In the first part of this four part series, I’ve chronicled how I went about looking for a virtual assistant, along with revealing which service I decided upon. (Note: Since this post was first published, I’ve stopped using Zirtual. I’ve since used other services – including hiring Amy Metherell, who I highly recommend – and as of August 2015 Zirtual has ‘paused’ its operations. However, the process I describe when choosing a virtual assistant service is still worth exploring, despite the fact the choice I made wasn’t a long-lasting relationship.)
After deciding that I could definitely use a virtual assistant, I began to explore the wide variety of options that were out there. I also took the time to go through Chris Ducker’s new book, Virtual Freedom, to figure out exactly what I would want to assign to a virtual assistant once I had one.
Once I had a good idea of what I wanted in a virtual assistant, as well as what I wanted to outsource versus what I wouldn’t want to outsource, I decided it was time to explore some of the options that were out there. I definitely had some criteria that was important to me, including pricing and a dedicated person to work with, so I kept that in mind when looking around for a VA service.
Here are some of the ones I look at, as well as what I liked (or didn’t like) about them:
- Worldwide101: This company acts as a virtual assistant matching company, and I didn’t give it much of a look after that. I wanted to look into more direct options for the purposes of this experiment, and was hoping to have pricing information listed up front. I appreciate that some information offered on my end would be helpful to gauge what my needs would be in a VA, but I decided to go with a direct option this time around. (Note: Sandra Lewis from Worldwide101 left a comment in the Comments section of this post clarifying things a bit more about the services they offer. Be sure to read her comment to get a better idea of where Wordlwide101 might fit in with your virtual assistance needs.)
- eaHelp: This company comes highly recommended, but for the purposes of this experiment I needed to expedite things. I’m not suggesting that eaHelp couldn’t have done that (and I definitely see value in the VA selection/assignment process they’ve built), but it wasn’t something I was willing to go through at this juncture. My friend Craig Jarrow, The Time Management Ninja, has written a few excellent pieces on virtual assistance and i know he uses eaHelp. Here’s just one of his posts on the subject.
- Zirtual: Zirtual has several pricing tiers, starting at $199 for 8 hours. You get a dedicated assistant (called a ZA) and I’d heard good things about them as well. (My friend Brett Kelly, author of Evernote Essentials, uses Zirtual.)
- Task199: The pricing is good but only one plan offered — $199 for 20 hours. Based on how much the pay is per hour, I was a little concerned about the quality of the work. Still, if you’re on a tight budget this option might be worth exploring.
- FancyHands: I considered this one based on app integration and recommendations, but I don’t want to have to consider the amount of tasks I’ve asked to be done. I also want a regular dedicated assistant, so that rules them out. That said, the pricing is accessible, the iOS app is nice, and they have integrations with a several apps as well. So if you are okay with not having a dedicated assistant all the time and don’t have a lot of tasks you want to outsource, you may want to look at FancyHands.
- Efficise: I tried this service a year or two ago but didn’t like the lack of a dedicated assistant. The user interface wasn’t the best, although pricing was good. If you’re okay with the interface, pricing might make this an option worth checking out.
In the end, I went with Zirtual. I felt that they were the best option based on my needs and budget, so I sent them an email and was scheduled to have a call with a within the next couple of days. Two days later, I received a call from Kate. She asked me how my typical day went, and was pleasantly surprised when I had told her all the stuff that I had to do throughout the day. She then asked me what tasks I felt I could pass on to my VA, and was further impressed when I offered up some suggestions right off the bat, including:
- Handling my gateway email accounts on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
- Working on research for various blog posts and other projects
- Dealing with all appointments that need to be scheduled
- Monitoring social media for Productivityist
But it didn’t stop there. Kate went on to ask me what I could use help with that went beyond my work life. Things like ensuring that I send birthday cards off well in advance, monitoring certain gift ideas I might have for family members, and ensuring that I don’t over-schedule myself during family days. I was impressed. Sure, one of the reasons I was looking to bring on some form of assistant was to help me spend more time with life stuff and less time with work stuff, but the fact that it was brought up in the initial call kept me on track to make sure that I followed through with it. Needless to say, I decided to hand over access to my personal calendar shortly after my initial meeting with my VA.
Kate told me that within twenty-four hours I would be paired up with my VA. Sure enough, I received an email informing me that I would be working with Elise. She emailed me shortly afterward, and the next day we spoke on the phone and began to figure out how we going to work together.
Next up: The First Two Weeks With A Virtual Assistant