GoButler

GoButler is an SMS-based virtual assistant service. They have assistants known as “Heroes” available to receive and respond to SMS messages 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

They currently have around 50 employees. With their headquarters being in New York and home to most of the development team, and another office in Germany where most “Heroes” are situated. The company only came out of their BETA testing phase at the end of July, so they are still growing their team.

Go Butler secured $8 million in Series A funding this year, so it’s going to be interesting couple of years seeing this company grow.

About Go Butler

gobutler reviewThere are three founders behind GoButler; Maximilian Deilmann from the UK, Navid Hadzaad from the US, and Jens Urbaniak from Germany. With this is mind It’s easy to understand their decision to have offices in the US and Germany.

With the service coming out of BETA at the end of July, they have opened up the availability to use the service in the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Singapore, Spain, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria and Switzerland at the time of writing this. With further expansion into new countries expected in the near future.

Their target customers are busy consumers. So if you need a suggestion where to eat out, want to place a food order for delivery, or book flights – you can send an SMS to Go Butler and expect a speedy reply with an answer to meet your needs.

gobutler use caseServices

GoButler’s motto is “Anything you want. As long as it’s legal. Try it!” So if there is a service of product you want without the effort of finding it yourself, send them a text.

Customers are using GoButler to make travel plans, complete restaurant reservations, find and order products online, and get food delivered. You won’t be assigned a dedicated assistant, so it would be tough to delegate ongoing business-related projects or tasks, but for one-off requests, quite an interesting concept.

They process secure payments through their partner Braintree. There really are no hidden costs or charges, you pay exactly what you would pay if you had sourced the product or service yourself.

It’s really as simple as it sounds. All you need is a device to send and receive SMS messages, and you can use the service. They aim to respond to all queries within a few minutes, so this seems like a pretty cool “intro to delegation” service for people to test out and see how well they can text specific requests and instructions.

Plans and Pricing

This is what sets Go Butler apart from similar services: it’s completely free. Founder Navid Hadzaad has stated they plan to keep it free too. There are plans to monetize the service from the B2B side. So you, the customer, should never be passed on any of the costs.

Plus, there is currently no limit to the number of requests you can make in any given month.

My guess is on the backend GoButler is earning an affiliate commission on any products they purchase on your behalf. But it seems like a heavy labor burden to respond to all the other non-monetizable tasks that inevitably will come through.

To sign up, just text GO to 25400. When I did, I got a response right away asking for my email, and explaining there is currently a waitlist to join. (I’ll update this post once they let me in!)

Go Butler Alternatives

Go Butler was not the first company to think of the SMS-assistant model. There are several competitors vying for attention in this space:

  • Magic – Magic has a very similar process to Go Butler. Customers can receive information on products and services via SMS.
  • Operator – Operator has an app for smartphones enabling customers to search and shop for products through their interface.
  • Scratch – Scratch is like a personal shopping assistant in a smartphone app, great for finding gifts.
  • Fetch – Another text-message based shopping service, though when I tried it I didn’t get a response for days.

The main hook that sets Go Butler apart from all of these similar services is that it’s the only service to be completely free to the customer. I’m sure this will be a big factor when it comes down to a choice between which service to try for the first time.

(One friend of mine was using Magic and was absolutely THRILLED he was able to buy shorts through a text message, and was more than happy to pay the service fee the company tacked on.)  

Have you tried Go Butler? If so please leave some feedback below to help others with their decision.

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Somebody 2 Hire

Somebody 2 Hire is a virtual assistant company in the Philippines with a large number of virtual assistants ready to handle administrative, customer service, and marketing tasks.

Founded in 2013, they pride themselves on having virtual assistants with a wide range of experience and expertise.

Somebody2Hire are happy to take on small, medium, or large clients, and no task is too small, or too large. Each virtual assistant is managed in house, so clients can rest assured they will not be let down.

About Somebody 2 Hire

somebody 2 hire reviewThe company was founded a little over two years ago by founder Jozsef Kiss, with Mads Sorenson stepping on board as a partner. While this makes them a relatively new company in the virtual assistant landscape, it’s long enough to fill clients with confidence that they are here to stay.

When I asked what set them apart from other virtual assistant companies, Jozsef’s response was, “We have a dedicated support team on site in our office, in the Philippines. What makes us stand out as a leading outsourcing center are the skill sets that we can acquire to put in place for our clients.”

He went on to add that they only hire assistants with excellent English skills and years of experience, which anyone who has used a VA before will know is a huge advantage.

Somebody 2 Hire Intro Video

Services

The company provides a wide range of services, and are happy to discuss any bespoke needs too. However, they wrap most of their expertise into three key areas:

Administrative – Including handling email support, scheduling support and management, data administration, database management, customer support, research, and more.

Customer Service – Inbound and outbound services, online chat support, and email support.

Online Marketing – Handling social media accounts, SEO, SEM, website maintenance, WordPress assistance, graphic design, and more.

As with most virtual assistant providers, you will get most value by providing as much detail as possible when outsourcing and identifying early into the process how well the relationship is working.

With such a wide range of tasks being handled, I asked if there are any areas of specialization clients can use. Their response was that they specialize in ‘grunt work’, which while that may be an unusual choice of words, it paints the picture that they are happy handling any task.

somebody 2 hire pricing

Plans and Pricing

Somebody 2 Hire has a clear and simple pricing plan. You choose a plan by how many hours a day you want the virtual assistant, then you pay a flat rate. All rates are without commitment or contract.

You will see from the pricing below that you get considerably more value when you pay for the full 8 hour day package, which is something worth considering if you have a workload that will conclude once completed as opposed to daily ongoing tasks.

  • 4 hours a day will cost $7.82 per hour / $625 per month.
  • 8 hours a day will cost $6.85 per hour / $1095 per month.

These rates aren’t rock-bottom in the industry, but they’re competitive, especially for having a dedicated office infrastructure. I found Somebody 2 Hire very easy to contact and talk to. I would suggest contacting them if you have any specific requirements and want to discuss pricing.

Somebody 2 Hire Alternatives

There are a lot of virtual assistant providers in the Philippines. If you like the idea of office-based employees, VA Staffer runs a similar model near Manila. If you’re comfortable with home-office-based workers, you might consider Virtual Staff Finder or OnlineJobs.ph, though both of those will specialize in finding full-time VAs.

Have you worked with Somebody 2 Hire? If so, please post some comments about your experience below to help others make an informed decision.

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Outsourcely

Outsourcely is a virtual jobs board serving clients all over the globe looking for remote workers.

Their headquarters are in Foresthill, CA, with a team working from their offices there, and some additional remotely based employees in the suburbs of Sacramento.

Currently most of their virtual assistants are in the Philippines, though it sounds like the team has plans to take this platform global now that the infrastructure is in place. 

About Outsourcely

outsourcely reviewThe company went live in December 2014 and was founded by current CEO Oleg Posternatsky. 

Being in their infancy, I was interested to know what strategy they had to set them apart from other companies in such a crowded market. Oleg’s response was, “Outsourcely has set itself apart by charging a lot less from employers, putting more money in the pockets of workers and the development and implementation of systems to greatly increase the probability that workers and employers will establish and sustain long term full time partnerships.”

That strategy sounds like a win-win for clients and virtual assistants, with Outsourcely picking up the tab. So it’s going to be interesting to see the impact they make on the market.

They outline their target customers as being business owners with any online presence looking to free up more time by outsourcing some of their tasks. There are considerable payroll savings by outsourcing, and the ability to tap into the desired skills you’re looking for.

Services

The company directive is straightforward; to provide clients with a versatile and vetted selection of virtual assistants. Predominantly situated out of the Philippines, Outsourcely VAs specialize in design, tech, administrative support and customer service support.

Outsourcely has a refined and smooth signup and membership process, allowing remote workers to be optimally matched with clients through their system. They have over 20,000 remote workers in their database, so there is a high chance of finding a VA with the appropriate skillset.

Their VAs aren’t a great fit for one-off projects or freelance tasks, but instead are seeking long-term stable employment.

Once the company helps match you with a virtual assistant, they integrate your workflows and processes into the project management system Basecamp. This lets you manage your projects in one place and have a clean line of communication.

After that, you work directly with your VA and pay them directly based on the terms you agree on.

They seem to be playing up their “team communication platform” as a point of differentiation, though I’m not entirely convinced that would be necessary for a single hire. Or what’s to keep users on the Outsourcely platform instead of moving to Skype/Slack/Asana/etc after you’ve made your hiring decision.

Plans and Pricing

Outsourcely currently have three membership packages. You can choose to pay either $29 for the Standard plan, $39 for the Plus plan, or $69 per month for the Pro plan.

outsourcely pricing

With the Standard plan you get access to view profiles of the remote-workers on their database, you can post 3 jobs per month, your jobs stay live for 14 days, and you can connect with remote-workers to discuss the jobs, and get your project off the ground.

With the larger packages you are able to post more jobs per month, your jobs stay live on the database longer, and you have more tools of communication.

You can also save 25% by pre-paying for an annual plan.

Outsourcely Alternatives

The primary alternative to Outsourcely is Onlinejobs.ph. They operate on a similar monthly membership model and really just want to play matchmaker, not concerning themselves with making a markup margin on a worker’s salary month after month.

I found the Outsourcely interface a little cleaner to work with than OnlineJobs, and the pricing is slightly lower ($49/mo for job-posting/contact privileges over there). The drawback is that OnlineJobs has a more deeply entrenched user base and probably at least 5x as many workers on the platform.

Have you worked with Outsourcely? If so please leave any feedback or comments you can share below to help others with their decision.

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Deluxe Logo Design

I was surprised to learn that Deluxe has been in business since 1915 — 100 years! They started back in the day making checkbook holders and are still one of the leaders in check production today.

Naturally, the business evolved to include small business support services, including graphic design. The logo design arm (formerly known as LogoMojo) got its start in 1992 and the company has served more than 50,000 logo design clients since then.

About Deluxe

deluxe logo design reviewWhile the specific deliverable many small businesses are after is an attractive logo, Deluxe can also help with developing your organization’s brand identity through marketing, search engine optimization, social media development and website design.

They target small businesses that want an affordable logo with more options and attention to your overall brand than a cheaper service (like Fiverr). Check some of the portfolio samples in the video below to get an idea of what they can create.

How it Works

To get started, you’ll complete a short design brief. If you’ve never done one of these before, it’s a pretty fun exercise. You go through a series of questions about your personal style and your business’ “personality.”

In the case of Deluxe, they’ll ask you what other types of logos you like, what colors you like or are thinking of using in your business, any images you want included (or excluded), where you might use the logo, and some information about your company like who you serve and what sets you apart in the market.

After that, Deluxe will assign a handful of designers (number based on what package you select) from their Charlotte, North Carolina-based team who are the best fit for your project, and they’ll get to work in producing design concepts for you to review.

Deluxe Logo Samples and Intro Video

Plans and Pricing

Deluxe offers 3-tiers of logo design pricing, starting at $245. At that price point you’ll have two different designers coming up with concepts on your behalf and you’ll be presented with around 10 ideas to choose from.

From there, you can ask for a revision or two if the design concept is close but not quite where you want it.

deluxe logo design pricing

Limited Time VAA exclusive: Get 10% off any logo design package through this link!

The mid-tier Silver package is $395 and bumps you up to 3 designers and 30 logo design concepts. Plus they’ll throw in a black and white version of your vector file.

And at the top-end, Deluxe has their gold package with 5 designers and 50 design concepts. The big value add-ons here are the fonts and color codes, which are really helpful in making your website look like a coherent extension of your brand.

Each package comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, in which you can request a redesign from new designers or a full refund if none of the concepts are acceptable.

Logo Design Alternatives

Deluxe operates in this unique middle ground between the fully crowdsourced logo services like 99designs and CrowdSPRING, and the straight 1-person freelance shops you’ll find on Fiverr or Upwork.

I definitely like the idea of having multiple people contributing multiple concepts, and the Bronze package is less expensive than the lowest option at 99designs.

Have you ever had a logo designed by Deluxe? What did you think? Please feel free to leave a review of your experience below to help others with their decision.

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OkayRelax

OkayRelax is a new task-based virtual assistant company based in Tampa, Florida. The business was founded in 2015 with a mission to help busy people save some time and sanity.

About Okay Relax

okayrelax reviewOkayRelax operates on kind of a hybrid model between a dedicated virtual assistant service and a task-based approach where any available team member can tackle your assignments. The service is set-up around tasks, mini-projects up to 30 minutes, but unlike competitors Fancy Hands and Efficise, you are assigned a dedicated assistant.

While a distributed team approach does have certain advantages, the founders of OkayRelax felt there were some major problems with it as well. For example, if you’re constantly explaining repetitive tasks to new VAs, you’re never gaining any efficiency or process improvement ideas. Plus, if you’re sharing sensitive data or login information, you don’t want that spread around to an army of anonymous virtual assistants.

OkayRelax assistants work from home and serve (English-speaking) clients worldwide. The company’s proprietary screening and training process makes sure they can deliver exceptional service.

Services

OkayRelax handles a range of virtual assistant tasks, but they really do focus on your individual needs as opposed to the needs of your business or company. For example, they can book you a table at a local restaurant if you’ve forgotten to make a reservation or they could recommend an activity for you if you’re not quite sure what to do next weekend.

Clients rely on their OK Relax assistant to help with online research for upcoming travel or product purchases, or administrative tasks like email and calendar management, data entry, or dealing with customer service on your behalf.

OkayRelax Video Review

Plans and Pricing

OkayRelax plans start at $14.95 a month for a 5 task plan. In comparison, Fancy Hands is double that for the same 5 tasks.

The popular 25-task plan runs $49.95 per month and heavy users can outsource 50 tasks under the OkayRelax Executive plan for $74.95 per month.

If you max out the 30-minute per task guideline, you’re looking at equivalent labor rates as low as $6 an hour on the Starter plan, $4 an hour for the Professional plan, and $3 an hour for the Executive plan.

okayrelax pricing

Exclusive: Use promo code VAA for 50% off your first month!

At press time, they were offering a 2-task credit free trial to give the service a test drive.

You can assign tasks of up to 2.5 hours, and they’ll just charge 5 credits from your account. This is super handy because they recognize that not all jobs fit into nice 15-30 minute chunks.

OkayRelax Alternatives

OkayRelax follows in the footsteps of other task-based virtual assistant companies, but with their own unique twist. As mentioned above, Efficise, Fancy Hands, and Perssist all operate similar models, though without the dedicated assistant.

In fact, I’m having a hard time thinking of another service that offers a dedicated VA for less than $100 a month.

Your Turn

Have you worked with OkayRelax before? Please leave a review below to help others with their decision.

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Codeable

Codeable (codeable.io) is an on-demand service for WordPress tasks. The Denmark-based company was founded in 2013 and employs more than 100 WordPress experts in the US and Europe to solve WordPress problems for customers.

VAA Tested_smallerThink of them as a hyper-specialized virtual assistant service; you only use them when you need their specific skillset, but don’t have any recurring costs to front. These guys only deal with WordPress-related issues — they’re not going to be running your social media campaigns or making dinner reservations for you.

codeable reviewAlthough its early in the game for Codeable, the initial feedback has been positive. Of their first 1100 paid tasks, nearly 99% of them were rated 5 stars out of 5.

Services

So what can Codeable’s virtual army of WordPress experts get done for you?

Pretty much anything related to your WordPress site; fixing bugs, making design customizations, developing a custom plugin, modifying your theme, migrating your site to a new host, or even providing one-on-one training.

Each of the developers they let onto their platform goes through a thorough screening process including an interview and review of their portfolio and work history.

The focus is on smaller tasks with quick turnaround times. The Codeable platform operates 24/7 and several users report getting initial estimates back within minutes of posting their jobs.

Codeable Review

How it Works

With Codeable, you create your own task brief — the more detailed and well thought-out the better. The more specific you can be in terms of what you want done, the better results you get and the better understanding the coders will have of your project.

You’ll begin collecting bids almost immediately, but the bids are averaged out — removing price from the equation. You can pick the developer you feel is the best fit based on their feedback, recent work history, or their areas of specialization.

In either case, Codeable explains you can pick confidently because they only allow top-notch technical talent to join their ranks.

Plans and Pricing

The average Codeable job is $169 and takes 48 hours start to finish.

The way their pricing works is the different WordPress pros submit bids, but unlike Elance, Codeable takes the average of those bids to create your estimated price. (They also tack on a 15% service commission on top of that price.)

The theory is this prevents their marketplace from turning into a “race to the bottom” on price, but still allows you access to top WordPress talent at reasonable rates. It also saves you the trouble of sorting through a dozen different quotes and trying to discern the difference!

There is no ongoing monthly membership subscription to pay for like you’d find with WP Curve. You might end up paying more on a per-job basis, but depending on the volume of work you need done, Codeable could end up being a money saver.

VAA Exclusive: Get $10 off your first project when you sign-up through this link.

Each job has a money back guarantee.

I haven’t had a chance to test the service personally yet, but will be sure to report back here and update this post once I do.

Codeable Alternatives

When I first saw Codeable, a couple competitors came to mind. The first is Elto (formerly Tweaky), which offers website “tweaks” and other services starting from just $39. (Read about how I’ve been using Fiverr instead.)

The second service I thought of was WP Curve, which offers “unlimited” WordPress support for just $69 per month. They’ve seen some crazy growth over the past year and are doing very well.

Have you worked with Codeable? If so, please be sure to share a quick review of your experience below to help others with their decision.

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Efficise

Efficise is a virtual assistant and business outsourcing firm based in Karachi, Pakistan. The company launched in 2012, with the goal of helping people all over the world enhance their efficiency and productivity.

Efficise reviewSince then, Efficise has grown into one of the most popular task-based services on this site.

Services

efficise review 2015Efficise virtual assistants are trained to handle a host of tasks that include standard admin stuff, web research, and other one-time virtual “gofer” jobs. Many clients turn to them for help with transcription, travel planning, social media management, data entry jobs, and more.

They allow flexibility to allow process-outsourcing and recurring tasks in ways some other virtual assistant companies can’t handle.

Efficise Review:

Plans and Pricing

Efficise offers both Individual and Business service packages.

Their Individual plan is available at 4 levels. A 15-task plan is $30 per month, a 30-task plan is just $45 a month, a 50-task plan is $65 a month, and a 100-task plan is only $100 a month.

efficise pricing

These are tasks that can take up to 30 minutes to complete (other companies typically use a 15-minute guideline) and the team is available 24/7 to get them done for you.

At those price points, Efficise is definitely one of the best bang-for-your-buck services out there, and $1 per request is a pretty small price to pay to get 100 time-sucking tasks off your plate each month. Theoretically it could save you up to 50 hours a month, which is huge.

On a per-task basis, Efficise is more cost-effective than US-based rival Fancy Hands.

At the larger monthly plans, they even throw in some bonus hours for the occasional longer task that required more involvement or research.

Special Offer: Use coupon code NLIND15 for 15% off your first month of any Individual plan!*

*Excludes the 15-request plan.

If you need more than 100 virtual assistant requests in a month, or more in-depth or ongoing work, you might consider the Efficise Business plan.

Business rates start at $13 an hour, and go as low as $10/hr depending on how many hours you buy.

efficise business plans

The nice thing is that for all but the lowest plan, the hours rollover to the next month. The hours do expire after a certain amount of time, but it’s good to know you’re not completely out the money if you don’t have a ton of outsourced work one month.

With a Business plan, you can outsource jobs like social media management, outbound calling, transcription, emails, data entry, and even customer service. If you prefer to work with a dedicated virtual employee on an ongoing basis, Efficise will provide a customized quote tailored to your needs.

Special Offer: Use coupon code NLBUS05 for 5% off your first month of any Business plan!

Neither of these plans come with any start-up fees, contracts or long-term commitments. You can track progress on your tasks in real time, and cancel your Efficise service whenever you want.

Efficise has made some investments in their back-end dashboard that help provide a better customer experience. For example, you can prioritize two tasks a day, basically flagging them as important and jumping the rest of the queue.

In addition, users can maintain an account profile with your own instructions and preferences, so they don’t have to be explained anew each time.

If you have any experience with Efficise, positive or negative, please share it below.

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Tweaky

UPDATE: Tweaky changed to Elto.com, which appears to either be shut down at the moment or in super-secret startup stealth-mode.

Tweaky is a marketplace for quick website customization projects. These small “tweaks” start at just $39 and are accomplished by a talented cloud-based team of developers.

VAA Tested_smallerTweaky was founded in 2012 and is based in Melbourne, Australia.

This is not a virtual assistant service, but it is an interesting outsourcing concept that falls between Fiverr and the big freelance marketplaces. If you’ve ever been in the situation where you’re banging your head against the wall trying to make some small fix on your website or figure out how to do one seemingly simple thing in the code, Tweaky is for you.

tweaky reviewThese small fixes and customizations can be frustrating thorns in your side, and Tweaky takes that pain away. I first learned about the company at a marketing conference in Las Vegas, and was anxious to try them out the next time I had a need.

Today, the nearest alternative is WP Curve, which offers unlimited small WordPress fixes for $79/month.

The advantage over Elance or oDesk is just in the amount of time it takes from initiation to project completion. You’ll still need to create a pretty detailed scope of work for what you want done, but you don’t have to spend any time going through the applications and picking a winner. Tweaky quotes the project a low fixed rate and assigns a competent developer to the job.

I tested it out myself on a fix I’d been procrastinating on for the mobile version of this very website. Even though the theme is responsive,  certain pages looked pretty messed up when viewed on the mobile browser. Here’s an example of what I submitted to Tweaky and asked them to fix:

vaa mobile ugly
Before

They came back with a quote of $39 and I reasoned it would be a worthwhile investment since 20% of the site’s traffic is from mobile users, and that number isn’t getting any smaller.

So I accepted the job and within a couple hours, the mobile site looked a million times better:

vaa mobile nice
After

Well worth it! Super fast and quality work.

A couple other important things to note. The first was in sharing the WordPress access details. They have a secure system to input your login and password information and I didn’t have to create a separate developer account. I would have probably preferred to use LastPass, but I felt OK with the security level at Tweaky.

Tweaky supports a huge variety of web software, including WordPress, Drupal, Shopify, BigCommerce, MailChimp, AWeber, and much more. Pretty much anything you can think of related to your website, they can handle for you without the potential headache of going through a freelance site.

One thing that might be interesting, that I didn’t bother with, would be to post the same project on Tweaky and on oDesk and see if the rates end up being much different. My hunch is that Tweaky is pretty competitive on price because they’re built specifically for these one-off micro-jobs — jobs the freelancers on oDesk might not be as attracted to or suited to.

Tweaky has a 100% money back guarantee so there’s no risk to try them out. I would just take a backup of your site before handing over the access, just on the off-chance something really blows up beyond repair.

If you want to try Tweaky yourself, use this link to get $10 off your first project. [Tweaky coupon code]

Have you used Tweaky before? If so, please share a quick review of your experience below.

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Habilis

Habiliss (formerly Habilis and occasionally iHabilis) is a virtual assistant service and online lifestyle manager that offers to aid busy professionals and business owners. The company is based in Chennai, India, and primarily serves customers in the US and the UK.

Customers interact with their virtual assistance via telephone, Internet, and/or email. The service is capable of handling both your personal and business needs. Clients who have used the service have expressed their appreciation for its ease of use, timeliness of response and value. A free trial is available at their website.

habiliss reviewThe site offers services for both business and personal clients. For entrepreneurs, a Habilis virtual assistant can help produce quality presentations, discover new sales leads, and execute web research. With an hourly plan, you can train your dedicated virtual assistant to track emails or work in your business in whatever ongoing basis you need. By outsourcing daily tasks you can free up valuable time for a relatively small price.

The dedicated assistance plans start at 40 hours a month for $350, which is $8.75 an hour with no additional overhead expenses or taxes to pay. An 80-hour a month half-time VA is $600, and a full time dedicated virtual assistant is only $1000 – a full time virtual employee for just $6.25 an hour! This is comparable to other outsourcing services like MyTasker or 24/7 Virtual Assistant.

habiliss pricing

For personal users, Habiliss offers a range of task-based plans. These are best suited for small one-time projects like ordering groceries, booking restaurant reservations or providing wake-up calls. Personal services can also assist with time management, perform online research, help with keeping appointments, and tracking important dates.

The task-based plans start at just $10 which covers your first 5 tasks. If you have a lot of small tasks to get done, you can realize some savings by buying a larger package. Habilis sells a 30-task plan for $50, or just $1.66 per task. This is comparable to Efficise and slightly more affordable than a US-based service like Fancy Hands.

If you want to try out their services, a limited free trial is at iHabilis.com. Aside from your subscription plan, there are no start-up costs when signing up. To cancel using this virtual assistant service, simply call, email or unsubscribe utilizing the portal provided before the next billing cycle is initiated.

Habilis has received positive accolades from Good Morning America and the Wall Street Journal. Good Morning America found the company to have the fastest response times of the virtual assistant services they tested, which included Red Butler and AskSunday, but found the quality of the work a little lacking.

Have you worked with Habiliss? If so, please share your experience below!

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Zirtual

UPDATE: On August 10th, 2015, Zirtual “Paused All Operations.” Later in the week, they announced the company had been acquired by Startups.co and will be resuming business shortly. If that instability doesn’t sit well, please see below for Zirtual Alternatives.

Zirtual is a virtual assistant service that offers virtual assistant and personal concierge services to people around the world. Zirtual was founded in 2010 and is headquartered in San Francisco and Las Vegas.

VAA Tested_smallerZirtual offers US-based, college-educated virtual assistants that are available to handle a wide-variety of tasks and that are designed to help people get and stay organized.

Zirtual assistants are available to perform tasks, including but not limited to sending out birthday cards, ordering flowers, making travel arrangements reservations, scheduling meetings, conducting research , making calls, coordinating plans, returning calls, sending out and responding to e-mails. The list goes on.

zirtual reviewPlans and Pricing

The most popular option is the Entrepreneur plan priced at $399.00 per month. The Entrepreneur plan includes same-day support from your dedicated assistant and the ability to outsource tasks up to a cumulative 16 hours a month. (Slightly less than $25 per hour.)

If you have more work to outsource, Executive and VIP-level plans give you more hours of support and reduced effective hourly rates.

zirtual pricing

The company recently axed their $199 per month entry-level plan and their on-demand Zirtual Now service.

Zirtual Review:

(Here’s the PowerPoint slide deck my ZA made — pretty slick, right?)

These rates make Zirtual slightly more affordable than other US-based competitors like Red Butler, which offers similar unlimited dedicated service at $495 a month.

Zirtual Founder Interview

And check out Maren pitching Barbara Corcoran and NBC’s “The Pitch”:

Why Zirtual?

Not to suggest these other companies will hire just anyone off the street, but Zirtual guarantees that all of their virtual assistants are thoroughly screened, college-educated and competent to your perform tasks. When it comes to building trust with someone you’ve never met, the hiring process becomes that much more important.

Founder Maren Kate Donovan explains: “We have a seven step hiring process that includes thorough background checks, personality tests and social background checks—to ensure people haven’t lied and to get a very deep understanding of what makes them tick as people.” She goes on to note that Zirtual only hires 3% of the people who apply, and that they receive 4 weeks of traning before they handle their first client.

Your Zirtual virtual assistant service also comes with an “Epic Guarantee” — that you’ll be satisfied with their work and that your personal information will be kept safe. If you have problems with the service you can have a new virtual assistant appointed and also have the option a refund in certain circumstances.

To get started with Zirtual, there are no start-up, or initiation fees aside from your monthly subscription. In addition, there are no long or short-term contracts, individuals can choose to use Zirtual on a one-time basis or sign up for a monthly plan you can cancel at any time with no penalty.

Out of Beta

Since their founding, Zirtual was an invitation-only service — you had to know someone on the inside, or come through this website, to get in. But in January 2014, in response to strong demand, Zirtual lifted the by-invitation-only rule and opened the gates to the general public.

To fuel their growth in this rapidly expanding industry, Zirtual announced that they raised an additional $2 million in venture capital in January 2013.

Zirtual Alternatives

If you’re looking for a dedicated virtual assistant service as an alternative to Zirtual, two that come highly regarded are eaHELP and Worldwide101. You’ll find the base hourly rates slightly higher, though Worldwide has a 10-hour a month plan that is about $100 less than Zirtual’s “Entrepreneur” plan.

In response to the unexpected Zirtual shutdown, Time Etc is offering half-off your first month of service for previous Zirtual clients.

And if you’re comfortable “going direct” and hiring your own freelance VA, you may be able to find some qualified talent on Elance. The drawback of course is you have no backup if it doesn’t work out and have to do the entire hiring process yourself start to finish.

For advanced sales support, you might consider Prialto.

Have you worked with a Zirtual concierge? If so, please share your experience below!

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When You Don’t Like ANY of Your Outsourcing Options

Last Sunday I posted a new job to Elance.

It was actually to transition the VirtualAssistantAssistant.com site to a new theme and migrate the data.

The last design update was in 2012, so it’s overdue for a refresh!

I found a new WordPress theme I liked, crafted my project spec, detailed out the modifications that would be needed, and posted the job.

Waking up on Monday, I was excited to see what proposals awaited me in my Elance inbox.

This is actually one of the most fun parts of delegation for me, and maybe this is a little heartless, but I really like the “process of elimination” part where I go through and disqualify all the candidates I don’t like.

Straight copy and paste response without looking at the job description? See ya!

Zero Elance feedback? Adios!

Quote too high? Or too low? Goodbye!

Ugly profile? No relevant work history? No thanks!

Making it past this first stage is so ridiculously easy, yet 80% of candidates are eliminated here.

Give me ONE reason why you’re worth a second look. Show me you understand the project. Prove you have the experience to get this done.

Write something personal and have someone proofread it for typos. This is your first impression — and in many cases, your only impression.

The problem was, out of the 47 proposals I’ve received so far, no one has stood out as the clear winner.

Not ONE instilled confidence in me they could get this done in a timely and professional manner.

And it’s NOT a big job (the average bid was $300)!

So now I’m kind of at a crossroads. Do I pick someone I’m not 100% confident in just for the sake of moving forward?

After all, there’s not a ton of risk if they screw it up. It’s a very short-term, one-off project. The dollar figures are low and I can make sure everything is backed up.

Or do I hold out for my ideal candidate — who may not even exist?

Am I being too picky? Are my expectations too high?

I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit toggling back and forth between proposals and profiles over what amounts to a pretty small decision.

In a case like this, where the risks are low, it probably makes sense to just pick the best of the bunch and move ahead. But the paralysis of analysis can be pretty, well, paralyzing.

What would you do?

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Team Delegate

Team Delegate provides US-based virtual assistant services to clients all around the country. The Dallas, Texas-based company was founded in 2001 by CEO Tonya Thomas, and now employs a diverse team of VAs working from home offices throughout the United States.

The distributed team model allows for client coverage in different time zones and doesn’t restrict hiring to one geographic area; instead, Tonya can go out and find the best talent available regardless of location.

team delegate reviewAbout Team Delegate

Team Delegate aims to provide expert help to business owners, sales professionals, entrepreneurs and other busy professionals. Like other VA companies, it’s all about smart outsourcing to help you run your business more efficiently.

Tonya brings over 14 years of experience as a virtual assistant and manager to the operation. Having begun in this industry as a virtual assistant herself, she sought to change the market and offer clients USA-based skills to help them manage administrative tasks and day-to-day operations.

That decade-plus of experience translates into advanced training for each new VA hire, which leads to higher quality and more reliable results for clients.

She explained that her client roster and target customers include “small business owners, busy professionals and even large corporations.” A VA can provide you with “the extra boost that you need to maintain efficiency without a full-time employee,” she added.

Services

Clients look to Team Delegate for services such as data entry, transcription, calendar management, travel management, contact management, organization services and more.

Beyond basic administrative tasks, Tonya explains she has “professional VAs with many different skills and backgrounds so that we can provide customized service based on our clients’ needs.”

When I asked Tonya if there were any areas Team Delegate really specialized in, she mentioned, “In our industry we have an especially strong reputation of providing reliable assistance with calendar management, logistics support, and travel arrangements.”

Plans and Pricing

Team Delegate works primarily on a retainer basis, with a minimum of 10 hours per month to sign-up. The hourly rate is $35 an hour, so you’re looking at a minimum package price of $350 for 10 hours of US-based virtual support.

(These rates are pretty much on-par with what you’ll see from other US-based firms, with the exception of the inexplicably affordable US-branch of 24/7 VA.)

How it works is you start of with a free initial consultation call to identify your delegation needs and opportunities. After you agree on a scope of work proposal, you’ll be assigned a dedicated executive assistant to work with.

Note: Be sure to select Virtual Assistant Assistant in the “How did you hear about us?” field :)

Team Delegate Alternatives

Of course there are a number of competing entries in the US-based virtual executive assistant market, all out to debunk the myth that virtual assistants are a third-world industry. Among the highest-rated alternatives at press time are Worldwide 101, eaHELP, and Time Etc. All operate with a similar distributed team model of home-based staff.

If you have a specific skill-set you’re looking for, you might also consider hiring “directly” via a freelance platform like Elance.

Have you worked with Team Delegate? If so, please consider sharing a review of your experience in the comments below to help others with their decision.

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VA Talks

VA Talks is a professional virtual assistant provider in India with 24/7 support. The company was formed in 2015 by two veteran virtual assistants who decided to start their own firm.

Despite the inherent “new-ness” of the VA Talks company, the founding partners bring nearly a decade of business process outsourcing experience to the table and are growing a team to serve other entrepreneurs and small businesses around the world.

va talks reviewAbout VA Talks

The goal of VA Talks is to help other companies get their most important tasks done. The team is working from the secure office in Kolkata, India.

Like other virtual assistant companies, they want to earn your trust so you have confidence in the experience and quality of VAs they provide. The target market for these services are for busy individuals, entrepreneurs, small businesses or large corporations interested in freeing up some time or getting access to skilled help for their day-to-day needs.

Services

VA Talks virtual assistants can perform nearly any type of task you might think of online. Whether you require bookkeeping services, administrative tasks, web development, design or search engine optimization, skilled VAs are available to help you.

In addition, clients tap the VA Talks team to help design mobile apps, run marketing efforts, create presentations and proposals, and to do research.

When I spoke with one of the founders, CEO Sanjay (Sam) Gupta — no, not that Sanjay Gupta — he explained that they recruit team members with a variety of skills, but that, “Some of our most in demand VAs are proficient in WordPress, Joomla, Magento, Drupal, and many other web development platforms. Our Web team is our main focus but we do have virtual assistants capable of helping nearly any type of company or individual.”

VA Talks Founder Interview

Plans and Pricing

VA Talks pricing starts as low as $120 for 10 hours per month ($12/hour). The larger plan you buy, the lower the effective hourly rate, all the way down to $5 an hour for a full-time dedicated VA ($1000/month).

But don’t bite off more hours than you need just for the sake of saving money; unused hours don’t rollover month-to-month.

va talks pricing

If you need our services for under 10 hours a month, they have a Pay As You Use plan for on-demand support at just $14/hour.

All plans except the pay-as-you-go plan come with a 2-hour free trial to test out the service.

VA Talks Alternatives

When I asked Sam what sets his team apart, he explained, “It’s fairly easy to find a workforce of VAs that are willing to work. But VA Talks goes the extra mile to find staff that will deliver quality work.

He went on to share that all of the VAs on the team “are our friends who are hand-selected for our clients to service their needs. We work to provide not only the best quality labor in our industry but also customer experiences that will have you consistently coming back for more.”

As far as alternative choices, as you know, you have many virtual assistant companies in India to choose from. Among the top-rated at the time of this writing are 24/7 Virtual Assistant and My Tasker.

Have you worked with VATalks? If so, please be sure to share a review of your experience below to help others with their decision.

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3 quick hacks I added to my morning routine

Do you have a morning routine?

They’re all the rage this year, in large part due to the popular book, The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.

(Haven’t read it yet.)

From my understanding, the premise is to kickstart your day for super-productivity, you’ve got to take some time first thing in the morning for meditation, affirmation, reading, and exercise.

The truth is I really don’t do any of that stuff.

I tried the meditation thing, using a free app called Headspace, but found myself falling back asleep. It was very relaxing, but part of me couldn’t help but thinking I should just get to work!

Still, there are 3 things I have added to my mornings (well, most mornings) that I am excited about and wanted to share.

1. Make the bed.

I’ve been anti-bed-making pretty much my entire life. “Why bother?” I’d ask. “I’m just going to get back in it tonight!”

This is a hack I stole from my buddy Chandler, who explained it like this:

Making the bed forms a physical barrier between night and day, between sleep and awake. It sends the signal that it’s “go-time.”

Super weird, super quick, but oddly enough, it works.

2. Drink a glass of water.

We’re naturally dehydrated in the morning so drinking a glass of water first thing helps rehydrate our bodies and wake us up.

Plus, if it’s cold water, there’s some science that says it may kickstart your metabolism for the day.

3. Turn on some music.

This is my latest addition and is probably my favorite.

Now normally I’d say to listen to a podcast or an audiobook to make otherwise idle or prep time more productive, but the past couple weeks I’ve been doing music in the morning while making breakfast, and it’s been great.

Try something upbeat that gets you going. Since I buy into the small-town romanticism that Nashville is selling, lately that’s been a lot of Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, and Florida Georgia Line.

Your Turn

Give these 3 hacks a shot and let me know how they work for you. I find I’m more energized for the day by adding them to my mornings.​

Do you meditate? Is there like a hump you’ve got to get over and all of a sudden you see the light?

I haven’t fully given up on it, but now just tend to use the breathing exercises to help calm my mind and body at the end of the day to fall asleep like a rock.

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Time Etc

Time Etc is a UK and US-based virtual assistant company that has been around since 2007. They recently expanded operations into the US market, and boast that they’ve helped complete more than 1,000,000 tasks and projects so far!

Time Etc was founded by entrepreneur Barnaby Lashbrooke, with the intention of helping other small business owners and entrepreneurs streamline their processes and make their lives more efficient.

time etc reviewAbout Time Etc

The company employs college-educated professional virtual assistants. In fact, they only bring on new assistants who have at least 5 years commercial experience; companies their assistants have worked for include Facebook, Apple, IBM and AOL.

Most Time Etc VAs serve customers from their home offices in either the UK or the US.

If you sign up for Time Etc, you can expect to be assigned a dedicated assistant with whom you can begin to establish an ongoing relationship. However, clients have the option to match their work to the company’s entire team of VAs if someone else may be better suited to a particular task.

Time Etc Intro Video

When I wrote in to request more information, I was happy with the response time. I was able to set up a skype call with Victoria, who I found very helpful, polite, and enthusiastic.  I told her I liked how they put pictures of the VAs up on the website as a nice personal touch.

One interesting thing about Time Etc is they claim Penni Pike as a special advisor. She was Sir Richard Branson’s assistant for three decades, and is probably as close to a celebrity as they come in the world of personal assistants.  Now, you’re not likely to score Penni as your VA when you sign up, but she has helped train and mentor the rest of the crew.

Time Etc Founder Interview

I had the chance to sit down with Barnaby to get the inside scoop on how the company works and who they best serve.

VAA Exclusive: Click here to claim your free $50 trial credit!

Services

Time Etc virtual assistants can handle a wide variety of tasks you throw at them, including administrative assistance, marketing support and writing, customer service, sales and lead generation, accounting and bookkeeping, recruiting, and more.

Plans and Pricing

Rates range from $19-29 an hour, and you can sign-on for as little as one hour a month. Naturally, the more time you need, the more attractive the rates become, and to the extent your VA is available, you can scale up or scale back your hours as needed at any given time.

Like other virtual assistant companies, with Time Etc you don’t have any long-term obligation, contract, or overhead.

To help ease the fears of first-time outsourcers, Time Etc is offering a free $50 credit for Virtual Assistant Assistant visitors to test out their service risk-free (with no credit card required), and a 100% money back guarantee. You won’t find that with a freelancer and definitely not with an in-house hire!

Time Etc Alternatives

At these rates, Time Etc is obviously positioned as a more premium entry in the market. In the US and Europe, the nearest competitor would be Worldwide101, which has a similar set-up if you’re interested in making a comparison, though at slightly higher rates.

Have you worked with Time Etc? If so, please share a quick review of your experience below to help others with their decision.

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Virtual Helper 24/7

Virtual Helper 24/7 is a professional virtual assistant company headquartered in Australia with virtual offices in Hong Kong and Taguig City in the Philippines. The company was founded in 2012 and has since grown to employ hundreds of virtual assistants.

As you can tell from their slick conversion-optimized website, these guys are professional marketers at the very least.

About Virtual Helper 24/7

virtual helper 247 reviewVirtual Helper 247 is a rapidly growing business that focuses on offering virtual assistant services to small and medium businesses, including both online and “brick and mortar” operations. With clients drawn from across the globe, the company serves the needs of businesses in a variety of industries.

Some of the industries targeted by the company include ecommerce, real estate companies, medical practitioners, legal experts, fashion and design and education related institutions.

The Staff

The staff at Virtual Helper 24/7 is mainly comprised of professional college graduates drawn from different fields as well as a 3-tier management team that oversees the operations at the overseas offices to ensure that everything is running smoothly. Many employees have experience in virtual assistance and BPO work in the past and the CEO explained they have a rigorous recruitment process to bring on high caliber candidates.

Virtual Helper 24/7 Intro Video

Who do you think they’re targeting with this video?

Services

Virtual Helper 24/7 offers a wide range of professional business services including:

  • Website design and development
  • Graphics design
  • Social marketing
  • Video creation
  • Social account creation
  • Content creation and article writing
  • Internet marketing
  • Data entry
  • Video creation and video marketing

These are a sampling of the services offered, but in general, anything that can be done remotely is on the table and they may be able to put together a custom service package to meet your specific needs.

The company always aims to match clients with a virtual assistant specialized and trained in the area you need the most support in.

Plans and Pricing

Virtual Helper 247 offers you three main pricing options. They are as follows-:

virtual helper 247 pricing

1VA + 1 Manager – in this option, you have access to one virtual assistant and one manager and 80 hours of work per month covering between one and two skill levels. This option is available for $397 per month.

2VA’s + 1 Manager – this is the second option which features 160 hours of work per month covering between 2 – 4 skill levels. With this plan, you will have access to two virtual assistants with one manager and it is available from $696 per month.

3VA’s + 2 Managers – with this option, you will have access to three virtual assistants and two managers. It’s worth 240 hours of work per month and you have access to all the skill set available in the company. The subscription for this particular package is $997 per month.

However, they seem to run special discount offers fairly frequently. At press time, I found this one offering 160 hours of support from 3 different VAs for only $297 per month.

virtual helper 247 special pricing

That amounts to just $1.85 per hour, which seems too good to be true, even in the Philippines. I mean, they’ve still got to pay for equipment, office space, and 3 tiers of management, right?

I’m not sure how they’re getting this done and still making money because the weird thing is the messaging says to “lock in” this rate today. (It would make much more sense as an introductory rate.)

I haven’t yet had a chance to test Virtual Helper 24/7 out myself … though at these prices I guess I’d be dumb not to! I’ll be sure to report back a full review when I do.

Virtual Helper 24/7 Alternatives

If you are searching for the services of a virtual assistant company and you are not comfortable dealing with Virtual Helper 247 for one reason or the other, you have a number of options in the Philippines to consider.

The top-rated options at the moment include the Virtual Staff Finder recruiting service, the OnlineJobs.ph jobs board, and more traditional set-ups like Task Bullet.

Have you had any experience with Virtual Helper 24/7? Kindly share a brief review of your experience to help other people make decision their decision.

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Davinci Virtual Receptionists

Davinci Virtual is an award-winning virtual office and receptionist service company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. They currently have around 100 well qualified American employees who work to virtually serve more than 15,000 clients representing businesses large and small throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Central America, Asia and Australia.

About DaVinci Virtual

davinci virtual reviewDavinci Virtual Office Solutions is a BBB A+ rated company that has been privately held since 2006 with co-founders Bill Grodnik and Martin Senn as the CEO and COO.

They specialize in creating innovative solutions for all aspects of global marketing including online, radio broadcasting, phone services and more. I first came across Davinci when I was looking into “virtual office” solutions for my company. Aside from their virtual receptionist service, it seems like this was their bread-and-butter for many years.

Basically they’d set you up in a shared office space where you could claim a physical address, receive mail, and occasionally drop by to use the conference room. I ended up not going down that route because it wasn’t going to accomplish my goals, but the call answering service is intriguing.

Davinci Virtual Receptionists Intro Video

Services

The staff members and executives at Davinci Virtual Office Solutions offer their clients with a number of services including live receptionists, call forwarding/screening, appointment scheduling, order processing, voicemail management, online faxing, conference calls, live web chat and much more.

They promise that each and every one of their clients’ customers will speak to a real person each time they call, and all representatives are based in the US.

Two free phone numbers are included in your plan, and you can choose whether they are toll-free or local numbers. If you have an existing number you want them to answer, you can have it forwarded to them at no cost.

Plans and Pricing

Davinci Virtual Office Solutions provides their new clients with four basic packages to choose from depending on their needs.

Their most popular package is the “Executive 100”, which is $199 a month and includes 100 minutes of any of their services with the exception of web chat.

For smaller businesses who don’t need as many minutes, they offer the “Small Biz 50”, which is $149 a month and exactly like the “Executive 100” but only includes 50 minutes instead of 100.

If you go over your allotment of minutes, additional time is billed out at $0.90 per minute.

davinci virtual receptionist pricing

Clients who solely need receptionist services can opt for the “Auto Receptionist” start-up package for $59 a month which includes call answering, voicemail management, online faxing, call routing and audio conferencing.

For those businesses which are only web based, they suggest their “Live Web Chat” package for $59 a month to power their website. This package only includes appointment scheduling, live web chat, order processing and customer care. Handling the live chat customer support is something my dedicated VA did very well, and freed me up from the stress of constantly having to be “there” in case a message came in.

In addition to their special packages, they also work with clients to create custom packages in order to better fit the needs of their business.

DaVinci Virtual Alternatives

The rates for Davinci are slightly higher than what you’ll find at competitor Gabbyville. Gabbyville offers a 50-minute virtual receptionist package at $100 a month, and 125 minutes for $200.

However, they’re not as expensive as Ruby Receptionists, which has a minimum package price of $249/month with just 100 minutes.

In either case, outsourcing the receptionist function is far more efficient than having a full-time person in your office, especially if the phone only rings a few times per day. At that point, your main mission is focusing your energy on marketing to increase that call volume!

Have you worked with Davinci Virtual Receptionists? What did you think? Please be sure to leave a brief review below to help others with their decision-making process.

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Red Butler

Red Butler is an executive virtual assistant and administrative support service that helps business professionals, entrepreneurs, startup teams, and executives get more done in less time. The Beverly Hills, CA-based company began in 2003 and since then has opened up their VA service worldwide. red butler reviewUnlike many other virtual assistant companies, Red Butler is entirely US-based and uses an all-American staff, so there are no foreign call centers to deal with.

red butler reviewAbout Red Butler

Red Butler is one of the pioneers of the American virtual assistant industry, having been around for more than a decade already. They are squarely aimed at serving an executive and small business market.

When I asked founder Danny Abas who his dream clients were, he answered, “Highly productive power users and working teams up to 50 people.” Is that you?

Red Butler runs what they call a “2-tier model” of virtual assistance, meaning you have both a dedicated point of contact and a team of VAs with specialized skills that you can tap into on-demand. The account managers are all working from the Southern California office and delegate out your tasks to the person on their team best suited to complete the job.

This set up gives you more hours of daily VA coverage; 12 hours instead of a single assistant’s 8-hour shift, affords faster response times, and even allows you to submit multiple requests at once and have them worked on simultaneously.

Services

Danny explained that Red Butler’s services go well beyond basic administrative tasks, and that many clients are using them as strategic partners in their business. For instance, Red Butler is facilitating all legal tasks for one growing company, and handling all corporate travel for another.

They believe this is their sweet spot and an important point of differentiation; they want to form long-term partnerships and really integrate themselves into your processes so you can truly set it and forget it. With that of course comes a lot of trust so naturally hiring intelligent, US-based staff helps ease client worries.

Other common roles include:

  • native calendar and inbox management
  • event planning
  • online research
  • proofreading documents
  • creating presentations
  • devising and implementing social media strategies

Red Butler’s online dashboard rates each user with a “Productivity Index” score, and they’ll give you suggestions on how to improve your delegation and improve your own workflow.

red butler dashboard 2015

Red Butler Review

It’s been a couple years … I’m probably due for another trial.

Plans and Pricing

Red Butler comes in 4 monthly pricing tiers, named after the number of hours of assistance you get with each plan:

  • Red5 – 5 hours – $175 ($35/hr)
  • Red15 – 15 hours – $450 ($30/hr)
  • Red25 – 25 hours – $750 ($30/hr)
  • Red50 – 50 hours – $1250 ($25/hr)

Each plan includes a dedicated account manager and access to the whole team of Red Butler assistants.

red butler pricing

Higher level plans include access for your entire team, where you can share hours similar to a family shared data plan for your cell phone. Custom plans are also available for heavy users and special use-cases.

Membership Privileges

One thing that sets the company apart from the competition is the Red Butler membership card, which grants members more than 1800 special privileges and discounts at restaurants, bars, hotels, and lounges nationwide and around the world.

For example, card members get special room rates at The Standard Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles & New York City, corporate rates with Enterprise & National Rent-a-Car, priority seating and a complimentary round of champagne at STK in Las Vegas & Los Angeles, and an $85 food & beverage credit at many Starwood Hotels — just to name a few.

The Red Butler mobile app (currently under re-development) is your one-stop portal to all these perks and your team of virtual assistants.

Red Butler Alternatives

The 2-tiered structure sets Red Butler between fully-distributed and task-based services like Fancy Hands, and fully-dedicated services like Zirtual and eaHELP. Among other US virtual assistant services, Worldwide101 (work from home VAs) and Longer Days (office-based VAs) probably have the most similar models (and similar pricing).

Want to see how Red Butler stacked up against the competition in my 2013 4-company task-based VA trial? Click here to read the full results.

If you have worked with Red Butler, please share your experience below!

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WP Curve

WP Curve wants to be your outsourced IT department for WordPress sites. The company was founded in 2013 and has quickly grown to hundreds of paying customers because of the dead-simple service: unlimited 30-minute WordPress fixes for $79 a month.

Their team is a truly international operation, with the co-founders Dan Norris and Alex McClafferty split between Australia and California, and the development team in the Philippines and Central America. All are dedicated full-time to WP Curve.

Fun fact: As of September 2014, Dan and Alex have never met in person.

wp curve reviewIs WP Curve Right For You?

The target customer is a small business owner who:

  • Has problems with their website but doesn’t have the time or know-how to fix them themselves.
  • Doesn’t want to contract out to a new developer for each little tweak they want to make.
  • Has a limited budget for IT maintenance but still needs a high-quality site presented to the world.

What WP Curve is NOT good for:

  • Building a new website from scratch.
  • Larger scale web development projects.
  • People looking for a full-time web developer.

Plans and Pricing

The WP Curve “Professional” plan is $79 per month (billed annually, or $99 billed monthly) for “unlimited” 30-minute WordPress website fixes for one domain. I say “unlimited” in quotes because everything is subject to a reasonable use policy. (Don’t be the guy who tries to abuse the system.)

The Professional plan includes detailed notes on your requests, 24-hour live chat and email support, and same-day turnaround in most cases.

The VIP plan is priced at $159 month (billed annually, or $199 monthly), and includes everything in the Professional plan plus some extra bonuses like faster turnaround times, quality control checks, and the ability to submit up to 3 requests at a time.

wp curve pricing

 

Each plan comes with a free sign-up bonus of a personalized 18-point site check and review by one of WP Curve’s developers.

Both plans come with a 30-day 100% satisfaction money-back guarantee, and there are no long-term contracts or commitments.

If you don’t imagine needing the ongoing support, you can also tap WP Curve for one-off support for $69 per request.

On-Demand Website Help

With WPCurve, you’re essentially buying access to an on-demand help-desk for your website. Name something you’d like fixes and they’re on it.

Now, to make sure their members get the most out of their subscription, they’ve even started making proactive suggestions for website improvements each week. It’s an interesting strategy for customer retention and they’re really trying to create a legion of raving fans to evangelize the service via word of mouth.

As you can imagine, if WP Curve can save you even just a couple hours a month, or make some tweak to improve your conversion rate, the service easily pays for itself.

WP Curve Alternatives

Because of the short nature of these types of micro web development jobs, it can be cost prohibitive to post them on some freelance platform. You’ll either spend more time posting and screening candidates than the job’s worth, and might not attract the best talent for a 20-minute job. In the freelancer’s mind, is it even worthwhile to bid on it?

The nearest competition is Elto.com (the company formerly known as Tweaky), which does on-demand one-off website fixes for a small fee.

The other alternative to consider would be Fiverr, and I’ve actually had some success in getting small WordPress fixes done there. But the downsides of course are there’s no long-term relationship, no proactive support, and limited feedback or recourse if something goes wrong.

Have you worked with WP Curve? If so, please be sure to leave a quick review of your experience below to help others with their decision.

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The Airplane Productivity Hack

This year I’ve discovered a “new” productivity hack, and I discovered it 35,000 feet in the air.

On a couple recent flights I found myself knocking out a ton of work during what would otherwise be “wasted” travel time.

I wrote blog posts and emails, did some editing for a client, watched a training video, and listened to podcasts.

Why is the airplane such a productive place?

My theory is that it meets many of the criteria for a successful work block:

  • Limited distractions (no Internet)
  • Confined space
  • A looming “deadline” (landing)

So how can you emulate this without buying a plane ticket?

I think there are a couple ways to get it done.

First, turn off your WiFi.

This is probably the biggest one for me. I’m usually too cheap to splurge for the slow and often-unreliable airplane WiFi, so I’m effectively off the grid for the duration of the flight.

That means no email, no Facebook, no Twitter, no nothing.

And by default, that means more focus on what you CAN do offline.

Second, set a timer.

For years, I saw being trapped in a tiny uncomfortable airplane seat for hours as a necessary evil to get to my destination.

But I’m starting to see it as a blessing in disguise. It means I have uninterrupted time to knock out whatever I need to get done.

You can imitate this feeling on the ground by setting a timer and turning off the WiFi, and not allowing yourself to get up until you “land.”

What do you think? Do you use flying times productively, or do you think this “hack” can help you even in the office?

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Upwork (formerly oDesk)

Note: oDesk.com has rebranded to Upwork.com.

Upwork, like Elance, is a community that brings together contract workers and employers. The company has been in business since 2003, and now serves hundreds of thousands of clients all around the world. They boast more than 3 million freelancers ready to bid on your job.

odesk reviewIn late 2013, Elance and oDesk actually merged into one company, but continued to operate separate freelance marketplaces. Then, in 2015, they rebranded oDesk to Upwork. I’m not sure why they made the change since 0Desk was a well-established brand with a solid reputation in the industry, but their official press documents said it was to help businesses connect with great talent faster than ever before, collaborate in larger teams, and fuel growing companies.

Why they couldn’t have done that under the old name, I have no idea.

While Upwork / oDesk was primarily known as a place to find programmers, it is also a great place to find a virtual assistant, and administrative support is one of their fastest growing categories. I found over 5000 matches for a recent Upwork search for “virtual assistant”.

upwork reviewUpwork has no sign-up fees to access their network of freelance virtual assistant service providers. In fact, you can create an account, post your requirements, and have workers bidding for the job within a few minutes.

The company makes money by taking a fee from the contract price of the work. That means if you agree to pay an Upwork virtual assistant $500 for 100 hours worth of work (not an uncommon price!), they are really collecting slightly less than that.

Upwork Review

The Upwork system offers the benefits you’d expect from this type of marketplace, including feedback mechanisms and dispute resolution.

One thing that sets Upwork apart is their monitoring software. (Note: Elance has since implemented similar “Workview” software.) Some say it’s a little Big Brother-ish, but others swear by it because it makes sure the work that is paid for is the work that gets done.

The software, which workers turn on when they begin a job, tracks keystroke volume, takes screenshots at certain time intervals, and even has an optional webcam feature. If you’re wary about hiring a remote virtual assistant, it can definitely help overcome some of the fear of not being able to manage their working hours effectively.

A Global Minimum Wage?

In 2014, Upwork introduced a $3/hour minimum wage. Yes, it’s still absurdly low by Western standards, but it does prevent even lower bids from new overseas workers in developing economies.

When searching for virtual assistants on Upwork, pay close attention to their account history. How long have they been working? What does their feedback say about their work?

Another thing to look for is to match the virtual assistant’s specific skill set to the tasks you need done. Everyone has certain specialties, so seek out those who have good ratings in the areas you need the most help with. Alternatively, you can post your own job requirements and have workers bid on them.

Have you worked with oDesk or Upwork? Please share your experience below.

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Pixels-VA

Pixels-VA is a well-established virtual assistant company that provides virtual support to companies, business professionals, entrepreneurs, and anyone who requires additional help that can be performed virtually. The company was founded in 2008, and operates its primary location in Ghana, with sales offices in the UK and the US.

About Pixels-VA

pixels-va reviewEmployees work out of the modern Ghana office, making Pixels one of the few African outsourcing companies in an industry I’m sure will see a ton of growth in the next decade.

They aim to hire only the most qualified graduates who are fluent in English, and then train them by American and European team members in business processes, customs, and software programs.

The team of Pixels virtual assistants is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to ensure all customers have access to the assistance they need, when they need it. Pixels-VA is proud to provide the highest quality virtual support available, while ensuring all services are rendered quickly, efficiently, and professionally.

In fact, this is a highly sought-after position, and the company receives more than 100 new applications every month!

Services

PixelsVA services include general administrative work and data entry, customer support, article writing, and more. They also have specialized skilled workers on hand to tackle more demanding projects like web and graphic design, software development, IT support, accounting, and call center functions.

The IT services seems to be an area of focus and specialization.

Their primary customer base is made up of entrepreneurs and small business owners, professional firms and larger corporations, hospitals, churches, and universities. Like others, they appear to have gotten their start on Elance.

Plans and Pricing

Pixels-VA offers a variety of services that can be purchased for an hourly rate.  They include:

  • Data Entry: $3.99/hr.
  • General VA: $6.99/hr.
  • Virtual Secretary: $6.99/hr.
  • Article Writers: $6.99/hr.
  • Administrative/ Managerial VA: $6.99/hr.
  • Customer Support VA: $6.99/hr.

These rates are quite attractive on a global comparison, and perhaps even lower than what you might find with certain VA companies in India or the Philippines.

I couldn’t find any information on whether or not there are discounts for monthly packages or set hourly blocks, or what the VA-client relationship looks like — whether you’re assigned a dedicated point of contact or if your task requests just go into a pool and are picked up by the first available assistant.

There is no free trial available, but customers can pay for the VA service with a credit card. (Always nice to rack up those miles!)

Pixels-VA Alternatives

While the company is a unique entry geographically speaking, they are certainly not the only outsourcing option out there. Their closest competition may be in overseas firms like Uassist.ME, My Tasker, or 24/7 Virtual Assistant.

Unlike many alternatives, Pixels-VA does not hire staff members who are simply looking for extra work they can perform from the comfort of home. Pixels-VA employees are employed on a full-time basis and work only from their secure offices to ensure the strictest level of professionalism is maintained.

Have you worked with Pixels VA? If so, please leave a review of your experience below to help others with their decision.

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Gabbyville

GabbyVille is a virtual receptionist service provider based in Knoxville, TN. The company was founded in 2013 when a business owner realized his software product sales were suffering because clients were always getting voice mail instead of a live person when they called him.

About Gabbyville

gabbyville reviewGabbyville virtual receptionists answer your business phones using your preferred customized call greeting, take detailed messages, initiate conference calls, and ensure you get the messages you need so that your clients never feel neglected or forgotten.

Employees work either out of the company’s call center office in Knoxville or out of their own home offices. Regardless of their physical location, all virtual receptionists use T1 VoIP phone lines and noise cancelling technology to deliver the highest quality service.

Services

GabbyVille’s services are intended for all types of businesses who don’t have the budget or manpower to bring phone support in-house. From lawyers to chiropractors, physician’s offices, mechanic’s shops, cleaning companies, and much more, their cheerful receptionists can help any business by providing the services of a receptionist at a fraction of the price it would cost to have one in the office at all times.

All service packages include the following features:

  • A bundle of monthly reception minutes.
  • Voicemail with email notifications.
  • Appointment reminders for you, as well as your clients to remind them of upcoming appointments.
  • Toll Free or local number included.
  • Live call transferring (Talk time is unlimited after a call has been transferred to you.) While the call is being transferred, your clients will hear the hold music of your choice. You will also know who is on the line before you answer.
  • Return personal and business calls on your behalf, including booking appointments, booking services, and finding and purchasing gifts.
  • Text message notifications.
  • Custom IVR prompts for business and after hours.
  • Online Scheduling (not included in the Basic plan).

Plans and Pricing

GabbyVille is currently offering a 7-day free trial for anyone interested in trying their services. After the Free Trial, there is a $99 setup charge.

They offer four different pricing tiers:

  • Starter: 50 minutes/ $100 per month (this is the most popular)
  • Basic: 125 minutes/ $200 per month
  • Premium: 250 minutes/ $351 per month
  • Executive: 600 minutes/ $700 per month
  • Larger plans can also be arranged by contacting GabbyVille directly.

gabbyville pricing

GabbyVille Alternatives

Some of GabbyVille’s biggest competitors include Ruby Receptionists, Davinci Virtual Office Solutions, AnswerFirst, Vicky Virtual, and My Receptionist. At the time of their launch in 2013, GabbyVille knew they would need to do something to set themselves apart from the competition in a crowded field.

With a desire to stand out for providing the best customer service in the industry, the creators of GabbyVille focused their search for employees on individuals who have the talent needed to speak while making their voice smile.

Referred to as “gabbonistas,” the receptionists treat your business as if it were their own to ensure they always make a fabulous first impression on your clients. To ensure that the gabbonistas stay on top of their game, GabbyVille offers frequent customer service training seminars.

GabbyVille also stands out by allowing potential clients to try out their services for an entire week to be certain they offer everything the client could possibly need.

Have you worked with Gabbyville? If so, please leave a review below to help others with their search.

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Ideas Unlimited

Ideas Unlimited is a unique virtual assistant company headquartered in Minnesota with a call center office in the Philippines. The business was founded in 2010, and has grown to employ more than 100 VAs between their Iloilo office and a distributed team in the US.

About Ideas Unlimited

ideas unlimited reviewThe Philippines office is staffed with college graduate virtual assistants and a 3-tier management team to oversee operations. Many VAs have previous BPO or call center experience, and can earn raises and bonuses based on tenure and client satisfaction scores.

Some senior staff have been approved to work from their home office.

Stateside, the business is run by founder Nick Carter, who I had a chance to catch up with recently. He explained that they target primarily US-based clients and tend to serve a lot of customers in the medical, real estate, and ecommerce fields.

His team uses Hubstaff worker monitoring technology and cited security and confidentiality as strong selling points of the Ideas Unlimited service.

Ideas Unlimited Intro Video

Services

Ideas Unlimited focuses on 3 main areas of service:

  1. Virtual Assistants
  2. Customer Support
  3. Call Center Agents

From their call center they can handle inbound and outbound calls on your behalf, and work during US business hours as necessary.

Their virtual assistants can provide administrative assistance, live chat customer support, or take care of your ongoing business process tasks. If you have a defined process and a willingness to train your assistant, you can remove yourself from that role as well.

Ideas Unlimited is most active on Elance, where they have generated quite a bit of business and mostly positive feedback ratings.

Plans and Pricing

If you’ve been digging around the Ideas Unlimited site looking for pricing information, don’t worry; it’s just not there. However, I was able to chat with Nick to get the inside scoop.

Their Philippines-based workers are available at a flat $7/hour hourly rate for on-demand and part-time work, and they ask customer to hire for a minimum of 10 hours per week. He explained that most customers start with one dedicated VA at 20-40 hours per week.

Full-time packages are available of course, and are slightly discounted. A full-time 160 hour/month VA would be $1050 (just over $6.50 an hour). Nick added that additional discounts may be available if you need multiple full-time VAs.

Ideas Unlimited also helps clients source and manage VAs in the US, with rates starting at just $12 an hour depending on the skills required.

Ideas Unlimited Alternatives

For other Philippines virtual assistant companies with similar operations, check out VA Staffer or Task Bullet. If you’re comfortable doing with a fully home-based staff and are comfortable doing the full training and management yourself, you can save 50% or more on an ongoing basis by hiring through OnlineJobs.ph or the Virtual Staff Finder recruiting service.

The biggest downside of those is if/when your VA leaves, it’s on you to find a replacement. That, and you have to provide your own management oversight.

Have you worked with Ideas Unlimited? If so, please share a quick review of your experience and help others with their search.

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When Automation Backfires

I thought I was so smart when I set this up! And then it backfired horribly…

For the last couple years on the Virtual Assistant Assistant site, I’ve had a little survey tool that people could fill out and get personalized recommendations.

Each time someone completes the form, which I set up for free using Google Docs, I get an email.

Then I’d manually email them my recommendations. My process has improved over time, but was still manual.

At first, I manually wrote out the messages individually, until I’d covered each combination of answers.

After that, I’d just search my inbox for a survey response with the same answers, and copy and paste. 

But searching the inbox each time was kind of a pain so I created a template file I could refer back to and copy and paste the template response each time.

But pulling up the template file grew tiresome, so I created a series of keyboard shortcuts using the Auto Text Expander plugin for Chrome. 

And that’s really how I would do it. People would even give me a hard time (and rightfully so) that I didn’t have a virtual assistant on this low-level task. 

A little ironic, right?

Well, a couple weeks ago I tried to get smart and figure out a way to automate and outsource this task.

Since each survey response comes in with the subject line, “New Virtual Assistant Survey Submitted”, I set up an If This Then That “recipe” to send an email to Fancy Hands each time a new message with that matching subject line hit my inbox.

Each Fancy Hands email was a new task request to their virtual assistants.

Inside the IFTTT recipe, I gave instructions for the task. I included a link to the “answer key” file in Google Docs, and asked the virtual assistant service to email the survey respondent on my behalf (cc-ing me), with the appropriate template.

What I forgot was that Fancy Hands sends a confirmation email that they received your task, using the same subject line as what you sent them.

When that confirmation message hit my inbox, because it matched the IFTTT recipe words “New Virtual Assistant Survey Submitted”, it triggered another task request email.

Which triggered another confirmation message.

Which triggered another task request.

Which triggered another confirmation message.

And on and on and on, more than 50 requests in total before I got back to my computer and could figure out what happened.

(Thankfully they refunded all those nonsense tasks.)

My fix was to disable the Fancy Hands auto-confirmation emails, and am working on tightening up my IFTTT recipe to make sure it works as intended.

Turns out, I also could have changed the subject-line in IFTTT.

I have high hopes that this automation/outsourcing combo will ultimately save some time and maybe even start a few conversations.

What do you use If This Then That for?

I know I’m barely scratching the surface of it’s automation power, but I’m eager to dive deeper into it. Definitely open to hear about any cool recipe suggestions you have, or if you like the more business-oriented Zapier more.

Let me know in the comments below!

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