are simply not worth it. If you know any web designers who are good at what they do, please let me know.

    • Sunil says:

      I’ve found some of my best developers, both web and apps through customized services like the ones mentioned. I have found some of my best writers on Odesk. another site which I use consistently is Elance but I have not hired anyone full time from that platform.

  7. girishpuri says:

    interesting and thought provoking article.

  8. wow it is interested to read i got many of ideas in my mind as well.

  9. Thanks for the link, Sunil; just what I needed.

  10. I have hired a ton of Freelancers in the past, but am really considering finding someone full time. It’s difficult to take the dive because with Freelancers, you just pay by the job, when the work is available. My concern with hiring full time completely has to do with productivity… especially if I have periods of time where I don’t have enough full time work for them… they get used to getting paid full wage for 25-30 hours a week… and then I hit them with actual full time work. In any event, I’m thinking about it so finding this article was timely. Thank you!

    • Sunil says:

      Derrick, read my archives on hiring VAs. I have detailed out several “fill in” tasks that are valuable to you as the entrepreneur which your VA can do in pockets of availability. this ensures 100% utilization.

  11. Great article with informative sources to hiring VA’s. When it comes to things like SEO and answering a customers techniquial questions, the time is much better spent hiring someone to do that work so you can be freed up to create better ideas and solutions for new customers and to help improve the lives of your existing customers. Thanks for the post!

  12. Jose says:

    I’m far too cheap to hire a VA to do things for me, but it does remind me of an interesting (but unverified) story I recently hear. It appears that a software developer for a major U.S. telecom was fired. The reason? He worked remotely and outsourced all of his work overseas. I thought it was pretty funny myself.

    • Sunil says:

      read the same one – to the tune of 160k in annual salary and was getting the work done for 25. not sure however whether the firing was quality related or data/info privacy related. seems like he read the 4 hour workweek as that is what the case study had done in the book

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