Zylun

Zylun is an outsourcing center in the Philippines, catering to small and medium-sized businesses. The company opened their doors in 2010, and now employs more than 150 programmers, content writers, Internet marketing specialists, and virtual assistants.

Where many other Filipino VA companies use a work-from-home model, everyone at Zylun works from the company’s modern facility in Cebu. Zylun also maintains a US-sales office near Salt Lake City, Utah.

zylun reviewThe specialty here is for clients looking to outsource some of their operations on a long-term basis to realize the cost savings. Zylun’s rates are quite high relative to other VA companies because they’re targeting customers who are deciding between an on-site person or an offshore person, vs. the typical VA customer, who’s deciding between an offshore person or no one at all.

And of course relative to hiring an in-house employee, a dedicated full-time Zylun team member is a more affordable option. Virtual assistants for administrative and non-technical roles start at $1200 a month. Your VA will be a college graduate with solid written and spoken English skills, that you can train on any specific tasks needed for your business.

Zylun also provides customer service reps from $1500 a month and programmers from $2000 a month. While these rates are significantly higher than you’d find with a home-based VA, you do have the benefit of a modern office with a reliable connection, on-site support, and US-based leadership.

Most of Zylun’s clients start with between 1 and 3 employees to staff their outsourced office operation, and some customers have built large teams of 20 or more. As you can imagine, the ability to quickly scale up staff without minimal recruiting expenses if pretty attractive.

There are no hourly or part-time plans, but strictly full-time dedicated workers on demand. Zylun requires a 2-month minimum engagement, and offers price breaks for longer contracts and larger teams. For each position filled, there is a one-time $500 set-up fee.

Virtual Assistant Assistant exclusive:

Want to try them out? Mention referral code VAA for 10% off your first month of Zylun service.

If you’re a smaller company or a one-person shop interested in outsourcing, you might consider Virtual Staff Finder. The company is also based in Cebu but acts a virtual headhunter. You’ll face a similar one-time fee, but have substantial savings each month if you’re comfortable with a home-based VA and paying them directly.

Wondering about the Zylun name? Co-founder Brigham Tomco explains it has no meaning, but just happened to be a pronounceable and available 5-letter domain name!

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

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VAhut

VAhut is a newer virtual assistant company in China, but they may not have survived their first year. I reached out to them on two occasions and never got a response.

The company is based out of Hangzhou, a city with a metro population over 20 million — a city that in typical ignorant-American fashion I’d never even heard of. They maintain a US-presence and sales office in South Carolina. VAhut.com began operations in 2012.

vahut reviewIt was really only a matter of time until some entrepreneurial Chinese began a VA company to compete on an international level. At the moment, the only other one I’m aware of with any significant market presence is BPOVIA, but they seem to be aimed at larger corporate clients.

Naturally, the environment in China makes it a great place to build a virtual assistant firm catering both to the massive and growing domestic market as well as the mature worldwide VA market. The workforce is young, educated, and still has relatively low wages compared with more developed countries. The only real obstacle to international success is the language barrier.

VAhut offers the familiar administrative virtual assistant services, but much of their work is China-specific. For instance, they really specialize in travel assistance to China, sourcing and managing the relationships with manufacturers and suppliers, factory audits, and helping clients enter the Chinese market.

The company offers three levels of service: pay as you go, a monthly subscription, or project-based engagement.

The Pay as You Go plan allows you to pay an hourly rate for services on-demand. As I mentioned, when I inquired about what their hourly rates might be, I was greeted with silence.

Monthly subscriptions are available in 10, 20, 40, 80, and 160-hour packages. Again, prices are unknown at this time.

VA Hut will also quote one-off projects, and could be a good resource perhaps for initial research into the Chinese market or some other job that requires local expertise on the ground.

For most cases, VAhut uses a team-based approach where tasks are handled by different VAs on an as-available basis.

I wish these guys success because they have a well-designed site and seem poised to tackle to the giant opportunity of being the first real Chinese virtual assistant company aimed at small businesses and individuals. But until they figure out how to respond to customer inquiries I’m afraid we’ll have to keep looking for a better solution.

Have you worked with VAhut? If so, please share a review of your experience below so others can make an informed decision.

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Virtual Assistant Credit Card Security

One of the questions I get most frequently is how to securely share your credit card details with your virtual assistant, so they can make purchases and arrange travel on your behalf.

Like any transaction — online or off — there is still a certain level of trust involved, but there are a few ways different virtual assistant companies handle your private information, and there is another way you can keep your data secure with freelance VAs as well.

virtual assistant credit card

Option 1: Reimbursement

The most secure way to share your credit card information is not to share it all. With the reimbursement method, your VA completes the purchase and bills you for the appropriate amount.

To prevent abuse, written confirmation should be required because you don’t want any surprises showing up their expense report.

“Last week week when you were stressed out and said you really could use a trip to Hawaii, I took the initiative and booked your plane tickets. First class, all the way!”

Fancy Hands employs a variation on the Reimbursement option that lets their team of assistants make purchases on your behalf (after written approval) using the Fancy Hands company credit card. Then, they just bill the card you have on file with them for your subscription for the amount of the purchase.

I’ve only tested this once, but it’s executed fairly well. Currently, it’s limited to transactions of $100 or less though.

Option 2: LastPass Access

LastPass is one of my favorite online tools, and it’s free! The browser add-on saves your website passwords and auto-fills login forms so you don’t need to clutter your brain with all those logins anymore. I love it.

The cool thing about LastPass is you can share your account access for certain websites securely by simply going into your LastPass Vault, selecting the site you want to share, and entering in the email of your VA. Then, when they go to the site, LastPass will help them login with your information but they’ll never see the actual password.

The way to use LastPass to have your VA make purchases on your behalf is to set them up with account access for sites where your credit card details are already stored in your account. For example, you probably already have a credit card stored with Amazon, Delta Airlines, PayPal, or any number of other sites.

For security, only the last 4 numbers of the credit card is ever visible inside those sites so your VA will be able to login and make purchases on your behalf without ever seeing the full credit card number.

Option 3: A Secure Virtual Wallet

Other VA companies have a “virtual wallet” or similarly-secured area of your profile where you can store sensitive information like passwords, credit card numbers, and frequent flyer accounts.

This data is afforded the same level of encryption as a website’s shopping cart pages, but when it comes time to make the purchase, someone from the VA company will still have to access it and be able to see the full credit card number. The security features limit access to only those who have your permission, and this method works well as long as the trust doesn’t get abused.

Option 4: Naked Trust

If you’ve been working with a freelance virtual assistant for a long time, you may trust that person implicitly. In that case, you may just read off the details of your credit card to them over the phone and have them store it in a secure place in their office.

This method was enthusiastically espoused by Kevin Zittle during the Elance Work Differently Summit I attended.

While this option seems pretty cavalier, keep in mind it’s in your VA’s interest to keep your credit card data secure as well. After all, they probably want to continue the relationship for the long term, or at least get a referral or recommendation when you’re done. If they start making unauthorized purchases, they’re burning their bridges with you and potentially jeopardizing their entire future in the industry.

Liability Protection

One last thing to note is that most credit cards now come with a zero liability fraud protection guarantee against unauthorized purchases. That doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t be careful with your credit card information, but it does mean that should your data get compromised, it probably won’t hurt you financially.

What method do you use to keep your credit card secure when working with virtual assistants?

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Why Fortune 500 Companies Need Virtual Assistants [White Paper]

Companies large and small are always striving for increased efficiency. In the past 20-30 years, we’ve seen unprecedented investment from Fortune 500 companies in business process outsourcing, creating leaner and more focused enterprises.

And on the other end of the spectrum, the small companies and solo entrepreneurs have embraced outsourcing as well, but on a smaller scale. Instead of building out giant call centers overseas, small businesses have been utilizing virtual assistants to help support their operation.

Earlier this year, Bryan Miles of eaHELP posed a question to me. Why have Fortune 500 companies been slow to adopt virtual assistants?

We couldn’t come to a satisfying answer off the top of our heads so we thought it was a question worth exploring.

For companies with such massive scale, there are tremendous cost savings and efficiencies to be gained by implementing a virtual assistant strategy for administrative support.

We compiled the results of our findings in a free white paper entitled “Why Fortune 500 Companies Need Virtual Assistants.”

Download the white paper HERE (no opt-in required).

Let me know what you think!

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Virtual Assistant Trial: Efficise vs. Red Butler vs. My Tasker vs. Fancy Hands

Virtual Assistant Trial

As you know, I’ve been a happy Fancy Hands customer for several months now, but I wanted to put a few more virtual assistant services to the test to see how they stacked up.

Lately two start-ups had been generating a lot of positive response here on the site so I thought I would try them out myself. The first was Efficise, out of Pakistan, and the second was My Tasker, out of India. Both of these companies were founded by veteran VAs from other firms who decided to strike out on their own.

And finally, Red Butler was kind enough to offer me a trial gift membership so I could compare their service to other virtual assistant companies.

How would the American VAs compare against their overseas competition? Who would deliver the best results?

Over the course of a month, I tested these guys with a series of tasks. They featured a broad range of topics but the actual “work” being done was primarily online research and analysis, with a few phone calls sprinkled in here and there for fun.

Breakdown of the Virtual Assistant Plans

  • Fancy Hands – $45 for 15 tasks (50% off your first month through this link)
  • My Tasker – $39 for 30 tasks
  • Efficise – $45 for 30 tasks (30% off your first month with code NLIND30)
  • Red Butler – $99.99 for 30 “credits” (I’ll explain later) + Red Butler Privilege Card (20% off your first month with code VIRTUAL)

Fancy Hands gives the guideline of 15 minutes per task, but in one case spent over a half an hour on the phone without charging double.

My Tasker doesn’t really offer a time-limit on tasks but I imagine if you started to abuse the system you would be asked to upgrade to one of their professional plans. If you run out of tasks before the end of the month, extra ones can be bought at the rate of $2 each.

The Efficise guidelines suggest requests take no longer than 15-30 minutes.

Red Butler charges 1 credit for each “action” they take. For instance, ordering movie tickets and making dinner reservations would take 2 credits. The Red Butler privilege card carries a ton of perks at hotels, restaurants, and bars all around the world. It’s a cool add-on if you live in a major city; out in the San Francisco suburbs I didn’t get much use out of it.

UPDATE: Red Butler now charges 1 credit for anything that takes up to 20 minutes. “If we make 10 calls in that time, it’s still one credit,” VP of Business Development for Red Butler, Nick Ramirez says.

Sign Up Process

The sign up process for each company went pretty smoothly so I just wanted to make a couple notes.

With Fancy Hands, you need to use either a Google or Facebook login to create your account. Just about everyone will already have at least one of those so it’s not a big deal unless you’re really opposed to granting 3rd party access to your accounts. They don’t see your password; it’s just a way to keep you from having to create a separate Fancy Hands account.

My Tasker uses PayPal for their recurring billing, which is pretty pain-free.

Efficise uses the Plimus payment processing system, an up-and-coming competitor to PayPal. If you don’t already have a Plimus account, you’ll have to create one to sign-up. I didn’t and it was still quick and easy. One thing I thought was weird was the tax Efficise added to the subscription fee. At less than $3 it wasn’t a huge deal, but normally VA companies either aren’t charging any tax or they’re baking it into the price.

With Red Butler they created the account for me so I can’t really comment on the sign-up process. One nice touch was I got a welcome call from Amber, their Director of Experience. The downside? It went to voicemail because she called from a blocked number. Can’t imagine many of their too-busy clients make a habit of picking up unrecognized numbers.

Submitting Tasks

Whew, I’m in! And now the fun part can start.

With Fancy Hands, you can submit tasks through their online dashboard, via email or phone, and now through their new mobile app.

The Fancy Hands Dashboard
The Fancy Hands Dashboard

For My Tasker, you can submit tasks through their online interface or via email or phone. I primarily used email so I didn’t have to keep logging into their website. Similarly, Efficise accepts requests online, through email, or over Skype. Rumor has it phone support is coming soon.

Efficise member dashboard
Efficise member dashboard

Red Butler users can beckon their VA by email, phone, mobile app, or the web dashboard. These guys win the design contest with their super-slick new website.

Red Butler member dashboard
Red Butler member dashboard

After you submit a task, you’ll get an email confirmation they received it from every company except Efficise.

Virtual Assistant Performance

My basic methodology was to submit the same task to all 4 companies and see who came back with the best results. Most tasks were submitted during US business hours, which put Efficise and My Tasker at an immediate disadvantage because those requests fell on their night-shift crews.

I tried to think of a variety of tasks that would test the VAs in different ways. See if they could understand my idioms and problem solve a bit, you know.

I gave each response a letter grade A through F. Yes, completely subjective but I wasn’t sure how better to normalize the data set I was collecting. In some instances the grades were on something of a “curve” — meaning if I thought the response was good, but then another one came in and blew it out of the water, the initial one probably got downgraded.

One thing I was looking for was some insight and analysis beyond just Googling something. Anybody can do that. The best responses were the ones that took the time to dig a little deeper and provide some personal recommendations.

To view the complete list of tasks I submitted, along with the response times, grades, and some commentary, please click here.

–>> VA Smackdown Trial — Detailed task list and performance results <<–

Otherwise, I’ll continue with my summary.

The company I was most pleasantly surprised by was My Tasker. Out of 15 tasks, they scored 7 A’s and 5 B’s, the best result of all the virtual assistant companies.

My Tasker Virtual Assistant Quality Performance
My Tasker Virtual Assistant Quality Performance

Kudos to Ronny and the team at My Tasker for delivering the goods, even in the middle of the night India time and for a probably too-cheap price-point.

Fancy Hands also scored well, earning 9 A’s and B’s out of only 12 tasks. (I was running low on Fancy Hands tasks so they didn’t get to participate on every one!) In general, I’ve found their assistants willing to go above and beyond for some of the more complex jobs, but every now and then you get the idea they just want to churn through the tasks as fast as possible.

And who can blame them? That’s how they get paid.

Fancy Hands Quality Performance
Fancy Hands Quality Performance

Occasionally you get the impression it’s just a glorified “let me Google that for you” service, which is not my idea of a value add. Most of the time, very good though. I’m a fan.

Red Butler was unique in that they made every effort NOT to just drop in links from the search results they found, at least not without some personal explanation and analysis. Their responses were generally very detailed and useful, and they ended up tying My Tasker with 7 A-grades.

Red Butler quality performance
Red Butler quality performance

One thing that set Red Butler apart was reading beyond the question itself. For example, when I asked about dividend investing, they offered to connect me with a qualified financial planner. When I talked about FHA loans, it was congratulations on the decision to buy a house. I think that extra understanding of the WHY behind the query was really useful and it definitely showed in their responses.

One downside to Red Butler that diminishes the value somewhat is the credit system they use to charge tasks. One relatively simple task I sent was charged 7 credits when the other companies only deducted one. Perhaps not a deal breaker but just something to be aware of, especially when combined with their premium price point.

UPDATE: With their new credit system, that task would probably have been only charged 1 credit.

Finally, Efficise did well on certain tasks but seemed to struggle with understanding and context on others. In general the performance was OK, but more inconsistent than the other companies.

Efficise quality performance
Efficise quality performance

Several of their responses were very short, containing just a few links to the answer. I would have liked to see a little more in-depth thought come through in their answers. I’m asking for help because I don’t have time to read through a bunch of links; I just want the summary version or a recommended action to take.

Response Time

In terms of response time, Fancy Hands’ distributed virtual assistant model proved to be the winner, followed by Red Butler, My Tasker, and Efficise. Their average response time was just over 2 hours. (I removed outliers for this chart.)

Virtual assistant response time
Virtual assistant response time

My Tasker promises to have a response to you in 4-8 hours and they did well keeping within those limits. I think the only time they went over was on the weekend and the task required making calls during US business hours. My Tasker also allows you to double down (get charged 2 tasks) and set a task to “urgent” for a response within 2 hours.

Other Notes

The service I tested was for team-based task support. My Tasker, Efficise, and Red Butler all offer dedicated virtual assistant packages at higher price points. However, I was curious to see just how “un-dedicated” these low-priced options were.

For the 15 tasks, I was helped by 7 different My Tasker VAs, 4 different Efficise VAs, and 4 different Red Butler VAs. In comparison, I had a unique Fancy Hands VA 11 times out of 12.

If it matters to you, many of the My Tasker VAs use Westernized names, like Tom, Jay, or Daniel, rather than their real Indian names. Remember Rent a Smile and their fake celebrity / superhero names?

Efficise and Red Butler signed their emails with their full names which I always think is a nice professional touch. With Fancy Hands, you get a first name and a last initial.

Next Steps

You made it this far, now what? Here are the profile page links for the different companies:

There you’ll find a more detailed write-up for each service, reviews from real customers, and any relevant sign-up discounts offered through Virtual Assistant Assistant.

Thanks for stopping by! If you have any questions about this trial or about virtual assistants in general, please let me know.

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Elance Work Differently Summit

Last night I had the chance to attend the first annual Elance Work Differently Summit, held at their corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California.

As an Elance user and outsourcing nerd, I was excited for the opportunity to visit “the mothership.”

Elance work differently summit

Networking Time

The evening began with open networking time and attendees were able to mingle with each other and with Elance employees. I met some interesting and motivated entrepreneurs, each with their own unique take on the Elance system.

There was also an open bar and a selection of hors d’oeuvres to keep people from getting too hungry or thirsty.

CEO Presentation

The scheduled program opened with remarks from Elance CEO Fabio Rosati. He discussed the tremendous growth of the platform and where they see the future of online work going. (up!)

Despite the recent headlines at Yahoo on banning telecommuting, the global trend is moving toward decentralized workforces and remote teams.

In terms of scale, he mentioned that Elance is on pace to fill over a million jobs this year and process more than $250 million in contractor payments.

Elance CEO Fabio Rosati
Elance CEO Fabio Rosati Presenting

Freelancer Presentation

A successful freelance project manager named Corrina told her story about getting started with Elance and the happier life she’s been able to build since going into business for herself.

It was pretty inspirational to hear about the potential for Elance connections to really make such positive changes in people’s lives.

Platform Features and Enhancements

Two members of the Elance team presented on some improved functionality of the platform and answered questions from the audience. Specifically they talked about:

  • Pre-populated job descriptions
  • Inviting pre-qualified contractors to bid your job
  • A “portfolio” view that is now in Beta
  • Folder options for organizing and managing your account
me with Elance sign
Me in front of the big Elance sign.

Elance Success Panel

Finally, 3 Elance power users held a lively panel discussion on how they’ve used the system to transform their businesses. The consensus was (not surprising for an Elance-sponsored event) that they were able to delivery higher quality results faster and at a lower cost than ever was possible before.

The panelists also discussed feedback on the platform, bidding and hiring strategies, and what to do when things go south.

My favorite part was when one of the panelists openly advocated for virtual assistants, proclaiming everyone needs one, and it’s an amazing feeling to just “let go.” (paraphrasing)

Takeaways

All in all I was happy I made the trip, and it definitely got me thinking about how I can better utilize the global talent pool available on the site.

Where you there? What did you think?

If you want to learn more about the company, please check out our Elance page for more information and user reviews.

A Giveaway

I have a free paperback copy of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Elance” to give away.  Leave a comment letting me know a funny VA story or anything else outsourcing-related and I’ll pick a winner by April 3rd*.

*Sorry, I can only ship to US addresses.

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How to Build an Automated Marketing Machine with a Virtual Assistant

This is a guest post from Chris Kilbourn. Chris is an innovative entrepreneur who is the founder of TaskBullet, a virtual assistant company in the Philippines, and TOFU Marketing, a full service Internet marketing firm.

When it comes to marketing your business there are a million and one things that need your attention. How could any business owner get the time to do it all?

The secret: utilizing a virtual assistant!

You need to focus on the important stuff. So, there’s no better way to do it than hiring a virtual assistant to help you scale your business.

Our customers with TaskBullet use these techniques frequently, and you can too!

Just follow the 5 marketing tasks below to help you build and automate your marketing machine.

Scheduling Your Social Media Posts for the Week

Many of your best social media postings will be real-time responses to customers, colleagues or events; however, a virtual assistant can easily schedule the postings of your basic messages in advance.  By doing this you ensure you won’t miss opportunities each day to keep your social community engaged.

There are several social media tools that enable the scheduling of posts for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Buffer and Hootsuite are probably the two most popular because they are so easy to use.

bufferapp

Buffer’s scheduling interface allows you to select the days and times you want a post to go live.

To use a virtual assistant for this task you simply need to provide him or her with:

  • Log in details for your social media accounts
  • Pre-written messages, links and images for your posts
  • A basic schedule for when to take the posts live

For example, you might tell your virtual assistant that you want to schedule one Facebook post each day at 3pm Eastern Time while scheduling Twitter posts to go out at the top of the hour each hour between 8am and 6pm Eastern Time. Your assistant can then go through your document with pre-written messages and queue them up.

Your virtual assistant can also help you find relevant links to share if you don’t have the time for that.

Prepping Your Weekly or Monthly Email Newsletter

Writing and sending a weekly or monthly e-newsletter takes up a lot of time. Free up some bandwidth by hiring a virtual assistant to take care of the basic prep work for you.

Your virtual assistant can set up your email campaign so that it goes to the appropriate list, assign the correct template to each campaign, add Google Analytics tracking code and even set up the campaign type (a/b test, basic, etc.) for you.

mailchimp dashboard

A virtual assistant can fill in the basic information for your email newsletter.

With all of that prep work completed in advance, all you need to do is go in and add in your copy, images and links before shooting off a test!

Adding Alt Tags to All Images on Your Website

Most SEO tactics require a hands-on approach from someone very knowledgeable in search marketing. Old school (scalable) techniques like social bookmarking, directory submissions, and comment spam no longer work because of Google’s Penguin and Panda updates. In fact, they can likely damage your site’s SEO if Google identifies it.

However, there is a basic task that your virtual assistant can help you with: adding ALT tags to all of your images.

An ALT tag is a small line of code that helps a search engine crawl and index an image.

It can be hand coded into a site like this:

<img src=”smiley.gif” alt=”Smiley Face”>

(You can see that the ALT text of “Smiley Face” describes the image smiley.gif and goes within the “img src” tag.)

Or, if you use WordPress there is a place to add ALT text for each image in the editor:

img alt text wordpress

Your virtual assistant can be tasked with adding ALT text to each image on your website.

When possible, you should use keyword friendly phrases in the ALT text while still accurately describing the image. To have your virtual assistant help with this task you will want to provide him or her with a list of your top keywords.

If you have never added any ALT tags to your website, you’ll want your virtual assistant to go through the entire site and add them in to each image. If you’ve been doing this all along, you can simply have your assistant add ALT text to each new image added for you. This is particularly helpful if you blog often and use multiple images in each post.

When considering other SEO tasks to have your virtual assistant help with, it’s important to note that social bookmarking, blog commenting and directory submissions no longer work to give your rankings a boost. Certainly commenting and social bookmarking can help you get found by your target audience, but do not count on them as SEO tactics.

Routing Qualified Leads to the Appropriate Sales Rep

It’s important to get qualified leads to the appropriate sales rep as soon as possible. If you don’t have expensive software that can help you automate this task, having a virtual assistant can be very useful.

For example, if you have a form on your website used for lead generation you may also have certain questions in the form that help determine if a lead is qualified or not.

Consider this scenario: you are a marketing consultant and someone fills out a form on your site that says she is interested in hiring a consultant within one month. You probably want to get in touch with her faster than a lead that says he is going to hire someone within the next six months because the one month lead at this time is more qualified.

Similarly, if all your lead gen form asks for is name and basic contact information and each lead needs to go to a certain sales person, your virtual assistant can help with the sorting.

For example if all leads with a last name that begins with A-L should go to Sales Rep 1 while leads with last names that begin with M-Z should go to Sales Rep 2, your virtual assistant can help sort and send the incoming leads to the correct person.

Putting Together a Weekly or Monthly Analytics Report

Your analytics software, whether it is Google Analytics or something else, holds a lot of information. Depending on your role within a company, the information you find most important will vary.

A virtual assistant can put together a daily, weekly or monthly report for you that focuses on just the information and trends that you find most important.

For example, if you are the owner of a business and have a marketing person or team under you, it is likely that you don’t need to see the in-the-weeds data on the conversion rate of each specific organic keyword coming in. Instead you may want to see a chart that shows the top 10 keywords alongside their bounce rate, average time on site and conversion rate. Or you may just want to see overall trends by month for increased organic traffic.

analytics

A virtual assistant can pull together analytical data into easy-to-read charts for you.

Your virtual assistant can put together a report template and fill in the relevant data you request for each day/week/month. This allows you to optimize your time spent on reviewing analytics rather than pulling the reports yourself.

Other Tasks a Virtual Assistant Can Help With

The above list of marketing tasks a virtual assistant can help with is certainly not comprehensive. And of course a virtual assistant can help with many things outside the realm of marketing.

Whether you don’t have the time for marketing, or just need some extra hands to help you build a marketing machine, hiring a virtual assistant is a wise choice to scale your efforts.

Your Thoughts

What types of tasks do you outsource to your virtual assistants?

Can you think of any that we could add to this list?

We’d love to hear from you! Just let us know in the comments below.

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iMysecy

iMysecy is an around-the-clock virtual assistant service based in India. The company was founded in 2009 by a group of entrepreneurs from the United States, England, and India. The sales office is in San Jose, CA, the heart of Silicon Valley. I’m thinking the name is like “i – my – secretary” — but I could be way off.

imysecy reviewAccording to their website, the founders of iMysecy are engineering graduates from the best Ivy League universities as well as holders of MBA’s from the “top 5 B-schools on the planet.” However, it looks like they want to remain anonymous because no names are listed.

Service wise, iMysecy runs a unique hybrid model of dedicated assistance and team-based support. You do get assigned a dedicated point of contact, but the actual work may be completed by someone else on their team or a qualified freelancer, depending on the expertise required.

Commonly outsourced tasks range from content creation to all aspects of administration, the latest in technological issues, and various forms of marketing and even accounting.

iMysecy is quite affordable, offering up five different pricing plans that can suit you, regardless of what your needs and budget are. They are keenly aware of the fact that many folks in the initial phase of their endeavors cannot afford to break the bank when seeking out virtual assistance services.

You can get your feet wet with a Pay As You Go plan at a rate of $8 an hour. Then there are the Silver Plan at $49 monthly in a 7 hour pack, Gold at $99 for 15 hours, Platinum at $149 monthly for 25 hours and lastly the Super Saver, which will get you 35 hours for a very affordable $199 (less than $6 an hour).

Hours don’t roll over month-to-month.

As you can see, there is something for everybody, regardless of their budget. The Pay-As-You-Go plan might be a good way to start out so you can see if their service meets your expectations. At the time of this writing, no free trial is available.

The primary targets of iMysecy are small to medium sized businesses worldwide. Some clients are also individuals who find they are too busy with other demands and need to strike some kind of balance. This is especially important as many entrepreneurs, especially when first starting out, experience some form of burnout and sometimes strife in their personal life as well.

Some things that really stand out about iMysecy are that they have experts from different cultural backgrounds, as well as the unique team-based way tasks may be assigned.

The disappointing thing was that someone from the company attempted to post spam comments on this site promoting the business. Poor form!

Among other virtual assistant companies in India, you might consider My Tasker or VMG BPO.

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

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TaskUs

TaskUs is a “boutique” outsourcing company in the Philippines, with a sales office in Los Angeles. The company has grown from 5 employees in 2008, to over 400 today, all working out of a dedicated office space in Manila.

The story goes that co-founders Bryce Maddock and Jaspar Weir tested virtual staff from several countries around the world before concluding that workers from the Philippines were the best. Impressed by the passion and high level of service, they decided to set up shop for their new company there.

Services

TaskUs is aimed at mid-sized companies looking to leverage the cost benefits of outsourcing. The primary clients are start-ups, tech companies, and ecommerce stores.

TaskUs allows firms to scale up rapidly, bringing on dedicated teams of workers in a short time, who embed themselves in your company’s culture like virtual employees. The focus is skilled computer-based work, like photo-editing or product feed management, but outsourced team members can also perform customer support functions, data verification, and even content creation.

TaskUs Intro Video

This made laugh.

The company will bid on project-based work, but the majority of clients opt for full-time workers on a long-term engagement.

The facility in the Philippines is staffed with on-site management and company directors, so you know your employees are being kept accountable. And unlike the home-based VAs who may disappear for days on end when there’s a power outage, TaskUs has backup generators and transportation in place so your business stays online.

Plans and Pricing

When I spoke with TaskUs, I couldn’t nail down a price range for their services, only that their rates vary by the skills you require and the number of employees you need. I interpreted that as if you’re looking for the absolute bargain basement virtual employee, this is not the place. But then, the $2.50/hr people you might find on oDesk often come with hidden costs as well.

Ultimately the value comes from getting consistent quality work done at an affordable price, and not having to deal with the headaches of the hiring process yourself. Here’s an excellent write-up on PandoDaily about how TaskUs has kind of become Silicon Valley’s secret weapon for growth.

TaskUs Alternatives

Check out Prialto or VA Staffer for a couple alternatives to TaskUs in the Philippines.

Your Turn

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

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3 Ways to Make Your Commute More Productive

The most efficient commute is no commute at all, but unfortunately that is not the reality for most people.  In fact, a 2012 Ipsos study found that while telecommuting is on the rise, more than 90% of global employees have to physically go into work at least some of the time.

In the U.S., the average commute is 25 minutes one way (2011 Census Report).  That means we have a solid 50 minutes a day worth of time to work with – time I believe is often wasted.

If you commute every day, that’s more than 4 hours a week and more than 2 full work days a month. The best part about it is it’s “free” time – you don’t have to sacrifice any other activities, and a few small habits can yield great results in your overall wellbeing.

Here are three activities you can do to utilize your commute time effectively, whether you’re driving yourself or taking public transportation.

Breathe

You don’t need to go to a yoga studio to do breathing exercises, and proper breathing has been linked to a number of physical and mental benefits.

Breathing deeply increases oxygen intake, which aids your immune system, improves brain function, and may even help burn excess fat.

Deep, slow breaths help expel toxins from your body and release tension.

It can be a meditative exercise as well; to help clear your mind and get you ready to face the day, or relax on the way home.

So what do you do?

  • Inhale slowly through your nose. Try and inhale for 5 seconds. Feel your stomach and chest expand.
  • Hold for 3 seconds at full capacity.
  • Exhale slowly while counting to 5. Feels good, doesn’t it?
  • Repeat for 5-10 minutes during both your morning and evening commute.

Work the Core

Just because you’re sitting on a bus or behind the wheel of a car doesn’t mean you can’t exercise.

What you’ll do is squeeze your stomach muscles and obliques and hold them in a contracted position. Hold this “flex” for a predetermined amount of time, say until the clock changes to the next minute, or for the duration of one song on the radio.

Then take the next minute or song off, and repeat.

A strong core is critical to your physical health and general athleticism, and this is a great way to work on your strength without going to the gym. The trick is you have to provide all the resistance in this exercise, so it all depends on how hard you squeeze and how long you hold it.

Bonus points if you can do this on the subway without looking constipated!

Learn

The late great Zig Ziglar called drive time “Automobile University” for a reason. You can choose to fill your ears with dozens of different entertainment options, but no amount of music or talk radio will do much to advance your goals.

Instead, download a podcast from iTunes. There are hundreds of amazing free shows. Just search any topic you’re interested in (productivity, for example) and prepare to have your world rocked.

Or, check out the audio books section at your local library website and download that book you’ve been meaning to read for the last 2 years.

Your commute time is the perfect opportunity to further your informal, pragmatic education.

Bringing It All Together

Let’s end the days of brainless autopilot commutes.

Let’s turn this necessary evil into a conscious time of self-awareness, a time to strengthen our bodies and our minds.

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