UnicornGO

UnicornGO is a subscription based design service offering unlimited and unrestricted graphic design requests for a flat monthly fee.

They are one of the newer graphic design service companies to enter the space, and their head offices are based in Sydney, NSW Australia. Their designers work remotely all over the globe.

About UnicornGO

The first thing that jumps out about UnicornGO which separates them from a lot of the established graphic design companies is their business model. When you sign up with UnicornGO you pay a flat fee for unlimited monthly designs and unlimited revisions.

Their objective is to make their service “Like having a dedicated design team without the price tag.”\ As a client, you are assigned a team of designers to work with and as you see some of the designs from the team you can choose to work with individuals that best understand your vision if you wish.

The company is headed up by co-founder Francis Lee. With over 13 years experience in the sales and marketing industry, hiring and working with designers on a regular basis, Francis saw a gap in the market for a subscription model design company and started UnicornGO.

UnicornGO’s target customers are mainly startups and small businesses looking for regular, professional, and dynamic designs, but can’t afford or do not see the need for their own in-house graphic designer.

VAA Exclusive: Use UnicornGO coupon code VIRTADIR17 for $10 off your first month of service!

Services

UnicornGO’s graphic designers are able to handle any form of graphic design task. This includes:

  • Infographics
  • Website design
  • Logos
  • Mobile UI
  • Book covers
  • Banners
  • Blog post headers
  • Flyers, and more.

There is a simple 3-step process in place from ordering your designs to receiving the completed work:

  1. You send them your design request with all the details of task. Your designer will give you an estimate on the time it will take.
  2. Your design is delivered within the time specified in the format you requested, and you have some time to review the work.
  3. You can submit as many revisions as feel necessary to get the design exactly how you want it.

Plans and Pricing

UnicornGO has a straightforward menu of pricing options, ranging from $199 to $999 a month. 

I’ll do my best to outline the main differences between the plans here.

The $199 per month Bootstrap plan included 4 design requests per month and you can only submit requests for a single brand. UnicornGO promises unlimited revisions at this level, as they do on the others as well, but the turnaround time here is significantly slower: 3-5 business days from request to initial design.

The $399 Unlimited plan affords you “unlimited” design requests for unlimited brands. The only real throttle or limitation on this is that you can only submit one design request at a time, and they promise to turn it around in 1-2 business days.

At the top of the line, the $999 Big Unicorn plan removes that submission throttle, letting you submit up to 3 design requests at a time and promises express 24 hour turnaround.

VAA Exclusive: Use UnicornGO coupon code VIRTADIR17 for $10 off your first month of service!

There are no contracts, you can cancel at any time, and there is a 14-day money back guarantee to ensure you’re satisfied with the service when you first sign up.

UnicornGO Alternatives

I’ve seen a few other subscription-based design services pop up recently, including Undullify and Design Pickle. Their prices and services are very similar so I recommend checking them out and seeing which company catches your attention.

If you don’t think you will get value from UnicornGO’s unlimited monthly subscription model, you can order one-off designs from Fiverr, or submit a contest to crowdsourcing platforms like 99designs or DesignCrowd.

Your Turn

Have you received design work from UnicornGO? If so, please leave a brief review below of your experience to help others with their decision.

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TaskBullet USA

TaskBullet are a virtual assistant company that has been operating in the Philippines since 2012. They started operations with a new branch of their brand called TaskBullet USA in 2016.

As you might guess, the primary different between the two branches is TaskBullet USA’s virtual assistants are all based in the US.

This means you’re paying a little more per hour, but it opens up the possibility for native English speaking assistants working the same hours as you and with a better cultural understanding of US business practices.

About TaskBullet USA

The company is run by CEO Danny Nappi, and COO Wesley Nappi. Together they have more than 20 years experience managing and running businesses. The company offices are located in Utah, with their virtual assistants working remotely across the US.

Their virtual assistants have a wide range of skills, and “because time is a finite resource” they are on hand to take tasks off your hands for you. Obviously their rates are higher than they can offer from their Philippines office, but they are comparable to other US-based virtual assistant companies.

Services

Taskbullet USA market their services towards small business owners as their target customers. As with most virtual assistant companies however, if you have tasks to outsource, no matter how large your business you can always utilize a virtual assistant.

An aspect of their business that separates them from a lot of other VA companies is that TaskBullet USA offer a dedicated virtual assistant, or a team of virtual assistants. Each client is assigned a project manager as well, this helps keep a clear line of communication between you and the project manager, who then talks with the virtual assistant.

They can handle a wide variety of tasks, such as:

  • Social media marketing
  • Outbound and inbound calls
  • Internet research
  • Data entry
  • Transcription
  • Personal assistant services, and more.

You should always contact virtual assistant companies and explain what your exact needs are and see how they respond as your first point of contact.

Plans and Pricing

They currently have three different pricing plans as follows:

  1. Starter Bucket – 10 hours @ $35/hr ($350)
  2. Light Bucket – 30 hours @ $30/hr ($900)
  3. Expert Bucket – 60 hours @ $25/hr ($1500)

As you can see there are considerable savings if you purchase larger plans. You have 90 days to use the hours you purchase, and there are no contracts or monthly fees. Each plan comes with a 60-day money back guarantee.

What you buy is what you get, and you can use the hours as and when you need.

TaskBullet USA Alternatives

Time Etc and Worldwide101 are two highly rated US-based virtual assistant companies to compare alongside TaskBullet USA. Time Etc are a little less expensive, and Worldwide101 being a little more expensive.

TaskBullet USA say they specialize in communication. Good communication is key to a successful working relationship with a VA so this is something to test when you’re interacting with them.

Your Turn

Have you worked with TaskBullet USA? Maybe you have used both TaskBullet and now their USA branch and can comment on how the service compares?

If so, please leave a brief review below to help others with their decision.

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PicMonkey

PicMonkey is an online tool that allows users to edit photos, carry out some graphic design, create collages, and more. It’s not a virtual assistant service per se, but more like an easy-to-use online software that lets you do your own graphic design work.

Image editing and graphic design can be expensive costs to a small business, so PicMonkey enable users to create their own images with limited experience and technical knowledge required.

The company has been business since 2012, and their headquarters are in Seattle, WA.

About PicMonkey

The company was founded in April 2012 by two former Picnik engineers, Brian Terry, and Justin Huff. Picnik was a photo editing site and the company joined forces with Google in 2012. After learning that Google were planning to close Picnik in 2013, both Brian and Justin decided to leave and create PicMonkey.

With a goal of starting the company to be a “more efficient and feature-rich replacement” for Picnik, PicMonkey fast became one of the most popular online photo editing sites. The owners also had additional backing from some other former “Picnikers”, Jonathan Sposato (CEO), Lisa Conquergood, and Charlie Whiton.

PicMonkey’s headquarters is in Seattle, WA, and they have a regional office in New Zealand. 

Services

They offer a range of photo editing options. You can easily make just about any change you want to an image, and with limited knowledge and experience with graphic design or photo editing software.

I know because I’ve been using PicMonkey for quite some time to create social media graphics for another one of my sites!

Some of their features include:

Image Editing – You can crop, color, rotate, sharpen, and resize images with just a few clicks.

Touch Up – There are a range of options to make changes to high-quality photos. From eye-brightening and teeth whitening, to removing wrinkles, you can make sure you’re looking your best for your professional photos.

Graphic Design – You can create graphics from scratch. PicMonkey has some templates to help you get started too.

Collage – You can make a collage of several images, resizing and moving them around to create the arrangement you want.

What I use the service most often is to quickly add text to an image with a wide variety of different fonts.

The control panel is user-friendly, it’s easy to navigate around the site, and there are a lot of instructions and hints to help out beginners. If you’re not experienced with any form of graphic design or photo editing software you should find using this service intuitive and easy to pick up.

Plans and Pricing

For the most part, PicMonkey is free to use. They do however offer two premium plans, a monthly and an annual plan priced as follows:

  • Royale Monthly – $7.99/month
  • Royale Annual – $3.99/month (save 50%)

When you purchase a plan you have access to a much wider range of tools to use while editing images. 

The Royale plan unlocks some premium fonts, and all the ads are also removed when you’re logged in.

There is a 7-day free trial on both Royale plans.

PicMonkey Alternatives

There are some alternatives to PicMonkey worth checking out. Canva is probably the closest competitor, offering user-friendly graphic design tools and image editing options, though I found the interface harder to understand than PicMonkey’s.  

Other options to consider include Piktochart to create your own infographics, and Pixlr offers similar services to PicMonkey.

If you’ve given PicMonkey a shot and still want to hire someone else to do your graphic design work, check out these options here.

Your Turn

Have you used PicMonkey to edit any of your images? If so, please take a moment to leave a quick review to help others with their decision.

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BELAY (formerly eaHELP)

BELAY is a virtual staffing solutions company that employs exclusively US-based assistants and specialists. 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 eaHELPAbout BELAY

In 2017, BELAY brought several different business support companies under one roof and under one brand. The most well-known of those is eaHELP, which you’ll see referenced in many of the reviews below.

The company gets its name from mountain climbing; a belay is a means of supporting a climber so he or she can continue safely without falling. Similarly, they aim to support your proverbial climb as well.

Services

Administrative

BELAY executive assistants are “business-grade” administrative professionals trained in a variety of support tasks. Their goal is to match you with a virtual assistant who will work cohesively with you and your existing team even though they’ll be working remotely. BELAY strongly believes that every leader thrives with the support of an intentionally matched VA.

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

Bookkeeping

BELAY has extensive experience in bookkeeping for non-profits and churches. These services were previously offered under the MAG Bookkeeping brand.

Website Support and Maintenance

BELAY provide clients with all the critical support needed to keep your WordPress running smoothly, such as:

  • Hosting Support
  • Backups
  • Domain Management
  • Software Updates
  • Improving Site Speed
  • Hacking Prevention
  • And more

The webmasters at BELAY can also create landing pages and do graphic design tasks. They offer unlimited site edits per month, along with expert advice and ongoing analysis of your site. You can work with their webmasters to make all the changes needed to get your site up to a high standard, or build a new site from scratch.

Typically, the clients that engage this service are business owners who have decided it’s time to outsource the maintenance of their site so they can focus their time elsewhere.

Others have outgrown their original website and are struggling to keep up with the maintenance and need to expand.

The website maintenance packages were previously sold under the Render brand. Here’s my chat with the manager for this branch of BELAY:

Copy Writing

If you need help with your written content, BELAY can help there as well. Quality content is at the forefront of Internet marketing, and BELAY’s staff can help you spread the word of your business through site content and marketing.

When I spoke with Ivy Sprague, who heads up this division of BELAY (formerly known as Ellipsis), she explained the service in this way, “We want to be the voice in your head…only better. We’ll write about anything, from accounting to Internet security.”

Here’s my full conversation with Ivy:


The company partners with professional writers to create content that will make a difference to your business. Their writers will help spread the voice of your business to a much wider audience. Writing content is a time-consuming process, hiring a writer from BELAY means you can free up time to focus on other areas of your business.

Their virtual writers produce blog posts, social media content, lead generation copy, email campaigns, eBooks, and more.

The writers are trained to keep the content they provide in your own “voice.” They will call you to discuss your current content strategies, previous writers you may have used, what style of writing you want for your business, and aim to provide you with more than just a quote.

BELAY Review


With dedicated support and All-American executive assistants, BELAY 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 and the sign-up process begins with a free consultation and personalized price quote.

A flat monthly fee gives you access to your 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, BELAY 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 BELAY 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 January 2017, their hourly rates range from $35 – $45.

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.

Bryan Miles, the founder of BELAY , 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 BELAY apart from the competition, who their target customers are, what areas of work they specialize, and who should NOT use their service.

BELAY 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).

Press and Awards

In 2015, eaHELP was named the 131st fastest growing company in America by Inc. Magazine, earning a spot in the prestigious Inc. 500 list.

eahelp inc 500

BELAY Alternatives

A few other virtual assistant companies operate on a similar model with home-based American assistants, including top-rated firms like Time Etc and Worldwide101. Worldwide101 has similar (though more transparent/flexible) pricing options, and Time Etc is the most affordable of the three.

For the website maintenance and support service, you might consider Zen WP.

For the content creation service, Copywriter Today may be worth a look.

Employee Burden Infographic

Your Turn

Have you worked with BELAY (or eaHELP, Render, Ellipsis, or MAG Bookkeeping)? If so, please consider sharing a short review below to help others with their decision.

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My Biggest Outsourcing “Wins” of the Year

Happy New Year!

This is a weird time of year for me.

On the one hand, I know New Year’s Resolutions are dumb. I mean, if something is worth changing, it’s worth changing now — not waiting for some arbitrary flip of the calendar, right?

But it’s hard not to get caught up in all the “fresh start” talk, and at the very least reflect on what went well for the last 12 months and where you might have opportunities for improvement.

In that spirit, I want to share few things that went well for me last year outsourcing-wise, and a few areas I’m still struggling with.

First up, the wins.

My dedicated assistant Karla from OkayRelax has been doing a great job with the research, data entry, and even website updating tasks I send her way.

One example was when the Virtual Assistant Assistant site switched over from http to https last year, I had to go through and update all of the images to https. It wasn’t the most difficult task in the world, but it was time-consuming, and she nailed it.

Another company that helped during that transition was Zen WP, which offers 24/7 WordPress maintenance and support. They also helped clean up a lot of the pesky little bugs that had been floating around the site.

My freelance writer has been a huge help this year, producing content for this site, summarizing my podcast episodes, and now even writing the accompanying blog posts for those episodes.

And while I still go through and do my own final round of edits, I think the PodcastFasttrack podcast editing service I’ve been working with has still been a net time saver.

For my book project last fall, I used the crowdsourced design service DesignCrowd.com. To be fair, some of the designs were pretty awful, but I really liked the end result.

And finally, I’ve been loving the results and automation behind the robo-investing service called Betterment.

It’s not direct business outsourcing in the traditional sense, but with each dollar I invest, I’m essentially “hiring” thousands of workers — and getting to share in the fruits of their labor.

So what flopped? And what’s next?

There were a couple things that didn’t go so well. For example, I wanted to hire a freelance marketing specialist to help me drive more traffic to my sites, but haven’t heard from him in months. Back to the drawing board on that one.

On the horizon, I have some more website technical stuff I could use help with, and perhaps some graphic design, video creation, and even advertising sales as well.

But mostly I’m the bottleneck. There are a ton of projects I’d love to tackle but am stuck in “maintenance mode” and have a hard time finding time for “growth mode.”

For the new year, I haven’t set any resolutions or 12-month goals. Instead, I’m trying to focus on shorter-term “sprint” goals and mini-habits.

For example, a shorter term goal I have is to add a subnavigation menu to one of my sites to make it easier to access relevant archive content.

An example of a mini-habit would be doing at least one proactive thing in my business before checking email or social media.

Another mini-habit I like is doing 1 push-up. It’s super easy to check the box, and once you’re down on the floor, you’ll probably do a few more.

Your Turn

What about you? What worked well last year?

What’s on the top of your list to delegate this year?

Cheers to working ON your business rather than IN it in 2017!

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Logojoy

Logojoy is an AI-powered online logo design tool. Instead of having a designer make a logo to your specifications, Logojoy uses artificial intelligence and complex algorithms to generate several logo designs based on your specifications.

The company’s website went live in November, 2016, and Their team are located in Toronto, ON, Canada.

About Logojoy

logojoy-reviewThe company was founded and is headed up by Dawson Whitfield. With experience in graphic design and freelance work, Dawson realized that most entrepreneurs just wanted simple, high-quality logos, at the lowest possible price.

This gave Dawson the idea to replace himself with artificial intelligence capable of designing high-quality logos. Dawson spent several months on the algorithm behind the logo generating software and starting the company.

The site launched in November, 2016, on Product Hunt. Although they have only been in business for less than a month at the time of writing this Dawson says the response from customers, “has been overwhelmingly positive and we hope to establish ourselves as the go-to online application for logo design.”

Using AI instead of graphic designers allows Logojoy to offer much lower price points and generate several logos in minutes. The company’s target customers are entrepreneurs, small business owners, and early-stage startups. Basically, anyone who doesn’t have the budget to work one-on-one with a graphic designer to design their logos and branding material.

Services

Logojoy has a well-designed interface to take you through a few quick steps from start to finish. These are:

Step 1: Choose Inspiration – You choose a few general logo types you like the look and style of. These form the base of the logos the AI will generate.

Step 2: Choose Color Scheme – Next you choose a block of colors to be used in your logo design.

Step 3: Company Name and Slogan – Add your company name and a slogan if you have one. This will be used as text on your design.

Step 4: Pick up to 3 Symbols – Based on keywords of your choice you can choose up to 3 different icons to be used on your logo from a library of over 500,000 unique designs.

Based on your choices in the 4 steps above you will be presented with a few logos. By selecting which logos you like the algorithm will continue to return more logos that meet your specifications until your focus down on the one logo you like best.

There are no graphic designers or assistants to talk to while going through the process. There is however customer support that will get back to you within 24 hours if you have any questions.

I went through the process myself to test it out, and after a little difficulty in creating my account (“Your name is too long or too short”; “Your password is too long or too short” — not helpful!), the app generated a few different options for me:

logojoy-sample-logos

And a few more:

logojoy-sample-logos-2

I think the ones with the headset and the pen (graphics I chose in the process) actually look pretty good. Some of the others don’t make much sense at all.

Plans and Pricing

It’s free to build unlimited logos, which is great because it means you can practice and browse plenty of logo ideas without committing. You only pay when you want to download the logo you have chosen, there are three different pricing plans.

logojoy-pricing

Basic – $20, you can download a low-resolution logo on a white background.

Premium – $65, you can download a high-resolution logo, ready for use in print, on a transparent background, and with black and white versions.

Enterprise – $165, you get all the same features as the Premium package and a one hour design session with one of their designers.

Logojoy Alternatives

When it comes to graphic design for your business, you’ve got lots of options. Logo Garden operates under a similar model where you kind of do a do-it-yourself design and pay just to download the high resolution files.

You might try playing with the Word Swag app. I found it pretty helpful to generate different font and presentation ideas, though not really great if you want to add graphics like my headset above.

Alternatively you have services like Fiverr, where there are hundreds of logo designers promising logos starting at just $5, Deluxe, where you’ll pay a little more to work with a dedicated designer and usually get several concepts, and 99designs, where you can “crowdsource” your logo design to several different designers and pick your favorite.

Your Turn

Have you created and downloaded any logos from Logojoy? If so, please take a moment to leave a quick review to help others with their decision.

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Blog Hands

Blog Hands is a content creation service company based in Pittsburgh, PA. The company was in BETA all through 2015 and officially launched in March of 2016.

They have a small team of project managers, editors, and writers based in-house, as well as utilizing freelance writers all over the world. Blog Hands cite this mix of internal and virtual staff as the reason they can cover all kinds of content orders and work with clients all over the world.

About Blog Hands

blog-hands-reviewThe company is headed by founder Chris Hornak. As an entrepreneur, Chris started the company after spotting a pain point saying, “Blogging is an essential strategy to virtually any digital marketing campaign, yet developing content on a consistent basis is a real chore.”

With this in mind, Blog Hands isn’t a single article ordering service like iWriter or Hirewriters. Blog Hands offer monthly packages to keep a constant flow of fresh content coming. Their ideal clients are business owners and businesses of any size, if you need content, Blog Hands can provide it.

Producing content is one of the most time-consuming tasks for any digital business. There is typically a correlation between the amount of quality content produced and the growth of a business online. Using a content creation service is much more cost-effective than hiring a team of writers and editors in-house.

Services

Blog Hands have a team of pre-qualified writers with a wealth of experience across a variety of industries. You can request any form of content, from creative writing, technical writing, to interesting and informative blog posts. By providing them with clear communication you will receive well-written articles on a monthly basis.

As a client you are provided with a dedicated assistant to handle the communications between yourself and their team. There is a 4-step plan in place from signing up with Blog Hands to receiving your content:

  1. Step 1 – Choose your plan (amount and length of blog posts).
  2. Step 2 – Answer some questions about your blog to help the writer understand your content.
  3. Step 3 – Your writer starts working on your articles.
  4. Step 4 – Check your articles and provide any feedback.

Plans and Pricing

Blog Hands charge a flat rate of $0.10 per word, which, according to their website, is 66% lower than the industry average.

What does that mean in practice? An 800 word article for example will cost you $80. Their pricing and plans are split across the length and number of articles ordered.

blog-hands-pricing

First, you choose from the following article lengths:

  • Short – 400 words and $40 each
  • Classic – 800 words and $80 each
  • Long – 1,200 words and $120 each
  • Epic – 2,000 words and $200 each

Then you choose how many articles you want for the month. The minimum order amount is 4 — basically one a week — and the order amounts increase in increments of 2.

For example, four 800 word blog posts a month will cost you $320.00.

Blog Hands Alternatives

An alternative highly rated company offering a monthly article writing subscription service is Copywriter Today. The service allows for “unlimited” article requests each month, and is only throttled by the set turnaround times per article. If you can stack up your requests and take full advantage of Copywriter Today’s US-based writing staff, I’m confident your per-word rate will be much lower than $0.10.

If you’re not sure you want to commit to a monthly content creation plan, check out an on-demand content service like HireWriters (cheaper) or Scripted (not so cheap).

Your Turn

Have you ordered content from Blog Hands? If so, please take a moment to leave a quick review to help others with their decision.

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Cloud Assistant Pro

Cloud Assistant Pro is an India-based virtual assistant company and they have been operating since June 2015. Their virtual assistants are based in Bangalore, and they have virtual offices in the US and the UK.

The company primarily helps startups and small businesses by handling a wide range of administrative tasks, as well as providing general virtual assistant services to busy professionals.

About Cloud Assistant Pro

cloud-assistant-pro-reviewThe company was founded by Grace Aman and all aspects of the business are overseen by Grace. Cloud Assistant Pro currently have a team of 14 staff working from their Bangalore offices. Being based in India they are able to offer competitive rates.

When you sign up with Cloud Assistant Pro you have the option to pay-as-you-go with the amount of hours you need, or commit to a set amount of hours to be used within a specific time period.

Some plans will match you up with a specific dedicated virtual assistant, while other tasks will be distributed and handled by staff with the best-matched skills to carry out the tasks.

Services

Cloud Assistant Pro group their services into 8 categories:

  • General Virtual Assistant
  • Web Designer
  • Web Developer
  • Audio and Video Specialist
  • Graphic Artist
  • Content Writer
  • SEO/SEM
  • Project Management

If your potential tasks don’t fall neatly into one of those buckets, you might reach out with what you have in mind and see if it’s something Cloud Assistant Pro can accommodate.

As always, with virtual assistant providers you get the most from their services by communicating your needs in as much detail as possible and seeing how well their staff match up with your requirements.

Plans and Pricing

Cloud Assistant Pro offer a pay-as-you-go option or subscription pricing plans. Their pay-as-you-go plans are as follows:

  • 1 hour – $15 ($15 per/hr)
  • 40 hours – $400 ($10 per/hr)
  • 80 hours – $800 ($10 per/hr)

cloud-assistant-pro-payg-pricing

You can submit your requests via the website, email, Skype, or Microsoft Kaizala. There is a 24 hour turnaround, and you have 45 days to use your hours.

The subscription plans they offer are:

  • 40 hours – $400 ($10 per/hr)
  • 80 hours – $800 ($10 per/hr)
  • 120 hours – $1,200 ($10 per/hr)

cloud-assistant-pro-pricing

You can submit your requests via the website, email, Skype, or Microsoft Kaizala. With these plans, you are assigned a dedicated account manager and unused hours rollover month to month.

(I think the rollover hours are why you’re not seeing the typical price break at the larger monthly plans. Normally the more hours you commit to, the better rate you’ll get, but not in this case.)

Virtual Assistant Assistant Exclusive: Get 10% off your first month of service through the link below:

cloud-assistant-pro-discount

Cloud Assistant Pro Alternatives

If you’re looking for India-based virtual assistant companies then My Tasker and VA Talks are two that might be worth a look. Both are slightly less expensive at top end of the hourly spectrum (100+ hours per month).

Their prices and services are very similar so I would check them out and see which company impresses you the most.

Your Turn

Have you worked with Cloud Assistant Pro? If so, please take a moment to leave a quick review to help others with their decision.

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Staffry

Staffry is a Pakistan-based virtual assistant company and have been in operation since March 2016. They provide dedicated virtual assistants to their clients and aim to allow business owners to “work on their business, rather than in it.”

About Staffry

staffry-reviewAlthough the company is relatively new on the scene, the owners have considerable experience with freelancing and hiring virtual assistants. The company is based in Pakistan, with all of their staff working from their offices in Karachi.

Their target customers are, “entrepreneurs and startups who are juggling between running and growing their business on limited resources.” Not limited to small businesses, their virtual assistants can be utilized by large businesses to reduce employment costs.

When you purchase some hours with Staffry and submit your tasks you will be assigned a dedicated 1-on-1 virtual assistant. This enables you to build up a relationship with your VA, reducing the need to repeat yourself or explain tasks over.

Services

Staffry describe their services broadly as back office or administration support. They separate their services into five categories:

  1. Administrative Assistance
  2. Real Estate Assistance
  3. Website Assistance
  4. Social Media Assistance
  5. Travel Assistance

It’s important to remember that when you’re working with a virtual assistant it’s hard to categorize all of their skills. You get a more accurate gauge on their skills by communicating with them and working through some tasks.

Plans and Pricing

Staffry offer a pay-as-you-go rate or retainer plans. Their pay-as-you-go rate is a flat $15 an hour. The retainer plans are as follows:

  • 5 hours per month – $60 ($12 per/hr)
  • 10 hours per month – $115 ($11.5 per/hr)
  • 20 hours per month – $220 ($11 per/hr)
  • 40 hours per month – $420 ($10.5 per/hr)

As you can see, the hourly the rate reduces the larger the plan you purchase so there are some savings to take advantage of. Your unused hours are carried forward at the end of the month too, and those “rollover hours” aren’t something you normally see at a VA company. 

Virtual Assistant Assistant Exclusive: Use referral code VAA for 10% off your first month on any retainer plan.

Staffry Alternatives

Staffry have a very similar pricing structure to My Tasker and Ask Sunday, two virtual assistant  companies based in India that are able to offer competitive rates. I suggest checking out these two companies for comparable quotes and skillsets.

Also in Karachi, Efficise has a number of dedicated assistant business plans at similar rates, plus the option of a task-based plan as well.

When asked what sets them apart from their competitors, Staffry said they offer dedicated assistants, no hidden charges, precision billing, and all unused hours are rolled forward at the end of the month, and don’t feel like other companies are offering all of these options.

Your Turn

Have you worked with Staffry? If so, please take a moment to leave a quick review below to help others with their decision.

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Automation Agency

Automation Agency is a virtual assistant company that specializes in design, website, and marketing tasks. This means you can get tasks done quickly by choosing a virtual assistant specializing in your desired skillset from their large pool of assistants.

They call this a ‘‘concierge’’ service as it works in much the same way as having a concierge to arrange your tasks. The company is based in Sydney, Australia, with their freelancers being based all over the globe.

About Automation Agency

automation-agency-reviewThe company was founded by Carl Taylor, a seasoned entrepreneur and digital marketer from Sydney, Australia. Carl started the company in 2014, originally as a high-ticket digital marketing and sales funnel business. After 6 months, he added more affordable subscription models to make the services more affordable to smaller businesses.

When asked who their target customers are they said, “coaches, speakers, authors, and other small business owners.” If you know what you want to achieve, but don’t have the technical skills or time to do it yourself, you’ll find virtual assistants and freelancers through their platform that do have the time and skills.

The majority of their freelancers are based in the Philippines and Eastern Europe. This allows AutomationAgency.com to keep their costs low while still providing a highly-skilled and varied team.

Automation Agency Founder Interview

Services

Automation Agency calls their virtual assistants “heroes.” You’ll find:

  • Design heroes
  • Web heroes
  • Automation heroes

Each category of hero specializes in their dedicated area, so if you want WordPress, HTML or CSS support, you list your task in their Web Portal and you’ll be matched up with a web hero.

The company provides support across all the areas you would need while running an online business and maintaining your WordPress site. This includes graphic design, WordPress support, research, marketing, help setting up automation sequences, and more.

Automation Agency heroes are skilled in Ontraport, Infusionsoft, ActiveCampaign, Zapier, ClickFunnels, LeadPages and have experience setting up membership site and webinar integrations.

They also backup any WordPress sites they manage daily, scan for malware, and check plugins are up-to-date. You also have a hack fix guarantee, so if you site is hacked while under their watch they will fix it for free.

How it Works

The way it works is you send in a task via email or through the Automation Agency web portal to the team. It’s dispatched to the correct type of Hero to work on your task.

You are then in direct contact with the Hero working on your task and any additional questions they may have or things you want to add you can simply send it in easily by reply email or reply via the portal.

Once the task is complete, you’ll be notified that it’s complete and able to rate your experience as Awesome, Just OK, Poor and provide feedback that goes direct to the Hero as well as the management team.

Plans and Pricing

Automation Agency has two pricing plans:

  • Concierge Solo – $249/month
  • Concierge Plus – $349/month

The Solo plan grants you unlimited tech and design tasks, you can submit one WordPress site to be worked on and have one task active at a time. This plan also comes with monthly scans, updates, site backups, and their hack fix guarantee.

automation-agency-pricing

Their Plus plan comes with all the features found in the Solo plan, along with the ability to have three WordPress sites worked on and two tasks being worked at any time.

Automation Agency Alternatives

I asked Carl what sets Automation Agency apart from the competition, and he pointed out that they’re essentially WP Curve and Design Pickle combined under one roof, for less than the cost of Design Pickle alone. On top of the unlimited WordPress support and graphic design tasks, you also have access to the marketing automation heroes.

Carl added they also routinely set up SSL certificates and build landing pages for clients–tasks that WP Curve won’t touch.

Your Turn

Have you worked with Automation Agency? If so, please take a moment to leave a quick review to help others with their decision, thanks.

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WP Soar

WP Soar is your outsourced IT department for WordPress sites. The company was founded in 2016 and has quickly grown to dozens of paying customers because of the easy value-driven service to their clients: unlimited 30-minute WordPress fixes and proactive maintenance for $79/month.

Their team is US-based, speak perfect English and are all proficient in WordPress. The Denver team started with Artem Nikulkov and Yury Vilk after realizing the need for their existing web clients.

wp-soar-review

Fun fact: They even have a WordPress course to teach you how to build a site from scratch, step by step with free video lessons.

The target customer is a small business owner, blogger or authority site owner who:

  • Has issues with their website, but doesn’t have the time, experience or patience to fix them.
  • Doesn’t want to work with dozens of different contractors.
  • Has a limited budget, but still needs high-quality, on demand support

What WP Soar is not good for:

  • Building a new site from scratch.
  • Large scale web development/design projects.

Services

The company handles bug fixes, design tweaks, and WordPress backup and security for your website.

With WP Soar, you are essentially buying access to a dedicated on-demand help desk for your website. Once you submit your ticket, their support team responds and fixes the issue. They also notify you of any proactive maintenance that is done on the site.

Not only will they suggest fixes on the site, they’ll go ahead and do it if it doesn’t impede the functionality and display. They will offer proactive marketing advice and even some additional advice for themes, plugins and WordPress how-tos. This is how they help their customers, not just by doing, but by showing.

Plans & Pricing

WP Soar has 3 pricing tiers:

wp-soar-pricing

The WP Soar “Standard” plan is $79/month (billed annually, or $99/month billed monthly) for “unlimited” 30-minute WordPress website tasks for one domain.

It’s “unlimited” in quotes because it’s subject to the reasonable use policy, but most tasks get done. Tasks are guaranteed done in 8 hours or less.

The “Professional” plan includes support for e-commerce and membership sites and can include up to 2 sites for a rate of $299 a month, billed annually.

The “VIP” plan includes everything from all plans, including private phone support, up to 5 sites and a consulting service for $499 a month, billed annually.

Each plan’s response time differs by 2 hours with the VIP plan able to get something resolved within 4 hours.

Each plan comes with a free sign up bonus of a full website audit and review from our in house developers.

All plans come with a 30-day 100% money-back guarantee and there are no long term contracts or commitments. (Except for paying for the full year upfront to lock in the discounted rate.)

As you can imagine, if WP Soar can save you just a couple of development hours a month or make some minor improvements, the service pays for itself. This is with the knowledge that most agencies will easily charge over $200/hr for service.

WP Soar Alternatives

The best known competitor is probably Dan Norris’ WP Curve, and I’ve been testing out a similar service called Zen WP.

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

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XPlace

XPlace is a large freelance marketplace. The company is based in Los Angeles, US, and they have development offices in the Ukraine and Israel. Their freelancers are based all over the world.

Their focus is to provide a marketplace for freelancers to connect with businesses, making it easy for business owners to find freelancers with the exact skillset they need, for a cost-effective price.

About XPlace

xplace-reviewThe company is headed up by co-founder Allon Mason and they have been in business since 2004. This makes them one of the longest running freelance marketplaces, with 12 years experience. 

XPlace has a huge database of freelancers and literally hundreds of categories for you to choose from, enabling you to niche down to a specific skill to help you with your business. Their platform is very easy to use, their categories are grouped clearly, and it doesn’t take long select the skills you want and see the profiles of the freelancers meeting your requirements.

For example, when I searched “WordPress”, I found around 2700 available freelancers. I found around 1100 entries for “Administrative Assistant”, though very few of those appear to have made any sales on the platform.

Services

XPlace has a long list of skills their database of freelancers cover, over 500 in fact! Far too many to list here, it’s safe to assume that you’re going to find a freelancer with the skillset you need to help you with the tasks are you looking to outsource.

It’s important to remember that XPlace offers a platform for freelancers and business owners to connect. You’re not hiring a dedicated virtual assistant they have vetted and trained. To find the best freelancer always read their profiles thoroughly, look at the feedback and ratings left by previous clients they have worked with, and compare against some other freelancers before making a decision.

Plans and Pricing

They operate on a “SAAS model,” or recurring monthly membership fee, rather than taking a cut of each project. Since they’re charging the freelancers and not taking project fees, the overall prices should theoretically be lower than other marketplaces and weed out some of the less serious job candidates. (After all, they had to pay to play.)

XPlace has 3 pricing plans for freelancers:

  • 1 Month Subscription – $26
  • 3 Month Subscription – $70
  • 12 Month Subscription – $217

For employers, it’s free to post jobs.

Xplace Alternatives

Alternatives to XPlace are other large platforms like Upwork.com, Fiverr.com, and Freelancer.com, all of which allow you to connect with thousands of freelancers from all over the world.

When asked what sets them apart from their competitors, XPlace said, “What sets XPlace apart is no commissions on projects. If a freelancer is awarded a $10k project, he gets the full $10k (vs. up to 20% on Upwork or Fiverr). Also, XPlace’s model is SAAS-based and therefore doesn’t charge commission to its users. Other differentiators include the project management and deal flow tools that XPlace makes available to its freelancers and buyers of freelance services.”

Your Turn

Have you worked with XPlace? If so, please take a moment to leave a quick review to help others with their decision.

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Outsourcely

Outsourcely is a virtual assistant company based in Foresthill, CA. They make it easy to connect with virtual assistants through their platform and have a large number of remote workers based all over the world.

The company began with a strong presence in the Philippines but now have more than 250,000 remote workers in their database to choose from when hiring a virtual assistant.

About Outsourcely

outsourcely review

The company was started in 2014. The founder and current CEO Oleg Posternetsky was frustrated by the way other virtual assistant platforms worked and wanted to make a platform that offered reliable virtual assistants that could be hired directly.

He started Outsourcely and has created the platform he wanted. Outsourcely now has more than 250,000 fully-vetted remote workers from more than 130 countries in their database. Their primary focus is their “Search and Hire” platform, which allows business owners to search their database of virtual assistants and make contact with a VA best suited to their requirements.

They also have a “Team Workplace”, which is a resource that helps their clients manage their remote teams. An interesting angle that separates Outsourcely from other virtual assistant companies is that their platform is 100% free for the remote workers. As a client, you sign up with Outsourcely for a monthly fee, when you find an assistant you want to work with you negotiate their pay directly with them.

Target customers for Outsourcely are anyone with an online presence looking to free up some time and start outsourcing tasks. With such a large database of virtual assistants it’s very likely you will find someone who matches up with your requirements.

Services

Unlike other virtual assistant companies that have a certain number of assistants covering a set of skills, Outsourcely is a platform that helps you find and connect with the virtual assistant you want. This way you have a much larger pool of candidates to choose from, so finding the ideal assistant isn’t limited to the team on the payroll as you find with most companies.

With a monthly fee per the number of virtual assistants you make contact with this means finding a long-term assistant is going to be more cost-effective.

Outsourcely says that 80% of the remote workers hired from their platform are hired on a long-term basis. Each assistant does have their own hourly rate in their profile, and it’s down to you to negotiate and pay them directly once they are working with you.

Plans and Pricing

Outsourcely have three different packages. These are priced at $9/mo for the Individual package, $59/mo for the Small Business package, or $99/mo for the Professional package.

 

outsourcely-pricing

Their Individual package allows you to make five private chat and email connections with virtual assistants each month, along with posting three jobs and managing ten active users on their Team Workplace platform.

Their Small Business package grants you 300 chat connections, 100 email connections, and 10 job postings along with upgraded Team Workplace privileges. While their Professional package includes unlimited chat connections and job postings, and 300 email connections.

You can also save 50% by pre-paying for an annual plan.

Outsourcely Alternatives

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

I found the Outsourcely interface a little cleaner to work with than OnlineJobs, and the pricing is slightly lower ($49/mo for job-posting/contact privileges over there). On top of that, you can source workers from anywhere in the world, and not just the Philippines

Your Turn

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

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How I Had 13 Assistants Competing for my Business

push-once-button-300I recently completed my first “crowdsourced” outsourcing experiment.

I hired a company called DesignCrowd to come up with a cover design for my latest book. Previously I’ve gone to Fiverr or tapped my wife’s mad PowerPoint skillz to create my covers.

Since I was putting a lot of effort behind the creation and marketing of this book, I really wanted to put my best foot forward on the cover, so I decided to give DesignCrowd a shot.

How it works is you submit your design “brief” and designers from all around the world can submit their creative ideas. It’s usually a winner-take-all contest; when it’s over, you pick the winner and they get paid.

Naturally, the more you spend, the more attractive your contest is to designers and the more entries you’re likely to receive.

I picked a middle of the road pricing option (around $250 — by FAR the most I’d ever spent on a book cover), and ended up getting 35-40 design submissions from 13 different designers. 

Some of them, honestly, were horrible. But a few were pretty good, and one I LOVED. I was able to go back and forth with the designer to make tweaks and adjustments to the colors and the images used.

DesignCrowd even has a voting feature where you can survey prospective readers/customers to see which one they like the best. (I got some surprising results on that.)

Want to see the winning cover?

Take a look at BuyButtonsBook.com.

(The book is all about the power of tapping into pre-existing marketplaces to earn extra money and start a business, and is on sale for just $0.99 today.)

Next month I’ll share some of the losing designs on the VAA site so you can see what the competition was like.

Your Turn

Have you ever used DesignCrowd or a similar crowdsourcing marketplace?

Where do you normally turn for graphic design help?

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TaskRabbit

TaskRabbit is task-based outsourcing company with a local twist. They’ll handle virtual tasks like most of the other companies here, but their real specialty is in local, hands-on assistance.

TaskRabbit got its start in Boston in 2008, and has since expanded to several major cities, attracting millions in venture capital funding along the way.

taskrabbit reviewThe company is essentially a marketplace between people who need stuff done, and people willing to do that stuff. It can be anything really, from house cleaning to local pick-up and deliveries, handyman services, moving help, and more. The people helping you are called TaskRabbits.

How it works is you post the task you need done, in as much detail as you can, and TaskRabbits bid on the job. Generally the lowest bid wins, but you can view their profiles and feedback ratings as well and pick the winner.

TaskRabbit Review

The company also has an option of setting an auto-award price, where if any TaskRabbit bids below your target price, they automatically get the job.

Get $20 off your first task with this link.

All payments are handled through the TaskRabbit.com system, so you’re not handing over any cash in person.  To pay the bills, the company takes a percentage of every job.

As you might imagine, there is a greater demand for people trying to earn money doing other people’s tasks than those requesting the tasks themselves. That means a higher quality of service as all the TaskRabbits know there is a long waiting list of potential replacements behind them, waiting for them to screw up.

It also means the screening process to become a TaskRabbit is pretty robust. The application process includes an essay, background check, and a video interview. It’s all in the name of protecting client safety.

TaskRabbit is designed to help busy people save time and money, and it works. In markets like San Francisco, TaskRabbit is a well-known go-to tool for errands and other odd jobs you don’t want to do yourself. The only drawback is it can be somewhat time-consuming to post each task one at a time.

Because each task is different, and can require different lengths of time and even physical exertion, there are no monthly plans offered like you see at Fancy Hands or other “purely virtual” assistant companies. The benefit of that is there is no recurring cost, and you can try out the service for a very low risk.

In terms of pricing for virtual assistant tasks, it’s tough for TaskRabbit to compete with other online-only services.  But for real live in-person help, TaskRabbit is a great resource.

Have you tried them? If so, please share your experience below.

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26 Outsourced Meal Prep Services That Want to Save You Time in the Kitchen and the Grocery Store

cutting-boardWe outsource cooking all the time — every time you eat at a restaurant or order take out, right?

But what about making the chore of cooking easier when you do it at home. We know it’s generally cheaper, healthier, and probably better for our families to eat together at home, but there’s a lot of effort that goes into putting dinner on the table.

You have to come up with what to cook, find the time to get to the grocery store, and then of course make the meal, serve it, and clean up.

A new crop of companies have popped up to help make life a little easier on that front, ranging from meal planning services to complete done-for-you ready-to-eat meal delivery services. If the nightly question of “what’s for dinner?” is a pain-point in your life, the 26 services below want to help.

Consider them your virtual dinner assistants!

Ready-to-Eat Meal Delivery Services

Munchery

Munchery is a California-based food delivery service that enables people to order meals from local and professional chefs. They deliver to 13 states at the moment.

munchery

Ready-to-eat dinners start at under $10 for dishes such as Shredded Beef Tacos or Artichoke Chickpea Stew and run up to about $18 for Steak au Poivre.

Kids’ meals run $4 to $6.

Sides, salads, and desserts hover in the $4 to $8 range.

From meaty to vegetarian, hearty pastas and stews to fresh dinner salads and flatbreads, they have a wide range of meals for all kinds of tastes.

When my wife and I tried Munchery we were impressed with the serving sizes and tastiness of the dishes. Some were definitely big enough to squeeze a couple meals out of, though some we chose relied heavily on cheap carbs like rice to make up a large portion of the dish.

VAA Special: Get $20 off your first order!

Vegin’ Out

Vegin’ Out is a Los Angeles-based Vegan meal delivery service that delivers delicious, healthy, organic, well-balanced weekly vegan meals to your home or office at an affordable price.

vegin-out

They deliver throughout Los Angeles and ship via FedEx throughout any area outside of Los Angeles, Southern California, Northern California and Nationwide.

There is 9-10 vegan meals worth of food in a single order. It is $127.99 for a single vegan meal order, which consists of 8 Dishes (3 vegan entree 24 oz dishes, 4 vegan side 16 oz. dishes, 1 soup 32 oz.) and 5 vegan cookies, and $234.99 for a double which is exactly twice as much as a single.

VAA Special: Get $20 off your first order!

Sakara

Sakara is an organic food service that serves up creative salads. Meals are free of gluten, dairy, eggs, meat, and seafood.

sakara

Delivery is available across the continental US. Food will be delivered in two or three deliveries per week.

3-day Taste It plans start at $80 and 5-day Taste It plans start at $125, plus delivery. Or subscribe for $69 a day and receive breakfast, lunch, and dinner five days a week.

VAA Special: Get $50 off your first order!

Paleo on the Go

Paleo on the Go is a Florida-based meal delivery service company that highlights organic, pasture-raised and food cooked in high quality oils.

paleo-on-the-go

The proteins found within are all grass-fed, pasture-raised or wild, and they offer nationwide delivery.

They have a Paleo meal subscription plan of $300 and $500. Also, they have a Strict 30 Meal Plan, 30 Day Challenge – 30 Meals and 30 Day Challenge – 60 Meals Provided.

Freshly is a New York-based food company that delivers ready to cook meals and snacks in the United States. Cooking facility and kitchen is located in Arizona.

They have four meal plans:

  1. Freshly Flex 6 which is $69/week and with 6 gourmet meals
  2. Freshly Flex 9 which is $99/week with 9 gourmet meals
  3. Freshly Flex 12 for $129/week with 12 gourmet meals. All delivered once every week.
  4. The biggest plan they have is the Freshly Fit which is $229/week with 21 meals in total/week with two weekly deliveries. They deliver to 21 states and are still expanding.

Pre-Made Paleo is a meal delivery service that from are Whole30-approved — meaning they are Paleo to a strict level. They deliver to all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. They are also 100% organic. Subscription plans ranges from $72 (5 meals weekly – subscription) to a Whole30 Every Day Plan of $975.

Pete’s Paleo is a San Diego-based meal company that delivers nationally. If you’re a San Diego local, you can pick up your order at selected locations. Meals are delivered weekly or bi-weekly. Purchase a set of five, 10, or 14 meals, or subscribe for weekly deliveries and save. For example, a 10-meal pack costs $162, or $152 if you subscribe.

Veestro is a  plant-based, whole food meal delivery service that ships nationally except for Alaska and Hawaii. All of Veestro’s meals are 100% plant-based and made with organic, non-GMO ingredients—and free of preservatives.

A la carte meals range between $5.99 and $11.99 for salads, soups, entrees, and desserts. They also offers a $99 starter pack (12 meals, one juice, and shipping included) and meal packs. The minimum order is $35, and shipping is free on orders of $199 and above.

Tablerunner is a California-based meal service that delivers fresh, chef-prepared meals. Ingredients come from local farms that follows standards of sustainable, pesticide-free and GMO-free farming. Delivery depends on availability of the location you’re in. You need to register your email address to check availability. Delivery is free for the first year of subscription. Meals are $15 for all membership plans.

Fuel is a California-based meal delivery service company that customized meals for clients and tracked their calorie intake. For you to be able to start with Fuel, you need to sign up and answer four questions that gives you your customized meal plan.

Meals start at $69.99 for 6 meals a week. They also have free shipping and a weekly delivery. No commitment subscription so you can cancel anytime you want.

Luke’s Local is a California-based meal delivery service that produces organic, ready-to-eat artisan foods. All meals are prepared by local chefs and the all the produce comes from local farms. Delivery available in San Francisco, East Bay, and South Bay for $3.99; pickup also available at other locations in San Francisco area.

Cost: Prepared foods range from $5 (breakfast burrito) to $75 (family meal bundle).

Meal Prep Kit Delivery Services

Plated

Plated is a meal delivery subscription service that delivers ready-to-cook ingredients and chef-designed recipes to your door. There is no subscription or membership fee to join.plated

Recipes begin at $12/plate and shipping is free on boxes over $50. They deliver to 93% of the US. Gift cards are readily purchased in their website.

VAA Special: Get free dinner for 2 with your first delivery!

HelloFresh

HelloFresh is an online food retailer that delivers meal kits and recipes to subscribers.They deliver a box of fresh, pre-measured ingredients and delicious recipes.

hellofresh

They have three recipe boxes:

  1. Classic
  2. Veggie
  3. Family

Prices range from $8.75 to $9.90/meal. They deliver nationwide except Hawaii and Alaska, and also have a presence in Canada and the UK.

VAA Special: Get $50 to spend at HelloFresh!

PeachDish

PeachDish is an Amazon-backed Georgia-based retailer that provides recipe-kit delivery services based on the user’s choice. The Southern-inspired menu is updated weekly and they offer two meat-based protein dishes, and two vegetarian dishes.

peachdish

The standard two-person shipment with 2 different meals is $50. At the moment, they deliver to 19 states for $15.00 per box.

VAA Special: Get $10 off your first order!

GreenChef

GreenChef is the first USDA-certified organic meal kit.

greenchef

You can choose from five different menu types:

  1. vegetarian
  2. omnivore
  3. carnivore
  4. gluten-free
  5. paleo

Their weekly menus are available online. They deliver nationwide except Alaska, Hawaii and Washington and to limited areas in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Oregon. Meals ranging in price from $10.49 to $14.99 per person plus $9 shipping and handling per box.

VAA Special: Get 4 free meals!

Home Chef specializes in delivering delicious healthy recipes you can prepare in 30 minutes or less. Every week, they offer a dozen new meal delivery options, including gluten-free, low carb, vegetarian, soy-free and nut-free meals.

Meals cost $9.95 per serving and can be ordered in 2, 4, or 6 serving offerings. Shipping is free for orders over $45.

Sun Basket is a no-commitment meal delivery service that has Chef-developed and nutritionist-approved recipes. Weekly delivery of fresh pre-measured ingredients and 3 recipes that you can choose from Chef’s Choice, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian, and Rise & Shine (2 dinners + 2 breakfast recipes).

Meals cost $11.49 per person, delivery costs $5.99 per week. Your first week’s delivery for subscriptions is free! They currently ship to 35 states.

Blue Apron is a New York-based weekly meal ingredients delivery service that offers a portion of the ingredients in a box with a recipe. In each box, we enclose detailed recipe cards featuring step-by-step instructions in order to make meal preparation easy and enjoyable. Their ingredients are USDA certified organic.

They also offer a two plan options: 2-person plan and family plan. The 2-person plan consists of 3 meals. Price per serving is $9.99 a meal, or $59.94 for the entire 6-serving delivery. As for the family plan, it can feed a family of 4. Price per serving is $8.74 a meal, or $69.92 for the entire 8-serving delivery. Shipping is always free. With your first order, you get three meals for free.

My wife and I did Blue Apron for a while, and the meals were mostly delicious — except for one chili recipe that was burn-your-face-off-spicy. The drawback was the prep time; it took both of us working in the kitchen in a team effort sometimes for 20-30 minutes to make some of the meals.

Gobble is a gourmet dinner service providing company that delivers freshly-prepared dinners from local chefs to professionals and families. The “hook” is that each meal takes 10 minutes or less to prep.

Each delivery comes with a total of three dinner kits, each with 2 or 4 meals. Gobble boxes are delivered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

They charge an all-inclusive price of $11.95 per meal if you order 6 or more meals and $13.95 per meal if you only order 4 meals. If you are ordering 6 meals, you’ll pay $71.70 total.

Each week there are meals that are dairy-free, nut-free, or gluten-free or can be prepared as dairy-free, nut-free, or gluten-free. They currently deliver within all of California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, and Utah.

I liked Gobble because of the quick prep time. Was it as “gourmet” as Blue Apron? Probably not, but definitely tasty, fast, and easy.

Purple Carrot is a Boston-based meal kit delivery service that ships healthy ingredients and delicious recipes to busy, health-conscious people, using only whole food plant-based ingredients.

They deliver to 34 states throughout the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and West Coast. Meals are shipped on Mondays in boxes. For three meals that feed up to two people is $68 and two meals that feed up to four people costs $74.

Marley Spoon is an online platform backed by Martha Stewart that provides cook at home food subscription and delivery service.

They have a flexible subscription plan and has two options for boxes: a 2-person box and a family box. The 2-person box is $61.50 per delivery and includes 3 meals for 2 people. The family box is $106.80 per week and includes 3 meals for 4 people.

You can skip a week or pause your subscription anytime. Their recipes offer a good mix of vegetarian, fish and meat options and ingredients are guaranteed to have the highest quality. Marley Spoon delivers to most of the contiguous US states and some countries internationally. Shipping is always free of charge.

Din is a California-based meal kit delivery service that lets you cook restaurant meals at home with more flavor and wider variety. They deliver meals Monday through Friday in the San Francisco Bay Area and the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

In San Francisco, delivery is between $4.99–$8.99 depending on which delivery window you select. In the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area, delivery is $6.99. They have a wide range of meals – from vegetarian to vegan, soy-free to dairy-free, nut-free to spicy and Paleo to gluten-free.

Gousto is an online marketplace that enables users to order and receive delivery of cooking ingredients and recipes in the UK. They have a no-commitment plan for their recipe kits.

Currently, they offer 6 types of weekly boxes: 2 recipes for 2 people – £27.49 per week, 2 recipes for 4 people – £41.99 per week, 3 recipes for 2 people – £34.99 per week, 3 recipes for 4 people – £51.99 per week, 4 recipes for 2 people – £41.99 per week and 4 recipes for 4 people – £59.99 per week.

Their fresh produce came from local farms in Lincolnshire and unsavoury extras are excluded. 

Meal Planning Services

5 Dollar Dinners is a meal service that makes dinner for your family for $5 or less. They have a $5 Meal Plan which is a weekly meal plan subscription service where the the company does all the planning for the customers.

Prep Dish is a Paleo and Gluten-free meal preparation service that provides you with a printable grocery list and easy-to follow recipes for you to make. A meal plan consists of 4 meals, 1 breakfast, 1 snack and 1 dessert.

There are three kinds of subscriptions:

  • monthly ($14/ month)
  • yearly ($99/year)
  • premium ($149/year)

Groceries are delivered nationwide and they are currently working with Instacart.

eMeals is a meal planning service that let’s you pick your plan, get the recipes and shop for ingredients. They provide over 50 different meal plan options based on your food style preference, family size and the current sales at several large grocery stores.

A subscription at eMeals is as low as $5 a month for a 12-month subscription. You also have the option of a 3-month subscription for $10 a month. They have a 14-day free trial of people who are not sure if it’s not worth the money.

Cook Smarts is a five meal plan newsletter to help home cooks cook more and stress less. They provide cooking tips and instructional videos for free. They also have an app that is available to Android and iOS users.

Your Turn

Have you ever considered outsourcing some of your home cooking, shopping, or meal prep time? Let me know in the comments below!

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Less Doing Assistants

Less Doing Assistants is a virtual assistant company based in New York, US. The company was founded in 2015, and they focus on providing premium virtual assistants ready to work with you 24/7.

The company is run by Ari Meisel and Nick Sonnenberg; their assistants serve business of all sizes. Ari is an author, entrepreneur, and creator of the “Less Doing” personal productivity system.

About Less Doing Assistants

less-doing-assistants-reviewLess Doing Assistants are based in the US, but their virtual assistants are spread all over the world. This is a tactical decision to ensure that there are assistants available to cover all time zones and bring a wider variety of skills to their clients.

When you sign up with Less Doing Virtual Assistants (LDVA) you will be assigned a project manager, but you will never be guaranteed to work exclusively with the same virtual assistant.

While working with the same assistant has some benefits, it also limits the skillsets to that one assistant. By using a team of assistants to cover the work-flow, Less Doing Assistants say it’s much more beneficial to their clients and enables them to offer a wider range of skills and experience.

When you post a task, the best-suited assistant will pick up the task. Always try to provide as much detail as possible when posting tasks, as this helps their team find the best-suited assistant and in-turn helps you receive the best possible service.

Less Doing VA Intro Video

Services

When I asked what services Less Doing Assistants provide, they said, “Anything! As long as it doesn’t require breaking a law.”

I think this sums it up perfectly, so if you need an assistant to help booking flights, social media work and content for your site, or even someone to purchase your groceries, you can submit these tasks and they will be completed for you.

Plans and Pricing

There are two parts to the pricing. There is a $149 monthly retainer fee, which entitles you to access their platform and virtual assistants. Then you pay $40 for each hour of virtual assistant time you use.

less-doing-assistants-pricing

You receive 5 free hours (a $200 value) with your first month’s subscription. After using these 5 hours you can purchase additional hours in 10-hour increments.

These rates definitely put Less Doing Assistants at the higher end of the price scale for US-based virtual assistant companies. However, they do offer no limit to the range of services they are willing to handle, and you have access to a team of assistants 24 hours a day.

Less Doing Assistants Alternatives

For US-based virtual assistant companies, take a look at Time Etc or Worldwide101. Less Doing Assistants say that they differ from their competitors in the way that they provide assistants round the clock, and also use a team to individually pick tasks opposed to assigned a dedicated assistants. 

Pricing among the US-based companies are similar, it may come down to your own personal preference. Always source more than one quote before making up your mind, and read the reviews below to help you with an informed decision.

Your Turn

Have you worked with Less Doing Assistants? If so, please take a moment to leave a quick review to help others with their decision.

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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 tracker provided by Upwork, 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.

VAA Exclusive: Use referral code VAA15 for 30% off your first 2 month’s of service!

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.

Interview with Hubstaff Co-Founder


VAA Exclusive: Use referral code VAA15 for 30% off your first 2 month’s of service!

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 Talent

Hubstaff Talent is a free resource for companies looking to find remote talent across the globe, with no fees, no markups, no middlemen. Companies can use the Hubstaff database to find and hire the highest quality freelancers from around the world.

You can find all sorts of freelance talent, but the pool is skewed toward developers, digital marketers, and creatives.

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.

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Worldwide101

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

Founded in 2009, Worldwide101 supports demanding founders and executives by providing skilled virtual assistants that can take on responsibility, and represent the founder and their business.

worldwide101 reviewAll 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’ve listened carefully to clients over the years and assembled a team with the variety of skills that clients need as they grow. 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.

Plans and Pricing

In terms of pricing, Worldwide101 has package rates for admin services, and hourly rates for more specialized services such as development and design.

Packages start at $43 per hour, while discounts may be available for long-term engagements.

worldwide101 pricing 2016

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.

Worldwide101 Alternatives

For European (UK) assistants or US-based support, check out Time Etc, a well-rated alternative that operates on a similar model with slightly lower rates.

If you have a specific skillset in mind, you might consider posting the job on Upwork and seeing what comes back. I like to cast a wide net and compare candidates in interviews to see who might be the best fit.

Your Turn

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.

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Bottleneck Virtual Assistants

Bottleneck Virtual Assistants is a virtual assistant sourcing firm connecting clients to responsible VAs in the Philippines. While Bottleneck is a relatively new company, opening their virtual doors in 2016, the founder Jaime Jay has been working with VAs from the Philippines for almost 10 years.

After helping peers and clients find talented VAs on an informal or private basis, Jaime decided to open up his unique sourcing service to a broader audience.

About Bottleneck Virtual Assistants

bottleneck virtual assistants reviewBottleneck’s target customers are entrepreneurs that are experiencing growth in their existing company and are finding it more and more difficult to manage their tasks on a daily basis. “We place both general and specialized VAs,” Jaime explained.

The majority of customers are based in the US, the UK, and Canada, while assistants work from their home offices in the Philippines.

“We are noticing a large amount of call center workers leaving that line of work for virtual assistant work,” Jaime added. “While these people don’t have the same type of experience, they are eager to learn and they work hard.”

Services

Bottleneck.online will currently help you find a VA in one of two categories:

  1. General Virtual Assistants
  2. Specialized Virtual Assistants

Bet you can guess which one comes with a higher price tag 🙂

In the General Virtual Assistant realm, you’re looking at tasks like travel arrangements, email management, basic research, appointment setting and scheduling, data entry, and other administrative tasks.

Specialized Assistants include web developers, graphic designers, video and audio editors, SEO specialists, content writers, and bookkeepers.

How it Works

Once Bottleneck knows your job requirements they get to work on sourcing a short list of candidates for you. For each potential assistant, they arrange an initial Skype interview while a representative from the company manages the interviews.

bottleneck online hiring process

Once you make your hiring decision, there is no management layer between you and the VA; you communicate and train them directly.

The company focuses on and specializes in fulfillment for full-time roles. “Our virtual assistants, for the most part, are seeking full-time pay,” Jaime explained. (Aren’t we all!) “If a position is only part-time, Bottleneck will help them find another position.”

Plans and Pricing

The cost vary depending on experience and type of work. Bottleneck charges a $250 “sourcing and training” fee upfront, but then do all the recruiting, screening, and salary negotiations on your behalf.

After that, you’ll pay $7-8/hour for a General VA and $10-13/hour for a Specialized VA. 

 

Bottleneck Virtual Assistants Alternatives

When I asked Jaime what sets Bottleneck apart from the competition, he mentioned their vetting process is designed to minimize risks for both clients and VAs. “There are stories of VAs not getting paid and stories of clients not getting the work done that was promised and their assistant seemed to just disappear. While we can’t guarantee that will ever happen on either end, we do have a great system in place,” Jaime explained.

On the recruiting side, Zen Virtual Assistants Finder might be worth a look. You’ll pay a higher upfront sourcing fee ($500 vs. $250), but after that you won’t pay any markup on your VA’s hours. If you’re planning a long-term hire, that could end up being a cost savings.

The other resource to look into is OnlineJobs.ph, especially if you’re comfortable doing the job posting and candidate screening yourself. The service costs $49 a month but you should have no problem finding the right person for the job within a month or two. Similarly, once hired you’ll just pay your VA directly each pay period.

Your Turn

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

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5 Ways To Increase Virtual Assistant Productivity (That Actually Work)

This post is contributed by Anupam Rajey, CEO of Acelerar Tech, a leading KPO firm that offers virtual assistants for social media, Internet research, email & chat support, and more. Anupam is a seasoned marketer and sales expert. You can learn more about Acelerar here on VirtualAssistantAssistant.com

***********

The inspiration for today’s post actually came from a Quora question someone asked me the other day.

The original question was: what are the most effective methods you have used in your business to increase VA productivity? 

quora question vaa

Needless to say, delegating tasks to virtual assistants can save you both time and money. As an entrepreneur, your prime objective should be growing your business.

So you should not mingle with petty tasks that you can easily delegate to others, such as social media management, Internet research, desktop publishing services, and more.

As rightly said by Natalie Sisson in her blog post, “A Virtual Assistant is the key to helping you save valuable hours each day. To run a successful business, quality time must be pumped into it. Trying to do everything by yourself will burn you out.”

The best thing about virtual assistants is that you can hire them for everything from making customer service calls to sending ‘thank you’ notes to your prospective clients.

This is the reason why more entrepreneurs are delegating tasks to VAs.

As the industry has grown, so have the demands of virtual assistants and the standard needed to render consistent high-quality services. The bottom line is each and every entrepreneur wants to maximize the productivity of the virtual assistants they hire.

Before I proceed further with this post, let’s have a look at the answers my fellow Quora members gave:

quora answers vaa

All the members expressed succinctly how to increase VA’s productivity. Thanks to them!

Here are my five simple tips that will increase the productivity of your virtual assistant.

1. Close collaboration is a key to success

Though virtual assistants already have experience, competencies, and required skill sets to perform assigned tasks diligently, they need close collaboration to give their best.

Sometimes, they might need a little training. For example:

You hired a virtual assistant to execute social media marketing strategies for lifestyle products. And your virtual assistant has 8 years experience in social media marketing, but he never did social media marketing for lifestyle products.

In this case, he will take some time to adapt the right approach and social media strategies for your products.

He will present you a comprehensive marketing plan. As you know the products more than he does, you are in the best position to tell what will be more productive in your market.

So a close collaboration is a must to maximize the success of virtual assistants.

As Brandon Turner pointed out in Entrepreneur, “Success with a virtual assistant doesn’t come naturally. Like any skill, it must be learned, developed and mastered.”

Nick’s Notes: Collaboration is key, especially at the beginning of a new VA relationship. Over time, as you give feedback, it’s kind of like the Pandora app. They learn what you like and dislike, and aim to improve the “playlist” every day. 

2. Measure performance to set high, achievable goals

It is imperative that you should measure the performance of your VA.

Most entrepreneurs let their VAs work independently, and they don’t measure VAs’ contributions to the growths of organizations.

If you want optimal performance, you should establish a metric to measure your VA’s performance.

However, when you are assessing the performance of your VA, you should consider all the aspects. Maybe, your VA needs some training or guidance to understand your niche in a better way.

Martin believes, “Managers should make sure that they review the work done by the virtual assistants to assess their quality and then providing feedback. This ensures that the loopholes in work quality can be fixed in a timely manner. Keeping a regular check on virtual assistants is important to know about things that they might be struggling with.”

Nick’s Notes: Your KPIs (key performance indicators) will vary based on your business and industry, but might be metrics like sales, website visitors, customer support issues resolved, or whatever matters most in your operation.

3. A motivated VA makes a real difference

Everyone makes mistakes. Your VA is a human so he or she might make a few mistakes. As an entrepreneur, you should accept it as a part of a job and motivate your VA to perform better.

If you have a VA from a different culture, you should deal with him with extra care.

Your VA is also your employee. The only difference is he works remotely.

When your VA does something really good, you should give him a bonus or incentive. This will keep him motivated and he will always try to give his best.

Dorie Clark and Sue Williams suggest in a blog, “Gratitude for a job well done is always appreciated, but more specific praise can actually shape your VA’s input. If you laud your assistant’s word choice on social media, they will probably place a higher value on such tasks. For instance, Dorie made it clear that she appreciated my suggestions about how to improve processes or solve problems, so I felt encouraged to do so.”

Nick’s Notes: There’s obviously a lot that goes into the science of motivation, and monetary rewards are just one part of it. My general rules include saying thank you for a job well done, sharing the finished product the VA helped create, and giving occasional bonuses.

4. Simple processes boost performance

You should make sure that you have a simple system in place to work with your VA.

As a VA works remotely, you will need some programs for a smooth collaboration, communication, and file sharing. And keep in mind, costly programs with lots of bells and whistles are not always better.

There are many free programs that can help you run an operation smoothly, such as Google Hangout, Skype, Dropbox, Asana, Slack, and more.

Remember, the best program is the one that your VA can adopt easily. Most of the VAs are quite familiar with these free programs.

If you are going to use a new software program, make sure you give your VA time to learn the new system.

Liat Behr says in her blog post, “Tools empower. Knowing which tools to use and how to use them can make the difference between getting stuck and a job well done”

Nick’s Notes: Simple well-defined processes set both parties up for success. When you eliminate the guesswork, everyone knows what’s expected and how to get the job done.

5. Involved virtual assistants exceed expectations

Virtual assistants are experienced professionals, and they view your business with a different view. Many times, they can have better ideas.

So, instead of restricting your VA to specific tasks, you should try to involve your VA in the overall process and bigger picture business.

If he understands your business objective well, it will be easier for him to achieve the goal.

To maximize your VA’s productivity, you need to provide him with a free virtual floor where he can share his ideas without any hesitation. This will encourage him to do better.

Kelly Cannon hit the target in her post, “Be sure that you give your VA ample opportunity to discuss any of her own questions or concerns with how the work is going. You’ll inspire more loyalty and better work if you take the time to get to know your VA. Ask questions about her life, and let her know how much you appreciate a job well done.”

Nick’s Notes: Some of the most helpful and useful innovations in my businesses have actually come from VAs. They were neck deep in a process all day long and found a smarter way to get it done. If I’d insisted they keep doing it “my” way, they would have lost hours of productivity and probably a little piece of their soul!

Conclusion

If you want to increase your VA’s productivity, collaborate closely with your VA, set a metric for performance measure, motivate him, have simple processes, and involve him in the overall process.

If you follow these measures, you will certainly maximize your VA’s productivity.

If you have anything to add on how you’ve increased the productivity of your own VA, be sure to leave a comment below.

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VA Staffer

VA Staffer is a Digital Marketing and Virtual Assistant Company with the majority of it’s team in their Makati City (Metro Manila) office, Philippines. The marketing, project success and consulting is operated in the USA, and VA Staffer has also expanded recently into South America, India and the Caribbean for specific skillsets.

They have a very diverse team that offers a wide range of services to entrepreneurs, small businesses and CEOs. They’ve built a talent pool backed up with built-in Project Management Tools to deliver results.

VAA Tested_smallerThey opened their doors to the general public in November 2013 immediately after Typhoon Haiyan devastated much of the country, and local job opportunities were scarce, even for qualified candidates. At that time, founder Jeff “J” Hunter and his team decided that bringing on more clients would help empower college grads with amazing technology skills in the Philippines.

In return for a reliable, rewarding career opportunity, the new virtual assistants promised to provide superior services to their clients.

About VA Staffer

VA staffer reviewVA Staffer has virtual assistants who work from home offices as well as their office in Makati and report directly to their clients.

The team uses ActiveCollab software for communication and project management, and aims to build a long-term win-win relationship with clients. This set-up provides for work tracking (screenshot monitoring) and accountability.

With VA Staffer, you’re assigned a dedicated VA based on your job requirements, but have access to rest of the team for specialized skills as the need arises. This set-up is somewhat rare among VA companies in the Philippines, where most just aim for a dedicated relationship and ask you to hire out other skills and jobs separately.

VA Staffer Review

VA Staffer Services

VA Staffer provides 100% manual and personalized SEO, Marketing, Website Design, Social Media Management and a variety of other virtual assistant services for start-ups, entrepreneurs, authors, and real estate agents.

Your virtual staff can also help with data entry, lead generation, online research, link-building, book promotion, reputation management, ecommerce solutions, and more.

The real pride of the company comes from the founding principal that entrepreneurship is the best method to solve global poverty.

VA Staffer Intro Video

Exclusive Offer: Mention Referral Code VAA for a Free Outsourcing Consultation and a 4-hour Free VA Trial!

Plans and Pricing

VA Staffer offers a range of services with their new pricing system.

A one-time membership setup fee of $299 gives you access to the entire team and an invitation to their project management software. You’ll also be assigned a dedicated project coordinator. 

The minimum monthly retainer is just $160, and work is billed out against that retainer at competitive rates:

  • Data entry and lower skilled work = $7/hr
  • Administrative work like email templating or CRM help = $8/hr
  • Web development, graphic design, and voice Support = $10/hr

Native English Content / Blog Creation

VA Staffer copywriters are native American and UK English speakers. They’ll craft content for you at a rate of $45 per 300-500 word blog post–or you can write your own content and they’ll optimize it for you.

Social Media Management Plans

VA Staffer has customized social media content creation packages they offer with their native English-speaking team. (This is not at the typical $7-$10 dollars an hour because it’s created by American and UK social media experts on their team.)

They offer support for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, on an à la carte menu:

  • You pick any one of the platforms for: $250 / mo
  • You pick any two of the platforms for: $325 / mo
  • All three platforms: $399 / mo

For Twitter, the package includes 3-4 daily tweets and 3 image tweets per week. On Facebook, they’ll make two posts daily on your behalf, with 3 of them every week being custom images. For LinkedIn, they’ll post two daily updates.

Posting would be on any 5 days you choose; it doesn’t have to be Monday-Friday.

SEO Keyword Research & Competitive Analysis

VA Staffer’s SEO Keyword Research & Competitive Analysis is a one-time $399 investment. It takes 4-5 business days and the research package comes with a 1 hour strategy session afterwards to determine the best keywords for you and next steps.

The research will give you great keywords for blog topics, titles, and phrases which will help optimize your social media campaign. Basically, when you know what people are searching for, all you have to do is be the answer to what they want. You will use the keywords as topics and subtitles, and this will increase your ranking in Google.

It’s a very flexible and scalable system that can adapt with your business and growth.

va staffer office

Why VA Staffer?

One thing that sets VA Staffer apart is their on-site recruiting and hiring process. When I spoke with Jeff, he explained that he personally flies to Manila 3-4x per year to screen the brightest talent in the Philippines and conduct face-to-face interviews.

Out of an applicant pool of 30 people, he might hire 1 or 2. The candidates must have a college education, and great communication skills.

Jeff explains, “The key to our success is the longevity of our staff. We offer great benefits to our employees and wages much higher than the average outsourcing company. That builds pride and creates a great connection between the staff and our clients.”

Interview with the VA Staffer Founder

VA Staffer Alternatives

Before you make your decision, you might want to check out the rest of the field of Filipino VA companies. Task Bullet and Carve operate similar models, though perhaps without the full project management tracking capabilities and access a team.

Have you worked with VA Staffer? If so, please leave a quick review of your experience below.

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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.

fancy hands reviewInitially 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 $74.99 a month you can outsource up to 15 tasks, and 50 20-minute tasks is $199.99 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.

fancy hands pricing 2016

Beginning in February 2014, unused tasks now rollover month-to-month. Since the tasks rollover, one strategy would be to buy the Premier plan for a month or two to stockpile your requests, and then downgrade to Basic until you’re running low, effectively reducing your price per request.

Fancy Hands also added the ability to go beyond the regular 20-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.

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 22 hours on the phone for me!

fancy hands dashboard jun 16

I’m a pretty happy camper to have not had to make those 421 calls myself. I actually broke their system — the counter stopped at 1000 requests and hasn’t updated in over a year.

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?

Fancy Hands Alternatives

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 (no longer offers a task-based plan). Please click here to read the full review of my test.

I’m still maintaining my subscription and have actually set up a cool automation with IFTTT where I can send them tasks automatically based on certain criteria.

One other company worth checking out is the newcomer OkayRelax.

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

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How I Hired My Latest VA for Free

My latest VA “hire” didn’t cost me anything out of pocket.

This won’t work for every business and definitely has some downsides as well, but here’s how it worked.

One of my goals for the year was to make the most of the content I’d already created, to see if I could squeeze more traffic and revenue from these assets.

Among that content was my small portfolio of books on Amazon, which includes the Virtual Assistant Assistant book.

And while most of my titles already had a Kindle version and a paperback version, I’d never done an audiobook. According to several sources, audiobooks sell surprisingly well. I was curious to test it out for myself.

free audiobook narration

Project Options

That left me with at the top of the project decision tree, with some familiar choices:

  1. Record it myself.
  2. Hire a narrator.

But not having any track record of audiobook sales, I was hesitant to spend $700 or more on a professional audiobook production.

I briefly thought about doing it myself, since I already have a microphone and some audio editing experience, but thought it might be more fun (and more meta) to find a VA to record the VAA book.

That’s when I discovered ACX.com, the “audiobook creation exchange,” which is owned by Amazon. One of their production options is to offer a revenue share with your narrator, meaning you can have a professional audiobook created for zero upfront cost.

I figured since every audiobook I sell will be incremental revenue anyway, I really had no problem splitting it with the narrator.

Finding a Free VA

I had a dozen different narrators audition for the VAA project, and ended up going with Scott from Buffalo, New York. The book is going through its final approval process now, and should be live on Amazon in the next couple weeks.

Hopefully it turns out to be a profitable venture for both Scott and I.

(At one point during the recording, Scott sent me a note about his moment of epiphany: “Wait, I’m the virtual assistant right now!”)

For future book projects, I’ll have a better idea of the sales pace and whether or not it makes financial sense to pay upfront–or to do it myself.

And while this profit sharing set-up really isn’t anything new, it’s the first time I’ve used it in the context of getting virtual work done.

Work for Equity?

I think it’s an interesting workaround for companies and entrepreneurs who may be idea rich, but cash poor. In fact, I came across a new platform that aims to connect startups with “equity workers” called EquityDirectory.com.

(Actually I heard the founder speak at our local TEDx event.)

The benefit for workers is the opportunity to work on interesting projects and have the potential for much greater payouts down the road if they can afford to forego that upfront cash.

One example the EquityDirectory founder gave was the painter who did a mural at Facebook’s headquarters, and opted to get paid in stock instead of cash. In the near-term, he lost out on his $60,000 fee, but today that stock his worth north of $200 million.

These kind of arrangements admittedly shift the risk to the employee, which frankly won’t be a great fit for everyone. If it makes you uncomfortable and you’d prefer to just pay someone for their time, there’s no harm in going that route.

Your Turn

What do you think?

Think there’s opportunity for a profit-sharing hire in your business?

Would you work “speculatively” on a project like this?

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What to Delegate? Here are 12 Tasks a VA Can Handle For You [Infographic]

If you’re struggling with what to outsource in your business, it can become a real bottleneck in productivity. As you know, virtual assistants can handle any job that doesn’t require their physical presence, and these days, that’s quite a range of activities.

I’ve outsourced graphic design work, content writing, web development, customer support, advertising management, audio editing, and much more over the years — but it wasn’t always that way and it wasn’t always easy.

Our friends over at My Tasker (their website | their listing and reviews on VAA) have put together this beautiful infographic to outline 12 different tasks you can delegate to a virtual assistant.

The tasks are:

  1. Online Research
  2. Data Entry
  3. Preparing Presentations
  4. Market Research
  5. Online Marketing
  6. Call Answering
  7. Social Media Marketing (is that really different than #5?)
  8. Email Management
  9. App Development
  10. SEO
  11. Web Development
  12. Content Writing
tasks to outsource to a virtual assistant
tasks to outsource to a virtual assistant

Your Turn

What do you think? Obviously needs vary based on your business, but hopefully this gives you a good starting point of what tasks and roles you can delegate.

My Tasker is a top-rated VA company in India.

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