Tips for Personal Offshore Outsourcing and Using Personal Executive Assistants
Free yourself from those mundane tasks!
Tim Ferriss’s best-selling book 'The 4-Hour Workweek' advocates outsourcing all your mundane tasks and many of your personal life duties as well to outside ﬁrms that provide personal executive assistants and other consultants. Ferriss calls this
'outsourcing your life'. It is also known as 'personal outsourcing' and 'virtual personal executive assistants' or just 'virtual assistants' (VA).
Many people have tried it and personal outsourcing has become very popular recently, as people have realized that they could hire workers in the developing world at very good rates. It does not necessarily have to involve hiring assistants and consultants in Bangalore for the mundane tasks, but it can involve hiring local experts to do more complex tasks even in your own town or country.
Pros and Cons of Outsourcing
There are lost of reviews out there and the results of various experiments and now it is time to put all this information together into a review article.
Why would you outsource?
Personal outsourcing provides the chance to totally change your life from an obsessively micro-managing perfectionist who reserves even the most minuscule tedious tasks to yourself, to someone who gets assistance on a daily basis from a whole host of personal assistants and leaves you to be the entrepreneur.
Some Pros of personal outsourcing:
- Replicate and efficient support services at a fraction of the price.
- Your Work can be completed overnight while you are sleep.
- You get access to expert and high tech services that you would find hard to do yourself.
- Allows busy people to free up valuable time for things they really want to do.
Some Cons of personal outsourcing:
- There may be potential language and cultural differences and maybe technological problems for the more complex tasks.
- The cheaper price could be at the expense of quality - and it could cost you a lot more if you have to re-do it yourself or get someone else to redo it.
- It may not solve a problem you have with being disorganised and unable to plan ahead.
What personal changes do you have to make?
Barriers - There are a few barriers to getting started and other things you will have to change about your attitude and approach to work. Some of the major points are:
- Making successful use of outsourced help requires that you not be afraid of asking for help,
- Getting over your delusions of importance and the attitude that only you can do it.
- You will also need to overcome any hang-ups you might have about you being worthy to get help and assistance.
- You will need the applilcation and planning necessary for you to see how you can open your workﬂow up to a personal assistant.
- You will also need the ability to empower their personal assistant to perform the tasks required. This means providing them with the basic knowledge, contacts and resources needed to do the job effectively.
- Having the communications skills to trust you personal assistant without needing to micro-manage them - this really defeats the purpose of having a virtual assistant (VA).
Opening the door for help - You have to get over the reluctance you may have of putting your PA to the trouble of doing something really mundane and tedious that I could do myself. You may also feel embarrassed at first. Often your PA may ask to do more because they are aware of what the can do for you. The basic reason for hiring an assistant is to get some of the mundane, tedious, repetitive and time-consuming stuff off your plate to free your mind and energy to the really important things. This is not getting them to work for you because of a sense of duty - it is pure capitalism. Treat your PA's an individual people who hire as your equals and with highly developed skills that you can benefit from. You will be paying them the going rate and they will appreciate the work and the positive feed-back you can give them for a job well done.
Remove the Delusions of Self importance - Ferriss in his book argues strongly about the merits of the Pareto principle (or the so called 80/20 rule). Vilfredo Pareto observed in 1906 that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population; he also noticed that 20 percent of the pods for the peas his garden contained about 80 percent of the peas. It is a common principal in business that 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your clients, meaning that 20 percent are vital and the remaining 80 percent are trivial. Pareto's Principle, the 80/20 Rule, tells you to focus 80 percent of your time and energy on the 20 percent of you work that is really important. Of the things you now do during your day, only 20 percent really matters. Why not give the 80 percent of your tasks to your VA? Focus your precious time and the 20 percent that produces 80 percent of your results. Identify and focus on those things. It will require good planning and an ability to delegate you work to your VA. It is also worth looking at how you manage your time now and how it could be done more efficiently. But it is all about freeing you time for yourself, and having more quality time for the things that matter. With some planning you will quickly see that the 80 percent of your work led to minimal benefits could either be dropped entirely or easily outsourced.
Remove the notion that only you can do it - Are you clinging to some tasks merely to be able feel useful or that only you can do? You have to change that attitude and be willing to delegate and to apply self-managed team concepts by believing that your VA can do it as well or better than you can. Why does it matter anyway if they are doing the less important things. Focus on the big things that matter.
What can you outsource?
There are many ways that personal outsourcing can help you be more productive:
Tasks You May Want to Delegate
Accounting and Finance Management
Organizational Tasks – Docs photos
Anniversaries - sending cards and gifts
Organizing Plumbers and Electricians...
Best Deals Research
Buying Mooks, CDs, DVDs, Music
Call answering 24 hours 7days a week
Phone and Internet Plans
Contact Management and Bulk emails
Presentations - Posters and Outlook
Curriculum Vitae/ Resume
Customer Interaction Management
Customer Relations Management
Repairs and maintenance
Data Backup and Archiving
Sales and marketing
Database Creation and Management
Email Monitoring and Responses
SEO and PPC
Follow Up and Reminder
Share Market Monitoring
Health care services
Spread sheets and Tables
IT support and software development
Training Course Organisation
Travel - organisation and bookings
Moderating and Updating Blogs
Website creation and maintenance
What Tasks are Generally Unsuitable?
- Illegal Tasks
- Unethical Tasks
- Unacceptable tasks that do not comply with normal business standards and procedures.
- Pornography etc.
Tips for Personal Outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant
Take the time to shop around - Get Writing samples and check quality - you may have to pay more but its worth it. Get reference checks and check the Validity of the provider - check previous client comments and ratings, and get referrals from friends. Most providers require payment upfront, usually for a month in advance. Make sure you do your research and checks about the provider committing. If not you will lose your money, but may have to have the work redone as well.
Be clear and concise - English may not be your VA's first language. Be clear and precise when assigning tasks, but keep it as simple as you can, breaking down tasks into a simple list. The more detail you provide the better the outcome.
Always ask for a trial first - Insist on a trial or negotiate a discounted price at the to evaluated the capability, skills and professionalism of your VA.. This will significantly minimizes your risks.
Clarify the terms of your Agreement at the start - Before you make the payment in advence carefully read over the written agreement and follow up anything that appears to be what you require.
Be persistent - Keep checking your provider to ensure that they appoint your assistant quickly. Be persistent and ensure they assign someone as soon as possible.
Set Realistic expectations, especially at the start
Set your Quality Standards at the Outset - While it is true that quality often depends on price. you want to ensure that you don't set the standard as 'how you would do it' but rather 'how it needs to be done'. You may be surprised that it is done better 'than you could do it'. Always insist on your minimal standards.
Understand the technology - You need to be competent in all the tools used to send and receive information between yourself and your provider. If necessary, you may need to get an IT expert/coach to help you with the basics.
Minimize the Setup effort and Management - Set up a unique Inbox where you will post all your tasks. It could be a Gmail account, a TreePad system, a wiki, Zoho, CellTell, TaDa list and other tools such as Jott for quickly delegating of task and providoing information. Always use a special subject line when communicating with your VA.
There is no such thing as too small - If you have a task that you think will only take you 15 minutes, you may be tempted to do it yourself. But all these smaller tasks add up, especially when they are repeated. Use batching to group these tasks and your VA will be able to do them quicker than you can.
Set up Templates and Processes for repetitive tasks - Use batching methods for repetitive tasks which are ideal for your assistant to do. They can monitor the traffic and alert you when important updates or changes are required.
Empower them to do follow-ups and take further action - Clearly lay out the next sequence of steps and you will boost your efficiency. Consider the following:
- Please find me a good car mechanic near my home.
Now compare that to:
- Using Google and the Yellow Pages, find three mechanics with decent rates that are located close to my house. Call them and get quotes for a standard service and having the oil replaced, and fixing a leaking head gasket. Book my car in for the job at the cheapest rate any morning this week.
Share you Calendar and use RSS feeds to monitor task progress, rather than using emails or IM for everything.
Set up a good To Do list to funnel tasks to your VA - There are some great packages and software available for To Do Lists and systems, many of which can be shared and have reminders etc. Do not try to delegate your highly important, high-priority and urgent tasks, as these may not be done in time. Rather, go through your todo list for those lower priority things 6that you can delegate. Using a shared To Do list will mean you can keep track of all of them.
Manage you VA efficiently - Don't forget that you will want to minimize the time required to manage your assistant and your tasks.You do not want to spend more time managing the outsourcing process than that required for you to do the job- this is self-defeating. With the right approach and some experience you will manage your VA efficiently and effectively.
Get to know your virtual assistant - Even though your VA may be thousands of miles away, you should take time to develop a good relationship and make friends with your new personal assistant. Healthy good working relationship will lead to better productivity and better outcomes.
Setup the Parameters and deadlines at the start - One of the most frequent problems with virtual personal assistance is that tasks are not finished on time. When delegating tasks, make sure you tell your VA what the deadline for the task is and its priority. Use a priority Todo list that includes delivery dates and outcomes.
Work out and deal with concerns and problems immediately - No one is perfect and your VA will inevitably make mistakes and misunderstand what you want. It is your responsibility to make them aware of the problems and to deal with them quickly and professionally.
Now its time to give VA's a go. Below is a list (no complete by any means) of providers you may consider.
Note: We do not advocate or support any of these - check them out for yourself!
List of Popular Virtual Personal Assistants
Agents of Value
Amazon Mechanical Turk (Mturk)
American Express Platinum Card Concierge
DaVinci Virtual Office Solutions
Do My Stuff
Executive Solutions Virtual Assistants
Get a Freelancer
Virtual Assistants DFW
Workaholics for Hire
Your Man in India
© 2010 Dr. John Anderson