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Posted by on Feb 7, 2013 in Optimizing Life, Reviews | 0 comments

Fancy Hands – Virtual Assistant | Outsourcing the Busy in Our Day

Fancy Hands – Virtual Assistant | Outsourcing the Busy in Our Day

Improving Personal Productivity | Virtual Assistant

Improve your personal productivity by engaging a virtual assistant

It’s not just at work that we are busy; our family lives are busy too. Even our children are occupied with calendars full of extracurricular activities and increasing amounts of homework. In our time-squeezed lifestyles, it is often difficult to balance hobbies, exercise, and a semblance of a social life. Shouldn’t there be more to life than rushing around and doing things every second of the day? Freeing up precious time to read a book to your kids, go on a date with your spouse, or simply make time to do something more interesting and appealing- these are important things.

Do you have a case for a Virtual Assistant?

A popular theme right now, and one that I’m following on my blog, is how to increase personal productivity through delegation and automation. These methods are not unique; businesses often focus on how to achieve the same results while growing profits. I see this every day as we promote technology and services to shave costs and protect the all-important bottom-line. Now, while the benefits are significant in the business world, there may be collateral damage, as savings often result in redundancies or reduction in new hires. You’re not going to fire yourself, spouse, or kids, but you can streamline some of your household and small business operating costs through attention to personal productivity. Don’t forget, your time is money.

As I wrote in my FIVERR article, I started the journey of outsourcing personal tasks (examples being laying out the family Christmas card, a new logo for the blog and proof reading of an article). While I find FIVERR a great option, it has its limitations. As part of my research on improving personal productivity, I stumbled across the concept of a virtual assistant. Now, there are two main types- on demand from a group of virtual assistants and dedicated with an allocation of hours or tasks from a single assistant.

My initial focus was the non-dedicated on demand model. I couldn’t see myself with a dedicated virtual assistant when I started, so my research focused on finding a cost effective on-demand service that would be able to support some work related tasks, tasks associated to my blog and that of my day-to-day family life. There are lots of options. My criteria were simple: a North American-based VA service that could support a Canadian based client (you would be surprised how many cannot support Canada). Secondly, a cost effective service that had a reasonable trial period so I could assess the service. Finally, a service with a high rating amongst its users.

The winner is – Fancy Hands

Fancy Hands offers the services of personal assistants to the masses. The company’s fleet of professional contractors, located throughout the U.S., are available for service requests around the clock. The army of assistants will do almost anything that doesn’t involve them getting up from their chairs.

Fancy Hands specializes in research, making phone calls and returning emails. Popular requests also include arranging appointments, finding local services, transcribing small chunks of audio, and compiling lists.

Members can submit requests from anywhere in the world. Submissions are received by email, by phone or through Basecamp. Requests are usually completed on the same business day. Tasks may take a couple minutes or an hour depending on details.

So what has my experience been?

I’ve been using the service for a little while now. So far, it’s been amazing.

I subscribed to the top tiered package, which gives me 25 requests per month. I can ask assistants to do anything that can be done remotely and is of legitimate nature. The guideline is that each task shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes. So, you have to break larger tasks up into multiple tasks. (Although I would recommend you get them to push back on a task before you do that as in some cases, they’ve spent more than 15 minutes on one or two tasks for me).

Now, as a bonus, If you share your Google Calendar account, Fancy Hands’ assistants will call and schedule meetings for you for FREE. Why? I don’t know, but free is good. This is limited to the setup of appointments with your current contacts, versus cold calling a prospect list for you .

I haven’t asked them to make any purchases on my behalf. In my research this seems to be an area of future development for Fancy Hands. My understanding is that they are beta testing this function, so until that’s fully tested and launched its not a feature I’ll be using. Obviously, they need to manage their liability as well as yours when it comes to disclosure of your credit card information.

In addition, for the cost of a task they can set up conference calls for you. Instead of giving you a call in number, they call all the participants when it’s time to start. Again, this is not a service I’ve used or have too much interest in right now.

You can e-mail them tasks, call them, or submit requests through the Fancy Hands website. They have plans to launch mobile applications, so another channel of communication will open up soon.

Now, when I researched virtual assistants, I always wanted to know what people have been requesting. So, to avoid disappointing you, here are examples of tasks highlighting what they are doing for me:

  • Identified three dog boarding facilities within 10 KM’s of my home and provided pricing and availability for a specific date. They also summarized the feedback from Yelp.
  • Arranged for my cars service on a specified day, arranging for shuttle service to and from my office (FREE).
  • Proofread and red-lined a blog article.
  • Sourced a supplier for LED pot light bulbs that I was paying $24.95 a bulb from a local store for $11.99. The store was within 40 KM’s of my home. This task saved me hundreds of dollars as I was replacing all my bulbs in my home as part of my energy efficiency program. The savings from this task paid for my Fancy Hands service for months.
  • Provided recommendations for hotels in Las Vegas for an upcoming trip, including price and features comparison for three hotels.
  • Created a PowerPoint from an X-ray file to take to my chiropractor. I have to say this was a very professional PowerPoint and delivered very quickly.

For this month I have submitted 21 tasks and they have made 39 calls on my behalf. I hate calling people on the phone, so the fact they spoke to 39 people on my behalf is worth its weight in gold. I’ve been disappointed maybe once, and that was, in fairness, because I asked for something outside of their particular domain. So in summary, they saved me time and money. While I could have done the majority of tasks myself, I would have never been as efficient.

So, do I have all I need: FIVERR for producing multimedia and Photoshop, Fancy Hands for a team of non-dedicated skilled virtual assistants who can support a fair range of tasks? Well, as you can imagine, I didn’t stop here; there was more to explore and more I needed. The next article will focus on where I have landed with a dedicated virtual assistant through Zirtual. I’ll also explain how you don’t need to put all your eggs in one basket; you can leverage all of these services cost effectively. This is especially achievable with a quarterback (not you, but your dedicated virtual assistant) who helps manages your team. It may seem excessive and costly, but you will be surprised what you can do for the price of a latte a day to improve yours and family’s life.

This article was proofed by my Virtual Assistant, Jennifer, from Zirtual.

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