3 Places to Get a Virtual Assistant

So apparently I struck a nerve not too long ago,  I responded to a friend’s message about needing an assistant.

I replied to her “Why don’t you get a virtual one?”

She responded positively to the message, so I sent her the information.  Not too long afterwards, I got several requests for Virtual Assistant information, so I figured I’d better explain what I’ve got going with it.

I was inspired to find a Virtual Assistant by one of my heroes, Tim Ferriss, author of the “4-Hour WorkWeek”.  If you can pickup that book, he outlines his resources on when and where he goes for outsourcing.  Having one is awesome, but it takes some getting used to, having someone who says ‘Yes Sir’ and is happy to take your calls.

I’m just going to summarize what I personally use here in this post and why.

1. Ask Sunday – http://www.asksunday.com/

This website is the most comprehensive as far as VA’s go.  They are based in New York.  You can sign up for a per task assignments, or get a dedicated VA.  I used to have a dedicated one, but I retain the per-task queue just in case.  These assistants can also even manage your Social Media and online presences if you want them to!  They also have a free trial on the site as well.  They can be reached  by phone and email.  15 Requests in 30 days is only $37 dollars!

2. Concierge Unlimited – http://www.conciergeunlimited.com

This company is local to Chicago, IL and it’s the reason why I don’t have a fulltime VA anymore.  The service is complimentary for my building, and if you work downtown, you may have an agreement with a similar company.  If not, check with your building manager to see if they have some kind of agreement with a similar company.

I usually have my virtual assistant there do research on events, restaurants, and hotels.   She also sets appointments for me, and do a little bit of management.  Right now she’s the only thing keeping me sane about my birthday party.

3. eLance – http://www.elance.com

If there are projects that are oddball (like for example, setting up websites, etc.) I use eLance.  Here you can post potential projects and have other people bid on them.   I went through a few VAs to find the right one.  Some people will bid your projects as low at $5/hr.

There are also some fulltime solutions, provided you have the cash.  My friend is at http://www.virtualhires.com and they can provide a full staff for $600 a month.  I also hear good thigns about http://www.mysavvyva.com/ as well, and she’s on twitter.

A few tips.

1.  Be careful with your information

Tim Ferriss mentions in his book that if you have to share passwords, make sure that you’ve changed it before you give it to them, or even better, give them a separate account to which you can block access.  Same with financials.   I like the AskSunday site because it’s based here, but once you go off the grid you have to be careful.  Using PayPal is awesome for this.

2.  Interview your VA

I made it a must that my VAs can speak and write English.  I don’t want to deal with a translator or a task master of any sort.

3. Try before you buy

Send them smaller tasks at first to see how they handle them first and how your communication goes.  It’s best not to be in crisis mode when having to reach out to someone for help.

7 things everyone ought to know. . . about finding a job

Being unemployed for a year, and 6 months in my life, there are things that I learned in both experiences that I vowed I’d never do again.  I got lucky last go round to find a position while I was still employed, however, now I even have a ‘better strategy’.   I feel blessed to be employed right now, however, if I were let go today, this is what I would do.

1. Remove any and all unnecessary expenses.

For example, you really don’t need a smart phone, cable, gym membership, and a latte-a-day Starbucks habit while unemployed.  So get rid of that crap.  Besides, most of what you wanted to watch on television can be seen online anyway, so why waste the money?

2. Recruit other people to do your job search for you.

Remember all of the time you DIDN’T have to see your friends? NOW you’ve got time.  Go through your list of connections, friends, co-workers, etc. and make appointments to see them and hang out.  While you’re there, gently remind them that you’ve just been laid off and you’re looking for a position.  Recruit your friends to help you search their ‘hidden market’ for available positions.

Contact every headhunter, temporary work agency, recruiter that you can find.  This includes ‘job centers’, church groups, etc.  The majority of all of these firms work on commission (i.e. you have to get hired in order for them to eat.).  While some can be shady and yes you’re going to lose %10-%15 of your potential salary, you could also be employed and deal with the details later.  After being unemployed for a year, I signed with a Temp Agency.  5 days later I had a full time job and 6 months in I was ‘bought out’ by said company.

3. Get ACTIVE.  Get out at least two nights a week.

You might not be social.  You might hate talking to people outside your comfort zone.  But the alternative is to sit at home, getting depressed and continuing to be broke.  By being active, you break that hold and open yourself up to potential.  Volunteer for your local charity / cause.  Go out to networking events (they are either free, or severely cheap.  http://www.connectworkchicago.com/ allows you to work the admission fee off for some events).  Start building your Linkedin ‘million dollar Rolodex’.

4. Re-evaluate your priorities

Right now is the best time to take inventory of your life. If you were laid off for amicable reasons, then you can make a list of people you enjoyed working and interacting with and touch base with them.  If you were fired, hated your job, or just didn’t like your environment, more than likely something in your world brought you to that place.  My suggestion is to weed out those people and situations out of your life.  Almost like breaking up with someone, give yourself the gift of a clean slate and a positive environment.  It will help in the long run.

Also, check your career priorities.  Whatever you come up with, add that you’re flexible enough to change careers or industries.  I’m currently in a position that I never thought I could apply myself to, but the employer found enough potential in me to bring me on board.  If I was narrow minded, I would have never taken the position.  While you’re at it, if you have an opportunity to sharpen your skills in technology (word, excel, website design, social media, repair), and/or sales (marketing, writing copy, headlines, offers, etc.) you can write your own ticket for your next position.

5.  Start a blog, and build your own web-presence.

I personally believe that people make blogs more simple, and more complicated than necessary.  Everyone has an opinion, and it doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it, but how many people do.

Besides, my reasoning for starting a blog / website is three-fold.  For starters, future employers are doing ‘Google searches’ for you before they hire you now.  You want to be in control of said search so that your site and information comes up first and not your embarrassing photos on Facebook (Speaking of Facebook, now is also a good time to check your privacy settings and make sure you do look professional if you decide to keep your profile open to the public). Secondly, You can demonstrate your subject matter expertise of your industry (or niche), and host your resume!.  Last and certainly not least, you could potentially monetize your traffic with affiliate offers.

And if you want someone to do the blog for you, check out my friends at Free Blog Factory! (Yes, it’s an affiliate link)

PS, if you can belt out at least 150 words a day, you can develop enough traffic to do some neat things with it.

6.  Make a list of companies you would love to work for.  Find out the CEO’s name and information and send them a personal letter.

This is something I think people overlook as a strategy.  The letter can be typed, double space, but it should be signed by you, licked stamped and sealed in a standard envelope.  What is going to be on this letter?  Do some market research about the company, tell the CEO or Founder that you admire his or her firm and mention you would love to work there one day.  Attach your resume.   Plan on sending 2 more followup letters a few weeks later.   Although you might run into gatekeepers, it helps to get to the ‘decision maker’ of the company to make sure that they are aware of your presence.  At the very least, you might get a contact inside the company that you can network with.  Ask your connections inside said companies for either informal interviews, introductions to managers or HR folks, something that gets you into the door and puts your face to the resume that casually goes across someone’s desk.  (For an even faster way for this method, find the charities that said companies sponsor and volunteer for them.  More than likely a representative from the company will be there AND they will be open to being your friend since you share a common interest in the charity.  Neat, huh?)

7. Find ways to make money in small increments.

You could give away free blogs for me.  You could sell tickets to networking events.  You could run errands for your friends (start a personal concierge service or virtual assistant service, really popular!).  Walk dogs.  Wash cars in the summer.  Write reviews for products on Amazon/Yelp.  Send traffic to your blog so you can sell affiliate offers to your friends (btw, Groupon has an affiliate program too.  You could make money just by referring an already awesome service to their friends!).  These are not all full time income type things, however, if done right can make you some extra income and at least keep you afloat till you get on your feet.  I’d stay away from direct sales (Avon, Amway and the like) and I’d definitely not SPAM your friends, because that can have an adverse effect.

BONUS! 8.  Develop an online Daily Action Plan

Take one hour out of the day to focus on your current job, which is finding a job.  So the goal is to list all of the job websites (career builder, monster, craigslist, etc.) and make it a point to apply to x amount of jobs on each one, regardless of if you’re qualified or not.  Get on LinkedIn, contact 3 people a day, participate in 3 group discussions.  Call 3 people a day with the intent of discussing finding a position. (you could outsource this to ya know. . )