Do You Use a Virtual Assistant?


Recently, we suggested outsourcing chores to add time to our 24/7 work schedule.  Doing a little research I came across the blog about the book The 4-Hour Workweek, which we recently reviewed, and an account by AJ Jacobs, editor-at-large at Esquire magazine, about his experience outsourcing his chores.  He started by assigning a little research to his virtual assistant (VA) and in the end he was even outsourcing his worries!  From his account they definitely seem like a good idea.

But after digging around online forums, it seems that many people haven’t had the stellar service about which AJ Jacobs writes.  He does mention that Brickwork, the Indian outsourcing company, knew that he worked for Esquire and some frustrated forum dwellers speculated that they weren’t surprised he had good service while they were yet to receive a decent document from their VA or anything at all!  Still, as far as VA companies go, Brickwork seems to be one of the best out of India, competing with YourManinIndia.com.

Other options for VA services include freelance sites such eLance and oDesk as well as a local person who you can actually meet a few times a month if you need to.  From my own experience I wouldn’t recommend freelancing sites but there are people who find them useful.

A common problem with VA employers seems to be that clients want to pay very little for very high quality service from a highly competent VA, which pushes Westerners to Eastern markets, causing lack of English skills to be a main complaint.  Clients who pay more for VA’s in their own countries or who at least have good English skills generally left more positive comments.

Do you use a VA or a VA service?  What’s your experience?


Freelance writer, translator and copyeditor currently living in Amsterdam. Former stressed-out marketing and public relations person in NYC. Likes languages but really doesn't like flowers. Contact through GreenRabbitTranslations.com.

Discussion

  1. Seth W on the 7th September

    I’ve used a va before and it ended badly. Their English was quite good but when they realized I actually wanted them to work they quit.

  2. David on the 7th September

    I used the VA company Ask Sunday. They are based in India and offer a great service at a fantastic price. They can be very effective in most circumstances but sometime communication was an issue. You need to make sure you are very clear about what you want. There were only a couple of times when I felt that they had not performed well and I made this clear and my request was not counted. A few of more positive examples are that they successfully organised the return and replacement of a broken cross trainer I owned, waited on the phone for over an hour to put through a customer service agent from another company to me. They also organised a Limo, restaurant booking and contacted the clients to let them know the details and set pickup times with great success.

    So to sum up, I would recommend using a VA, but you must be very clear about what you want and how you would like your request carried out. If you are not happy then make it known and they are normally happy to make amends for the issue. They can help you make your life easier giving you more time to focus on your business.

  3. Felicity on the 7th September

    “A common problem with VA employers seems to be that clients want to pay very little for very high quality service from a highly competent VA, which pushes Westerners to Eastern markets, causing lack of English skills to be a main complaint.”

    >>> I think this is what you get for the low price you paid for, right? If these VA employers would want quality and competent VAs, they might as well consider paying them at a reasonable price. A price, still lower than what you get from their local market. There are a lot of quality VAs in the freelancing world. But there are a few employers who can pay a decent salary. Sad to say especially from the Western world. I believe that’s “garbage in, garbage out.” Now, if these employers cannot afford to shell out decent salary, then I guess they should stop complaining, right? Add to these brouhaha are the promotions and products/services being sold by some internet marketers promising them quality people with meager pay. These people are hard to come by, you know. You are lucky if you are able to find one. But the bottom line is, keep your employees happy by giving them good pay. And chances are you only would not get quality work, but loyalty as well. Keep them working “with” you rather than “for” you.

  4. Vinny on the 7th September

    It makes sense that quality VAs cost more money. The tough part is that when folks are just starting out, their budgets may not afford them anything but the cheapest VA work which more often then not will yield poor results. I imagine there is a point in everyone’s business where VAs make sense and is a wise investment.

    I looked into VAs not to long ago for some of my projects, and because they are all in initial phases, it did not may economical sense for me to make that investment right now.

  5. rosario on the 7th September

    I think what’s more important is that a VA is competent and reliable enough whether he’she is from a Western or Eastern Company.. but of course each client have their own choices on whom they would trust. there is too much competition in this industry already. nice article! keep posting! :)

  6. Robert Dempsey on the 8th September

    I’ve been using a VA for about 3 months now and it’s working out great. I used the site replacemyself.com to gain access to a job board, where after posting my VA job I received more than 50 applications. Ultimately I did 10 interviews before hiring on my current assistant. The service I used also provided a ton of training for online marketing type activities, which saved me a ton of time. I’m super happy with the outcome.

    Having said that, my VA is in the Philippines. I’ve been working with Philippinos for over two years, understand the culture, and understand the differences. So for me, it was more familiar and I knew what to expect.

  7. Ro R on the 8th September

    As we are very concious of the US unemployment situation, we were resolved to find a virtual assistant company based out of the US. We found longerdays.com and have been working with our VA, Kerry, for 3 months. The results have been outstanding and we would recommend their services any day. No problems with languange or understanding of tasks, nor with time recording or results. They are on EST and we are on CT, so there is only a one hour difference between their time and ours. This is great to schedule a call at any time.

    And we are definetely glad not to be dealing with people overseas! Yes, longerdays is a bit more expensive, but in our opinion you get what you pay for.

  8. Steve RZ on the 8th September

    I am using a Virtual Assistant at LongerDays.com. It has been a great experience. I am able to outsource many time-consuming tasks which allows me to focus on the more important parts of my job!

    • T. lloyd franklin on the 9th September

      I have used Longerdays as my virtual assistance service for several months and it has been an invaluable part of my business model.

      My experience was seamless from the first day I signed up. One important fact that many people overlook from reading 4 hour workweek is that it is so important to have a va service i.e. several assistants available who are crosstrained in what you require for your business to stay productive and profitable.

      A number of sites touting va services are actually former administrative assistants who work from home and are just one person. What happens when they are sick? or if you can’t reach them for any number of reasons? your business can’t come to a screeching halt.

      This is where longerdays comes in-their staff is very collaborative and able and willing to step in to take care of you as a customer if for any reason your assigned assistant is not available.

      I can’t say enough great things about the ease of use, ease of billing, professionalism and the great attitude and efficiency of my va Kerry.
      Longerdays is number one in my book and this is coming from a business owner who has used 5 other va services that will remain nameless who didn’t come close to the experience I have had with longerdays.

      If you are reading this post and frustrated, overhelmed, and need help immediately I would just pick up the phone and call 843-628-1515 and ask for Brooke and she will get you started.

      It was the best decision I could have ever made.

  9. Carlos on the 8th September

    I’ve been using a virtual assistant for almost two years now and they are life savers. I researched a lot before selecting a company to go with and I went with http://www.LongerDays.com because they are based in the US, have colleague degrees, the prices are reasonable and overall the service is outstanding. Sometimes people go wrong with trying to hire a cheap company out of India but really, a company like Longerdays is worth the extra money. They track the tasks to the minute and therefore bill you for whatever time was actually used. Not to mention that they can do just about anything that does not require for a person to be locally present where you are.

    I agree with David in regards to the fact that you need to be able to communicate your tasks effectively and you need to let go or else it won’t really work. Other than that, virtual assistants can be a huge help in my opinion, even if it is only for those times when you really need an extra hand… or two.

  10. Kevin on the 8th September

    I have been using my va for about 6 months now and i am very happy. I had tried using services like ask Sunday and found that getting a personal va is well worth your time and money in order to have someone who can learn your ways and that you can build a relationship with.

    I have my va do research, manage hiring and interviews, check in with contractors, make phone calls, anything that i personally don’t need to do. It has been great that i can work when i need to and not when the world wants me (9-5) or interrupt my work to make a call or run an errand.

    I used elance to find mine and pay her hourly as i need her. Its great. I pay more hourly but i have one based in the same state as I (California) which i think has benifited.

    As david mentioned above, you may have to go through a couple to find a good one, and do your homework, but if you do – it can be fantastic.

    Kevin

  11. Mazen Asbahi on the 8th September

    I use a U.S. based VA, Longerdays.com, for an incredibly wide range of matters for my legal practice and personal matters – everything from coordinating my schedule, contacts, conference calls and travel to more complicated and involved matters such as word processing, invoicing, accounts receivables and payables. They have folks who can do marketing and web design and have helped us with our blogs and marketing materials. On the personal side, I’ve had my VA help research family friendly restaurants and build an itinerary for our family trips.

    While I wish I could use their services 24/7, I like working with fellow Americans on these types of tasks, especially in communicating with clients (such as organizing conference calls or a/r), for language and corporate cultural competence.

    Mazen Asbahi

  12. Adam on the 8th September

    I love the 4HWW – it totally changed my paradigm and direction of my business!

    I started outsourcing on Odesk and Rentacoder – and found some good international VA’s….and some bad ones. Actually one of my first hires on Odesk is still working with me a year later – she’s been fantastic! Great english, hard worker, fast and loyal.

    But I’ve also had several really really bad outsourcers…you win some and you lose some.

    A few months ago I ended up interviewing a few outsourcing agencies – I wasn’t too impressed at first, until I found a US-based VA firm at http://www.longerdays.com.

    I’ve been working with them for several months now – and they’ve been awesome!
    US-based, fast and they get things done for me – graphic design, customer service, answering phones, appointment and email management, quickbooks.

    They’re a little bit more on an hourly basis than someone I could get on odesk, but I don’t have to hassle with the typical VA issues with them – they are on ball, fast and are a huge help to me.

    Team building and outsourcing is ESSENTIAL to building your business – to free up your time so that you can focus on your STRENGTHS and what you do BEST!

    Adam

  13. Cliff J Ravenscraft on the 8th September

    My life has been radically changed after hiring a Virtual Assistant. My income DOUBLED within just a few short months and I went from working 12 to 16 hours a day on my business to as many as I feel like working. (Disclaimer, sometimes I still work 12 to 16 hour days, but now, those extra hours are all on INCOME GENERATING TASKS)

    I feel in love with the who Virtual Assistant way, that I launched a podcast devoted to it! Check out http://VirtualAssistantPodcast.com.

    Note: I’m not a Virtual Assistant! I don’t even play one on TV! I’m full-time Podcast & New Media Producer, Consultant, and Coach. And I’m able to serve a LOT more clients and produce MORE CONTENT for my audience because of my VA!

    Oh, one final thing.. My VA is a domestic VA and she get’s paid decent hourly rates here in the US!

  14. Gina on the 9th September

    We have managed to gather 35+ team members to all work virtually together. It can work- trust is key. It’s extremely efficient and helps to promote a healthy work/life balance for all involved.

  15. Ana da Silva on the 11th September

    By the way, I should mention that while doing my research I found that many comments looked suspicious, as if the company had published them themselves.

    If you’re looking for a VA I’d strongly recommend going through your social networks to get some insight!

  16. Dan on the 16th September

    I can back up Cliff’s podcast as a great resource to help you decide about using a VA. I’ve found it incredibly helpful.

  17. Renee Shupe on the 23rd September

    Hi I’m a VA with a technical bent, meaning I specialize in WordPress, 1ShoppingCart and Aweber, but at times I get busy so have subcontracted out to VA’s located within North America as well as VA’s in the Philippines. I have found, in my experience, that though the VA’s in India are often educated it seems they lack any type of initiative and unless you layout every minute steps you won’t get your project complete. I found it too time consuming and beneficial.

    I know that my clients appreciate my ability to see the big picture and to troubleshoot as needed. I think the culture and knowledge gap that is what causes a lot of the issues in using a service from India, while many of the services from the Philippines understand the US (North American Culture) and English is commonly spoken which also helps.

    Like Cliff mentioned, most of my clients discover a new found freedom and time become available to them to allow them to focus on doing more revenue generation activities that they could before.

  18. Ken on the 25th October

    No time for an Avatar…my virtual assistant can add one if anyone really insists :-)…first it will go onto my Toodledo http://www.toodledo.com…be placed in the correct context (as per GTD methodology) and if I deem appropriate on to the team at Longer Days http://www.longerdays.com Since reading the 4HWW and contemplating how many things on my todo list as a physician/entrepreneur really are not the best uses of my time my productivity, daily satisfaction and efficiency have increased significantly. From tackling of IT issues, industry and other research, business travel logistics, building an RSVP and payment system for an upcoming event to business travel and coordinating all the pieces for a television production taping for the Rachel Ray Show :-)…Longer Days has exceeded expectation and the concept of a Virtual Assistant has me completely sold on the need for busy people to outsource certain aspects of their day and improve productivity and focus.

  19. Racho Alberto Jr L on the 27th February

    Hi, I am working as VA to my Company, working as VA is really great, our goal to is make our client satisfy with the task given by them, we prioritize them, because a key of successful VA is to make your client happy, if you do that, you too is happy also..:)

  20. entrepreneur on the 3rd July

    thanks for sharing this to us, your blog is really great we can learn something to it, keep up the good work my friend.

  21. Tinju Ashok on the 24th June

    One of the best learning I’ve had from my first week using a virtual assistant is that not every time-sensitive personal task I have is critical. There are lots of things that need to be done quickly but not ASAP. Having someone else who can research the task, complete it, and report back within 24 hours is great. It’s really helped me focus my energy on the intersection of personal tasks that only I feel comfortable doing and are very time sensitive. Having trusted help allows me to complete some tasks in parallel with minimal time loss.

  22. Mark Arther on the 10th July

    My experience using an Indian VA (taskbarge) is satisfactory….I’m impressed with their responsiveness and quality…I got this company refereed by my friend because of their plans. I can say Go for it.

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