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Vox Pop: Have you tried outsourcing your life?

A lot of my friends have been reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, and, to varying degrees, several of them have started trying on some of his more audacious ideas, such as checking email once a week, finding an "income muse," going on an extreme information diet -- a few people I know are considering outsourcing pieces of their personal and professional lives.

For reasons I can't fully explain -- and will, for now, just write down to Tim's engaging style -- I also found this outsourcing idea weirdly fascinating. You identify the tedious tasks in your life that don't represent the best use of your time, and assign them to an overseas worker who can complete them for a few bucks an hour. This apparently can be virtually any kind of mundane task, from booking a dinner reservation to doing research on a company to -- heck, why not? -- answering your email.

So, while I know lots of people share my theoretical interest in this, I wonder how many of you have tried it, and how many of you are using outsourced help on a regular basis. What's your experience been? Does this work? What sorts of task are most amenable to long-distance assignment?

By the way, if you haven't read the book yet, here's an excerpt from Tim's chapter on outsourcing.

Comments are open for your stories. I'd be grateful if you can try to limit your comments to firsthand experiences hiring and utilizing outsourced employees or in regard to evaluating the quality of their work. Thanks.

Karalyn's picture

Turning work over to someone...

Turning work over to someone else always involves a learning curve. The trick is to simplify the process and reduce it to a step-by-step project. This can then be easily replicated as often as necessary. While it may take a bit of communication to initially perfect the outcome, in the long run you will save time. You won't be reinventing the wheel each time --- and you won't have to do it yourself.

I have worked as a Virtual Assistant for nearly 10 years --- after 30+ years as a legal assistant, paralegal and director of a non-profit agency. Hiring a VA is no different from hiring an employee to work from your office --- you must have a person whose qualifications meet or exceed your needs, you need someone who has exceptional communication skills, and a highly motivate self-starter. Without these things, you will seldom get the results you want. Many times what you find initially is someone with little experience looking for a way to work from home and make money. In reality, a Virtual Assistant needs to be more experienced than his/her counterpart in the office might be, in order to function well as an independent entity. So take time to look for someone who has a lot of good work experience and skills.

As much as I hate to say it, I've yet to hear from anyone who has outsourced to an overseas VA with acceptable results. I think this goes back to communication skills and expectations on the part of the employer. To my way of thinking, this is not a position to outsource overseas.

While you may need to allow time for a few email or telephone exchanges in the beginning to sort through things, once your VA has a handle on how you work, write, function, etc., and learns more about your business, you should find that you get a great deal accomplished with minimal time and expense involved. Your VA is not answering phones, being interrupted by someone else in your office, running to the photocopy machine for this and that, or dealing with any of a number of other interruptions for which you would be paying someone in your office environment.

I urge you to take the time to check out several VAs --- get a feel for how well they communicate and find out whether their skill levels match your needs. Then give yourselves some time to get to learn to work together. In the end you may find it's a better fit than you expected.


Karalyn Eckerle Cardinal Point Virtual Assistants http://cardinalpointva.typepad.com/inside_out/




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