With the popularity of the Four Hour Work Week, people all over the world have been outsourcing their lives. Regardless of what you’re looking for, there’s almost always someone willing to do quality work at a low price. Assuming you put in enough research and follow the tips in this article, you’ll be able to seek out quality virtual assistants and automate large parts of your personal and professional lives. These will be useful to you even if you have already acquired location independent digital skill sets.
What is outsourcing/geoarbitrage?
When we hear the word “outsource” we usually think of someone speaking broken English in a massive call-center in Dubai. In the last 20 years, nearly every major company has done at least some outsourcing of labor to foreign countries. It allows for increased efficiency on the home-front and helps companies cut-costs.
Now, with the rise of the internet, global economics and the need to make a living — it’s possible for just about anyone with a cell phone or internet connection and some cash in their pocket to automate their lives.
Somewhere in the world, there are virtual assistants waiting to serve you.
Why should I outsource?
For a long time, I shrugged off outsourcing as being inefficient and figured it always produced low quality results. While this is sometimes true, it’s not always the case. There are good virtual assistants out there, you just need to do some searching in order to find the right one.
Once you’ve found a quality assistant, the possibilities really are endless. Remember all that tedious paperwork that you have to do for tomorrow? Don’t worry about it. Or maybe the fact that it’s valentines day next week and you still haven’t figured out a date/gift for your wife? Solved. Or did you ever just want to find something really obscure, like an out of print magazine from when you were a kid? Have it shipped to you.
You’ll generally want to outsource the tedious parts of your life that you don’t want to be doing so you can focus on what you’re better at. Think of it as creating a company for yourself and designating labor to all the right people so you can be more productive and profitable.
Automating your work
If you just jump right into outsourcing, without a definite plan, then you’ll probably be disappointed and be short some cash. You always want to be sure that what you’re outsourcing either can’t be done by you, or shouldn’t be done by you. Basically, if your time is better spent doing something else rather than completing task X, then outsource task X.
What you want to do before starting to outsource is define the systems or workflows you’d like to be automated. For example, if you’re a programmer then your time is best spent programming. That’s what you’re getting paid to do. So, identify everything in your professional life that isn’t programming and figure out how it can be automated. Here’s a small list I just came up with for a programmer/entrepreneur working on a web application:
– Research major competitors and provide info (statistic, screenshots, etc.)
– Have someone design the user interface for your application
– Hire someone to manage social media marketing for your application
Basically, you’re setting up a tiny company for a project that you would normally do by yourself. Figure out how you would want the above tasks to be handled and then hand them off to personal assistants who can do a huge chunk of your work for you!
Of course, outsourcing works in the corporate world as well. If you work as an engineer or designer for a big firm, your time is best spent doing what’s in your job description (or even less in some cases!) So, you might want to outsource some of the paperwork you would have to do, or (again) the research that might be required for your next project.
Automating your personal life
I don’t have a whole lot to say here. Basically, if it’s time consuming and annoys you — outsource it. Life will be a whole lot easier if you don’t have to keep track of all major holidays and be sure you buy gifts or make reservations at exclusive restaurants for big events.
I can’t tell you how handy it’s been to have a virtual assistant who can book flights for me, find low prices for hotels and tons of other small things that add up.
Finding a quality assistant
This is the hardest part of outsourcing. Even if you can clearly see the value in it and want to give it a try, it can be a pain to seek out a quality virtual assistant. The best assistants/companies are usually the least promoted and talked about ones, because they’re so busy actually working.
Your best bet is to ask around in your professional circles and see if you know anyone who’s already outsourcing their labor. If they are and their pleased with who they’re working with, then just use their VA.
Unfortunately, it’s not very realistic to assume that everyone reading this blog knows someone who’s taking advantage of overseas labor.
So, where do we go from here?
Credit cards and personal concierge services are one option. These can be a great introduction to the world of outsourcing and will help you discover what’s possible without having to fork over a huge amount of cash.
I own several credit cards with concierge programs and, in general, the service has been pretty high quality. Of course, every now and then I’ll have an assistant that does a half-assed job or doesn’t quite understand my request. But, hey, it’s basically free labor for me. Not much to complain about.
Here’s a list of credit cards that offer a concierge program:
– American Express Platinum Card (my personal favorite credit card AND concierge service).
– Any Visa Signature Card
– Mastercard World’s Elite
There are also dedicated personal concierge services like Red Butler, but I haven’t tested them out yet, so I’m not sure about the quality.
Freelance sites are the next best way to find a quality assistant. I use the following “competitive interview” method to select a quality VA in any field:
– Decide on a task you’d like to outsource. This could be writing a wordpress plugin to fit your needs, designing a custom logo or just writing a letter of resignation to your boss, but make it something you have to get done and keep in a relevant field. For example, if I wanted to find a good VA for graphics work, I would only select a design-related task.
– Select a few freelance sites (Freelancer, elance, odesk, etc.)
– Draft up a post outlining the qualifications of your project. Be very specific and be clear about the kind of quality and price range you’re looking for. State that you are holding a competition and, while all of the participants will be paid, the best result will receive a bonus. Post this on all of the freelancing sites and wait for replies to come in.
– Let all of the winners compete and deliver their results. You’ll be able to see which ones work faster, who produces higher quality work, etc.
– Select the freelancing company/individual that you liked best and keep their contact info handy for future jobs in the same field.
Is this method a little more time-consuming than just going to a VA company in India and handing your work off to a random worker? Yes, absolutely. However, the final product is going to be much better and you’ll essentially have a quality assistant on retainer that you can keep coming back to whenever you need work done.
I hope some of you have new insight on what outsourcing is and how it can be used to your advantage. If anyone has any good stories (or terrible ones!) about geo-arbitrage or outsourcing their lives, feel free to share them in the comments!