I've started reading Tim Ferris's book The Four Hour Work Week, and in it he suggest hiring a virtual assistant (VA). After a bit of searching I came across TimeSvr.com, and it has changed my life... Though maybe not all for the best.
The concept is simple, you can call, email, or post through a website any number of "Simple Actions" and a team of VAs in India will take care of them 24/7. What constitutes a simple task is anything that can be done in 15 minutes. Need some quick research on the best place to buy a puppy? No problem. Want them to set up a walk through of a condo? Done. Obviously they can do online work, but they will also make calls to more than a few countries. Handy.
The cost is $70 a month, though they have a free 3 day trial. But I like to think of it as $2 a day. I've been averaging about 4 requests a day, so we can call it 50 cents a task.
I'm about a week into this little experiment; let's see what I've learned.
1) They can actually help you save time on important tasks you would have to do yourself:
- Setting up apartment viewings.
- Finding lists of Alumni events and adding them to my Google calendar.
- Finding and booking couples cooking classes.
Etc.. So these are the types of tasks that they excel at and really save me time.
2) They can help you save time on unimportant tasks that you would have done yourself though probably shouldn't have:
- What's the best brand of mascarpone for making Zabiglione.
- Find out the cost to rent a yacht for my birthday party.
3) They can help you simply wast time and learn that you're a bad person:
I was telling my friend Josh about Timesvr and he asked if they would do stuff that was illegal.
- "Like what?"
- "I don't know, call your dealer?" (I'd like to make it clear that I don't have a dealer.)
- "I guess so. I mean they're in India right? What do they care. I bet I could.... let's try it."
So I created a task to call my bookie:
Within 10 minutes Josh got a call.
Let me say it at the outset, Josh was very polite; we didn't want to be jerks to the guy calling.
Josh managed to keep a straight face while saying: "No, tell him that's not acceptable. ... No, I'll reserve that for when he calls me. ... Just tell him this is not acceptable."
Now, normally they send me emails that have smiley faces at the end, or say something like "I hope this proves helpful." Here was the reply from Owais's call with "Big Josh":
What have I learned?
- Turns out, yacht rentals cost a lot and I'm not big pimpin enough to rock one for my bday. ($1200 an hour with minimum of 4 hours if you'd like to know)
- It really helps to have a project that you can break up into small amounts to do. Setting up an alumni mailing list is a good example. Lots of small tasks that require some research but no domain expertise.
- There are a lot of tasks where the 80/20 rule applies. I might be able to find a better cooking school for couples, but the 3 options I got back are good enough and avoiding rat holing myself for 2 hours on research is the big win.
For $2 a day TimeSvr is awesome and it has led me to look into a more permanent VA to help me on the next stages of a couple projects.