Taskbugs is a virtual assistant company with offices in the US and Sri Lanka. The business was founded in 2013 with the mission of connecting entrepreneurs, professionals, and small teams with virtual assistants.
For a hot minute, the company was called TaskGators.
Their virtual assistants are based in Sri Lanka and the Philippines, allowing them to offer some very competitive hourly rates.
The company is owned by founder Roshana Mallawaarachchi (same guy behind Remplo, TaskEngage, and Outvas), and they say their mission is to, “Support entire teams and busy professionals with flawless execution.”
Their target customers are professionals and entrepreneurs. They have teams of virtual assistants in both Sri Lanka and the Philippines, and when asked what their areas of specialization are Taskbugs said, “Admin support including data entry and medical transcription.”
So, while their assistants handle a wide variety of remote tasks, you will find some added value if you have a large volume of data entry or transcription tasks.
When you sign up with Taskbugs you are assigned an assistant based on your requirements, a dedicated project manager as a point of contact, and they ensure there is an assistant available as a backup should the assistant you’re working with fall sick or take a vacation.
Taskbugs assistants can handle a wide variety of tasks you would expect from a virtual assistant.
To give you an idea, they list some of their services as:
Social media marketing
Graphic and web design
When you sign up with Taskbugs and have been matched up with an assistant you are given the opportunity to ask them any questions you have. This is an opportunity to check they have the necessary experience and skills before agreeing to go ahead.
So, if you have any specific tasks you need completed that aren’t listed above you can talk these through with the assistant one-on-one which is a mutually beneficial to your working relationship.
Plans and Pricing
Taskbugs offer four different monthly pricing plans ranging from $70 for 10 hours of assistant time over the month, to $640 for 160 hours of time.
A complete list of their plans are as follows:
10 hours per month, $70 ($7 per hour)
40 hours per month, $240 ($6 per hour)
80 hours per month, $400 ($5 per hour)
160 hours per month, $640 ($4 per hour)
As you can see, the hourly rate drops the larger the plan you sign up for. $4 per/hr for the 160-hour plan is a very competitive hourly rate.
There are plenty of virtual assistant companies to choose from with assistants based in the Philippines. I recommend checking out OnlineJobs.ph as they offer similar rates and are one of the larger companies in the space.
Okay Relax and Task Bullet are two more companies with a good deal of positive feedback. Their rates just a little higher than Taskbugs but it’s worth getting a quote before making a decision.
Have you worked with TaskBugs? If so, please take a moment to leave a review below to help others with their decision.
BlogMutt is a content creation service offering monthly subscription plans based in Colorado, US.
The company was founded in 2011 and aims to provide businesses and agencies with as many articles as they request each month.
The company was founded by CEO Steve Pockross. Steve has more than 20 years industry experience working with businesses of all sizes from startups to Fortune 500s.
Blog Mutt hires writers in the US, and put each new writer through a test to ensure their grammar and writing skills are up to scratch. I thought the profile displays of some of their writers on their site was a nice touch.
Blogmutt’s target customers are individuals and businesses of all sizes. If you don’t have the time, resources, or expertise to write the kind of content you need for your business, Blogmutt’s team of skilled writers do.
BlogMutt provides custom content starting at 250 words per article. They can also include 1-2 images per post at an additional charge.
When you sign up with BlogMutt you will have a consultation with a member of their team to discuss your business and content needs.
You then put in requests based around keywords and any other information you have and their writers will submit content to your queue and wait for you to either accept, reject, or request edits to the posts.
You can elect to work with the same writer if you like a certain style of writing, or continue to review articles and select the ones you want each month from their pool of writers.
This is where BlogMutt differs from a lot of the other content writing services. You get to choose which articles you pay for, giving you some extra choice and putting added emphasis on the writers to do their best so their work gets picked up.
Plans and Pricing
Pricing varies depending on the number of words you order in your content. You have to sign up for a monthly subscription and commit to ordering four or more articles.
The smallest blog post you can order is 250+ words for $29.95, and the largest is 1,200+ words for $179.95.
So, your minimum spend will be $119.80 for four 250 word articles. You can tweak the word count and number of articles to meet your budget and requirements each month.
Blogmutt also offers an Agency subscription plan. With this plan you can add as many clients as you want and order anywhere from 1-99 posts each month per client.
There is a 10% discount when you add 2 clients, and the option to receive royalty-free images with your blog posts for an extra $9.95.
All of their plans can be cancelled at any time, there are no contracts or hidden fees.
Copywriter Today is another subscription-based content creation company and has a good deal of positive feedback.
If you don’t want to commit to a monthly plan you can use HireWriters or iWriter to request individual articles as and when you need them.
Have you worked with BlogMutt? If so, please take a moment to leave a review below to help others with their decision.
Wonder is an online personal research assistant service that performs like a search engine, with the added benefit of being human-powered and delivering more detailed answers.
You can ask Wonder a question or request some research to be carried out and you’ll have a nicely written synopsis back within 24 hours.
The company was founded in 2012, their headquarters are in New York, with their team of researchers based all over the world.
The company is headed up and run by Founder and CEO Justin Wohlstadter, CRO Guy Cohen, Head of New Business Bill Vesce, Head of New Markets Nick Maugeri, Director of Staff Andrew Karp, Director of New Business Bill Germano, and Director of Research Rachel Granby.
Most of their researchers are based in North America, with some spanning across Africa, the UK, Brazil, Japan, and other countries.
The only countries where they cannot accept researchers are countries that do not accept PayPal payments.
Their target customers are, “Anyone from individuals up to Fortune 500s.” So, if you’re too busy, do not have the resources, or are not sure where to start researching an answer — Wonder is will do it for you.
AskWonder.com was developed to be a personal research assistant available for anyone and everyone who is in need of a detailed human answer to a specific question.
You can use the service to answer a question that’s been on your mind, or direct a detailed business question requiring some in-depth research to their team of researchers.
Whatever the question, the researchers at Wonder will do all the work for you and send you a detailed response quoting all the necessary sources to back up their answer.
How it Works
To give you some of the behind-the-scenes details, when you submit a question their system will break it down into smaller pieces if need be.
These are then picked up by different analysts to speed up the entire process. They combine all their information and add multiple points of view and the research is delivered to you in under 24 hours.
Some examples of the kinds of requests Wonder commonly answer are:
Please provide demographic statistics for residents in a 3 mile radius of [Insert Location].
How many boxing gyms are there in the US?
What is the hottest chilli in the world?
I need information about how the cost of living has changed in New York over the last 20 years.
As you can see from these few examples there are no limits to the types of questions you can ask. If there is an answer and some research to back it up the researchers at AskWonder will find it for you.
Plans and Pricing
There is an undisclosed annual membership fee, and a flat fee of $75 per request.
I reached out to find out what exactly that annual fee is, but based on the big national brands listed as customers, I’m guessing it isn’t small.
A sales representative from Wonder responded almost immediately, but wouldn’t discuss pricing over email, and instead wanted to set up an introductory call to learn more about my company and my research needs.
Obviously there are some other online resources you can use for free to find answers to your questions, such as search engines like Google or websites like Quora.
You’re not going to get the detailed, personalized answer like the team at AskWonder will give you though, and it can take a long time to sort through all the answers yourself.
But odds are if you’re researching a research service like Wonder, a simple Google search probably isn’t going to turn up the data you’re looking for. In the past, I’ve turned to Fancy Hands and OkayRelax for research tasks, but Wonder seems to really specialize in the in-depth digging that these services would have a harder time with.
Have you requested research from AskWonder? If so, please take a moment to leave a review below to help others with their decision.
Take control of their mindset and energy levels to increase your productivity
Discover why you are not as productive as you could be and develop a plan to improve
Increase your productivity by implementing new strategies throughout your day
Create a personal plan that fits your personality and style
Sticker Price: $75
Instructor: Josh Paulsen
Social Proof: 180 reviews, 4.6-stars, 2,100 students
Sample Review:“Lessons are presented in manageable time slices. Some of the lessons I “knew” already, but they are presented in a way to be really actionable. I am looking forward to applying them. I feel as though some of the items have made an impact already (focus on the most important thing, above all others, during your most productive time of the day).”
10X your personal productivity, avoid distractions, have laser-focus, implement powerful daily rituals!
Stay focused on what really matters and find satisfaction in your work.
Stay energized and on the top of your game, so you can work smart without burning out.
Automate your routine so productivity becomes a habit.
Beat procrastination, once and for all.
Make sure you do the right work, instead of just keeping busy.
Create a schedule that works.
Cut out the bad habits that cost hours in the day for no reason.
Sticker Price: $200
Instructor: Silviu Marisca
Social Proof: 150 reviews, 4.5-stars, 5,200 students
Sample Review:“A good course which includes actionable steps and practical productivity strategies. The course exercises are very engaging and demand serious introspection. Worth the time and money invested.”
Visually map out your tasks, projects, and goals for the next week to 6 months.
Create, plan, and complete multi-action projects (writing a book, creating a website, planning an anniversary) easily and efficiently.
Use the Action Map to capture and do small, but important tasks (check email, check Twitter, order that new watch, make appointments, etc.).
Track and follow up on the people, decisions, and tasks that you’re not prepared to act on right now.
Manage and run your errands in the most efficient way possible (works great in households and businesses, too).
Use Triggers to take action on the recurring tasks in your life (cleaning & maintaining your car or home, paying bills, posting to your blog, etc.).
Master using Domains – a section of your Action Map for capturing and managing knowledge, checklists, processes, dreams, templates, documents, and more!
Use timeboxing to consistently take action and get things done.
Sticker Price: $95
Instructor: Derek Franklin
Social Proof: 115 reviews, 4.6-stars, 1,800 students
Sample Review:“Derek’s courses are always so thorough and insightful. I don’t remember how I discovered him but I am sure glad I did! I am looking forward to the changes that will happen as a result of applying what I learned from this course. Thank you, Derek!”
8 lectures and 8 detailed, step-by-step workbooks!
Bonus module on Building a Powerful Support Team
A full layout of easy-to-apply Productivity Strategies that transform the “Over-Working You” to the “Effective Working You” which leads to more money and balance in your life.
Sticker Price: $40
Instructor: Donald Wong
Social Proof: 16 reviews, 4.7-stars, 2,700 students
Sample Review:“Great content. To be honest, I jumped around in these videos to see if there was anything new in here that I didn’t know. And I got so much value even though I was just skimming the content that I’m now digging into each one! This is great stuff.”
Sample Review:“This is really good, I feel like its more of a no-brainer but sometimes just hearing other people reiterate it helps you make a good conscious decision. I definitely think you need to take this course if you have no idea where to begin. I felt it was great for clarification and ease of mind.”
Their headquarters is in Florida, US. All of their designers are also based in Florida, and they have a virtual assistant based in the Philippines.
Outlinematic is run by husband and wife partnership Michael and Miriska Harris. Michael is the company Director, and Miriska is the Design Director.
They decided to form Outlinematic after realizing a lot of their clients in their previous graphic design business were Amazon sellers and requesting branding and graphic design work for their Amazon products.
This gave them the opportunity to streamline their business and focus on helping clients develop their brands.
When you sign up for one of their design packages you’re assigned a dedicated designer to work with. You’re able to communicate by phone, Skype and email, and they aim to answer all emails within 12 hours.
There is a definite advantage to working with the same designer if you want to keep all your branding consistent. This is an important consideration when ordering branding designs, and along with good communication is high on Outlinematic’s priorities.
Outlinematic said, “We can design anything – from book covers to billboards, but we choose to focus on designing for sellers on Amazon.”
The most commonly requested design tasks from their clients include:
Plans and Pricing
Outlinematic have different pricing packages built around different graphic design services.
Their services start at $75 for t-shirt and logo designs, and top off at a complete packaging and brand identity package for $297.
A complete list of their packages are as follows:
Packaging and Brand Identity – $297
Packaging Design – $237
Logo Design – $75
Flyer and Insert Design – $89
T-Shirt Design – $75
Brochure Design – $99
Infographic Design – $99
If you want any graphic design work not covered by any of these packages Outlinematic will provide a custom quote by contacting them.
All of their work comes with a 100% money-back guarantee and unlimited revisions. A decent peace of mind that you’re walking away with designs you are 100% satisfied with.
For alternatives on the opposite end of the cost spectrum you can try either Fiverr or 99Designs.
Fiverr is good for a quick turnaround and you can choose your own designer based on their portfolio and feedback, while 99Designs is a crowdsourcing platform and probably best suited to larger branding and ongoing design work.
Another resource worth checking out is FreeeUp, a freelance marketplace that started out with a focus on serving Amzon and e-commerce sellers.
Outlinematic say that their understanding and experience of working with Amazon sellers give them an edge over generic graphic design services if you’re after graphic design work for your Amazon listings.
Have you worked with Outlinematic? If so, please take a moment to leave a review below to help others with their decision.
$98 Buck Social provides daily custom prepared content and syndicates it across all the main social media platforms; such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and LinkedIn.
The company has been in business since 2014, and they are located in Florida, US.
Now I’ll admit, when I first came across this company my first reaction was that it was a clear attempt to undercut and one-up the very similarly-named $99 Social.
It reminds me of the 7 Minute Abs scene from There’s Something About Mary … “That’s good. Unless, of course, someone comes out with 6 Minute Abs. Then you’re in trouble, huh?”
But I digress…
About $98 Buck Social
The company is headed up by founder and CEO Chris Heuwetter, and they employ college-educated, highly trained, full-time, US-based content managers who work out of their offices in Jupiter, Florida.
When you sign up with $98 Buck Social you are assigned a dedicated social media manager. They then research your business and look at your competitors to formulate a social media plan.
When I reached out for some more info on how it worked, $98 Buck Social said, “Our managers are educated, US-based professionals that spend hours on the web looking for relevant and optimal content in order to connect with your businesses’ audience in a meaningful and personal way.”
The company specializes in social media, social media marketing, Facebook marketing, Instagram marketing, Twitter marketing, and LinkedIn marketing.
$98 Buck Social offer a range of services revolving around social media promotion and content creation, some of their staple services are:
Creating social media content
Posting to your social media platforms
Growth engines to boost your followers.
Producing SEO focused blog articles
Plans and Pricing
As the name suggests $98 Buck Socials pricing plans start at $98 per/mth. For this you get their “Level 1 Social Media Management” plan.
If you’re looking for more their highest plan costs $398 per/mth and contains a more comprehensive social media strategy.
Here is a full list of their plans and services:
Level 1 Social Media Management – $98 per month – Dedicated social media marketing manager, posting to three social media platforms 6 days a week, regular promotional posts.
Level 2 Social Media Strategist – $198 per month – All Level 1 services along with posting to four social media platforms, and the ability to review posts before they go live.
Level 3 Aggressive Growth and Reach – $298 per month – All Level 1 and 2 services along with Instagram posting, and growth engine to build followers across platforms.
Level 4 Full Service Digital Agency – $398 per month – All Level 1 – 3 services along with regular strategy calls, ad campaign assistance, monthly SEO reviews, and blog articles.
$98 Buck Social also have a number of add-on services you can add to any plan. For example, you can buy a growth engine for any or all of the social media platforms, or add an extra LinkedIn marketing plan.
$98 Buck Social Alternatives
The aforementioned $99 Social is probably the closest competitor in terms of pricing and services. One difference (aside from the $1) is they do post 7 days a week with their basic plan.
Social media services are also covered by most virtual assistant companies. If you’re thinking about outsourcing more than just social media it might be worth looking into working with a virtual assistant.
Ossisto is one of the newer virtual assistant companies operating out of India starting operations in November 2017.
They specialise in connecting business owners and entrepreneurs with, “Personal virtual assistants, business services virtual assistants, digital marketing virtual assistants, and IT virtual assistants.”
The goal at Ossisto is to provide affordable virtual assistants to help busy entrepreneurs and businesses by taking on any type of work that can be completed remotely off their hands to free up more of their time.
The company was founded by Pinki Sohan Dadhich and Sohan Dadhich, and they currently have between 5-25 employees working out of their offices in Bangalore, India.
When you sign up for one of their plans you are assigned a dedicated virtual assistant who also acts as your point of contact.
Ossisto also makes a team of assistants available to ensure you have adequate cover and more than one assistant is available to work on tasks that require the extra hours or to turn a task around quicker.
They are currently only working with clients in the US, UK, Australia, and India. However, at the time of writing this Ossisto had only been in business a month, they do they have plans in the future to accept clients globally once they have the infrastructure in place.
Like most virtual assistant companies, Ossisto’s assistants are willing to carry out any tasks that can be performed remotely.
They sum it up well themselves saying they, “Provide virtual assistance for every possible work you could imagine.”
They highlight their areas of specialization as:
Domain specific analysis
Business specific analysis
Research based analytics
School / college / university level analysis
Medical facility research
Something worth noting is that their business hours are 9.30 EST to 18.30 EST. They do say they will offer 24/7 virtual assistance in the future however.
Plans and Pricing
Ossisto currently has several different pricing plans to choose from. Their plans start at just $20 per month, which gives you 2 hours of VA time.
Their full list of plans are:
Starter Plan – Basically a $10 per month membership where you can delegate tasks as needed for $12 an hour.
Try Us Out Plan – $20 a month for 2 hours of work.
Regular Plan – Starting at $100 a month for 10 hours of VA time.
Ossisto also offers an array of larger time plans with rates as low as $6 an hour for the equivalent of a full-time VA. If you want a dedicated VA though, the rates are a little higher, currently $1600 a month or roughly $9 an hour.
As the company is in startup mode, these prices and packages are of course subject to change.
Where’s the best place to hire a rockstar freelance virtual assistant?
Two of the largest platforms for online workers are Upwork and FreeeUp. Both of these sites have a deep talent pool and your diamond-in-the-rough virtual assistant is probably out there somewhere — it’s just a matter of finding them, or them finding you.
Note: This article focuses on the employer’s perspective. If you’re a freelancer looking for work, the information below will give you some insight into the hiring process, fees, and protections on each of the platforms, but doesn’t speak to how difficult securing work is or the types of clients you might encounter on either Upwork or FreeeUp.
Fordisclosure, links to FreeeUp are affiliate links.
Intro to Upwork and FreeeUp
While the two platforms share some similarities, there are a few key differences you should know about.
Upwork is the love child of Elance and oDesk, two Silicon Valley startups that helped pioneer the virtual freelance marketplace model, starting back in the late 1990s.
When these one-time competitors combined forces in 2015, they rebranded as “Upwork” and created the world’s largest freelance marketplace, with more than 12 million registered freelancers.
FreeeUp is the newcomer, the upstart rookie in this fight. They burst onto the scene in 2015, and have grown quickly to become a leading contender when it comes to hiring freelancers.
What started as a site almost exclusively for e-commerce support (that’s where the extra “e” in the name comes from), FreeeUp has expanded into a broad range of available skills and only lets in the “top 1%” of freelancers who apply.
On both sites, you might be surprised at the breadth of skills and workers available for hire. If the role you’ve envisioned for your virtual assistant can be done remotely, you can find someone to do it on Upwork.
The site has several broad-strokes categories of remote work, including design and creative work, programming and development work, administrative support, marketing and sales work, and more. And of course beneath each of those are dozens of highly specialized areas of expertise.
For example, here are some of the skills listed under Sales and Marketing:
Once you click on any one of those skills, you’ll be presented with a pretty-looking grid of freelancers in that category. For example, when I click on SEO Specialists, this is what I see next:
These little profile previews will show you how many hours the freelancer has completed on Upwork, their hourly rate, where they’re located in the world, and an indicator of how well they’ve performed for past clients.
Once you create a free Upwork account, you can contact these professionals directly, or post your own job to see what kind of bids you get back.
Similarly, FreeeUp divides its workers into several high-level categories, with more specific skills under each of those.
For instance, you’ll find categories like:
Under Digital Marketing, the unique subject matter areas of expertise are shown:
When you click on one of those skills, like SEO & Adwords Expert, for example, you’re taken to this page which invites you to create a free account, submit a worker request, and “get introduced to a [qualified] freelancer within hours.”
Unlike Upwork, FreeeUp doesn’t show you the names, faces, or rates of their workers before you sign-up, and you can’t reach out to freelancers directly to invite them to your project.
Both platforms have a number of “safeguards” in place to protect both workers and employers. In this section I’ll walk through those and why they’re important.
The hallmark of many peer-to-peer platforms is a two-sided rating system, in which buyers rate sellers and sellers rate buyers — popularized by ebay in the mid-90s.
Upwork has been building its rating system for more than a decade, and you can see the feedback each worker has received from past clients.
Because workers tend to be hired for shorter-term projects, there is a lot of client turnover, which amounts to plenty of opportunity to collect positive (or negative) feedback.
One thing to be aware of, beyond the cumulative 5-star score, is the number of jobs completed with no feedback given. Many employers (myself included sometimes) subscribe to your mom’s old adage of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
(A $66 job still “in progress” from 2012 probably isn’t a good sign either.)
Upwork also shows you the “job success rate” of each freelancer, which measures the percentage of gigs they’ve done resulting in “a great client experience.” Naturally, the higher the percentage, the better.
Although I had a successful project with the developer shown, a 59% job success rate is pretty poor and I’d be hesitant to hire someone with that kind of track record.
On each freelancer’s profile page, you’ll also find a summary of their work history on the platform, which is meant to give you an indication of the “safety in numbers” of how many other people have hired them and how experienced they are.
In contrast, here’s an example of an excellent profile page. Her “in progress” jobs are hourly and have hundreds or thousands of hours completed, and she has a 99% job success rate:
Take all these metrics with a grain of salt. They’re here to help you with your hiring decision, but past performance is no guarantee of future results and every job is different. I’ve found great workers with almost no feedback or work history, and had horribly painful projects with contractors with glowing reviews.
On Upwork, freelancers also have the opportunity to review you, the employer. These metrics aren’t visible to you in aggregate, but you can view your client feedback on each contract.
When you post new jobs, potential candidates can see some of your employer metrics. For example, before people bid on your job or project, they’ll be able to see what previous hires said about you as well as how much money you’ve spent on the platform and the percentage of job postings you’ve made that have resulted in a hire.
These are designed to protect the freelancers; if you only hire for 1 out of every 5 job postings you make, it might not be worth their time to submit an application since your performance on the platform makes it look like you’re not that serious.
On the flip-side, if you’ve spent thousands of dollars on Upwork and each posting results in a hire, you’re a very attractive employer to apply with.
On FreeeUp, worker ratings and profiles are strangely non-existent.
Workers introduce themselves via an email cover letter, and they’re free to link to a portfolio or website of their own creation, but there’s no standard profile page on FreeeUp they can point to.
And unless workers have specifically collected testimonials and feedback from past clients (and included those in their self-created portfolio/website), there’s no rating system at all.
Where to see your applicants in one place? I found this under the “Ticket” tab in my account:
Here’s where the level of trust in FreeeUp’s “top 1%” pre-screening really comes into play. It’s like they’re saying, “Look, we’ve already done the vetting for you. Why are you stressing about it?”
They’re trying to make the process as seamless as possible by limiting the amount of information going into your decision, but part of me wanted a little more insight into who these people are!
Pro Tip: For quick, one-off, inexpensive projects, it probably isn’t a huge deal, but if you’re hiring for a long-term position on either platform, ask for references and actually call them.
Upwork historically has been a mostly open platform, allowing just about anyone to create a profile and begin bidding on work. Recently though, they’ve begun throttling that growth, at least in certain crowded categories, turning away freelancers where they already have enough supply.
Meanwhile, FreeeUp claims to only let the top 1% of applicants into their system. How does that work in practice?
Turns out, there is some science behind it, or at least a consistent process. They put every candidate through a 4-part interview process that was developed in part by founder and CEO Nathan Hirsch while hiring freelancers to help with his own booming e-commerce operation.
Step 1: Application
The first step is for workers to apply on FreeeUp.com. (Want to apply? Mention me, Nick Loper, to expedite your application.)
Workers submit a resume, portfolio, answer a few questions, and share some logistics information like their Internet speed and typing speed.
After that, the FreeeUp worker onboarding team makes a decision based off of strict marketplace standards if they will be given a skills interview.
Step 2: Skills Interview
The first FreeeUp interview (conducted over phone or Skype) is a skills interview. Candidates are expected to answer specific questions about their expertise and participate in role-playing scenarios to see how advanced their knowledge is.
Only those who can showcase “absolute expertise” make it through to the second segment of the interview.
Step 3: Attitude Interview
In this phase, workers are asked about how they solve problems, work with clients, and uphold strong communication.
I think this is an often over-looked segment of the hiring process, because I’ve seen firsthand how the most technically-proficient person isn’t always the best team member.
Step 4: FreeeUp Communication Guidelines
The fourth step is for the candidate to review and accept the FreeeUp Marketplace Guidelines and terms. In this 15-page rulebook is all the fine print about time off, emergencies, daily updates, using software, and communicating with clients.
Freelancer Tests and Self-Ratings
On FreeeUp, really on the tests on the front-end of the application process are the Internet Speed test and the typing speed test — not necessarily relevant to the skills you’re hiring for.
(Of course the “real” test is how well they can make their email cover letter stand out from the crowd.)
In contrast, Upwork gives workers a chance to beef up their profile by taking certain skills tests. For instance, here are the test scores of Marjorie, who we met above:
If you click on the Details link, it will show what specific subcategories were included on the test and how they performed on each of those.
As someone who was “an A-student” and a good test-taker in school, these tests and their results appeal to me as an employer, even though I know in real life I didn’t always make the best employee.
On Upwork, I might use these tests as a “tiebreaker” between two equally talented candidates, but wouldn’t necessarily rule someone out on the basis of their test result or their lack of taking the test in the first place.
Like some of the other metrics mentioned, it’s almost more of an indicator of how much effort they’re putting toward their online job search. Upwork gives them this extra opportunity to showcase their skills so it’s only natural the “hungriest” candidates will use that to their advantage.
Upwork provides a “Big Brother” work monitoring solution in the form of a screen capture software tool. They call this Work Diary, which takes screenshots of your virtual assistant’s screen at roughly 10 minute intervals while they’re on the clock.
On FreeeUp, workers are simply asked to “Punch In” to the system and “Punch Out” when they’re done with the project or done for the day. They’ll also be able to add notes of what they accomplished during that time, and Freeeup automatically bills clients the agreed-upon hourly rate each week.
You don’t get the “over the shoulder” screen view that you do with Upwork unless you ask your assistant to install another monitoring software like TimeProof from OnlineJobs.
In practice, you probably have better things to do than pore over these screenshots every day or every week, but they’re nice to have if you notice a dip in productivity or if things are just taking longer than you think they should.
Upwork offers escrow payments as a way to protect both you and the virtual assistant in the deal. For fixed-price projects, you’ll deposit the funds into an escrow account controlled by Upwork, and release payment to your freelancer when certain milestones are completed.
This shows the freelancer you’re serious about putting up the money and paying them, while still giving you some protection if they flake and don’t deliver the goods.
With FreeeUp, there’s no escrow payment option, but you’re paying hourly and on a weekly basis so there’s less risk for both parties.
One advantage of Upwork is their dispute resolution service. With FreeeUp, they say they help resolve disputes and payment conflicts between workers and employers but don’t really detail what that process looks like.
However, on Upwork, if you and your freelancer can’t come to terms on a particular project or you think they may be fudging their hours, you can file a dispute through the Upwork platform.
A mediator will review both sides of the story and potentially help you get some of your money back or stop payment altogether. One thing to note though is the mediator isn’t necessarily going to be a judge of the quality of the work, especially for hourly jobs. Instead, they’ll look at the Work Diary logs and make a decision accordingly.
FreeeUp Replacement Guarantee
One advantage of FreeeUp is their worker replacement program. If your assistant quits, moves on, or just isn’t a great fit, they’ll quickly find you a new qualified VA from their bench — at no charge.
Of course you have any specific processes they need to be trained on, that’ll be on you, but at least you’re not back starting at square one.
What Happens After You Hire?
When you hire a virtual assistant through Upwork or FreeeUp, you pay them through the respective platforms, and the companies take a cut for facilitating the connection. See below for more information on pricing.
For project-based work on Upwork, it’s standard to pre-pay a portion of the total project into an escrow account. With FreeeUp, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead, you’ll get an invoice (and be automatically billed) each week for the hours your VA has worked.
My Interview with FreeeUp Founder Nathan Hirsch
Advantages of Upwork
Wide global talent pool, and more control over the recruiting/screening process.
Robust freelancer profiles and ratings.
No upfront costs.
Best for one-off projects or super-specialized support.
Advantages of FreeeUp
Pre-screened workers — the “top 1%”.
Quick and easy to hire.
No upfront costs. (Other companies charge $500 to present you w/ a handful of “pre-screened VA candidates.)
Better for ongoing hires or e-commerce work.
Both sites represent huge talent pools, and earn money by playing matchmaker by taking a fee on every payment processed through their system.
Upwork makes the bulk of its money by charging a fee on every project completed on its site. This fee ranges from 5-20%, depending on how much work (in dollars) a particular freelancer has done for you. This fee is baked into the price you pay, but comes out of your virtual assistant’s pocket.
Theoretically, they pass that cost on to you, the employee.
For instance, if you sign on for a $1000 engagement, the first $500 will have a 20% Upwork platform fee, netting the freelancer $400, and the next $500 will carry a 10% platform fee, leaving them with $450. In total, they’d earn $850 and Upwork would earn $150.
This graduated pricing structure makes sense, as it rewards Upwork early on in the relationship for making the connection, and rewards the freelancer with lower rates for continuing to run work through the platform (vs. “going rogue” and taking the relationship offline).
On top of your $1000 payment, Upwork will charge you 2.75% as a payment processing fee.
FreeeUp works similarly, taking a flat 15% fee (or a minimum of $2) on every hour worked. That means if you hire a worker at $20 an hour, they’re really pocketing $17.
Although this fee is somewhat invisible on the client side, it’s theoretically getting passed on to you in the quoted hourly rate from your freelancer.
If you really have a long-term hire in mind AND don’t mind doing more of the upfront screening/legwork, you’ll save money on a platform like OnlineJobs.ph (the largest job board in the Philippines).
They charge a $49/mo fee to post jobs and communicate with candidates, which you can cancel once you’ve made your hire, and after that you just pay them directly with no one else taking a percentage.
My Experience w/ Upwork
My most successful Upwork project hire was actually for the late-2012 redesign of this site. If you go to the Wayback Machine and check out the old version you’ll get an appreciation for how big an improvement it was.
The developer was awesome – super responsive on Skype, hammered out the changes really fast for what I thought was a very good price.
I re-hired him later for another small project, which was also very well done, but when I needed something else done a few months after that, I couldn’t find him. He’d disappeared. Poof.
I’ve also used Upwork for some low-cost web research, which was OK, but nothing like mind-blowingly amazing or anything.
For ongoing work, some of my best hires have come from Upwork (actually back when it was Elance). Even though it’s primarily a project-based platform, I found a couple long-term hires that worked out really well for almost full-time employment, including one virtual assistant I ended up working with for more than 2 years.
On the flip-side, I’ve also been burned for north of $10,000 on this platform for web development projects that never got fully completed. It was an incredibly painful, stressful, and expensive experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
In the first case, the dispute resolution safeguards didn’t apply because I foolishly agreed to work with the developer “off-platform.” In the second case, we agreed to end the contract after a few of the milestones were met (albeit not on time) but technical incompetence prevented the development company from finishing the job. It sucked.
Note: To check out what other users have to say, check out the other reviews here.
My Experience w/ FreeeUp
After reading the positive feedback on FreeeUp and starting to see the platform gain some traction on this site, I decided I better give it a shot myself.
If you’ve attempted to hire on any other platform that doesn’t pre-screen candidates, you have an immediate appreciation for the potential time-savings of FreeeUp’s “top 1%” promise.
One of my biggest hangups right out of the gate with FreeeUp is you’ll notice (at press time at least) it’s a very minimum-viable-product-style interface. Though comparing it with the robustness of Upwork is perhaps a little unfair since the two platforms have different aims — and Upwork has at least a 15-year head start.
Still, I was somewhat frustrated by the lack of worker profiles and feedback on the site, to the point I asked Nathan about it. His response was that they want to build a 5-star platform. If someone sucks, they get kicked off, he said.
To find out how the system worked and if FreeeUp could deliver on the promise of pre-vetted 5-star workers, I posted 3 jobs — roles I was actually looking to hire for — to see what came back.
The first was for a writing position and this was the one that generated the most matches. The hourly rates ranged from $18-30 an hour, which I thought was fair, but a couple of the cover letters stood out with the most relevant experience and writing style.
I hired the guy that looked like the best fit and gave him a couple articles to tackle. I provided him with:
the proposed title
a rough outline of where I wanted him to go
a target word count
The articles came back both totally passable, but my control-freakness got the best of me and I heavily edited the second one. I should know better after dozens of attempts to outsource writing over the years that I have a hard time signing my name to something that’s clearly not in my voice.
In the end, the content was just fine, I edited, formatted, and added images to make them look nice for the blog. Because of FreeeUp’s hourly billing, they ended up costing around $60-70 each, which I thought was fair for articles in the 1500-2000 word range. It would be a great value if you’re not as picky as me!
I’ll probably use the guy again for similar projects in the future.
The next job posting was a dud. I was looking for someone with experience in creating awesome looking graphics specifically for Pinterest. I got only a couple applications, both with pretty weak cover letters, and no Pinterest-specific examples in the portfolio.
I’m sure they were talented graphic designers yes, but I didn’t feel like taking a chance on somebody who’d never done the exact thing I was looking for before. Hourly rates for that one were $12-19/hour.
The 3rd job was maybe the most interesting. I was looking for a dedicated Pinterest marketing specialist and actually got a couple really well-qualified candidates right away. I had a call with one and she was speaking my language, all up until I asked for an estimate or quote to manage my account on a monthly retainer basis.
She couldn’t tell me, and instead pointed to the quoted rate of $35/hr inside of FreeeUp. I was like OK, so how many hours do you think it would take? And she wouldn’t say, so we kind of just awkwardly left it there.
The other quote actually was for a monthly retainer, but it was $470 a month, which was over my budget.
In the end, there does appear to be a method to the 1% pre-vetting claim, as only one of the candidates was an immediate no-go in my book (a writer with 2 typos in the first line of her cover letter … oops!).
Compared to the percentage of candidates that immediately get round-filed on OnlineJobs for example, FreeeUp did a great job of weeding those out.
The other thing to note is that I found the rates generally a little higher than other platforms, which probably makes sense because if the people really are the top 1%, they probably expect to earn more too.
Note: To check out what other users have to say, check out the other reviews here.
Which Should You Choose?
For project work where you need a specific niche skill or a wider talent pool, probably Upwork.
For faster hires for smaller projects or ongoing work, or something specific to e-commerce probably FreeeUp.
What do you think? When hiring virtual assistants, do you prefer to work through Upwork or FreeeUp? Or another platform entirely?
GoLance is an online workforce platform that connects employers with freelancers based all over the globe.
Based in Delaware, US, GoLance has been in business since 2015. Their mission is to, “Make life better for all online workers with a flexible, fair, efficient, and transparent virtual workplace.”
GoLance is headed up by CEO Michael Brooks, and they have been in operation for more than two years.
The company head office is in Delaware, US, and they have a number of staff at this location providing support and carrying out day-to-day operations.
The company does not carry out any of the client jobs themselves or employ virtual assistants.
They provide the platform for freelancers and employers to connect and handle the payments and contracts between the two parties.
GoLance also provide some tools to make finding freelancers easier, as well as monitoring your tasks being worked on and providing support when needed.
They have developed their own tool called goMeter Time Tracking to enable clients to monitor activity, a work diary summarizing monthly gigs and communications, and a smartphone app so you can stay connected on the move.
How GoLance Works for Employers:
You can use the GoLance platform as either an employer or a freelancer. Here’s how it works for employers.
Post a job – After posting your job you will be provided with a list of recommended candidates based on your requirements and the skillsets of freelancers in their database.
Invite freelancers to apply – You can then send invitations to a short list of the freelancers you think are best suited based on their profiles.
Set milestones/ pay per hour – You have the option to either set milestones and make payments when they are met. Or, you can set an hourly rate.
You can filter workers by their rating and the number of hours worked on the platform.
How GoLance Works for Freelancers:
Build your profile – Fill out a profile with all your skills and experience to find jobs that are suited to your skills.
Search and apply – You can browse the available jobs and send applications.
Work and earn – Once you’ve had a successful application you can start working and earning.
You can post just about any remote task on their marketplace and expect to find a freelancer willing and able to complete the work.
To give you an idea, some of the more common remote tasks include:
Technical web related work
Their target customers are business owners and entrepreneurs too busy to handle their workload, or businesses not in a position to hire full-time assistants.
Plans and Pricing
GoLance is an interesting platform in that you as the employer have the option of setting the hourly rate for each job. That way you make sure you stay within your budget and can theoretically attract better talent with higher rates.
GoLance take a flat 10% commission fee from every payment, and seems to be, like Upwork, geared more toward short-term projects rather than ongoing relationships.
Upwork is the largest online marketplace connecting employers with freelancers. GoLance point out that they do not offer bidding for jobs like Upwork, rather set fees across the board.
Also check out FreeeUp for pre-vetted workers with an e-commerce focus, and TopTal if you’re looking for designers or developers. If you have an ongoing roll to fill and are on a tight budget, you might consider OnlineJobs.ph.
Have you worked with GoLance? If so, please take a moment to leave a review below to help others with their decision.
I know you were hoping for a magic page with the one clear winner here, but unfortunately there is no easy answer to the question of which virtual assistant company is the best.
The truth is it depends on your specific needs, and everyone’s needs are slightly different. Because of that, I’ve done my best to break it down by category, but be sure to check the reviews for each.
For Personal Tasks
Let’s say you want to dip your toes into the outsourcing waters before you jump completely in.
One way to do that is to start with a low cost service and try delegating some personal tasks, like restaurant reservations, flight check-ins, or some product research assignments.
Here are a few options you might consider.
Efficise – Starting at just $15 a month for 5 30-minute tasks, Pakistan-based Efficise is one of the most affordable options out there.
Fancy Hands – To bring your outsourcing a little closer to home, the all-US-based service Fancy Hands has a similar 5-task plan for $29.99 a month (though they ask requests only be 20 minutes).
I have them do things like find used cars for sale near me that match my criteria, proofread blog posts, and check in for flights.
OkayRelax – Over the last couple years I’ve really come to rely on OkayRelax. Their 5-task plan matches Fancy Hands at the $30/month price point, but I’m on the $99.95 “Professional” plan that gives me access to the same assistant every time.
For that rate, I can delegate up to 25 30-minute tasks per month (the math works out to $8 an hour if I use ’em all). My dedicated assistant is a key part of several weekly routine processes, including formatting articles, updating my website, running reports, and more.
TaskRabbit – And finally, for in-person help, TaskRabbit might be worth a look. I found a handyman on there to come help with a mouse problem in our house and was happy with the experience.
For Small Business
While I tend to use the “Personal Assistant” options above for business tasks as well, there are lots of great VA options to support your small business endeavors. These are best-suited for ongoing relationships.
Here are a few of the top-rated choices.
My Tasker– A long-time favorite of Virtual Assistant Assistant visitors, MyTasker provides professional support for as little as $7.50 an hour from their office in India. You’ll be assigned a dedicated VA, but also have access to the rest of their team if a certain task is better suited to someone else’s expertise.
Time Etc – If your budget allows, you might consider US and UK-based Time Etc. Rates go as low as $21 an hour and they’ve completed more than a million tasks since 2007.
UAssist.me – UAssist.me offers professional outsourcing close to home in El Salvador Central America, but maintains affordable pricing with several package options to choose from depending on how much help you need.
OnlineJobs.ph – No matter what you need done, you can find a virtual assistant for it on OnlineJobs. With more than a quarter million resumes, the leading job board in the Philippines has become a mainstay for affordable small business outsourcing.
It has a little bit of a needle-in-the-haystack / diamond-in-the-rough feeling to it, but I’ve found several excellent VAs through this site.
For Medium Business
As your business grows, your team will likely expand as well. Of course any of the above options are fine choices too, but for your consideration I’ll share a few alternatives to check out.
BELAY – It’s not the cheapest service out there, but BELAY would argue that you shouldn’t bargain shop for a linchpin team member. They specialize in providing expert US-based remote executive assistants with world class support.
Worldwide101 – Similarly priced, Worldwide101 has built a fantastic reputation for smart VAs for American and European clients. And if you need a bilingual assistant, look no further.
Task Bullet– Task Bullet is an affordable service with assistants in the US and in the Philippines. Their unique system of selling “buckets” of VA time (starting at just $6 an hour) make them an interesting option for both ongoing needs or one-off projects.
For Full-Time Dedicated Help
Ready to bring on a full-time hire? It’s an exciting time!
OnlineJobs.ph – If you’ve got a defined process to plug someone into, I think OnlineJobs is your best budget option. It’ll cost you just $49 to start (to post your job), and then you’ll hire your top candidate directly, with salaries ranging from $400 – $750 per month for full-time help.
My Tasker – $1200 will buy a full-time staff member in India through MyTasker.
UAssist.me – With UAssist, you’ll pay slightly more than with the Asian companies, but I still think $1499 per month is a pretty sweet deal for a full-time worker.
For One-Time Projects
This is where I started my whole outsourcing adventure. I needed a website built but didn’t know where to turn!
The options below are for broad, everything-under-the-sun freelancers, but please know there are specialty services (I’ll highlight a few below) that might be worth a look if you’re need of a specific skill or expertise.
Upwork – Upwork is the world’s largest marketplace for freelance workers. It’s free to post your job and you’ll likely have a dozen qualified candidates bidding for your work within 24 hours.
Back when it was called Elance, I actually had great luck in finding long-term VA hires through this site.
Fiverr – Even today, I often start my outsourcing search on Fiverr. The reason is it’s such low risk. For $5-15 you can test out someone’s skills in writing, graphic design, data entry, or whatever else you need.
There’s no bidding process either; you just find the freelancer you like and click their “buy now” button.
Mechanical Turk – Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is an interesting option for tedious low-brain power tasks like data entry, image recognition, or even user feedback. This cloud workforce can be yours for literally just pennies per task.
For Graphic Design Work
One of the core tenets of outsourcing is to let someone else do the work you’re not good at, and I’ve come to understand I’m just not a great designer!
However, graphic design can be tough to delegate because it’s so subjective and comes in so many different flavors. I’ll highlight a few of those different options here:
99designs – Why limit yourself to working with one designer when you could have dozens of creative brains competing for your business? At least that’s the pitch behind the popular crowdsourced logo and web design site 99designs.com.
Deluxe Logo Design – Or if you prefer to work one-on-one with a US-based designer for your logo, check out Deluxe for competitive packages.
Logo Garden – Logo Garden is an interesting option to make your own great-looking DIY logos on the cheap.
PicMonkey – While not technically a graphic design service, this cool online tool is the one I find myself using most often to create custom images for social media.
Design Pickle – Design Pickle pioneered the “unlimited” graphic design model and sells all-you-can-eat designs for a flat monthly fee. It’s perfect for companies that have a constant need for fresh images for blog posts, social media, or marketing material.
For Content Writing
Content marketing is one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your site, but let’s face it, creating all that content is time-consuming.
Here are some companies that can help.
Copywriter Today – Gabe Arnold’s Copywriter Today delivers “unlimited” articles from native English writers at a fixed (and affordable) monthly fee. This is perfect if you’re looking to step up your blogging game or if you need content on an ongoing basis for clients.
HireWriters – With different quality levels ranging from almost unintelligible to actually pretty good, HireWriters specializes in cheap copywriting made easy. These guys have written dozens of articles for me.
For Website Help
Zen WP – California-based Zen WP offers unlimited WordPress fixes for $79/mo. I’ve been a customer for quite a while and they’ve been essential in troubleshooting some issues with my sites.
The service was especially handy to have during a recent redesign and in migrating the site to SSL.
Access WP– Access WP operates similarly, but with an all US-based support staff. They’ll take care of any WordPress website maintenance and support issue that pops up.
For Phone Support
Here’s the dilemma for small business owners. You want the phone to ring and you want to treat every potential customer like the awesome person they are, but you don’t want to be tied to the phone all day — when will you get any work done?
That’s where these virtual answering services come in.
Gabbyville– The popular virtual receptionist service gives you a 14-day free trial to test out their service.
DaVinci Virtual– Make sure all your calls are answered professionally, with rates starting at $149 per month.
Still Need Help?
Hopefully this list has given you a starting point to begin digging into the ratings and reviews and specialties of each service.
If you’re still unsure of where to start, try our survey tool and get free personalized recommendations in your inbox, generally within 30 minutes.