Scripted

As business advances into the digital age, it’s becoming more and more important to create online content, whether it’s for promotion or as part of a product or service. In fact, if you’re reading this, it’s probably because my content marketing worked to bring you here … muahaha <– insert evil laugh!

scripted reviewScripted is a custom content creation service that allows businesses to release blog posts, social media posts, website pages, press releases, and more — even if they don’t have time to write the content themselves.

About Scripted

Scripted was started in 2008 as Scripped.com, which provided a space for screenwriters to work on screenplays together and attract the attention of producers. By 2011, it had grown to 80,000 writers, and the business changed to its current name and service of Scripted.com, offering non-entertainment content to businesses across the nation. In 2013, Scripted received $4.5 million from Redpoint Ventures, and expanded its team to 13 people in addition to their massive network of writers.

Scripted’s mission is “to better the quality of written content on the Internet by helping businesses create it at scale.” Its executive team consists of Sunil Rajaraman (who I met briefly at Affiliate Summit a few years ago), Ryan Buckley, and Jake Kring.

The company is based in San Francisco, CA, but its writers come from across the nation who all work in their own areas of specialization.

Services

Scripted offers customized content on demand; the process begins when a business or individual orders content through Scripted’s order form, and sets guidelines for the length and details of the project. Scripted writers then claim the work and complete the assignment; afterwards, the whoever ordered the content originally can review and revise it as needed before publishing.

The services offered by Scripted include:

  • blog posts (both standard and long)
  • white papers or reports
  • social media content (such as tweets and Facebook posts)
  • website pages and product descriptions
  • press releases
  • video scripts

Businesses that require a high volume of content can work out an arrangement with a content manager, who builds customer support and ensures timely publishing.

The service is aimed at businesses rather than individuals (as you’ll see by their higher price points). If you’re looking for cheap content by some overseas writer to hopefully get picked up by the search engines, Scripted is not going to be the right choice for you.

Plans and Pricing

A “standard” blog post costs $99, with “specialist” posts commanding a rate of $149.

Similarly, a batch of 25 pre-written tweets is $99; or $149 when written by a specialist.

Scripted is ideal for businesses that require or desire online content, but do not have the time, resources, or expertise to maintain a regular publishing schedule or develop quality content. Scripted writers are all pre-screened by the company to ensure a high quality end product, and can specialize in any areas required by the business ordering the content, from art and design to law to tech hardware.

Different content types have different pricing models, but all types offer an “industry writer” price and a “specialist” price; the “specialist” package includes greater research and a guarantees top ratings from clients and editors.

At these rates, Scripted is positioned as a premium entry in the market, especially compared with the “$5 article” type of outsourced writing services. If that’s more in line with what you’re looking for, check out the alternatives below.

Scripted Alternatives

Scripted’s competitors include social media content generators such as $99 Social, which offers customized social media content as well; however, what sets Scripted apart is its variety of products offered, which other businesses do not have.

On the general content writing side, companies like HireWriters and Copywriter Today might be worth a look.

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

Posted in Writing Services

iWriter

If you need written content for your website, iWriter is an easy and reliable way for you to post projects that will be professionally and quickly done.

Located in Carmel, IN, iWriter includes a network of thousands of freelance writers from around the globe ready to work on writing assignments.

iwriter reviewAbout iWriter

iWriter is designed to help the business owner who no longer wants to or has time to write their own content for their websites. The company was launched in 2011 and was the first service created to exclusively facilitate the process of hiring a professional to write your articles.

As a client, requesting an article to be written is easy and costs as little as $1.25.

Pro tip: If you’re only paying $1.25 per article, odds are it will be illegible.

Once registered, click on a link titled “Submit a New Project Page” and input all the necessary information so the writer can produce a quality article.

iWriter Services

Clients that sign up for the service have a variety of options to customize their service experience.

iWriter Services Include:

  • An unlimited amount of articles
  • Articles on any topic
  • Turnaround time as fast as 1 hour
  • Article lengths of 150, 300, 500, 700, and 1000 words
  • Select the article language of English, French, Spanish, German, or Other
  • Easy download format
  • Select article quality
  • Select the article tone
  • SEO keyword selection

Because thousands of writers from around the world are available to write articles on iWriter, clients have the option to choose which writers they submit their project to. Clients select writers based how many stars they have earned and their reputation.

You can even request longer-form projects such as ebooks if you find an excellent writer who can get the job done.

iWriter Video Overview

Plans and Pricing

Pricing at iWriter depends on the requirements you need. The article length and the star-quality of your desired writer all increase the cost of the article. If you want SEO keywords in your article the price will also increases.

My take on it is this: Don’t stress on the keywords and just try and write naturally. The search engines are getting smarter and if your articles are stuffed full of keywords in an unnatural way, you may get penalized.

The baseline advertised cost may be just $1.25, but expect to pay more than that if you want anything readable. Think in the ballpark of $5-20 for a 500 word article. Naturally, writers with better feedback history command higher rates.

iWriter Alternatives

Alternative outsourced writing services do exist where business owners can have articles written, including on-demand services like HireWriters and subscription-based models like Copywriter Today.

Freelance sites like Elance.com and oDesk.com will also connect you with writers, but these sites are more complex than iWriter because freelancers will bid on your project while iWriter will assign your project directly to a writer. In my mind, those are definitely more trouble than it’s worth for a single article.

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

Posted in Writing Services

Should I Hire a Virtual Assistant or an Intern?

Every business reaches a point where it needs to expand. This is usually great for the business; expansion means more customers, more income, and ultimately, a more successful business model. However, it comes with its own set of challenges, one of the largest of which is the need for help running the business.

If you’ve reached the ceiling of your own capacity — after all, there are only so many hours in the day — what do you do?

We’ve already covered the benefits of a virtual hire over an in-house employee, but what about another option — an intern?

If the work you need done doesn’t require specialized training, such as paperwork, filing, scheduling, or organization, maybe an intern is a reasonable option instead of a virtual assistant.

For businesses, the notion of getting potentially free help in the form of an intern is what makes the idea so attractive.

But both interns and VAs come with pros and cons, and different businesses may value one over the other — but both can be an invaluable help for your expanding business.

Hire a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant is one that works from home and provides his or her services remotely, without coming in to your business’ location. Virtual assistants are usually self-employed, although there are also virtual assistant companies that oversee dozens or sometimes hundreds of VAs.

Virtual assistants work as independent contractors and not employees, which means that they offer their services to their clients and then bill them later; clients do not need to pay employee taxes, insurance, or benefits, and are not bound legally under an employer-employee relationship.

Compared to an intern, a VA will usually have several years of business experience, although backgrounds will naturally vary. They provide their services through communication means such as email, phone, fax, Skype, or online work spaces.

Although virtual assistants can perform a variety of tasks, they are best suited for work that can be done virtually, such as scheduling or organizing a calendar.

They can also conduct business calls (such as contacting clients), or do writing and work online. Virtual assistants do not take up office space and may not require as much training as an intern, and can usually be available throughout the day.

According to Chris Ducker, “I think interns tend to focus too much on ‘the experience’ and ‘learning’ rather than actually ‘performing’. I’ve had two – both didn’t work out the way I wanted / needed. So… now I hire team members!”

When I was looking to make my first hire, I explored the idea of an intern since we live very close to a community college campus. But after some research I found that a remote worker would be a better fit since I was working from my home office.

However, the lack of physical presence can be a drawback; for example, if you need to explain something in person, or have your assistant do work that can only be done in the office.

2627036668_f1e6aac95e_z

(img source)

Hire an Intern?

The other option is to hire an intern, which can be paid or unpaid. A paid internship is a temporary position that has the eventual goal of hiring the employee full-time with the company; however, this is not binding.

An unpaid intern, on the other hand, works without being compensated. Since the U.S. has stringent labor laws, unpaid internships must meet very strict requirements in order to be considered legal.

An unpaid internship must meet criteria established by the court case Walling v. Portland Terminal Co. in order to be legal by U.S. federal law; among these include the educational nature of the internship, as it must provide training to benefit the intern instead of exclusive benefits for the company.

Unpaid interns usually work in order to receive this training so that they can have experience to apply for paid positions.

In college, I had a couple paid internships and interviewed for a couple unpaid ones. Ultimately I decided against working for free even though I know the experience would have been valuable.

Interns, paid or unpaid, can do work for the business that requires an in-person presence; they can file, alphabetize, or sort paperwork, as well as maintain the office space and help with any other work around the office. Even if they don’t physically work from your office, interns are generally local hires, which may sit better with you than hiring someone overseas — especially if the rates are comparable.

Interns usually need to be trained, but once they are, they can conduct specialized work for the business.

Paid interns are usually hired by large businesses that can take on the extra cost; however, a small business can look into hiring an intern if they are looking to expand and would like to train an employee before hiring him or her full-time.

An unpaid intern can also be hired by either, and works well in an environment where he or she can receive one-on-one training.

Some of the benefits of an intern can include training an employee without having to shoulder the costs of having him or her on the payroll full-time, while that person is producing less work than he or she would after the training.

Interns can also allow for a slow ease into expansion instead of hiring multiple full-time employees at once. Because they often provide an in-person presence, communication is easier than with a virtual assistant (and there’s rarely a language barrier), and physical tasks can be carried out. However, the main drawback is training; your business will have to put in the time and effort to train the intern to perform whatever task is needed.

Scott Barlow, of Happen to Your Career, offers this advice:

“I’ve hired many more interns than I have VAs, 10 Vs 2. There is a different motivation set. Not in a good or a bad way just they want different things. Interns primary focus is to learn and gain experience.

“This can work out really well if you hire an intern that has a track record of being able to teach themself AND you are far enough along that you have clearly defined and have available for them the “training materials” they will need so it doesn’t take up all your time trying to teach them. Now obviously that last statement is also beneficial for a VA or anybody you hire.

“Interns can work well if there is potential that you might hire them afterwards in a more permanent position. This allows you to trial them at a lower rate while they are learning. Keep in mind the in the US both state level and federal level government agencies have cracked down and are in the last 18 months, really enforcing the definition of what’s considered an intern (for unpaid internships).”

Ultimately, the decision of whether to hire a virtual assistant or intern is up to each individual business. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, but both are an essential help for an expanding business.

Your Turn

Have you worked with virtual assistants or interns?

Which did you hire? Would you make the same decision again?

Posted in News

Fancy Hands

Fancy Hands is a New York-based virtual assistant company that was founded in 2010.  In itself, it’s not a revolutionary business model, but what sets Fancy Hands apart from its low priced outsourcing competition is its use of US-based, native-English speaking assistants.  fancy hands reviewFor that, they’re gaining a lot of momentum and exposure.

Customers primarily use Fancy Hands as a time-saving tool for small one-time tasks, like restaurant reservations, online research, and quick event planning. You can submit tasks via the web interface, email, or phone, and rumor has it a mobile app is coming soon.

Initially Fancy Hands wasn’t touching any tasks that involved making purchases online, but they’ve added the capability now to make purchases on your behalf up to $100. For these transactions, your credit card details stay hidden from the VA. They use a company card, and then just bill the card you have on file for your membership for the amount of the purchase.

Another cool feature is that adding events to your Google Calendar is free.

Plans and Pricing

For just $49.99 a month you can outsource up to 15 tasks, and 50 15-minute tasks is just $149.99 a month.  A smaller 5-task plan is $29.99 a month, and you can save 15% on all plans by pre-paying for a year in advance.  The pre-pay option is a great deal but of course is a little risky for first-time outsourcers.

Beginning in February 2014, unused tasks now rollover month-to-month.

Fancy Hands also added the ability to go beyond the regular 15-minute time limit by asking your approval to burn multiple tasks on one request. For instance, sometimes I’ve gotten a response back that says, we’d love to handle this for you, but it will take 3 tasks instead of one. OK, that’s fine — I hit the approval button and they got to work.

Fancy Hands Review

Virtual Assistant Assistant Referral Bonus: If you want to try Fancy Hands, get 50% off your first month when you sign-up through this link.

I tested Fancy Hands against a few of their competitors, both in the US and overseas. The trial pitted them against Red Butler, Efficise, and My Tasker. Please click here to read the full review of my test.

Without a dedicated virtual assistant option, Fancy Hands is aimed at a personal-use audience rather than a business-use audience. Unless of course your business requires lots of online research done in 15 minute increments, for example. Longer, time-intensive tasks like writing articles or ongoing business process tasks aren’t allowed. That said, I’ve had them do the initial baseline research for writing projects.

The company recently introduced a TeamWork platform, that gives Fancy Hands access to your entire team.  For employers, it’s a nice perk to offer and allows your workers to be more productive on the job.  The service is integrated with the web interface, email, phone, and Basecamp project management software.

Once you create your account, you’ll see a dashboard that keeps track of your requests and some other stats on profile. Fancy Hands has spent over 17 hours on the phone for me!

Fancy Hands Dashboard Dec 2014

I’m a pretty happy camper to have not had to make those 247 calls myself.

Another feature added is the ability to use Fancy Hands to set up your conference calls. It’s easy and included in your subscription (only charges one task), which probably amounts to less than some other conference-calling services may charge.

Longer Requests: The Best Feature Yet

In late summer 2014, Fancy Hands added the ability to submit requests longer than 15 minutes. This is huge!

Previously I had to break up those requests into 15 minute segments and re-submit each time one assistant finished. For one data entry project, it resulted in 20 different times I had to email them!

Now, you can submit your bigger job and they’ll come back with an approval request, for 5 gigs for instance. You click the “go ahead” button and they get to work. I also like this because it builds more consistency into these longer requests because the same assistant is working on it the whole time instead of the task changing hands to a dozen different people.

The Fancy Hands App

fancy hands appIn March 2013, Fancy Hands launched their mobile app. It has a very slick user interface with nearly all the functionality of their browser-based site.

You can check on view your usage statistics, track existing requests, and submit new ones via text or voice. Very cool. It also allows you to take pictures that might be helpful to your VA or choose an existing photo from your library.

fancy hands app screenshot

Incoming Calls?

The introduction of the Fancy Hands incoming calls API is big news for anyone struggling with their call volume or already using an outsourced solution like Ruby Receptionists. With a little bit of set-up, your preferred phone number can ring Fancy Hands and an assistant will answer the call, answer basic questions, and with access to your calendar, set appointments.

In the Cloud

Fancy Hands virtual assistants are “in the cloud” – a largely part-time, on-demand, and remote workforce that handles tasks as they come in. The unique set-up has attracted a lot of positive press during its first year in business, including articles in Fast Company, Slate, and Forbes. Users email their requests to a common account and a Fancy Hands assistant tackles it and follows up.

One advantage of this team-based approach is 24/7/365 coverage for your requests, whereas a “real” would probably need to take some time off or sleep every now and then.

However, to give off the appearance of a dedicated assistant, you can give this team of VAs a real name. The feature is called Personal Touch, and you can set up a dedicated email account to give correspondents the illusion that you have a dedicated personal assistant.

For instance, Fancy Hands founder Ted Roden uses the name Lucille Bluth — as in “I’ll have my assistant Lucille will set up the meeting.” And regardless of which Fancy Hands VA assumes the task, the meeting request will appear to come from Lucille.

Hmm… what clever name should I use for my assistant?

If you have any experience with Fancy Hands, please share it below!

Posted in Low Cost Virtual Assistants, Task-Based Virtual Assistants, US Virtual Assistants, Virtual Assistant Companies

Hire My Assistants

Hire My Assistants is a virtual assistant company located in Mumbai, India. Their team is comprised of professionals in areas of expertise including administrative services, office assistance, customer service, online services, professional services, web marketing, web design and development.

HMA prides themselves on being a one stop location for all personal assistant services from small businesses to medium sized corporations. Whether personal assistant services are needed for a one-time project or a more lengthy relationship is established, HMA has the capacity to handle both with efficiency and professionalism.

hire my assistants reviewAbout the Company

Sagar Khupsare is a veteran of the virtual assistant and business process outsourcing industry, and serves as the leader and driving force behind HMA.

As a fresh and dynamic leader he embraces challenges and looks forward to providing clients with the best the Hire My Assistants team can provide.

Established in the beginning of 2014, Hire My Assistants is a newer establishment when compared to other Indian virtual assistant companies. However, clients take comfort in knowing that the leadership of HMA has had goals of becoming one of the largest virtual assistant service providers. All HMA team members hold years of experience providing excellent customer assistance and high quality services.

Services

Client tasks are assigned specifically to skilled professionals in that area; human resource tasks are assigned to human resource experts and payroll to payroll experts, etc. This ensures that client tasks are handled in the most professional, efficient manner.

Hire My Assistants provides virtual assistant services in the following fields:

  • Accounting & Finance Managers
  • Administrative & Office
  • Chat & Email Customer Service Support
  • Ecommerce Development
  • Executive Secretary
  • Inbound & Outbound Call Center
  • Market Research & Analysis
  • Personal Assistant
  • SEO
  • Website Designing

HMA is always looking to expand their service offerings so stay tuned for additional areas of expertise.

Plans and Pricing

The Hire My Assistants plans and pricing are very straightforward and affordable; and are intended to be so. They purposely make choosing a plan and pricing a simple process.

Being part of the industry for many years, HMA recognizes the value of a cost effective and quality service tailored to meet the needs of each individual enterprise. Given this, their pricing is laid out very simply.

Rates start at roughly $180 a month for 20 hours of support ($8.98 an hour) and go as low as $4.98/hr for a full-time VA ($800 per month).

There is great flexibility in hours to ensure that there are plans to meet the needs of all businesses, and no long-term contracts.

Hire My Assistants Alternatives

The virtual assistant industry in India (and elsewhere) remains a competitive one with companies like 24/7 Virtual Assistant, My Tasker, and VMG BPO all vying for your business.

While Hire My Assistants may lack the marketplace experience and client ranks that other companies boast, Sagar tells me their leadership, quality team, fair pricing and exceptional service set them apart from their competitors.

Have you worked with HMA? If so, please be sure to leave a review below to help others with their decision.

Posted in Dedicated Virtual Assistants, India Virtual Assistants, Virtual Employees

eaHELP

eaHELP is a virtual executive assistant company that employs exclusively US-based assistants. The company got its start in 2010 helping churches and pastors outsource their administrative work, and has since expanded to serve businesses (small & large) nationwide.

VAA Tested eaHELPeaHELP executive assistants are administrative professionals trained in a variety of support tasks. Their goal is to integrate tightly with you and your existing team for a cohesive process-flow, even though they’ll be working remotely.

Services

Some of the more common jobs eaHELP VAs do include scheduling and travel planning, research, preparing presentations, social media admin, project management, and other ongoing business support functions. The idea is to let someone else handle what they’re good at, so you can focus your time on what you’re good at — or what you need to do to grow your business.

The eaHELP model is known as a “staff leasing” arrangement. Where other virtual assistant companies may assign your tasks to whoever is available at the moment, eaHELP gives you a dedicated/assigned assistant so you can build a one-on-one relationship and gain the efficiencies that come with it.

eaHELP Review

With dedicated support and All-American executive assistants, eaHELP is a positioned as a premium service in the competitive world of cloud staffing. But instead of racing to the bottom on pricing, they want to help your organization race to the top, with hand-picked VAs matched against your needs (both professional & personal requirements).

The company offers monthly service plans in 5-hour per week increments. The most popular plan to start out with for small businesses, entrepreneurs, or people who just want to take a test drive is the baseline 5-hour a week plan. The sign-up process begins with a free consultation and personalized price quote.

A flat monthly fee gives you access to you VA week in and week out, without having to worry about overhead, timesheets, and billing headaches. Modest discounts are available for scaling up the engagement, and you can change plans at any time given reasonable notice.

Plans and Pricing

As you might expect, eaHELP is considerably more expensive than many of the overseas virtual assistant options. In some parts of the world, you may even be able to find a full-time virtual employee for a lower monthly fee. But eaHELP believes you get what you pay for, and clearly isn’t targeting the same customer who’s looking for the $5/hour VA.

As of December 2014, their hourly rates range from $35 to $44. The good thing is that these rates are “all-inclusive,” in that you don’t have any additional employer burden costs to pay on top of it, like you would with a traditional W-2 employee. If you are a non-profit or a church, lower rates may be available.

If you’re ready to bite off a longer term commitment, the company does offer a negotiated rate of 20% off for annual contracts when you pre-pay for the year in advance. Alternatively, a 12-month contract without pre-payment may still be eligible for your 11th and 12th months free.

Both these options still come with a 60-day “out clause” if things aren’t working out, and otherwise the eaHELP service is provided month-to-month.

Bryan Miles, the founder of eaHELP, is focused on delivering superior service to his customers. The strategy seems to be paying off, with business growing rapidly and a host of marquee clients. In fact, the company has earned glowing endorsements from author Michael Hyatt and other Fortune 500 companies.

I had the chance to sit down with Bryan and ask him a few questions on what sets eaHELP apart from the competition, who their target customers are, what areas of work they specialize, and who should NOT use their service.

eaHELP Founder Interview

As mentioned in the video, use this link to grab a free copy of The Virtual Assistant Solution (which normally sells on Amazon for $2.99).

the virtual assistant solution

With so many changes in our economy and hiring strategies, Bryan argues it may be time to rethink your approach to staffing. In fact, he gives 9 reasons to consider going virtual for your next hire in his free ebook (email opt-in required, but worth the read).

Employee Burden Infographic

eahelp infographic

Your Turn

Have you worked with eaHELP? If so, please consider sharing a short review below to help others with their decision.

Posted in Dedicated Virtual Assistants, US Virtual Assistants, Virtual Assistant Companies, Virtual Employees

$99 Social

$99 Social provides outsourced social media services for small businesses that don’t have the time or the expertise to actively engage with their customers online.

The company aims to provide social media posts and activity on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, and works with businesses to provide customized content.

About $99 Social

99 dollar social reviewThe company was founded on the basis of providing custom social media solutions for small businesses, and promises its customers to be “budget-friendly, time-friendly, and small-business friendly.” Its services include a comprehensive social media package for only $99/month, and save small business owners the time that it takes to manage numerous social media accounts.

The company was launched in 2011, and has grown rapidly to serve numerous small businesses around the country.

$99 Social is located in Arizona, and its workers are based there as well; the company does not outsource to other countries. All social media accounts are managed by a Content Specialist who conducts research to determine the best approach for each business on social media.

Video Overview

Services

$99 Social’s package includes all of the following:

  • Daily content on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
  • A VoiceMatch system to make sure that the “voice” of each social media account matches the voice of the business
  • Social profile optimization to receive the most results in search engines
  • Promotion of products and services, as well as other customized promotion, targeted to the local community
  • Removal of spam on each social media account
  • Phone and email support

See Also: Should You Outsource Social Media?

Plans and Pricing

As you might have guessed based on the name, the price is $99/month, without hidden fees or price increases.

However, adding social networks such as Pinterest and Instagram beyond the basic package will cost extra, but all packages include Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Small businesses looking for more than the basic package can also purchase the Social Media Boosters, which provides a more involved solution. Businesses simply need to contact the company and discuss the details of what each business is looking for.

All plans are month-to-month with no long-term contracts. If you’re not happy with the service, just cancel within the first 14 days for a full refund.

$99 Social Alternatives

$99 Social is unique for its affordable and small-business oriented model. Its goal is to provide individualized attention for each of its clients, which sets it apart from other social media management companies that target large companies with more accounts, and thus raise their prices accordingly.

The alternatives of course include doing it all yourself, which is definitely an option but can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially if you’re new to social media and aren’t sure the best way to go about it. On the other end of the spectrum are dedicated social media marketing virtual assistants, offered by many talented individuals and VA companies.

Going that route would probably generate more engagement on your social accounts, but also comes at a higher price tag. In the case of $99 Dollar Social, you don’t really have to worry about training or coming up with a plan on your own.

Have you worked with $99 Social? If so, please be sure to leave a quick review of your experience below.

Posted in Task-Based Virtual Assistants, US Virtual Assistants, Virtual Assistant Companies

Copywriter Today

Copywriter Today is a content creation service based in Cleveland, Ohio. The company was founded in 2014 and aims to provide small businesses and bloggers with top-quality written content on an ongoing basis.

In fact, the team has grown to more than a dozen writers, all native English speakers and all based in the US. Their “claim to fame” is their “unlimited” writing service, which the founder, Gabe Arnold, explained is modeled after the WP Curve business (unlimited WordPress tweaks for $69 a month).

copywriter today reviewServices

CopywriterToday.net offers unlimited article writing services, editing and proofreading, and research work on a monthly subscription basis.

Along those lines, the actual deliverables are often blog posts ranging from 400 to 1500 words, sales letters, emails, copy for brochures, or content for press releases.

I’ve found that Google seems to value recency quite a bit in their algorithm, meaning that with all else equal, the more recently published article will be ranked higher. Where Copywriter Today comes in is by supplying you with a steady stream of content to keep your site up-to-date.

I know the publish date is something I definitely pay attention to when I arrive on a new site, and when nothing has been updated in a couple years, it throws up a red flag — like, “Is this company even still in business?”

Copywriter Today Interview

VAA Exclusive: Use the discount code VAA50 to receive half off your membership for life.

How it Works

With a Copywriter Today membership, you can submit up to four writing requests at a time. The short content order form explains the details of your order and gives your assigned writer all the information they need to complete the work.

Turnaround times are around 48 hours for 400 word pieces, 72 hours for 800 word pieces, and 96 hours for 1500 word pieces. If you need more than 1500 words written, it is best to break the project up into smaller chunks, or request a custom quote for the work.

Orders are tackled in the order they’re received, and between the promised turnaround times and the 4-order-at-a-time limit, you’ll be able to get 15-30 writing projects done per month if you max out the service. In that sense, it’s not entirely “unlimited,” but still a strong value proposition for anyone in need of that volume of content.

There are no limitations on the use of the work, in terms of the number of websites or destinations you can publish it on, and you own the rights to the content at the end of the day.

Plans and Pricing

Copywriter Today is $249 a month, but you can use the discount code VAA50 to receive half off your membership for life.

There is currently a week-long trial period for just $7, so you can test out the service and the writing quality in a very low risk manner, and a 100% money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with their work. According to Gabe, roughly only one article in 100 is rejected.

Copywriter Today Alternatives

I haven’t yet seen any other “unlimited” outsourced content writing services, though the alternative would be to write the content yourself or find writers on an article-by-article basis.

One service I’ve used recently is HireWriters, but at a rate of $19 per article, it can get expensive fast.

Have you tried Copywriter Today? If so, please leave a review of your experience below to help others with their decision.

Posted in Writing Services

24/7 Virtual Assistant

24/7 Virtual Assistant is a personal outsourcing company with locations in Atlanta, Georgia and India. The company has been in business since 2008, and has attracted clients all across the country and around the world.

24/7 Virtual Assistant Review247VirtualAssistant.com is geared toward the small business customer, with several dedicated plans starting at 30 hours a month for $299 ($10/hour) and going all the way up to full time 160 hours a month for $999 ($6.25/hour).  The 30-hour plan is the most popular offering.

The advantage of these plans is a dedicated virtual assistant you can train to the specific needs of your business. If you don’t need so much time, 24/7 Virtual Assistant also sells hourly pay-as-you-go plans for $15 an hour in 5-hour increments.

You can take advantage of the services offered by 24/7 Virtual Assistant, regardless of the type of business you have or even if you just need someone to deal with your personal tasks. The services offered range from clerical and secretarial tasks, such as responding to messages or calls, to web research, customer service, human resources, and real estate services. They even do web design for just $20 an hour.

In addition to their offshore center in India, 24/7 offers US-based staffing as well from their Atlanta headquarters. The rates are outstanding for dedicated American help, starting at just $359 for a 20-hour per month VA. There are a variety of plans depending on how many hours you need, and you can even get a full-time US-based virtual employee for only $1999 a month.

247VirtualAssistant.com Review

Virtual Assistant Assistant Exclusive: Mention referral code 2ni4ck7 for 10% off your first month!

The virtual assistants from 24/7 Virtual Assistant also offer services which are extremely creative and technical. These could be managing your technical calls from important clients and helping with computer related issues. You can get help from creative VAs who are able to design programs for Internet marketing campaigns. You get to train them as if they were a real employee.

You can also use these assistants as customer support staff to answer calls from potential customers.  This service is offered at very affordable cost and you are not required to sign a contract.   What’s even more interesting the service is offered on a month to month basis, so you can unsubscribe at any time without incurring a penalty.

24/7 VA Video Interview

Virtual Assistant Assistant Exclusive: Mention referral code 2ni4ck7 for 10% off your first month!

Since launching this site, 24/7 has been one of the most popular companies around. The competitive rates and diverse skill-sets of the team are a major contributing factor, but the behind-the-scenes service is important too.

My main contact there has been very responsive to  customer questions and concerns, even working to create custom solutions or handling some of the workload himself until a more permanent set-up can be established. I think an important measure is the speed at which customer issues are resolved, and it’s been my experience that Thomas (my contact) and his team genuinely care about delivering a great service and doing whatever they can to make it right for their clients.

Is that a guarantee? No, but you can learn more about my personal trial with 24/7 in the video above or in the comments down below. I had the opportunity to test out their 30-hour plan for a month.

Have you used 24/7 Virtual Assistant?  Please share your experience below.

Posted in Dedicated Virtual Assistants, India Virtual Assistants, Low Cost Virtual Assistants, Virtual Assistant Companies, Virtual Employees

4 Specialty Outsourcing Companies You Should Know

One of the biggest trends I’m seeing in outsourcing right now is the rise of the specialty service shop.

Instead of big cubicle farms offering every service under the sun, I’m seeing more and more tightly focused businesses specializing in one area.

These guys have taken the Fancy Hands model and niched it down even further.

Here are 4 examples you should know about, in the areas people ask for help with most often:

  • Web development
  • Content creation
  • Bookkeeping
  • Graphics

WP Curve

Claim to Fame: Unlimited WordPress website fixes for $69 a month.

Link:

WPCurve.com

Perfect for non-technical people who want to have an “IT guy” on retainer but don’t or need a full-time person.

They’ll handle all the website updates and small design tweaks you can throw at ‘em.

Copywriter Today

Claim to Fame: Unlimited 400-1500 word articles written for $249 per month.

Current offer: 50% off w/ code 50offOct

Link:

CopywriterToday.net

If you’re struggling to keep up with your editorial calendar or are managing multiple blogs, this service will be a lifesaver.

Bench.co

Claim to Fame: Accounting and bookkeeping service for small businesses, starting at $125 per month.

Link:

Bench.co

Get a dedicated bookkeeper and stop wasting time on expenses and time-consuming accounting tasks.

Undullify

Claim to Fame: Unlimited 30-minute graphic design tasks for $79 per month, or one-off graphics jobs for $19 each.

Link:

Undullify.com

I can see this being especially valuable if you have a need to create sharable images for social media on an ongoing basis, or to create quality graphics for your blog.

Your Turn

Any other “specialty” outsourcing shops I should be aware of?

Let me know and I’ll add to this list!

Posted in News

My Tasker

My Tasker is a relative newcomer to the virtual assistant industry, but brings years of experience to the table. The India-based company was founded in 2012 by three veteran VAs.

my tasker review

Since the My Tasker team spent the time in the trenches, they know how to take care of clients and were able to recruit high-performing professional virtual assistants to join their team.

They started out as a contract service on Freelancer.com, and after gaining some traction on that platform decided to launch as a standalone operation.

Services

My Tasker offers a dedicated virtual assistant service starting at 10 hours a month.

This plan, dubbed Professional Assistance, plans target entrepreneurs who need affordable help in their business.

Your dedicated MyTasker VA can handle everything from customer support (online or over the phone), transcription, social media management and online marketing, online research, website maintenance and more.

Naturally, your virtual assistant can handle general administrative tasks as well such as appointment setting, travel or restaurant reservations, or other back-office tasks that can be completed remotely.

How it Works

With My Tasker, you’re assigned a qualified VA based on the anticipated roles you need filled. You can communicate via phone, email, or Skype, and delegate tasks on a recurring or on-demand basis. For each task you delegate, they’ll either tackle it themselves, or request help from a qualified team member.

Your pre-purchased hours expire at the end of each billing cycle, but there are no long-term contracts and you can cancel at any time.

Your VA’s hours are tracked inside MyTasker’s internal dashboard so you can always log in and see how much time you have left for the month.

My Tasker Review

I was impressed during my trial of My Tasker, but I was using their now-discontinued “Lifestyle Assistance” plan, which offered 30 15-minute tasks for $39 a month. I guess I’ll have to do another trial run here soon!

Plans and Pricing

The rates for Professional Assistance start at $120 for a 10-hour a month plan, and go all the way down to $6.25/hr for a massive 160-hour plan.

That means you can have a full-time 40-hour a week VA for just $1000, which is a strong value for ongoing business support. If you want to take the service for a test drive, I suggest selecting one of the smaller plans to start with, and then scaling up your engagement from there. (Use the discount code below!)

Pricing Table (accurate at press time):

  • 10 hrs per month – $120 ($12/hr)
  • 20 hrs per month – $220 ($11/hr)
  • 30 hrs per month – $300 ($10/hr)
  • 50 hrs per month – $450 ($9/hr)
  • 80 hrs per month – $640 ($8/hr)
  • 120 hrs per month – $840 ($7/hr)
  • 160 hrs per month – $1000 ($6.25/hr)

If at any time you go over your plan’s hours, additional time can be purchased at $12 an hour (assuming staff availability).

VAA Exclusive: Get 20% off your first month w/ discount code VAA20MT.

I asked Ronny, the COO, what sets My Tasker apart from the competition, both in India and elsewhere. He explained that the team’s extensive experience in the industry, especially on the customer service side, gives them an advantage.

“We have the freedom to go that extra mile to make sure our customers are satisfied,” he says, implying that other larger VA companies don’t necessarily afford that freedom.

Have you worked with My Tasker? If so, please share your experience below and help others with their decision.

Posted in Dedicated Virtual Assistants, India Virtual Assistants, Low Cost Virtual Assistants, Virtual Assistant Companies, Virtual Employees

Best Virtual Assistant…

I know you were hoping for a magic page with the one clear winner here, but unfortunately there is no easy answer to the question of which virtual assistant company is the best.

The truth is it depends on your specific needs, and everyone’s needs are slightly different. Because of that, I’ve done my best to break it down by category, but be sure to check the reviews for each.

For Personal Tasks
Efficise – Starts at $45/mo for 30 tasks
Zirtual – All-American support with an “Epic Guarantee”
Fancy Hands – US-based assistance starting at $29.99 a month
Red Butler – Virtual concierge with tons of extra perks
TimeSvr – $69/month for unlimited quick tasks

For Small Business
Any of the above, plus:
Elance/oDesk – One-stop shopping for any job imaginable (Worldwide)
My Tasker – Professional support from $6.25/hr (India)
Hire Your Virtual Assistant – Great plans for entrepreneurs (Philippines)
24/7 Virtual Assistant – Qualified help, fast (India, USA)
UAssist.me – Professional outsourcing close to home (El Salvador)
VMG BPO – 24/7 live chat support from $195 a month (India)

For Medium Business
Longer Days – 100% American business process outsourcing (Michigan)
eaHELP – Expert help right here in the USA (Georgia)
BPOVIA – A popular choice among growing companies (China)
Brickwork India – One of the most famous VA companies (India)
Worldwide101 – Talented VAs on demand (Global)

For Full-Time Dedicated Help
OnlineJobs.ph – $49 to start, $400 – $750 per month ongoing
Virtual Staff Finder – $495 to start, $400-750 per month ongoing
Staff.com – From $500 per month
VirtualEmployee.com – $895 – $1495 per month
Task Bullet – $960 per month
A to Z Tasks – $995 per month
24/7 Virtual Assistant – $999 per month
My Tasker – $1000 per month
Hire Your Virtual Assistant – $1120 per month
UAssist.me – $1400 per month

For One-Time Projects
oDesk – Have qualified workers bid on your tasks
Elance – Access thousands of freelancers with just a few clicks
Freelancer.com – The world’s largest freelance marketplace
Fiverr – You’ll be surprised what you can get done for just $5
Mechanical Turk – Outsource small jobs to the cloud for pennies

For Graphic Design Work
99designs – Crowdsourced logo and web design
crowdSPRING – Marketplace for graphic design
Witmart – Crowdsourcing design platform that’s huge in China
Logo Garden – Great looking DIY logos on the cheap

For Writing
HireWriters – Cheap copywriting
TextBroker – Another cheap copywriting option
Scripted.com – Higher-end content-creation service

For Website Help
WP Curve – Unlimited WordPress fixes for $69/mo
Tweaky – Fast and cheap option for small website customizations

Still need help? Try our survey tool and get free personalized recommendations in your inbox, generally within 24-hours.

Posted in Uncategorized

Hire Your Virtual Assistant

Hire Your Virtual Assistant – H.Y.V.A. for short – is a virtual assistant company founded in 2009 by Owen McGab Enaohwo. Enaohwo is a Washington DC-based entrepreneur who went into the business of helping others save time. If you watch any of his video interviews, you can immediately tell how passionate he is about your success. With a large 200+ person facility in the Philippines, Hire Your Virtual Assistant is ready to tackle the needs of busy professionals and business-owners everywhere.
HYVA review

HYVA offers a variety of virtual assistant plans, ranging from 40 hours a month to 160 hours a month, at rates of $358 to $1120. On an hourly basis, you’ll find these rates are fairly competitive for Filipino VAs. The most popular H.Y.V.A. plan is the part-time, 20-hour a week plan for $672 a month, which works out to about $8.40 an hour.

The availability of these part-time plans is one thing that sets HYVA apart from other Philippines virtual assistant companies.  Others are focused solely on full-time employment, which might be overkill for first-time outsourcers.

UPDATE: HYVA specifically targets ecommerce companies in the fashion and clothing vertical who want to offer 24/7 live support to their website visitors. The assistants will expertly handle live chat, email, and phone support for that industry.

HYVA Intro Video

You also have the benefit of no long-term obligation; there are no contracts to sign and you can quit your virtual assistant service at any time.  Hire Your Virtual Assistant offers a money-back satisfaction guarantee and strives to cultivate valuable and lasting relationships with their clients.  Recently the company added a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can test out their service risk-free.

I had the chance to sit down with Owen to get the inside scoop on the origins of HYVA, how their process works, and the exact kinds of tasks they really excel in — as well as who should NOT hire them. The video portion of the call didn’t actually record, so you’ll just have to pretend our mouths are moving.

Like we discussed, HYVA provides a dedicated project manager and virtual assistant that you can train to meet your specific business needs. That way your tasks and potentially sensitive information aren’t being shuffled around from person to person. You can build a relationship with your VA just as you would an in-house employee. Plus, most virtual assistants are working during US business hours so you can communicate normally without a shift in your schedule.

Hire Your Virtual Assistant uses the popular Basecamp web-based software for a secure online interface that allows clients and VAs to communicate effectively and monitor results.

Have you had any experience working with Hire Your Virtual Assistant? Please share it here and help others with their decision.

Posted in Dedicated Virtual Assistants, Philippines Virtual Assistants, Virtual Assistant Companies, Virtual Employees

TaskBullet

TaskBullet is a virtual assistant company in the Philippines with US-sales offices in California and Utah.  Although the company is a relative newcomer to the space having started in 2012, all the VAs have five years of experience in their fields.

The Task Bullet model is a virtual employee model.  You get a full-time assistant who can handle your website management, email marketing, social media accounts, customer service, research and more.  Since they are your dedicated VA, you can train them to meet your specific needs and requirements.

TaskBullet ReviewHow it Works

TaskBullet virtual assistants go through a rigorous hiring process and all work from the central office in Davao City, Philippines.  In particular, they company seeks out VAs who are quick learners and who have advanced English skills.

Virtual assistants either work from their home offices or from TaskBullet’s central PCI compliant facility, which is ideal for assistants to handle inbound and outbound calls.

Services

The company is able to provide dedicated virtual assistants, while still being able to tap into a team with a broad range of skills. You have 3 points of contact: your VA, your dedicated VA supervisor, and your US-based team lead in Utah.

For advanced skills or roles your dedicated VA isn’t the best fit to handle, you can apply your pre-paid time to others on their team to get your work done without having to source a new company or freelancer.

It’s a service by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs.  As such, they have a strong understanding of what you need – affordable quality help, and what you don’t – stress, overhead, headaches.

TaskBullet Intro Video

Task Bullet service comes with no start-up fees and a 7-day money back guarantee.  If you’re unhappy with your VA, the company will set up with a new one immediately.  In addition, new customers receive a free consultation on how to most effectively work with their VA.

Task Bullet Interview

(For some reason, my video didn’t come through during the recording so all we have is Danny’s face!)

Plans and Pricing

I appreciated how they were upfront with their pricing – with none of the “contact us for a quote” stuff you see on some other sites.  The rates start $6/hour for a full-time virtual employee.  These prices make Task Bullet extremely competitive on price for virtual workers in the Philippines, with full-time help available for under $1000 a month.

The company specializes in full-time, 40-hours a week virtual assistants, but has recently expanded their service offerings to include a number of part-time plans as well. If you don’t have a full-time workload, you might consider their 20, 40, and 80-hour packages, which run $200, $360, and $640 per month respectively.

How it works is on a “bucket of hours” basis, meaning you’re essentially buying blocks of time that rollover for up to 3 months. That means you can sign on for the 80-hour plan at $640, for example, and use those 80 hours how you see fit over the 90 days.

Customers aren’t billed on a recurring monthly basis, but rather can renew their hours or upgrade or downgrade at any time.

That structure makes sense if you don’t have a consistent workload each week, but are confident you’ll use the time eventually.

VAA Exclusive: Mention VirtualAssistantAssistant at sign-up for 20% off your first month!

(Additional discounts may be available for longer-term recurring contracts.)

TaskBullet also provides an on-demand task-based service at a flat rate of $12.95 per hour, if you have smaller projects to outsource or want to sample their work before buying a larger block of hours. And they do audio transcription at a rate of $35 per audio hour.

Have you worked with TaskBullet? If so, please share your experience below and help others with their search.

Posted in Dedicated Virtual Assistants, Philippines Virtual Assistants, Virtual Assistant Companies, Virtual Employees

Virtual Staff Finder

Virtual Staff Finder is more of headhunting service than a true virtual assistant company. Founded in 2010 by entrepreneur Chris Ducker, the firm promises to match you up with qualified workers in the Philippines.

virtual staff finder reviewIn my mind, Chris is right up there with Tim Ferriss when it comes to lifestyle design and using virtual assistants to help achieve your goals. He’s been in the outsourcing arena for 10 years and he and his staff know the Philippines very well.

Virtual Staff Finder is a simple process which works like this. After you sign up, you complete your Job Description requirements, listing all the skills you’d like your virtual assistant to have and what kind of tasks they may be doing for you. Then, for your viewing pleasure, Chris has put together a series of helpful training videos on how best to select and work with your new VA.

Meanwhile, the team at Virtual Staff Finder is hunting for the best candidates. All their virtual assistants are screened, tested, interviewed, and background checked – all before you’re even involved.

Then, the company presents you with the 3 best candidates, and you can do your own interviews and make your selection from there. If you’ve ever tried to find a VA on Elance or oDesk, you’ll appreciate all the screening work Virtual Staff Finder does for you.

Over the years, VSF has helped place over 1000 virtual assistants with new employers so they definitely have their systems down.

Virtual Staff Finder Review

For this, they charge a one-time $495 fee. After that, you and your new virtual assistant agree on a salary and you pay them directly. Because there is no more company overhead, you can expect to pay market rates for your VA, which typically range from $400 a month for full time general administrative help up to $750 a month for more skilled work.

If that price seems steep, consider the average referral bonus given for full-time hires is $1200 (according to Inc. Magazine), and that doesn’t even include the recruiting expenses.

Virtual Staff Finder specializes in matching entrepreneurs with four distinct types of virtual assistants: general admin support staff, web developers, content writers, and SEO specialists. If you’re looking for other skills, you might consider OnlineJobs.ph, a popular jobs board in the Philippines.

UPDATE: VSF has stopped recruiting web developers, content writers, and SEO specialists to instead focus on the “General VA” or GVA fulfillment. It’s possible your GVA will have some SEO or content-creation background if you specify that in your requirements, but it’s no longer the company’s plan to help with recruiting specifically for those roles.

The company offers a 10-day guarantee, which means if you don’t end up hiring any of the 3 candidates they selected for you, or if you did hire one and they didn’t work out without the first 10 days, Virtual Staff Finder will source you another 3 candidates for free.

Have you worked with Virtual Staff Finder? We’d love to get your feedback below.

Posted in Dedicated Virtual Assistants, Low Cost Virtual Assistants, Philippines Virtual Assistants, Virtual Assistant Resources, Virtual Employees

Speedlancer

Speedlancer is the first freelancing platform to harness the power of the crowd for speed. The Melbourne, Australia based company opens its doors in 2014, but uses a unique crowdsourcing methodology to quickly deliver tasks for clients.

Speedlancer targets business owners who would like to take a load off and increase productivity. This is especially useful for business owners because multiple tasks can be done in parallel, so what would normally take days or weeks elsewhere can all be done in just 4 hours.

speedlancer reviewFounder Adam Stone explains the service also works well for startups who need to launch their minimum viable product (MVP) immediately, to get up and running and test their concepts really quickly.

Services

In a promised turnaround time of just 4 hours, you can have a design, writing, or data entry/research task done by their high-quality, curated ‘Speedlancers.’ This distributed team is located in different time zones around the world to provide ample coverage for requests that come in at all hours of the day and night.

All the writers are promised to be native English speakers.

How it Works

The first step is to describe the micro-job you need done, whether it’s a small design project, an article or other writing job, or some research-related task. Speedlancer plans to expand into other service areas soon as well.

You create a title, job description, and your desired budget. Then the task goes out into the queue of Speedlancer tasks a qualified worker jumps on it right away.

speedlancer submit task

At the time of this writing, the average time to acceptance of a job is just 10 minutes.

Upon delivery, you are entitled to a round of free revisions, and if the work still is not done to your satisfaction, Speedlancer will re-enter it into the task-list to be re-done, or issue a refund. That way, the quality is guaranteed.

Plans and Pricing

On this platform, customers choose their prices using the sliding scale shown above, and then it is up to the Speedlancers to decide whether or not the task is a good exchange for their time and effort.

Adam recommended choosing a baseline price around the $29 mark, explaining that $29 will typically get you a 500 word blog post, a logo, banner design, poster, or business card design (just to name a few), and most smallish data-entry type work such as data mining.

If no one accepts your job within 8 hours, you’ll have an option to revise your description or increase your price. That way, the marketplace determines what a fair value for each job is.

The company takes a revenue share and passes the rest onto the individual worker who completed your job.

Speedlancer Alternatives

What sets Speedlancer apart is the turnaround time from start to finish. You don’t have to worry about submitting a job proposal to Elance or oDesk, then weeding through the dozens of applications.

For a small task, it’s more trouble than it’s worth!

The other primary alternative would be a specialist marketplace like Fiverr, but the challenge there is in sorting through all the noise to find the right seller for you. Even though I love Fiverr, I admit it can be time-consuming to find the perfect gig for what I need — and when I do, I’m frustrated because that seller is probably in high-demand and has 1-2 week lag in his promised delivery time.

Speedlancer aims to solve those pains by providing high quality service AND a fast turnaround time. Sure, you’ll pay more than $5, but it can be worth it if you’re in a hurry.

As soon as I have a chance to test out Speedlancer, I’ll report back and share my results here. Ahh, I should have had them write this article!

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

Posted in Freelance Virtual Assistants, Task-Based Virtual Assistants, Writing Services

5 Star VAs

5 Star VAs is a virtual assistant recruiting service with a twist. The Philippines-based company offers both “unmanaged” and “co-managed” matchmaking services.

The company was founded in 2013 and has attracted a growing client base since then. When the co-founder, Neil Cass, reached out to me, my initial reaction was that the company sounded a little like Virtual Staff Finder, the VA recruiting service run by Chris Ducker.

5 star vas reviewServices

Like VSF, 5 Star VAs will source talented virtual assistant candidates tailored specifically to your individual needs. But unlike VSF, which now only recruits General Virtual Assistants, 5 Star VAs will help you find a dedicated team member to meet a wide variety of skillsets.

For instance, you can use their service to find general VAs, SEO specialists, content writers, bloggers, social media marketing specialists, web designers, web developers, and more.

They can provide VAs on a full-time (160 hrs per month) or part-time basis (80 hrs per month), and target startups, small businesses, solopreneurs and other entrepreneurs who need help getting it all done.

With the Unmanaged Service, you interview the candidates provided by 5 Star VAs and make your hiring decision. Then, you work directly with your new virtual assistant and train and pay them directly. There is no markup on their salary and they report to you with no intermediary.

With the Co-Managed Service, they help negotiate the salary on your behalf, handle the VA’s payroll, and pay their PhilHealth premiums (the national health insurance program).

In this case, the company also serves in an ongoing HR capacity, as a point of contact so if there are any issues at any time the client can speak to us directly.

Neil explains, “I feel that this is important as some clients may feel overwhelmed at times and not know how to approach the VA, usually it would just be a case of getting to know each other and work style, adapting to the clients way of doing things, but if this is not addressed it could lead to misunderstandings and the client deciding that working with VAs is not for them.”

It should be noted that even in the co-managed relationship, you are still in charge of managing and overseeing your VA’s work.

5 Star VAs Intro Video

How it Works

As with Virtual Staff Finder, the VAs they seek to place will be thoroughly vetted and skill checked, have a solid college educational background and converse well in English. With each recruitment, they aim to match your desired skill set and requirements before the interview process.

All 5 Star VAs work from their home offices, and have gone through a working environment checklist to make sure it is quiet, free from distractions, and has good DSL connection speeds.

“We will only endorse VAs with a proven track record of experience and a genuine willingness to work for overseas clients in a professional manner,” Neil explains.  “We are here to build a reputation for providing talented, reliable, professional VAs.”

Plans and Pricing

The fee for the Unmanaged matchmaking service is a one-time payment of $385. For this price 5 Star VAs promises to provide three top-notch candidates for you to interview via Skype and then ultimately decide which one you would like to hire.

The fee for the Co-Managed service is the same $385, however, you will earn a $200 credit towards the VA’s third month’s salary.

Un-managed General VA hourly rates typically start from around $4 an hour and go up from there depending on experience and skillset. Naturally, virtual assistants with more advanced skills command higher rates.

The Co-Managed service starts at $800 per month for a full-time VA, and payments are easy through PayPal or Credit card.

VAA Exclusive: Mention referral code VAA for 10% off your VA’s first month’s salary on the Co-Managed service.

Why 5 Star VAs?

They have a small management team on the ground in the Philippines on a year round basis, which isn’t always the case with many other VA companies.

Neil is passionate about helping fellow entrepreneurs and has a background of running small businesses in both the UK & Australia and he understands the way clients from western countries like things done and can relate to their business requirements and needs. This coupled with the local support and knowledge of his wife Imy leads to a smooth process from start to finish.

5 Star VAs Alternatives

Aside from Virtual Staff Finder (mentioned above), the other service to consider would be OnlineJobs.ph. With OnlineJobs, it’s a do-it-yourself service in that you post the job yourself, screen all the candidates, conduct interviews, and hire your favorite.

Have you worked with 5 Star VAs? If so, please leave a quick review of your experience below to help others with their hiring decision.

Posted in Dedicated Virtual Assistants, Philippines Virtual Assistants, Virtual Employees

Hubstaff

Hubstaff provides time tracking software for remote teams, and has also ventured into staffing solutions as well. The company was founded in 2012 and their virtual team is “based” out of Indianapolis, Indiana.

On the time tracking side of the business, Hubstaff’s software gives you screen capture capabilities, tracks activity, and automatically creates timesheets and reports. In that sense, it’s similar to the built-in trackers provided by Elance and oDesk, but frees you to hire people outside of those platforms and still keep tabs on them.

(OnlineJobs.ph also added a free screen capture tool called TimeProof.)

hubstaff reviewNow I’m not big on the over-the-shoulder nature of these tracking programs, and have only ever looked at the Elance screen reports a handful of times. The best way to make sure your virtual assistants are working? Have some deliverable. If it’s not getting done, then you have a problem — otherwise, why bother with the micromanaging?

So this post will focus on Hubstaff as a hiring platform, rather than review the time tracking tool. If interested, it comes with a 14-day free trial so you can check it out and see how you like it.

Hubstaff Intro Video

Note: The video says the software is “100% free.” There is a free plan but the features and functionality are quite limited.

Services

With Hubstaff, you can tap into their platform of on-demand talent to help your small business. They have pre-screened virtual assistants, web developers, graphic designers, marketing pros, content writers, and more.

The advantage is it’s a time-saver over searching for freelance contractors on your own; Hubstaff has already done some of that legwork for you. One thing I thought was a little weird was that they are only staffing through third-party companies, which means there is probably not one, but two layers of profit markup on your worker’s salary.

The argument is that going through companies will leave you better protected and with a more reputable experience, but you run the risk of over-paying for the same level of talent. Still, it’s a done-for-you solution, and that does have some value.

How it Works

The first step in hiring through Hubstaff is to describe your project, role, or task you need done. One of their project managers will contact you for more information and to explain the next steps.

After they have a solid understanding of your needs, they’ll assign you an “awesome” contractor, and you’re off to the races.

All the work is tracked and managed through the Hubstaff software and of course you can interact and provide training directly to your contractor. For the duration of the project, the payments are processed weekly and automatically withdrawn from your account.

Plans and Pricing

Hubstaff has very straightforward pricing, which I appreciated. The rates for a virtual assistant are $5 an hour for an entry level assistant, and $8 an hour for a senior-level VA. Naturally, at those rates, this is for an overseas assistant.

For the higher skilled roles, such as graphics or software programming, the rate is $30 an hour for “non-senior” worker, and $45 an hour for a contractor with more experience.

Hubstaff Alternatives

The biggest alternatives to Hubstaff both in terms of virtual staffing and the tracking tool are the freelance platforms of Elance and oDesk, mentioned above, as well as the Philippines-specific jobs board, OnlineJobs.ph.

Have you found a virtual assistant or other remote team member through Hubstaff? If so, please leave a quick review of your experience below to help others with their hiring decision.

Posted in Project-Based Virtual Assistants, Virtual Assistant Resources, Virtual Employees

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.

Think 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.

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.

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.

Posted in Project-Based Virtual Assistants, UK/Europe Virtual Assistants, US Virtual Assistants

Ruby Receptionists

Ruby Receptionists, sometimes referred to as Call Ruby, is a Portland, Oregon based virtual answering service for small businesses. The company was founded in 2003 by Jill Nelson, who remains on as CEO.

All the virtual receptionists work out of the company’s Portland call center, and offer support during the hours of 5am-6pm Pacific Time. The advantage for business owners is to not have to worry about staffing a phone line in-house, or getting disrupted by calls during your work day.

ruby receptionists reviewThe Ruby Receptionist service can also give small companies the “illusion” of being much bigger, when customers are greeted by a cheerful, professional receptionist on the phone.

Services

While I wouldn’t qualify Ruby as a virtual assistant service because there really is only one task they perform in your business, and you have limited training options in your procedures. Still, you can customize the “scripts” and provide other guidelines to Ruby that they’ll follow on your behalf.

The company can even make certain outbound calls on your behalf, to confirm appointments or to relay information, but wouldn’t be considered a lead generation or telemarketing service.

How it Works

You can forward any number to your live Ruby Receptionists, or even get assigned a toll-free number.

They’ll answer with your custom greeting, take messages, forward calls to the appropriate department, and answer FAQs on your behalf.

You’ll get email alerts when you have a new call logged, and can track your usage and real-time call reports in the Call Ruby online dashboard.

Ruby Receptionists Intro Video

Plans and Pricing

Call Ruby has 3 pricing tiers, which are based on the number of inbound minutes you expect your new receptionist to receive.

The first is $249 a month and includes 100 receptionist minutes. At $2.49 a minute, it’s not a cheap hourly rate virtual assistant, but the true cost is having someone “on call” during your business hours for a very low monthly charge.

Unless you’ve been answering the phones yourself for some time, you might not have any idea of the call volume you’ll receive. In that case, it probably makes sense to start at the lower tier and scale up as needed.

“Plan B” is the next level up and includes 200 receptionist minutes for $409 per month.

Finally, the third tier allows for up to 500 receptionist minutes for $819 per month. That’s over 8 hours of inbound talk-time, but if you go over your allotted minutes in any of the plans, additional minutes are simply charged a pro-rated rate on your service level.

All plans come with a 14-day free trial and a one-time $95 set-up due when your trial period is up and you want to continue with the service. There are no long-term contracts, but after the first 30 days, Ruby requires a 30-day cancellation notice to terminate the service.

Ruby Receptionists Alternatives

Ruby is the most prominent company in this space, though Answer America might also be considered.

On the more “virtual assistant” side of things, I’ve seen some people turning to Uassist.me for on-call receptionists — but no guarantee the call gets picked up every time like with Ruby. (Uassist’s US-branch, Uassist.US is testing a similar call-answering service.)

For outgoing calls, Outbounders.com might be worth a look.

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

Posted in US Virtual Assistants

Bolton Remote

Founded 2013, Bolton Remote is an offshore staffing solution based in the Philippines. They’re not so much a virtual assistant company as they are a simplified way to build a remote support team for your business.

bolton remote reviewThe team is led by Patrick Linton, an entrepreneur with experience in helping Fortune 500 companies expand and improve their global operations. When I spoke with Patrick, his team had already grown to more than 80 full-time members, working out of their modern office in Manila.

Bolton Remote Services

Bolton Remote is positioned as an alternative to hiring staff at any level locally or work from home freelancers.

They’re aimed at both high growth startups as well as more established businesses. If you’re suffering from talent shortages in expensive hiring markets if you’ve been burned by freelancers or other VA companies in the past, Bolton may be worth a look.

The value proposition here is the ability to find a wide range of talent all under one roof, and quickly on-board your new remote staff onto your team. Among the specific skillsets available are marketing, sales, SEO, social media, writing, customer support, graphic and web design, software development, and more.

In each case, you get a full-time virtual employee and Bolton’s model allows you to scale up as growth necessitates. Many customers end up adding 5 team-members or more, though single hires are OK too.

VAA Exclusive: Get 5% off your remote team for the first 6 months with this link!

How it Works

One thing that’s cool about Bolton is instead of inundating you with resumes that all start to look the same after a while, they actually show you their candidates, with high quality pre-recorded “video resumes.”

After you review the videos, you can set up interviews with those who look like the best fit for your team and make your hiring decision.

Team members work in your time zone and you are free to collaborate with whatever project management and communication tools you like.

Bolton Remote customers are also assigned a dedicated point-of-contact on their 24-hour Customer Happiness Team, and first-time remote staffing clients will appreciate the built-in teambuilding coaching and support.

Plans and Pricing

Rates begin at $9 an hour, or $1440 per month. Experienced staff members and those with higher-level expertise command rates in the $2000-2500 per month range.

As far as the “virtual assistants” in the Philippines go, those rates are quite high relative to many of the other companies. But a couple things to keep in mind are the overhead of the office and support staff, and the location in Manila, where the cost of doing business is higher than in some of the outer provinces.

VAA Exclusive: Get 5% off your remote team for the first 6 months with this link!

Bolton Remote Alternatives

With their focus on long-term relationships, an in-office work environment, and investment in infrastructure, the most similar company may be VirtualEmployee.com in India.

In the Philippines, TaskUs and Zylun run similar operations aimed at startups.

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

Posted in Dedicated Virtual Assistants, Philippines Virtual Assistants, Virtual Assistant Companies, Virtual Employees

HourlyNerd

HourlyNerd aims to revolutionize consulting by matching qualified professional and top MBA students to your business. The Boston-based company was founded in 2013, and describes itself as “the future of consulting.”

hourlynerdFounded by 3 Harvard MBA students, the goal was to fill a void in the marketplace dominated by “old school” and high cost consulting firms.

In the way Elance matches you with qualified freelancers, Hourly Nerd offers a similar service for consultants.  In just a short time in business, they’ve already landed big name clients like Microsoft and American Apparel.

The “nerds” are rated on their communication, timeliness, work quality, and more. That helps keep the system transparent, similar to other virtual jobs platforms.

This is not a “virtual assistant” service in the traditional sense of the term, but instead gives small business owners a chance to get qualified expert help on an on-demand basis.

In most cases, your consultant will not be local to your business and you will communicate with them remotely.

How it Works

You post your project and students from the top 20 business schools in the country and select international institutions bid on the work. HourlyNerd takes  a percentage of the project fee. There are more than 500 MBAs on the platform, and the number is steadily growing.

The service is aimed at small business owners who may not have the budget to hire a “full-fledged” consulting firm or an entire team of analysts.

HourlyNerd gives them access to bright young minds at affordable rates. On top of that, the students/consultants have the opportunity to gain real-world business experience and earn some money at the same time.

HourlyNerd Intro Video

Pricing

The competitive bidding system keeps rates affordable, with even the top-pedigree consultants topping out around $100 an hour. Depending on the type of project you need done, you may find rates as low as $10 an hour — and everything in between.

Compared with the hourly rates of McKinsey or other “brand name” consulting firms (think $300/hr and up), you can see the attractive value proposition made by HourlyNerd.

With all Hourly Nerd projects, your funds are held in escrow until the project is completed to your satisfaction.

HourlyNerd Alternatives

Aside from Elance (mentioned earlier), a couple companies offer similar services. MBA & Company helps match MBA consultants with smaller companies for one-off projects, while SkillBridge also links independent contractors to companies in need (though an MBA is not required).

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

Posted in Freelance Virtual Assistants, US Virtual Assistants

Worldwide101

Worldwide101 is an international virtual assistant company with clients and assistants in North America, Europe & Australia.

Founded in 2009, Worldwide101 focuses on providing business-grade virtual assistance to growing small businesses.

All clients have a dedicated team member assigned to them (typically for admin support, customer service, marketing, or project management), as well as access to a broader team when additional services are needed such as web development, design, bookkeeping etc.

Background

Founder of Worldwide101, Sandra Lewis, explains “Our approach is very personalized, carefully matching team members with clients based on skills and personality. The team member assigned learns the client’s business and becomes an integral part of their operations.”

“We have listened carefully to clients over the years and assembled a team with the variety of skills that clients need as they grow their business.  The experience for clients is that we become an extension of their business.  Why should a client have to find an assistant, and then find a web developer, and then find a book keeper – the time it takes to find competent, reliable people when you are already full-on is prohibitive.  Instead, with Worldwide101 clients have immediate access to a team of tried and tested professionals with all the skills they need, when they need them.”

One of the things that many business owners wonder is how they can find people to work for them that are as committed to the success of their business as they are.  People that are reliable and diligent, people that care, people with skills that are willing to go the extra mile.

Worldwide101 has a simple premise. They only recruit people that are passionate about doing a good job, and passionate about working from home– people that share the belief in going the extra mile in order to retain that privilege.

Sandra explains: “We recruit people that have an innate sense of service, and we find that the motivation of continuing to work virtually from home, translates into team members that shine. At Worldwide101 ‘your success is our success’ is not a cliché.  It’s true and we live by it. Worldwide101 has the capacity to grow with your business, and respond to fluctuations in your staffing needs.”

Overview with the Founder

Services

Worldwide101’s vision is to be the “go-to-company” for reliable, quality virtual support of all kinds. Many of their clients originally sign on for admin support, marketing or customer service. In addition, the company specializes in providing businesses with multilingual support with native speakers (French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, etc.).

Beyond that, they offer support in a complete range of services. It’s a relief for many clients to know they have a trusted and responsive company they can call on for web development, design, project management, bookkeeping etc.

Clients

The clientele of Worldwide 101 is generally more business-focused, although support is offered to individuals that need an ongoing assistant or need support for a ‘more involved’ project.  For example, the company often works with people who are relocating to another country and need support with research and making complex arrangements in another language.

Customers are always assigned a dedicated team member to work with on an ongoing basis, as well as training a backup in case of illness, etc. This ensures continuity and provides a level of care and reliability for customers.

The average customer signs on for around 15-20 hours a week, but a wide range of customizable options are available.

Cost

In terms of pricing, Worldwide101 has package rates for admin services, and hourly rates for more specialized services such as development and design. Discounts may be available for long-term engagements.

And again, per Sandra, the 3 areas that set Worldwide101 apart from the competition:

  1. Our people – reliability and quality is EVERYTHING.  We recruit people that have an outstanding professional background and a great attitude – people that have made the transition from a corporate career to working from home, and who bring a wealth of training and experience with them.  Clients get the best of both worlds – a team member with extensive experience, available to them when they need it.
  2. A personal service. We really get to know our clients and assign an assistant that will be a perfect match. We stay attuned to clients needs so that we can grow with them, and are flexible enough to adjust as needed. Need a service that we don’t currently offer? No problem, we’ll add it for you.
  3. Many providers offer either a team-based service, or a dedicated service.  We offer a hybrid model where clients can have a dedicated assistant and take advantage of an extended team for additional services.

Have you worked with Worldwide101? If so, please take a moment to share a quick review of your experience below to help others with their decision.

Posted in Dedicated Virtual Assistants, UK/Europe Virtual Assistants, US Virtual Assistants, Virtual Assistant Companies, Virtual Employees

Get Friday

Get Friday is an outsourcing company that is based in Bangalore, India. They are best-known as the virtual assistant division of Your Man in India, the famous personal concierge company. Get Friday caters to the needs of individuals who have hectic schedules, by offering virtual assistants who can deliver high quality work on administrative tasks.

If you’re curious, the name “Get Friday” is inspired by Daniel Dafoe’s classic Robinson Crusoe. In the novel, the title character has an assistant he calls Friday, who becomes his right-hand man and is critical to his survival. Get Friday has been around since 2005, and now employs 200 energetic and professional virtual assistants who help clients around the world conquer the challenges of business and everyday life.

As one of the longest running VA companies, they’ve served more than 11,000 clients in over 40 countries.

Some examples of the kind of tasks Get Friday does best would be setting appointments, making travel arrangements, and moderating websites. Beyond that, their virtual assistants have even helped find a customer’s lost dog and plan a wedding! Where else are you going to find a wedding planner for this cheap?

Get Friday Intro Video:

Get Friday offers an array of virtual assistant service plans that start from Pay-As-You-Go at a rate of $15 an hour, all the way up to Full Time (160 hours a month) at a rate of $1120 a month or just $7 an hour. All the plans over 40 hours a month include “rollover” time, so unused hours can be applied to next month’s service. There are no long-term contracts; you can cancel, upgrade, or downgrade your plan at any time with 30 days notice. Get Friday also will quote prices for one-time projects if you send them a description of what needs to be done.

Hiring a virtual assistant is a big decision, and Get Friday offers a 7 day free trial period to ease some of that anxiety. If you’re not happy with the service, just cancel without any obligation.

One thing I noticed when opening my Get Friday account is the sign-up process is kind of a pain. They make you do a phone verification, which is automated but something normally reserved for banks. Then you have to print, sign, and fax (or email) back a copy of the contract. I haven’t seen those kinds of sign-up requirements from any other VA company.

Your Get Friday virtual assistant is available 5 days a week, during the hours you choose. This is valuable because of the time zone difference between the US and India. Weekend and overtime hours are charged out at 1.5 times your normal hourly rate.

Get Friday Ace

In the summer of 2014, Get Friday introduced Get Friday Ace, a VA service specifically aimed at the small business market.

I think it’s a smart move since they already have the staff and infrastructure in place, and businesses are used to spending money on support services. Get Friday Ace lists web design and development, bookkeeping, marketing and SEO, and other business process tasks among their new menu of services.

If you’ve had any experience with Get Friday – positive or negative – please share it below.

Posted in India Virtual Assistants, Low Cost Virtual Assistants, Virtual Assistant Companies

How to Use Google Docs to Share Processes With Your Virtual Assistant

This is a guest post by Korbett Miller, a virtual manager extraordinaire.

If you need help turning your business systems into a well-oiled machine, check out his book De-Mythify: Finding Freedom in Your Small Business.

I know I have had some great experiences with hiring a virtual assistant.  I know I have also had some horrible ones as well.  When I started to create Forms and Checklists with systems I have had a great results from the people who work with me.

This reminds me of a great story from a friend of mine named Thomas. His first job was cleaning police cars in the small town where he grew up.

His instructions were minimal:

“Clean the cars and whatever you do, not get the car wet.”   

What that really meant was do not get the radio equipment wet on the inside of the cars. But when Officer Bob came back and saw that Thomas had only lightly dusted the inside and outside of the cars, he was unceremoniously relieved of his car-washing duties.

We make assumptions about our descriptions and instructions of work for our staff.

Nick’s Notes: I was definitely guilty of this with my first VA hires. I’d been doing certain tasks for years and couldn’t comprehend why my brand new hire just wasn’t getting it!

When we take the process of creating our systems very clearly for our virtual staff, it may take more time on the front end, but the time savings for you over the long haul will help immensely. Investing in your process documentation may not be the most exciting activity, but it’s one that will certainly pay off many times over.

One of the most useful ways of creating a system in your business is using Google Drive. Anyone can get a free Google Drive account with up to 15 GB of storage, which is more than enough to create  very clear standard operating procedures with pictures, videos, charts, and checklists.

The system is accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection and can be easily shared and edited amongst team members.

So what are the qualities that make up a good system?

A Good System is Teachable

A system is useless unless it is taught to others. If you make it so easy that it can be taught to someone in elementary school, it has the best chance of succeeding in the long term.

It’s almost like creating a perfect recipe. You must be able to measure the results, change the process when needed, and always be on the lookout for better ideas.

I recommend to the readers of my book to use the free Camstudio program.  I think there are some more elaborate options, but for most people Camstudio will allow them to record tasks and train their VA or staff members.

Nick’s Notes: I use Jing for videos up to 5 minutes, and Screencastomatic for longer videos.

You need to learn how to use the screen capture program. CamStudio is a free program that is available for download. All you do is record your YouTube video by creating a movie of what is going on your screen and giving a voiceover narration of the steps you are taking.

Nick’s Notes: You can set your YouTube videos to “Private” or “Unlisted” to limit who has access.

A Good System is Predictable

Are you getting the results you envisioned for your efforts?

Be very careful not to confuse activity with results. When creating a system, you should have the outcome in mind. What are you expecting the process to accomplish? You should be able to see your workplace clean, cupcakes made to specifications, error-free payroll, or whatever it is you expect.

If you are not getting the results you seek, go back to the system.

Nick’s Notes: After a few weeks of errors and “unexpected results,” I had to revisit my process documentation and teaching. I actually had my virtual assistant explain to me their system as they understood it, and filled in the gaps from there.

In my profession, I have trained police officers. When interviewed after being shot or when trying to resolve some unbelievably intense situations, almost all of them responded, “I just fell back on my training.” Amazing.

You need to create training and accountability systems to ensure that all work done in your business has predictable results.

When you delegate work to your staff, they should feel responsible for the segment they are in charge of.

Nick’s Notes: Indeed, cultivating a culture of responsibility is really important, even in a virtual team. You’ve got to find some way to make your VA care about the end result of their work and how it fits in the big picture.

A Good System is Reliable

A system can be wonderful, but only when it functions properly. Just as the phone needs to be answered appropriately and a customer complaint handled in a particular manner, systems are created for uniformity and reliability.

How do you ensure this?

Training is a crucial step that ensures the reliability of a system. In fact, when a new system is created at work, even the existing staff will need training. The role of ongoing training in the business world is enormous.

Reliability is achieved from the capacity to perform a task.  This happens only when you make sure that everyone understands the system and you have proper accountability practices (checklists) in place.

From my 18 years of being a business owner, it seems that the more cumbersome a system is, the lower the chances it gets executed as intended.

1. If it’s difficult for your staff to know when a system should be triggered, there is a low probability that it will be consistently ran.

Google Docs allows you to assign the forms to be ran by placing them in a folder.

Another way for you to make sure that the system is run consistently is to have a staff member create a bookmark for the form.

You will first need to view the live form to get the link address. Note that the staff will not be able to modify the form, unless you give them that permission. I will show you how to do that in the next section.

The live form should look like this:

google docs form process checklist

Once I have created the live form, I would copy the web address.

I would have your virtual assistant create this system of folders and bookmarks to organize their tasks. (We are going to work from within the Chrome Browser for these examples, but any other browser will work as well.)

From the Chrome menu, I choose Bookmarks, then Bookmarks Manager.

chrome bookmark menu

I then create the TO DO folder under the Organize tab.

Adding a To Do folder

Once this folder is ready, your VA can drop the web address for your Google Doc Form.

For example, when your VA now opens the link in their browser, they will see the “Clean the Bathroom” instructions.

Several other strategies can be implemented using that folder.  You could create “Monday-Friday” sub-folders in “TO DO” if you have different tasks for each day of the week:

creating bookmark folders in chrome

2. If there is not a way for you to check at a glance the output from a system, it will be difficult to follow up with the systems.

  • You can monitor checklists remotely from your computer or tablet.
  • You will be able to see if the system was run.
  • You can check everything even when traveling.

If you want to check if the checklists were run, choose “View responses” from the toolbar:

view responses in google forms

When you open the form, you will see the responses in a spreadsheet. You can pan left and right with the mouse or cursor to see the responses. The first Column A is a timestamp as to when the form was submitted, so that you can see when the system was run.

google forms responses spreadsheet

I have one challenge with this though. Every time a form drops the responses in this table, it puts the new response at the bottom. I get around this by manually sorting all the data in the sheet by the timestamp column “Sort sheet Z-A.”

In teaching you how to create systems using various features, I may have inadvertently made the responses lengthier than they need to be. For most of the tasks that you ask someone to do, a simple yes or no response is perfect. It helps you get a load of information by just scanning the document. If I need the question ‘why’ answered for anything, I chat with that staff member. It’s a simple way to monitor. For each 20-step checklist, it should take your eye 5 seconds to see if there is a problem.

Your Turn

What systems or software do you use to communicate your systems and processes to your virtual assistant?

Posted in Uncategorized
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