RushMore VA

UPDATE: RushMore VA is no longer in operation.

RushMore VA is a virtual assistant company in Kolkata, India. They’ve been providing affordable overseas assistance since 2010.

Their modern facility allows them to perform a number of services, ranging from all your standard administrative tasks, to more high level B2B sales and telemarketing. Unlike some other VA companies, they appear to not offer some of the more technical jobs like programming and web development.

rushmore va reviewRushMore is a time-based service (as opposed to a task-based service), which has its pros and cons. On the plus side, you don’t have to worry as much about breaking up your tasks into 15- or 30-minute chunks, and you don’t have to worry about running up against your monthly task limit as long as you still have time left on the clock.

On the downside though, most plans only bill in 15 min. increments, which can result in less-than-optimal usage. To make up for it, RushMore allows up to 30% of your time to be rolled over to the next month if you had a particularly light workload during the period.

With RushMore, you get the best of both worlds in that they assign you a dedicated virtual assistant, but still make their services available 24 hours a day, completing tasks with a backup VA.

The Good

RushMore VA has a variety of service levels at competitive pricing. Rates start at $240 a month for a 1-hour a day VA, and go all the way up to $1040 for a full time virtual employee. What is unclear is whether the 1-hour a day plan would allow for 5 hours one day a week and nothing the rest of the time, or if the work would need to be spread out more evenly.

If you know you’re going to stick around for a while, and can afford the upfront cost, you can save money by pre-paying for a quarterly, half-yearly, or annual engagement.

There is a 5 hour free trial available on all plans.

The Bad

Not being familiar with the company, I submitted an inquiry requesting some more information. It took 16 days before I got a response! And the response wasn’t very useful. I wrote back within a half an hour, and I haven’t heard back since. Not a great start for a business that claims to be open 24/7/365.

There are some other hesitations I might have as well. They list social media marketing as one of their services, yet have no Facebook page of their own, and at the time of this writing, only 1 lifetime tweet to their name. The social links in their footer don’t even work.

Alternatives

If you’re shopping around different virtual assistant companies in India, it might be worthwhile to check out 24/7 Virtual Assistant or My Tasker.

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

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Virtual Assistant Staffing

Virtual Assistant Staffing is a unique virtual assistant company based out of Seattle. However, don’t expect to see an office of VAs down the street from Amazon – it’s a highly decentralized operation; a loose network of home-based freelancers from all corners of the world.

The company was founded in 2010 by Michael Hellickson, and specializes in a stringent recruiting process to make sure each client is assigned the perfect virtual assistant. And if you’re not happy with the choice, they even have a 100% money-back guarantee.

virtual assistant staffing reviewBut I’ll admit I was kind of turned off by their website so I submitted a quick query to see what would happen. In less than 12 hours I had a response from the founder to set up a call to learn more about the business.

Virtual Assistant Staffing is for people looking for ongoing business support, but aren’t sure where to turn. These guys take the time to get a deep understanding of your needs and expectations in a virtual assistant, including an in-depth job description and phone interview.

Then, they put the word out about your job to their massive global talent network. Michael explained the recruiters will go through over 100 resumes in certain cases, pre-screen them all and do multiple interviews and tests to narrow down the applicant pool.

The ultimate goal is to find the right person for the job, because long-term relationships are beneficial for all parties involved. And while long-term is definitely the aim, there is no long-term contract or minimum time commitment.

The total cost for this expert recruiting service? Zero. They’ve done everything they can to make the virtual hiring process as risk-free as possible.

Once they’ve found your VA, Virtual Assistant Staffing handles all the payroll and HR requirements and you just pay them biweekly as you would any other contract business service. The company uses the popular Time Doctor tracking software so you can keep tabs on your remote staff.

The company will fill positions ranging from 2.5 hours a week all the way up to full-time, and offers the first week free as an incentive to try out the service.

On an ongoing basis, you can expect to pay around $7 an hour for a low-end VA, all the way up to $40 for someone with advanced technical skills. And while it is entirely dependent on the skills you’re looking for, the average probably centers on the $10-11 per hour range. Generally the more hours you need, the lower the rate you can get.

Virtual Assistant Staffing has filled nearly every kind of position imaginable, from general VAs and telemarketers, to web developers and designers. In terms of business model, the closest competitor is Virtual Coworker, but where VAS is global, they operate only out of the Philippines.

The company has earned the endorsement of financial speaker and author Robert Allen, as well as a host of other clients. Have you worked with Virtual Assistant Staffing? If so, please share a quick review of your experience below and help others with their decision.

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Remote Staff Recruit

UPDATE: At last test in Summer 2013, Remote Staff Recruit was no longer accepting new recruiting gigs.

Remote Staff Recruit is a virtual assistant recruiting firm in the Philippines. Founders John Paul Grant and Matt Canty are a pair of Aussies who’ve lived in the Philippines for a several years and are very familiar with the local culture and working with VAs.

Based on your detailed job description, their team of expert recruiters will source you three qualified candidates for you to interview.

remote staff recruit reviewLike Virtual Staff Finder, another well-known VA recruiting company, Remote Staff Recruit charges a one-time fee for their services. However, their fee of $297 is approximately $100 less than Virtual Staff Finder’s fee, AND you don’t have to pay upfront. Instead, they’ll source the candidates for you for free, and then you only have to pay when you want to see the candidates’ contact information to arrange the interviews.

Another point of differentiation between the two companies is that Virtual Staff Finder focuses on finding VAs in only 4 main areas of expertise (general admin, writing, SEO, and web development), where Remote Staff Recruit can find VAs across a broad range of skills.

The team recommends Filipino virtual assistants over those from other countries because they’ve found them to be extremely trustworthy, loyal, hard-working, and well-educated. On top of that, the rates are extremely affordable, with full-time help starting around $300 a month (that actually seems a little low to me, but maybe I’m a softie).

Remote Staff Recruit Intro Video:

Remote Staff Recruit goes the extra mile in their proven recruiting process. All applicants are pre-tested and pre-interviewed so you only see the best of the best. The company also does background and reference checks to make sure the VAs are who they say they are.

Remote Staff Recruit also takes care of the salary negotiations ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about that. And if you don’t like any of the 3 candidates, they’ll find you another 3.

After you interview your candidates and select the winner, you can train them in your business processes and you pay them directly as an independent contractor of your business. This keeps the ongoing costs much lower than you would find through a traditional virtual assistant company, although there’s always a certain amount of trust involved with any home-based remote working relationship.

If you do prefer working through a company, John and Matt have you covered there as well with their Remote Workmate operation.

Have you tried Remote Staff Recruit? If so, please share your experience below and help others with their decision.

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Outsourcing Blueprints

Outsourcing Blueprints isn’t a virtual assistant company or even really an outsourcing company at all.  Outsourcing Blueprints operates on a membership model where you have to sign up to get full access to all their step-by-step written guides and video tutorials.

The Ottawa-based firm is an one-stop tutorial shop for all your online entrepreneurial needs.

About Outsourcing Blueprints

outsourcing blueprints reviewFounders Sylvie and Michel Fortin created the site as a resource for freelancers and business owners. As entrepreneurs themselves, they understood the needs of this market and were able to develop their training tools from their own experience.

A popular application (and the reason I’m including Outsourcing Blueprints on this site) is for small business owners to use the tutorials as training tools for their own virtual assistants.

It makes complete sense. You hired a VA to help you save time, but then you’ve got to spend all this extra time training them in the job that you need done. Outsourcing Blueprints says there’s no need to reinvent the wheel; they’ve created step-by-step guides to the most common tasks so you can just share those with your team and move on.

The topics range from article marketing and copywriting, all the way down to list building, keyword research, and webinars.  There are helpful guides on setting up a membership website and even on how to sell your business when you’re ready to cash out. Plus, new guides are being added all the time.

Plans and Pricing

Outsourcing Blueprints membership starts at just $27 per month (a limited time discounted rate), and comes with a 30-day risk free guarantee. If you’re not 100% satisfied you can cancel within 30 days for a full refund.

Your Turn

What do you think? Could Outsourcing Blueprints help streamline your business processes and your relationship with your VA?  If you’ve tried Outsourcing Blueprints, please share a quick review of your experience below to help others with their decision.

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Staff.com

Update June 2016: Staff.com no longer lets you hire remote staff. Instead, they’ve pivoted to provide time analytics software for the workday.

Staff.com is a remote staffing marketplace based in Las Vegas. Founded in early 2012, they’ve already attracted thousands of qualified employees. The basic premise of Staff.com is that companies should hire the best talent, whether or not that talent is local.

Companies use the Staff.com platform to find qualified workers all around the world, often at significant cost savings.

Services

staff.com reviewThere is a wide range of employees, and you’ll find all the typical outsourced work like web design and development, bookkeeping, virtual assistants, research jobs, online marketing, etc.

In a break from other freelance sites (oDesk, Elance, etc), Staff.com focuses solely on full-time, long-term work. It costs employers a dollar to interview a job candidate, and many employees offer a 10-hour test drive (usually at a discounted rate), so you can see how they work before hiring them on full-time.

To avoid clients better suited to contract work, Staff.com looks for employers ready to commit to at least a month of work at a minimum monthly salary in the ballpark of $500. It seems really low, but that’s a realistic wage in the Philippines where many Staff.com workers are based.

Staff.com Review

As an employer, you can post a job of your own and collect applications. Or you can search by job function, expertise, or keywords and browse through the candidates that way. Once accepted into the platform as an employer, you’re assigned a personal recruitment officer and a customer relationship specialist. These dedicated helpers screen potential candidates for you free of charge and present the ones with the best fit for you to interview.

Plans and Pricing

Salaries are public and paid monthly in advance. (Rates depend on the skill level of the employee you’re hiring.)

If your worker doesn’t clock a full 160 hours, you can either get a refund or roll the time over to the next month.

Staff.com uses Time Doctor software to monitor the work of your virtual employee. It gives you an analytical overview of the work that was done so you don’t spend your time poring over screenshots or micro-managing. That way you can see what they’re working on even if you’re hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Staff.com Alternatives

If you’ve ever tried hiring someone through oDesk or one of the other freelance sites, you’re familiar with the “noise” factor. The platforms are extremely crowded and it can be difficult to weed out the wannabes from the rock stars. Staff.com aims to do most of this filtering for you. They don’t accept everyone who applies into their marketplace, and that pickiness translates into more serious and higher caliber candidates on the whole.

They’ve been keeping up a high-quality blog that’s worth following if you’re interested in the world of outsourcing.

Your Turn

Have you worked with Staff.com? If so, please share your experience below.

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Lifenzyme

UPDATE: Lifenzyme is no longer in business.

Lifenzyme is a virtual assistant company based in Bangalore, India.  They got their start in 2008, and have been helping clients with remote tasks ever since.

The Lifenzyme.com website is a mess. I work with dozens of virtual assistant companies but this one is probably the hardest to navigate. Now I’m not saying that this site has the greatest design in the world, but I’m not the one selling web design and development services either.

lifenzyme reviewAll over you’ll find strange syntax and random capitalizations in the text. I hate to be the grammar police but this is your sales brochure to the world. I found the process-flow charts, service plans, and unfamiliar acronyms really confusing. The promo buttons on their site don’t make much sense. Four months of free service for existing customers? Why are you showing that to me?

Other red flags:

  • Live Help was offline, even though they claim to run a shift during US business hours.
  • At the time of this writing in 2012, the copyright date at the bottom of the homepage was 2009.
  • At the time of this writing, their twitter account has tweeted only once in 12 months.  Prior to that, nearly every tweet was 100% self-promotional.
  • They charge people $35 to join their affiliate program.  Hello? Affiliates promote your business for free, and only get paid you make a sale.  Why create extra barriers to entry?

I would hesitate to sign-up for Lifenzyme based just on those issues. It makes it seem like they don’t understand the needs of their potential clients.

However, their pricing is competitive among Indian virtual assistant companies. Rates begin at $15 an hour and fall to $7 an hour for a full-time plan. You can sign-up for a “full-time” 150-hour a month plan for just $1000. I say “full-time” because normally full time is considered 160 hours a month.  To add to the confusion, Lifenzyme also has a 120-hour “full-time” plan.

The granddaddy of all the Lifenzyme plans is their dual-dedicated-assistant plan, which comes with two virtual employees each working 7 hours a day. At a price is $2350 per month, it’s unclear why someone would opt for that instead of 2 150-hour plans for $2000.

Some of the larger plans allow for rollover time if you have a slow month, and any plan can be cancelled free of charge with 30-day notice.

Lifenzyme offers a 5-day free trial if you want to take their virtual assistant services for a test drive. Otherwise, you might consider My Tasker or 24/7 Virtual Assistant for well-rated outsourced help in India.

If you have worked with Lifenzyme, please share your experience (positive or negative) in the reviews below. Thank you!

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Advantages of Working With Your Own Virtual Assistant

This is a guest post by George Adams.

In your online business, how can you determine whether you have enough resources to get to the top and stay there? Is anyone there to help you out? During such a situation, you can certainly gain a certain edge if you have your own virtual assistant who can assist you with your business finance.

What exactly can your VA do for you?

Manage Your Calendar

If you’re new into the business field, you must be having some shortcomings that you need to overcome before you take the plunge.

But if you have a virtual assistant by your side, you need not worry about fixing up appointments with your delegates the assistant will do all these tasks on your behalf. They can set up appointments for you so that you can have a talk with them and set up a lucrative deal that can become positive for the business.

Transcribe Business Meetings

The virtual assistant can also set down the business meetings, manage the dates and also make sure that you attend the meeting on the pre-fixed date.

You don’t have to take the stress of keeping in touch with the clients and therefore you can invest your time and energy in some other important tasks.

Manage Your Social Media Networks

When you have an online business, it is most likely that you have to spend a lot of time growing and expanding your network so that a large number of people can visit your website and sign up with you.

You can even allot this task to your virtual assistant so that he may manage all the social media marketing jobs on your behalf and keep on expanding the network to boost your visibility.

Related: “Should You Outsource Social Media?

Sales Lead Generation

You have to generate leads in order to boost the business returns and this also needs a lot of time as you have to boost your internet marketing efforts so that an increased number of leads are generated for your business. Your worthy virtual assistant can do this task on your behalf and thereby boost the sales of your organization.

Thus, when you’re an online business owner, you can hire a virtual assistant so as to ensure maximum financial help. Business finance is the most important part that you have to handle and therefore make sure that you take good care of your commercial finances and avoid falling into the trap of commercial debt.

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Should You Outsource Social Media?

There’s no doubt that to “do” social media right, it takes a lot of time and energy.  Because of this, social media management is one service nearly every virtual assistant company offers.

The question is, is social media something you should be outsourcing?

The Case Against

Think of the primary rules of social media engagement — be yourself, listen, be authentic, and most importantly, care.  Will any outsourced social media manager care as much as you?

For personal brands, I think hiring someone to run 100% of your social media presence is risky.  After all, your brand is about YOU, and the various social media platforms give people an honest chance to connect with the real you.  If they find out someone else is calling the shots it could hurt your brand and your reputation, and ultimately your bottom line.

Yes, it can be time-consuming to reply to twitter comments, but it’s not that time-consuming.  Will a virtual assistant be able to portray your brand the way you want it?

The Case For

You can’t do everything yourself.  Well you can, but only up to a certain point.  Once you reach that ceiling you’re going to have to get some help if you want to keep growing.

Companies are still taking care of their customers and maintaining a valuable social media presence, even though the founder isn’t personally posting everyday.

It’s naive to think a virtual assistant couldn’t do as good (or better) a job managing your online profiles.  Especially if they have more experience with the various networks and tools.

I’m confident you can find a VA that will be a great steward for your brand online.  They might charge more than $5 an hour, but that’s the price you pay to stay active and engaged in social media, while protecting and promoting your brand.

And by outsourcing social media, it will force you into a more managerial role of working on your business instead of in it.

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Virtual Assistantville

Virtual Assistantville is a unique directory of professional virtual assistants. The Dearborn, Michigan company matches employers with qualified VAs in a variety of fields. The site is an offshoot of the popular Virtual Assistant Forums, a trusted resource and gathering place for VAs everywhere.

If you’re looking for a VA, you can browse through the directory and view the profile of each one. You can also sort by specialty if you have a specific task or project in mind. In addition, Virtual Assistantville allows you to submit a request for proposal, and several virtual assistants will bid on your job.

virtualassistantville reviewThe virtual assistants listed with the company are, and can be, from any part of the world, but I found most are US-based. They use the Virtual Assistantville platform to advertise their services and find new clients.

The most common VA tasks on the site include editing work, article writing, data processing, managing social websites, taking care of emails and more. The responsibilities and work description may increase and change as trust and confidence grows between you and your remote assistant.

Virtual Assistantville gives you the flexibility to hire your VA on a one-time basis or on as an ongoing engagement. That said, the site is merely a meeting place for connecting you with potential workers; they don’t handle any of the transaction details.

Because the majority of VAs are in the US, I found the rates to be significantly higher than what you might find with other virtual assistant companies or on freelance sites like oDesk. Another disadvantage is that Virtual Assistantville doesn’t provide any feedback loop or ratings system, so it can be more difficult to fully research a potential hire.

Have you found a VA through VirtualAssistantville.com? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience in the review section below.

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Virtual Assistant Gifts

This Year, Give the Gift of Time

Are you struggling to find the perfect gift for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list? What do you get for people who already have everything they want?

Well there’s one thing everyone wants more of: time.

It’s our most precious asset, yet it’s so often squandered.  Up until a few years ago, the idea of giving someone time would have seemed pretty silly, if not downright impossible. But today, several virtual assistant companies allow you to do just that.

A gift membership to a virtual assistant service is a really unique way to show how much you care. The recipient will be able to use their VA to do all their virtual chores, like scheduling meetings, researching things online, and arranging travel. It’s like having your own personal assistant!

1. For just $69 a month, TimeSvr.com offers a gift membership with unlimited basic tasks. I’ve had a positive experience with TimeSvr and found their aides to be intelligent and hard-working. And for this price, it really makes a fun gift.

2. Red Butler is a really cool personal concierge service that also has a gift membership. Their “Basic” plan is just $110 for 3-months of use. Plus, at the time of this writing, Red Butler was offering a 25% promo for all gift membership purchases that use the promo code “happy” at checkout! The membership includes 15 tasks per month and access to nearly 1500 Red Butler “privileges” nationwide – great stuff like hotel, spa and restaurant discounts.

3. Ask Sunday is another VA service that offers a gift membership. Their gifts start at $119 for 10 hours of virtual assistant time. Ask Sunday has received some poor reviews lately, so they wouldn’t be my first choice, but you’re welcome to check them out.  Also their starting price seems pretty high for what you get.

So there you have it: turns out the gift of time is remarkably affordable.  The only downside is your recipient might get hooked and want to renew the service after their gift expires!

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