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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?Previous: Multiple Uses of Email Autoresponders Like Aweber. Niche Site, Blog, Ecommerce, Brick & Mortar