The Personal Outsourcing Olympics: Bangalore Butler or American Assistant?

161 Comments


So good I had to show it to you again.

This past Tuesday, I was part of a segment on the CBS Early Show on personal outsourcing called “Average Joes, Janes Outsourcing Tasks.” Check out the video, one of the best I’ve seen on the topic, here. It includes case studies.

Two of my favorite articles on personal outsourcing — one from The Wall Street Journal and the other from the NY Times — compare different tasks and common problems.

I’ve outsourced everything from hardcore business functions to personal chores, emptying my inbox, and even online dating (see my “extreme outsourcing” article for the last).

One big question still remains for most:

Where the hell should I go to get started?

All personal outsourcing companies are not created equal…

Some only do research, while others do actual work, and still others screw up everything you give them. I haven’t seen a good ranking of customer satisfaction for different services, hence the following survey for readers here, who have more experience than most in personal outsourcing.

If you have used any of the following services and been satisfied, please vote for them here (multiple services is fine). There are dozens of new upstarts, so I only included those I’ve used or heard good things about. If you have other recommendations or questions, please leave them in — you guessed it! — the comments. If you haven’t used personal outsourcing yet, what’s holding you back?

The competitors are:

Elance
American Express Platinum Concierge
Ask Sunday
ODesk
Get Friday (Your Man in India)
Do My Stuff
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk
Craigslist
Workaholics for Hire
Brickwork India
iFreelance
Scriptlance
Guru
Agents of Value

Tell us about your experiences (or reservations) below — ideally focusing on what has worked so others can duplicate it — and don’t forget to vote here for your favorites!

Results will be posted next Friday. [Update: Here are the results]

Posted on: December 6, 2007.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

161 comments on “The Personal Outsourcing Olympics: Bangalore Butler or American Assistant?

  1. Recently I have hired a virtual assistant to help me out in my research. And I paid for such a low price. My VA provided me a quality output of their work and I’m really satisfied with it.

    Like

  2. I recently came across this website, I haven’t yet read the book but I thought I would share some of my experiences. I heard about getting a VA from a friend of mine at work and thought it might be for me but didn’t really have a roadmap so I signed up for several services, AskSunday, GetFriday, and Red Butler. I tested all three by sending them the same request (since it was around the holidays I needed gift ideas for my little sister). The responses were very interesting.

    Red Butler came back to me first, but there was absolutely no personal contact so I got a list but I am not sure that the ideas were what I was looking for. Of course there was no one to contact directly for follow up. Ask Sunday took the longest to respond and in many respects I found the service confusing. I was given some personal attention but the contacts always just seemed to come from a different person.

    Both services were blown out of the water by GetFriday. Even though it was only two days before Christmas I got a personal email from a Team Leader who set me up with a Personal Asst. almost immeadiately. My experience has been wonderful. In larger part I think it has to do with my PA Udaiya who has been extremely helpful, very responsive and easy to work with. I’ve managed teams abroad before and in my experience you have to be very specific about the goals and deliverables, Udaiya and the GF team has really impressed me with their ability to handle open ended tasks that required judgment calls.

    Most importantly I feel like I have a personal connection with my PA which has made me more comfortable sending them more work. I am not sure about some of the other experiences people mention above with GF, but I can’t recommend GF and Udaiya specifically enough.

    Like

  3. I was reading through the log and saw that Udaiya from Get Friday was mentioned. Udaiya also works with our team and as my PA. Udaiya is GREAT — she softly keeps me on track and gets our tasks done quickly and correctly. I love having her as part of my team. She and her supervisor go out of their way to assist. Could go on and on — but if this is the vote — GF // Udaiya gets our vote….hands down.

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  4. Issue: Language.

    Thank you for a good post and a good book. I want to try out a VA, but a part from a few tasks, most of mye work needs to be done in Norwegian. Do anyone know of VA companies with mulitilingual skills?

    There’s always the option of hiring someone in Norway, but that would be ridiculously expensive, and I wouldn’t get the benefit of the time difference.

    Like

  5. Great Post! I’ve tried Asksunday and it really was awful! Ive also tried getfriday…didnt like them at ALL. Finally last Month I started working with this new company called Uassist.me they are kinda new I guess but so far the experience has been terrific! First their english is excellent! no weird accents, I was asigned a personalized phone line and my assistant works for me all day. Im really surprised! (BTW I got 1 week for free to start with them) You should definetely try them! (www.uassist.me)

    Like

  6. I have signed up to locate a VA with odesk for the last week. I have 10 offers for my price listed in the process of interviewing a couple works. This will be my first time hiring a VA and not sure how to keep track of their work. Somebody needs to sell a program for this service on the hiring process. Thanks for your information i will add you to my favorites.

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  7. I’ve tried them all, hands down, Red Butler is the way to go. I’m with Alex on this. All of their assistants are in the States so, there’s nothing lost in translation. These guys do corporate service for Shell, Deloitte & the other big boys. Great service, try to get Tyler or Chris for your dedicated rep.

    http://www.RedButler.com

    Like

  8. I’ve also tried uassist.me and so far so good. My assistant speaks perfect english, spanish and FRENCH! c’mon for $650 I feel im robbing them! Another interesting thing is that the company doesnt track time! they charge a flat fee for a “part-time” but full time available PA.
    I have my own line and always speak to the same assistant.
    So far Im really impressed, I hope it stays that way!

    Like

  9. Can someone give some tips for finding Spanish speaking VAs? Tim recomended eLance in a comment above, but it seems to have only Spanish translation, but not VA (you can´t even search for “español”, it can´t handle the ñ). There are a great many on the web, but which one(s) to trust?

    Like

  10. Hey Bart, the company Im using (see above post) is Uassist.ME they speak perfect English and Spanish. Im based in Miami so its a GREAT help for me.

    Like

  11. Thanks Tim, for bringing light on the world of outsourcing, and providing a resource that shows just how extreem you can take it. Love your book, experiments, videos with Kevin, etc.

    Your mention your VA, Kenda (sp?), whom you trust with your correspondance, and who subs out lower level tasks for you, in a video.

    My question to you (if ur listening), or anyone who has been down this road, is: Where did/do you look for a resource (like Kenda), who can take over your inbox, communicate with important contacts, manage projects and other VAs, etc.?

    Are sites like assistantmatch.com, where VAs are screened and background checked worth the cost, or are there other resources to find someone good? I currently have a VA from Brickwork. Part of the spec involved taking over my inbox, however my VA speaks in canned phrases that repeat, so i dont think they’ll be handling my inbox. Anyone had success with giving your inbox over to a VA from Brickwork, or am I barking up the wrong tree for an executive assistant?

    Any comments or suggestions from anyone who has done this would be much appreciated!

    Like

  12. I’ve used elance effectively many times. Tried the ask sunday trial and they failed MISERABLY in every one of the 4 simple trial tasks I gave them. Also tried odesk, and got terrible results from individual providers with missed deadlines. if you’re serious about getting anything done and dont want to bang your head off a wall until it bleeds, try elsewhere ..

    Like

  13. Hi,

    As some of the comments have queried where one finds a virtual assistant, I thought I’d add a link to a post I wrote on The Freelancealot Herald blog back in 2008 about hiring virtual assistants. Here’s the link: http://www.freelancealot.co.uk/Herald/2008/05/finding-your-virtual-assistant-%E2%80%94-it%E2%80%99s-not-rocket-science/

    The piece discusses the benefits of finding a virtual assistant on your own compared to that of using an online service such as eLance.

    Although some parts are biased towards finding a VA in the UK, the post may be of help to some readers here.

    I would also like to make the point that hiring a virtual assistant in the UK is a vialble option for individuals and small businesses in the US and Canada — indeed, we are currently working with an attorney’s office in the States.

    Cheers,

    Tracy Shorrock

    Like

  14. So I am reading the book for the second time but need something answered now :)
    I am having a heck of a time writing a GOOD adword for Google… keep getting the “rarely used” line… so I was wondering with all this outsourcing stuff whether there was a company out there that would write the ads for me?
    Any suggestions would be helpful… as google help sucks!
    Thanks,
    Lynda

    Like

  15. Hey Tim,

    Just finished reading your book… also, been watching you and Kevin Rose’s Randoms – I guess I’m oddly becoming a superfan.

    Preface: I am fascinated with the idea of virtual assistants in India. So much so, that I started talking about it to all of my friends. Now, I’m more entrepreneurial than them… but we’re still a pretty liberal bunch.

    Question: What do you typically say when people assault the ethics behind hiring foreign virtual assistants? (i.e. it being financially exploitative in nature and destructive of local economies)

    Peace,
    Vincent

    Like

    • Thx for the comment! Have them read “Banker to the Poor” or look at http://www.samasource.org. The idea that it destroys local economies is not founded on fact. Also, $10 can buy a week of groceries in many parts of India, and if I’m paying them $5/hour, that is a fantastic purchasing-power wage. Can most people in the US buy a week’s worth of food for two hours’ work? Not likely. Hope that helps…

      Tim

      Like

  16. I want to share with you my experience with Virtual Assistance. I own a travel agency in South Florida, and started oursourcing a couple of years ago thanks to what I read on Tim’s book.
    Getfriday was my first experience we lasted like 2 months. They changed my assistant 3 times! the first two because they quit or were fired and the last one because i requested a change… their service was so dissapointing that I cannot even begin to describe the amount of time and money I lost trying to make it worrk.
    Next, I tried AskSunday, since it had a lot of media exposure (TIME, CNN, etc.) this was by far the biggest dissapointment, not only they are expensive (up to $15/hr) they take FOREVER to do the tasks, even if I mark them URGENT… I really was about to giveup on the whole VA deal… but a friend of mine recommended [see URL] and Oh-My-God! what a change!!! I am really amazed! their service is great.. well for starters they DO speak english!!! and spanish (which is great since I live in SFL) I really really reccomend them!!!
    If you need more feedback or tips let me know! I think I have been through a LOT! to finally finding the near-perfect assistant!
    Best,
    S

    Like

  17. Sebastian, thanks for the round up. The Wall Street Journal also did a great review of several of the big guys out there, here’s the link – http://bit.ly/c9JVlC

    I’ve tried several too, but keep running into the same problems with companies that operate overseas. I’m now using Red Butler and have their VIP membership so I get a dedicated rep which has been great.

    Good luck.

    JF

    Like

  18. We are and ecommerce retail company looking for a consultant to help us identify the best outsourcing company for our needs in the following areas?
    1-Accounting Dept (accounts payable and receivables)
    2-Warehouse Dept (pick, pack and ship) inventory control
    3-Customer Service
    4-Sales
    5-Operations
    Any assistance would be appreciated.

    Like

    • Hey Wendy,
      I have been in the Outsourcing Business for a while and have managed everything from VAs to Coding, to training VAs and now am into full time Talent Hunt for Quality Outsourcing Resources.
      Being from a country that is perhaps the largest back-office in the Flat World today, I feel that finding the right resource is VERY important. With the ease in access to communication and Internet resources, just about anyone can be a outsourcing resource/agent and claim that he or she can get a thing done. The results are more often than not below par.
      The need is to align with a suitable resource/agency that can get you the right resource, at the right price point and in the right time frame. I can assist you with the same if you need help. Get in touch with me on the website mentioned and lets see how we can get you the right resource.
      All the best and lets hope you get a good team up and running fast.

      Like

  19. Hi Tim, great book, working on a muse now, but need some VA’s to do the obvious. Problem is, i need them to be able to operate in Hong Kong (e.g. they must be able to communicate in Cantonese, English and preferable Mandrin). Unfortunately I have not found any agency that can fulfill this yet. Any idea’s.

    Thanks

    Jeroen

    Like

  20. I use elance. Have tried guru but had better results with elance. I have also tried contacting random small website owners to possibly get some help but Elance is always easy. The quality of work I have gotten from elance has been sub-par but it is my fault because I hired them, right?

    Like

  21. Their service is called Uassist.me.

    I have a dedicated assistant that helps me a lot with my things, since I need a lot of things done in French (just like the user J.Cool does), since I’m French myself.

    Other companies, located in India or Pakistan haven’t been able to fulfill that requirement, unfortunately… And other companies located in Côte d’Ivoire or Réunion work mostly in French – and I need great English too. So I highly recommend that company, it has been a good fit for me at least.

    Cheers.
    S

    Like

  22. Javier, thanks for the recommendation. I’ve tried out just about all of the virtual assistant companies and “red butler” has been top notch. Couldn’t find a promotional code for anyone, but they have a bunch of codes come out on their twitter page – http://twitter.com/redbutler

    Like

  23. I’m currently trying AskSunday, so far I’m not satisfied. I need more time for clarifications and reminders than I would need for the tasks. I don’t feel any initiative from from DA and I think he sometimes uses Google translate for texts he posts into Skype.

    Like

    • I think they keep changing call centers, so the staff is losing their touch. The quality just isn’t there and I can’t afford to have anyone make mistakes, I’d rather just do it myself.

      Try out a few American assistant companies out there. Most of them charge hourly, but you can find a few like Red Butler that are by tasks. I’ve read a few threads about them and just signed up, so far so good.

      Like

  24. I love the idea of membership based services but I don’t always want to have to pay a monthly fee or sign-up fees for concierge services/virtual assistants. One company that I’ve tried a few times is One Concierge. They do pretty much anything, including errand services and you pay per request so you don’t have to have a contract or a membership. However they will work with you and set up a contract if you require services frequently. For instance they set up a contract with to shop for me and deliver my groceries bi-weekly for a flat rate.

    Like

  25. Anyone try to outsource their job search? I’m trying to find someone to update resume’s per the requirements of each job, write cover letters, apply to job posts, do company research, and find executives contact info. I’m looking into several of the companies listed above, but would love to hear if anyone has had any success doing this.

    Like

  26. This kind of service doesn’t work for more than the most simiple tasks (which would take me no time myself). I tried three different ones and was disapointed with all of them. The last was good for one day and then all of a sudden didn’t exist anymore.

    Like

    • Hey Markus!
      You should try uassist.me! I have been using them for a quite a while already and so far the experience has been awesome.
      Before that I tried Asksunday, Taskseveryday and Getfriday…I was about to give up when I found uassistme.

      Like

  27. Like with any of these services they are only as good as the people you have working with you. When they move on or are promoted you oftentimes have to start over. This is what just happened with uassistme. The implications for a business are significant. I feel the answer is to be adaptable. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow so you constantly have to be flexible and continually recruit and guide to make sure the best possible fit for your business is in place now. If they aren’t, then quickly look for a replacement solution.

    We also have started to use Fiverr for some micro-tasks. This is a whole new way to expand your services, but obviously also requires an additional level of management on your end.

    Having been into outsourcing for over a decade now I’ve come to the realization there are no easy answers. There are some things that you simply can’t outsource and you must do yourself while there are others that you must delegate. The key is to know the difference. Although this is coming from a guy who finally figured he needed to hire an outsourcer who manages his outsourcing team.

    Like

  28. I am interested in receiving recommendations for VA capable of performing book editing and formatting as I am planning on self-publishing a book. Thanks. – John Peters

    Like

  29. I’ve both worked as an assistant and hired several for myself using oDesk. I love it and have been able to use Eastern European talent for all of my tedious tasks like link building for new sites, SEO keyword research, writing, etc.

    Like

  30. A low down for you, I’m doing a test on Ask Sunday, Brickwork and Tasks Everyday

    For the record so far, Ask Sunday took my money over a week ago and I received an email saying that my Assistant would start the following Monday, still nothing and I have called, emailed, ect ect. and still nothing.
    If you are reading this Blog Ask Sunday I suggest you get in contact with me as soon as possible or the next task I will be giving to my competent DA’s will be to documents what has happened and update every outsourcing blog on the internet, I’m not joking.

    Like

  31. Great discussion here. I’ve been interested in personal outsourcing ever since reading the 4HWW. I’ve had a couple VAs myself — one from TimeSvr and one from Elance — both excellent.

    Now I’m working on a side-project (not quite a muse yet) to collect honest reviews of the various outsourcing companies, and would love to get some feedback from real customers. Some, like Red Butler, seem to be generally positive while others, like Ask Sunday, tend to be generally negative lately.

    If anyone cares to share their experience, it is much appreciated!

    Like

    • I’ve used them all, pretty sure AskSunday is going out of business. They are taking people’s money and not providing any servicel. I also signed up with tried Quintessentially, but they’re more about events and connections than actual assistant work. I tried finding someone on Odesk.com, but they too were inconsistent with response times. So far RedButler.com has been best for assistant and concierge tasks, but I still use my American Express for all travel. Good luck.

      Like

  32. Im a big fan of outsourcing! I used asksunday for a while but frankly i didnt like it…. I didnt feel a connection with the assistant. Im currently using Uassistme ( this is my third month) so far the difference has been incredible. First of all the assistant really speak english! They are located in Central America and work the same timezone that I do…. Its a bit more expensive than asksunday and getfriday but if you are really interested in outsourcing and using your assistant to grow your business its totally worth it.

    Like

    • I’ve tried 3 services and must say that all were great for rote tasks that didn’t require much thinking or cultural awareness. Unfortunately, that was not I’ve been looking for. I need someone with an excellent business mind, who can manage our website and online presence and continuous business developments. At present, I am using Lifenzyme and it is too early to judge them. However, Dennis ( ..not sure that is my VA’s real name :-) is doing a good job so far and he has been given free hands to go beyond my instructions to develop my business concept. He has a good and creative perspective and providing us with solutions and solving it before it is even something we need to mention, makes things so much easier.

      Keeping my fingers crossed to see how far it goes..!

      Like

  33. Hi Tim,
    Thanks for all of the great info being shared here!
    I am based in New Zealand and operate a tour company in South America. I would love a South America based virtual assistant. I see in an earlier post you mentioned there are many VA companies in South America. This would be perfect for me! Do you (or anyone else out there) have any recommendations?
    Thanks
    Rachel

    Like

    • Hey Sam, thanks for the shout-out.

      The site relies on honest reviews from real customers so if anyone has some first-hand experience with any of the companies listed, please feel free to post a quick review.

      Thanks!

      Nick

      Like

  34. Hello my loved one! I want to say that this post is awesome, nice written and come with almost all significant infos. I?¦d like to see extra posts like this .

    Like

  35. The first company I hired, Get Friday (December 2012), did not work out. In huge ways. And Get Friday had beaten out Brickwork hands down going in on responsiveness during first contact so Ferriss’s book recommends were clearly dead soldiers, outdated and probably really impacted by popularity the book itself created. Hey, when I was an assistant, I did not dictate to my boss when I would bother to work – and then do an unparalleled in inadequacy job when I did show up – which was what I was getting from Get Friday. Resulting Facebook posts like, “Why the F*CK am I up at 7 am pulling all nighters to fix the disaster someone who is supposed to be helping me just created?”

    But. I researched a lot, read a lot of forums and blogs [like here] and my ultimate take away was two companies were my best bets, Tasks Every Day – http://www.taskseveryday.com/ – and BPOVIA – http://www.bpovia.com/

    I found Tasks Every Day first and Tasks Every Day would have won, early on, if they didn’t require a 20 hour commitment per month going in. I was not ready to do that going in so I kept going. And found BPOVIA. Which had a hell of a lot of good talk of mouth and also only required a 10 hour commitment going in. With one bad commitment already on the books, Get Friday, paying a second company to come in who might be just as bad and slapping down cash for 20 hours to do it was not going to work, but I was willing to slap down another ten. So the marriage between myself and BPOVIA was born.

    And I am so happy. Everything about BPOVIA has been good. They were back with me immediately, on their Sunday, with a manager talking to me and my new VA talking to me (Skype, yay!, learn it love it live it) on their day off, and my new VA went and hit my sites that day to get a feel for them before going on the clock the next day. He’s smart, he’s fast, he picks things up quickly, and I am here posting this at 1 am because I am actually off at 1 am because of him, instead of 5 AM. And that doesn’t happen in my world. I don’t stop work till work is done and before now, work wasn’t done before 5 AM. And now in three short days’ time, and that includes training time, it does. My entire world just changed.

    I highly recommend BPOVIA. If you contact them, tell them Max Adams says Cris Yeong rocks give him a raise – just don’t take him off Max Adams’ account. [I am not kidding, you get Cris pulled off my account, I will resort to violence. Also, no jury will convict, I am that cute and you are that much in trouble.]

    Like

  36. So I’m curious

    I am looking for the best and cheapest option for content generation for our new web site. I can give very specific information about creation and am curious which one of these services you guys would recommend for this kind of thing?

    Thanks,
    Vincent

    Like

    • Hey Vincent,

      Couple options to try for content generation.

      For a long-term hire I think your best budget option is the Philippines (Virtual Staff Finder being the most well-known recruiting option, but that’s for full-time workers).

      If your budget allows, you can find talented writers closer to home on Elance.

      In both cases, like you mention, a super-detailed spec is key to success.

      Any other questions or concerns, feel free to send me a note — nick @ the domain linked above!

      Like

  37. Thanks so much Tim Ferris!

    This 4HWW conversation is a great resource! I’ve studied it well, done lots of bookmarking for future reference, including Nick Loper’s Virtual Assistant reviews site.

    I’ve had prior experience with Elance circa 2009, but the project of writing my bio failed. However, I must say that the lady vendor in Pakistan was soooo nice she refunded my payment unsolicited. And I proceeded to hire a US writer to whom I was referred by a trusted business partner, which worked well.

    I hired a fiverr vendor today for hoping for quick small project of assisting me in applying for work I’ve selected from craigslist. I will report back with results.

    Thanks again for opening this concept in my business life of hiring virtual assistance to apply for work/projects!

    Like