Mail Your Child to Sri Lanka or Hire Indian Pimps: Extreme Personal Outsourcing

99 Comments


Report: Many U.S. Parents Outsourcing Child Care Overseas


How far can you push personal outsourcing?

Can you outsource your dating? I did.
Can you outsource your worrying? AJ Jacobs did.

Reading to your children or bickering with your spouse? No problem. Send it all to Bangalore or Bosnia. Even mainstream media like the Wall Street Journal is starting to explore the basic options, but we’ve been there and done that. The mundane is simple if you can cover the ridiculous. So the more interesting question becomes:

What are the limits — and the most entertaining uses — of personal outsourcing?

One friend of mine insisted last April that there were serious limitations to what could be effectively “outsourced.” What about face time? Not in work, mind you, but in the harshest competition of all: mating. In Silicon Valley, where Santa Clara is called “Manta” Clara and San Jose is called “Man” Jose, the odds are against heterosexual men.

Bets were placed over a few glasses of wine, and so it began: I would outsource all of my dating for four weeks.

Even if you would never consider doing something this outrageous, the results were beyond belief, and the process used to pull it off can be used for almost all personal outsourcing. If hacking matchmaking isn’t of interest, no worries. How about a personal chef for $5 a meal? Just keep reading…

Here are a few snippets of a recent interview about this experiment, which I labeled “From India with Love” on my desktop (Thanks, Donovan Glass!):

Donovan: I hear you outsourced your online dating. Such a crazy concept. Could you explain the general idea?

Me: Online dating is largely a numbers game, so I hired virtual teams of people all over the world — India, Philippines, Jamaica, Canada, and others — to compete against each other and set dates for me on an online calendar. Each of them were assigned one of my accounts on either online dating sites like Match.com, or on social networking sites like Friendster, and there would be a $150 bonus to whichever team set the most good dates. Excluding the bonus, the entire experiment cost less than $200 dollars.

Did you just “cold turkey� the outsourcing, or did you work out a system first?

I worked out a one-page “rules and regulations� sheet with all of the goals and guidelines, being sure to include links to girls I found attractive, must-haves and must-not-haves, etc. I moved all of my online to the teams at once. The experiment was 4 weeks long, and I got more than 20 dates. It was unreal. The best part was that I compressed all of those into three days and had all of the dates within 1/2 mile of my house.

What is the best word of advice for guys looking to meet women online?

Rotate your profile photo, use direct subject lines for email, and focus on volume. I had once used clever, time-consuming subject lines that got nowhere, then one Filipino pulled in jaw-dropping results with “looking for a date� as the subject. Test and tweak, test and tweak. In the end, look at the numbers.

How did outsourcing work for getting the types of women that you’re attracted to?

It worked extremely well. Perhaps a 70% hit rate, which is far better than what I was averaging with clubs, bars, parties, and the like. No comparison.

What sites did you use and which ones had the best results for you?

Match.com has the most profiles but also the most competition. It’s good for short emails with direct subject lines. The social networking sites consumed more time but ultimately resulted in more dates.

Did any problems arise while outsourcing your dating?

Only once. One of the outsourcers neglected to put a date in the calendar, and I happened to be in the spot where the girl and I were supposed to meet at the right time. She walked right up to me — I was writing on my laptop — and started chatting like an old friend. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I felt really badly about it, but the entire 4-week process was — after all — a social experiment. If I hadn’t had any problems, I would have felt like I hadn’t tried hard enough.

I’ll add, though, that every girl I had a second date with was told about the outsourcing. This was part of my litmus test. I needed a girl with the same odd sense-of-humor that I have, and if she couldn’t find the outsourcing at least a bit funny, we wouldn’t last anyway. The result? Most of the girls called me a jerk with a smile but found it pretty damn funny. Those are the keepers who will keep me sane when I take myself and the world too seriously.

###

[Like this topic? Please take 5 seconds to Digg it here and I’ll cover more of my wilder experiments!]

“Outsourcing mating, Tim?” you might say, “But what about the most primal need of all, food?” I’m glad you asked.

Here’s an e-mail from one reader (thanks, David!) who got a Thai cuisine personal chef for next to nothing. I started drooling just thinking of the possibilities…

This was a very tight focus – ultra specific – I had just two applicants in two months – one who was a 2/10 match but the guy we just OK’d was a Hare Krishna follower for many years, lived in India and his sample menu proved he knew what he’s doing so we just started him.

The food is absolutely awesome. The hourly rate is *extremely reasonable*, he’s a 5 min detour when either of us are in town to collect food and I now have delicious Indian food for less than $5 a meal and it’s as good as anything I’ve ever eaten anywhere.

I’m going to progress onto other cuisines now…Thai, Italian, Chinese, etc, and it means when I do have time to cook I’ll enjoy
doing it that much more as I am not the only one cooking!

Sound appetizing? Here is the actual post he used on Craigslist. Imitate and salivate.

Ready to outsource your life? Good. Let’s get started and upgrade your lifestyle quotient

GetFriday and Brickwork, two of the firms I recommend in The 4-Hour Workweek, are overloaded with client requests since the book and appear to have a 2-3-week wait period. For some people, the wait will be worth it. For others as impatient as myself, here are a few other personal outsourcing marketplaces where you can find your own digital concierge:

1. Elance.com (this is the site I have used for the most projects, including the outsourced dating Olympics. See more below.)
2. Guru.com
3. Craigslist.org (this was used by one reader for a $5-per-meal private chef)
4. Workaholicsforhire.com
5. DoMyStuff
6. ODesk (cool tools for proving actual time spent on tasks by VAs)

If you’ve seen A Christmas Story, arguably the greatest movie ever made, you’ll be familiar with this: I triple-dog dare you. Lose that necktie and get mischievous. Stop being so damn practical and have some fun for a change.

Where to start? I had a few espressos with the CEO of Elance recently, and we were able to come up with a fun idea: $25 off your first project on Elance. $25 could get you more than 5 hours of experiments if you play it right.

I get no affiliate commission or payment for this, so don’t say I never loved you! I’ll be following up soon with an interview of said CEO, Fabio Rosati, who will discuss some of the little-known subtleties of “outsourcing,” as well as its incredible future. But first, let’s get absurd. I find that reaching the sublime (and the serious) is often best done via the ridiculous and fun.

What would you outsource if you could outsource ANYTHING?

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99 comments on “Mail Your Child to Sri Lanka or Hire Indian Pimps: Extreme Personal Outsourcing

  1. Tim and fellow outsourcers-
    Any recommendations on finding other virtual assistants. You’ve made YMII so popular there is now a three week wait.
    YIKES! I want to outsource now.
    My first request will be research for my wedding location.
    My second- cleaning up my credit report
    My third- Gov’t papework for immigration to Canada- hunting down police certificates from around the world.
    Thanks in advance for any ideas :)
    Susan

  2. Hi Tim,

    In your talk you said you were thrown out of your job on most or all the occasions. That leaves me wondering if you started practicing 4-hour work week even while being employed! :-)

    Obviously your ex-employers must be cursing themselves now!

    Deepak

  3. “Rotate your profile photo, use direct subject lines for email, and focus on volume….Test and tweak, test and tweak. In the end, look at the numbers.”

    How exhausting!! (Not to mention time-consuming, even if the leg work is being done by outsourcing)! How do you find time to go on all those dates?!?!

    I am also wondering about the *real* results of the experiment… did you meet a woman (or women)with whom you are having a serious relationship? If so, how’s it going (if you feel ok discussing it on the blog)?
    (Or was that your goal at all? Perhaps you were mainly out looking for a high volume of female contacts, in which case I’m assuming the goal was achieved?)

    I recently had an incredibly “efficient” online dating experience with match.com. (OK, I’m a female, so maybe it’s different, but stay with me here.) I was actually looking for a casual relationship. I put up a somewhat unusual but very honest, detailed profile with a single photo (a mugshot for a job application, the only digital photo I had on hand). I got a ton of boring generic responses (maybe one was from one of your outsourcers lol), which I politely declined. Then I got one long, detailed, well-written email that outlined several of our mutual interests and didn’t solicit me for an immediate date. We sent several messages back and forth and ended up going out about a week after 1st contact. Seven months later, we’re an exclusive and very happy couple. He was the only guy I ever dated from match.com, and the only one I needed to date. I’m a happy camper.

    So I am left wondering… might tending to your own online dating, but being verrrry selective about responding, be a more efficient way to go? Especially as a lot of the actual time spent is in the dates themselves?

    Again, this might be a more successful strategy for women than for men. Even so, good for female readers to consider. Male readers might note that the initial emails my now-boyfriend sent me would have been almost impossible for an outsourcer to produce.

    Congrats on 4-Hour Workweek. I just loaned my copy to my boyfriend (yes, the one I met on match.com), and he loved it!

    ###

    Hi J!

    It actually wasn’t that much work at all. Writing it out makes it sounds like a huge chore, just like trying to write a description of tying your shoes. My goal was simple: go on dates with a ton of very attractive and very smart lasses and start there. I had close to 30 dates, great second dates with a number of them, and then dated one for a good period of time. It wasn’t a long-term fit, so I’m back on the market, but the experiment was a huge success.

    Online dating for men vs. for women is like highschool for boys vs. for girls: totally different. Ditto with bars. Women, as a general rule, do not approach men. That’s our job, and — as fun as it can be — it’s a tiring one after a while!

    Have a great weekend,

    Tim

  4. The latest issue of Forbes magazine has an article about how Medical tourism/ outsourcing will be a $10 billion industry by 2010. 45 million Americans are without insurance and India is fast developing world class hospitals providing quality health care at a low cost.

    I realize that this is a scary proposition for most people but may be a lifesaver for many desperate families looking at a medical emergency. So I have created a free resource at http://www.medical-treatment-in-india.com to give them the facts to make a decision. Check it out!!

  5. Hi Tim,

    Just tried to hire a personal assistant through elance and YMII. No hits on elance yet and YMII has a three week waiting period. Could you add a space on your website listing new sites and options you or other readers use.

    Much appreciated,
    Sana

  6. Hi Sana,

    If you could search on yahoo using the string “executive assistance” kpo or “executive assistance” India, you have some good results with regard to Indian service providers. Try them out!

    Good day!

    Deepak

  7. Hi Sana,

    I wouldn’t prefer to call some names of service providers here. But clicking my name would definitely help. Apologies to Tim, I am not here to do business but I can surely help you.

    Regards,

    Deepak

  8. is GetFriday (YMII) a real company? I’ve been waiting over 6 weeks to sign up and despite numerous calls/emails to their support line, I’ve never been able to get a response from them. Would be interested to hear if anyone has actually been able to sign up recently.

    ###

    Hi T,

    LOL… I’m afraid that YMII is overloaded with requests, hence the slow response time. They’ve at least doubled staff but are still outstripped. I recommend checking out some other options as well, like http://www.elance.com and http://www.odesk.com.

    Good luck!

    Tim

  9. I’ve had some terrible experience with outsourcing options.

    -elance has several unqualified people who look good on paper but show their lack of followup and clear understanding within the first hour of testing. They also require lots of hand holding instead of initiative.
    -virtual assistants chamber of commerce has individuals with bad followup and slow response times not to mention misleading skill advertising
    -brickwork seems to only take the simplest calender management and research tasks and tries to lock you in a retainer
    -others–bad to slow followup

    There has got to be a better way to do this like a one stop source with a variety of individuals with different skills sets and clear communication styles. At this point this seems like more of a time-waster than time-saver.

    ###

    Hi S!

    Personal outsourcing is challenging but worth the effort. I’ve used primarily Elance for the last few months, but I’ve been experimenting with a few others and will report findings soon. Bottom line: just like with a normal hiring agency or headhunting agency, you will need to filter. I use rankings, past billing (someone with at least 12 client transactions), and response time. With other tasks, like hiring a personal assistant to read your e-mail, the mutual training process can take a few months, before which there are always bumps.

    It’s no silver bullet, but personal outsourcing can be invaluable. Be sure to look closely at your tasks as well to see if some of the blame might be on your side. Some of it usually is ;)

    Best,

    Tim

    Ideas? Suggestions?

  10. Sally,

    This is similar to expecting everyone to clock less than 9 seconds in sprint event. There are few factors like gaining familiarity, understanding client’s style of functioning, client’s business or personal needs, cultural issues, communication etc. have some impact on the turnaround time before your VA starts delivering results. The progression is incremental and please look at it from a long term perspective. Of course, identifying the right person is a challenge, either in real or virtual world, but attainable with some patience.

    Deepak

  11. Hi Sally,

    I am really surprised to see your comment saying “brickwork seems to only take the simplest calender management and research tasks and tries to lock you in a retainer”. My experience has been totally different in a sense, they do undertake one-time assignments and these need not be on a retainer basis. Of course, I was explained that if these are routine tasks that we are going to outsource from them, it is better to have the same assistant working for us, which usually happens on on-going or retainership model. In fact to my knowledge Bricwork is providing executive assistance not only in just calender management but the entire MS Outlook Management like managing emails, address books or contacts, and also tasks like power point presentations, database management etc. Of course, there is always a gap of our eexpectations and the service providers but that happens even over here. Let us bridge the gap between our expectations and their capabilities as well.

  12. Hi Tim,

    My fifth elance assistant and finally a piece of gold. Tasks have actually been completed faster than I expected. Reasons for my success this time around:

    -few minutes of skype chat daily as I can assess if he gets the task that way and asks for clarification. This is also helpful in determining if he learns fast
    -assessed him in a chat before assigning a trial period, as in the real world someone who can speak to his experience on the spot as opposed to through a canned email and doesn’t mind a trial or competing with others tends to be better equipped to for the job

    Thanks Tim for your book and for highlighting outsourcing. I feel like I’m in a much better place with online or offline.

    Would still like a source of Indian MBA’s for market research. Might ask a Brickwork manager for that in exchange for my helping his son with his job search. Barter, another possibility in today’s world!

    Considering using some VAs for outsourcing online date screening like you did, could be a fun experiment.

  13. Vinny,

    perhaps I should clarify. By simple tasks I meant everything you mentioned as opposed to market research. The one-time assignment deal I was offered was 30 hours which to me is as costly since I usually test VAs in 1-2 hours. 30 hours did not make sense to me and the retainer made even less sense for a research project.

    But glad to know it works for you. Different strokes for different folks I guess. As you can see above I finally got some good help at my fifth try with elance.

  14. The response (or lack of response) from Brickwork and GetFriday is awful. I got rid of GetFriday after 1 week of being unable to get my assistant to do *anything* at all.

    I worked with Brickwork from Feb-September trying to get them to design a book. I couldn’t even get a sample of their work or their rates until the very end. They wouldn’t return emails, wouldn’t call when they said they would. In short, it was terrible.

    Finally went with other companies.

    I think the publicity from this book has led to this company being unable to do what they need to do.

    Dave

    ###

    Tim here. I totally agree that the popularity of the book has overwhelmed GetFriday and Brickwork. I’m still glad that you’ve taken the step to experiment with personal outsourcing, as it does work, whether that’s just AMEX platinum concierge or a newer firm in the Philippines (www.agentsofvalue.com) or NYC (www.asksunday.com).

    The good news is that the rise of the book has created more companies to choose from. Please don’t let this first experiment phase you!

    Tim

  15. Hi Tim,

    I do agree that your book was a success and you have so many great achievements after it. i have never read this book and I am planning to do now as I am an Entrepreneur too.

    but first things first, The word “Indian Pimps” in your blog hurts an Indian’s sentiments. So, I request you to change your heading. If the book also contains the word, I suggest you to make the necessary correction to use a different word that suits your thought.

    Thanks & Regards
    Ramesh GK

  16. Tim,

    a lot of people seem to be having challenges with the level of quality since the book has come out:
    - a lot of companies seem to be overwhelmed and have either grown too fast and dropped the quality, or:
    - seem to have mixed reviews for preferential treatment being given to VIP / higher profile clients.
    This makes the choice a lot more difficult, I have myself struggled to get started with Brickwork (minimum 40hr assignment) and Get Friday (waiting list of 3 weeks, no phone contact has been made with me, and payment terms of one month in advance….)
    There is a plethora of smaller (untried) companies that have emerged in the meantime..

    Do you have any recommendations?

    ###

    Hi Daniele,

    I’m using independents from Elance.com, as well as http://www.asksunday.com for general concierge work. I find the smaller groups are less publicized and thus not often overwhelmed. Be sure to see my “outsourcing olympics” post for some other recs!

    Hope that helps :)

    Tim

    Many many thanks !

    Daniele

  17. Dear Tim

    Your words of wisdom have even reached out to those of us (myself included) who havent had the golden opportunity to read your book! We currently live in Dubai and it’s not distributed yet. However you’ve managed to make an impact on my life; I am currently investigating the idea of gifting a remote assistant for my hard working hubby and while on that search I managed to find a site offering to find healthcare services for family and friends in India. This has proven to be a golden find; my father in law lives there and requires daily medical help at home and I didn’t know where to begin to search for such services. Seems like outsourcing your life does bring assurance too; knowing that we can get aid for our loved ones who live away from us is such a relief.

    Thanks so much for spreading your message.

    Cheers
    Preeta

    ###

    Thank you so much for the kind words, Preeta! I hope to meet you some day in Dubai :)

    All the best,

    Tim

    P.S. I will continue to scour the bookshops in Dubai until they distribute your book here. Will be gifting copies to my friends when that day comes. U Da Man!

  18. Hi Tim,

    The “AJ Jacobs did” page is incomplete for some reason. Could you get it fixed please? I’d like to read thr whole thing, it’s a very interesting read!

    Regards.

  19. Outsourcing can be very difficult, especially when you are dealing with overseas. Their efforts are commendable, but its just impossible to achieve accurate results in short periods of time. I used a few companies in India, which were all a disappointment. I also tried hiring people using elance and I forgot the other one. Now I use a personal assistant and concierge type of service based in the US. I pay 86 dollars a month to place up to 40 requests. Its only virtual things that they’ll do, but for my work, making calls, research and travel, so far its been wonderful. They’re called Red Butler (www.RedButler.com)

  20. Red Butler is a general conceirge service and are just as careless when it comes to detail orientation for online research. Sometimes more as they are probably trying to zip through several requests.

    I would love to find a service that specializes in doing basic internet research well without several tries of back and forth. If anyone has ideas please mention.

  21. Okay, so I’m reading Tim’s book and I’m on my first short-term goal that will help me realize my dreams of financial security, travel, and, living a life to LIVE not to WORK. Phase one – short term goal: several “side-hustles” to begin to finance my future of freedom. My current plan involves outsourcing production and marketing of 2 products – one is a garment and one is a food product. I want to outsource very aspect of it. Am I able to outsource the food production overseas? Is this legal? Safe? If so, I am sure there are stringent guidelines/laws to follow. I certainly don’t want anyone to eat my product and die…(one of my forseeable “worst case scenarios” from Tim’s excercise). Any help is appreciated!

  22. I just conducted an interesting test. I posted an ad on Craigslist for a personal chef for $5 a meal. Since last night, I’ve gotten about a dozen replies. Half of them are cooks insulted that I’d put the $5 figure up on the sight. The other half seem to be quite interested, or offered solutions to how I could get the cost down closer to $5 (i.e. bulk cooking meals).

    Tim, love the book! Rock on buddy!

    Chris

  23. Have outsourced to my wife who has outsourced marketing data crunching and acquisition to folks in India and Malaysia. She has employed a telemarketing firm in OK for appointment setting with these medium-sized-company decision makers. This is working nicely. We would like to outsource to someone research and putting together a dossier on these small companies, all their vital business data and the personnel surrounding the decision makers. Any ideas who might do this for us?

  24. Hi Tim. First off, love your book.

    For online dating:

    1) Did you also outsource the creation of your profile page?

    2) Did you tell your assistants ahead of time what kind of date they should be setting up? For example, lunch date vs comedy club depending on the time of day?

    3) How do I get a copy of your list of rules?

    Thank you :)

  25. Dear Tim,

    I have just started listening to your audio book while I am driving this year.
    You have opened my eyes on outsourcing personal errands with this post.
    I do have a question for you……you have mentioned outsourcing your business life and personal life…but what about academic life?
    I am starting out PhD student in Australia and I am pulling my hair out (literally) on how to get the researching literature and writing done with great efficiency. I really hope someone can give me some ideas on this.

    Thank you so Much,

    Alex L

    • Hi Alex,
      I have the same question: can parts of academic life be outsourced?. Have you had any luck outsourcing parts of scientific research? I for one am looking for someone to write a paper for me, or at least parts of it.
      Thanks,
      Marius

  26. Comparing Bosnia with Bangalore is insulting.
    Please do not compare Bosnia with Bangalore.
    Go visit Bosnia and go visit Bangalore,meet Bosnian poeple and meet poeple from Bangalore etc….
    Respect for Bangalore for whatever it is respectful for,but comparison with Bosnia (Bosna i Hercegovina) is impossible…

    Best regards,

    Edo,Bosnia

  27. Hello Tim Ferriss!
    I read this article about you in the newspaper, and I’m really intrested in this voicerecordedbook I’ve been told you’ve recorded? I see that you -without the grades that was neccesary- got in to Princetion, and that you afterwards recorded a voicebook about how to “Outwit” the top universitets.
    I would REALLY like to know the name of the voicebook/book, and if it even excist?
    (If anyone else is reading this please write respond below)
    Thnx
    / little j

  28. I’m impressed, I need to say. Actually not often do I encounter a weblog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me let you know, you’ve got hit the nail on the head. Your thought is outstanding; the issue is one thing that not sufficient people are speaking intelligently about. I am very completely happy that I stumbled across this in my seek for one thing relating to this.

  29. Hi Tim,
    Thank you for this web blog, it’s truely fantastic and I am seeing that a lot of people are benefiting from both your book(s) and your blog.
    I would like to ask you a question. How does one find lecture hall venues in Europe and the Far East? I mean, I would like to rent an auditorium, a stage, whatever in some foreign countries to bring attention to my current project(s), would like to set up presentations and such and don’t know where or how to get started. This may involve some research and I understand that the European and Far Eastern market is not the same as it is here in the United States, but I am willing to take my chances. A project organizer sounds pretty expensive so I would like to handle this myself. Or do you have any suggestions or does anyone else have any suggestions? Thanks, Marybeth

  30. this is absolute crazy man…..i mean how can one outsource personal things like dating and even mating…….