Personal Outsourcing – My Experience So Far

Virtual-assistant
Rather than detail everything before you’re forced to read the conclusion – let me say that outsourcing has NOT worked for me so far.

I first started with AskSunday.com.  Recommended by Tim Ferriss as well as Time.com, I figured it would be an easy way to start with a virtual assistant who could get things done for me quickly.  I signed up, and sent in a relatively easy request: find a Toyota Dealership near my address to which I could take my car in for lease maintenance.

I submitted the request on Monday, 4 January, at around 1020, which was about ten minutes after I signed up.  I didn’t hear anything from them on Monday.  I didn’t hear anything from them on Tuesday.  Wednesday rolled around, and I sent a request asking what was going on with my initial task.  They replied saying that “it could take up to 24-48 hours to complete a request”.  Ignoring the fact that it had already been that long, I replied that it was ridiculous in the Internet Age that I would have to wait 48 hours for someone else to perform a request that I could complete myself in fifteen minutes.  On Thursday, I got an email from them stating that they had completed the request, locating two dealerships, but that since the dealerships were going to charge money for service that they didn’t make any appointments.  By then I had already cancelled my account.

The following Monday, 11 January, I decided to try GetFriday.com, the other outsourcing firm of which I’d heard.  Their sign-up process was “more mature” than AskSunday’s, in that they make you actually verify who you are.  Once you sign up on the web, they send you a code on your cell phone that you then have to type in to make sure that you actually have that number.  They also make you sign and fax (or email) back their Terms of Service before you can start using the service.  I completed all that on Monday afternoon.

Tuesday I got a call from a woman in India.  This was problem number one – getting a call from India.  First, how much am I paying for incoming calls from India?  Second, as someone who has a security clearance, I don’t exactly want calls from foreign countries showing up on my cell phone bill.  (Admittedly, it’s a democracy and easily explainable, but still.)  The lady I spoke to was nice, and she was genuinely trying to help, but this led to problem number two – communication.  She asked what kind of tasks I might want to outsource.  I told her about the usual appointment making (including the lease maintenance task), but then I also included the possibility of having someone tag uploaded film clips for a project I’m doing.  It was this latter point at which communication broke down.  She could not understand the concept of what tagging an uploaded film clip meant.  She said that she’d have to have me email instructions as to what that meant.  I told her that that would be acceptable, and then she asked if it would be okay she set me up with a “Guide Friday” within three days.  While three days seemed like a lot to me, I agreed.  She then proceeded to ask me about my hobbies and my family.  While I suspect that this was an attempt and being outgoing and pleasant in the traditional American custom, it came off as slightly creepy and I told her that I would not reveal that information to someone across the globe that I hadn’t met.  She was okay with that and the call ended.

Wednesday came and went.  Thursday came and went.  Friday came and went.  I did not hear from them!  As it turns out, that was my fault.  The emails from the gentleman who turned out to be my Guide Friday were being spam filtered as I found out on Saturday.  However, since they had previously called me, I was expecting them to call again, and was not looking for an email from them!  The first woman I spoke to did not mention that they would be emailing rather than calling.

So I retrieved the email from my spam filter, and set about responding.  I started to compile instructions on how to go about tagging film clips that I uploaded.  After fifteen screenshots, and several paragraphs of explanation, I realised that I could have tagged several clips myself in all the time that it was taking me to compile these instructions.  (As it turns out, I could have tagged ten – I timed it.)  I responded to the gentleman that I had changed my mind and asked that he cancel my account.

So far, my experience with outsourcing as has been anything but successful.  I suspect it’s largely my fault: I really don’t have a significant need for it yet.  I can make appointments and tag a hundred film clips myself with little effort.  I’m single and work 40 – 45 hours a week, so I’m not hurting for time.  The idea of outsourcing, as I’ve read it, is to alleviate some of your burden to provide you with more time – but I already have enough time, and I don’t do anything overly burdensome.  While there is definite appeal to having someone help out, or even do tasks for you completely, right now, it doesn’t outweigh the hassle of actually setting all that up.

There are other programs I’m going to look at – such as John Jonas’s “replacemyself.com”.  At $100 a month, that program seems like a very good bargain as compared with some of the ones like AskSunday or GetFriday.  (Though that $100/month is on top of what you’d pay to your VA.)  However, for now, I’m going to hold off until my secondary income plans have generated a burden that actually requires me to get virtual assistance.

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