How to E-mail Virtual Assistants (or Any Assistants): Proven Templates

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(Photo: Alan Clark Design)

[Tim's note: This is a guest post by Ramit Sethi on two of my favorite topics: one-shot-one-kill e-mail, and creating policies so you never repeat things. Also important to note: great VAs will use templates for answering *your* email; my assistant Amy uses more than a dozen specific templates to handle my inbox overload.]

Enter Ramit

Why is communicating with virtual assistants so hard?

When I first started using virtual assistants (VAs), I tested assistants from India, Bulgaria, and Israel. But I spent most of my time frustrated with the quality of their answers. How many times have your friends said, “Why don’t you just have your VA do that?” and you sigh because you know: they should be able to it, but you just can’t trust them to do it.

Right?

Other times, you email your assistant, saying, “Please book me a roundtrip flight from SFO to NYC from 3/19 – 3/22″ and you have to endure five back-and-forth emails before it’s done… leading you to wonder why you didn’t simply do it yourself.

No one wants more email. I always try for “one and done” emails, meaning when you send an email, it should get done the first time.

Fortunately, because I’m a huge weirdo about time management, I’ve spent over 65 hours optimizing my emails to VAs. Here are three examples of emails that get you answers in one round.

After reading the templates below, you’ll be able to write a crisp one-and-done email that gets you results — the first time. I’ve used these techniques to recover those 65 hours in 3 months and cut back-and-forth emails with my VA by over 80%… Read More

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How to Make Visa Obey Your Every Desire: The Credit Card Concierge Experiment

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The following post is a guest post by John Hargrave, whom I met in 2007 at SXSW.

If you find large-scale pranks (Super Bowl, anyone?), impersonating celebrities, and other clever mischief amusing, he’s the king of the domain. His book Prank the Monkey is a guide to unleashing your inner Loki.

Given my interest in outsourcing and pushing the envelope with concierge services, he suggested the following post, which looks at just how far VISA will go to keep you happy. I’ve run similar experiments with American Express Platinum Card with similar results. There are no credit card affiliate links in this post, so no ulterior motives. Just eager for you to reap benefits you’ve probably never taken advantage of. Enjoy.

Please share your success stories, past or present, in the comments.

Herewith enters Sir John Hargrave.

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I recently signed up for The Visa SIGNATURE Chase Freedom card, for one reason: it has a concierge service. [Tim note: In fact, all of the "Visa Signature" cards have this concierge service, among other benefits]

A credit card concierge service is much like a hotel concierge service, except you don’t have to tip. A concierge is your own personal assistant, someone who will do anything you want them to do: make dinner reservations, book a trip to Hawaii, or shop for negligees for your grandmother.

We’re so used to being treated badly by credit card companies that it’s almost impossible to believe that they are serving you. But that’s how it works: they’re your virtual assistants, ready to help you with anything.

Anything?

I wanted to test the limits of my Visa Chase Freedom concierge service, so I spent a week making incredibly ridiculous requests, to see how they’d hold up… Read More

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Mom-and-Pop Multinationals: How to Go Global

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The Wilburns have used freelancers in India, Israel, and Britain. (Photo: Dana Smith)

Here is the beginning of a worthwhile article in the current issue of Businessweek called “Mom-and-Pop Multinationals.” Ever wondered how much personal outsourcing really costs? How to divide and delegate the various tasks that consume your time? This article includes several useful case studies:

From the outside, the gray Victorian with the stained-glass windows on a gentrified block in Dorchester, Mass., is a typical middle-class dream house. But it also is the headquarters of what you might call a micro-multinational. Randy and Nicola Wilburn run real estate, consulting, design, and baby food companies out of their home. They do it by taking outsourcing to the extreme…

Read More

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Trading Places with Indian Outsourcers

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What happens when a successful US-based computer programmer, who lost his lucrative job to outsourcing, travels to India to try to get it back?

Will he discover the secret of India’s success, or that sending jobs overseas is an unstable gamble?

The videos below share his incredible experience. It’s a fascinating and humanizing portrait of real Indians in Bangalore, the “Silicon Valley of India”.

This inside look shows how ridiculous it is to throw around terms like “slave labor” and “stealing jobs” without understanding the realities of this unusual world where best jobs start at 6pm and end at 3am… Read More

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Lifestyle Investing: "Compound Time" Like Compound Interest?

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berkshire-hathaway-vs-nasdaq.jpg
Berkshire Hathaway vs. Nasdaq (orange), 1984-2004

I met David Hassell in Omaha at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting, and he asked me an interesting question:

Do you think that the value of time can compound like interest?

Three glasses of wine into a post-event party with Cirque du Soleil performers, I didn’t have a good answer, but David recently sent me a thought-provoking e-mail I thought I’d share. Read More

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The Grand Illusion: The Real Tim Ferriss Speaks

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[IMPORTANT: Please note this was an APRIL FOOL'S DAY joke! Please read the whole post, especially the postscript.]

Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?

This is Tim Ferriss. The real Tim Ferriss.

This is the first time I have written a post on this blog since March 30, 2007, 366 days ago, when I penned “How to Live Like a Rock Star in Buenos Aires.”

In the meantime, a virtual pair–Vanhishikha “Van” Mehra and Roger Espinosa–have taken my blog to the Technorati-1000 (around 600 at best) and had their content featured, under my name, in media from The New York Times to CNBC.

I’ve suggested topics and asked explicitly for some when I had photos or video to post, but Van and Roger are the short answer to the common question: how can you work four hours a week if you spend so much time on the blog?

The answer is: I don’t.

The impetus was an on-stage challenge at the 2007 SXSW two weeks earlier, and I resolved to demonstrate just how well the concepts in 4HWW could work. This is one of several pending year-long examples… Read More

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GetFriday and the Cost of Success: Exclusive Letter from the CEO

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Do you want to get a promotion, make $500,000 per year, appear on Oprah, or have 10x the number of customers?

Be careful what you ask for.

GetFriday, a personal outsourcing firm in India, was thrust into the limelight when The 4-Hour Workweek hit #1 on The New York Times bestseller list, and their client numbers jumped by almost 1000%. Outsourcing your life was now in fashion.

It’s not simple to handle unexpected massive demand, and this was reflected in complaints from new users who were frustrated with waiting lists, response time issues, and mistakes. New personal outsourcing services popped up to fill the demand, and the niche industry of personal outsourcing is now big business.

I asked the CEO of GetFriday, Sunder Prakasham, to explain the problems and address the criticisms. Below is his letter to me, an excellent description of the growing pains many of you will face if you become “overnight successes” or get sudden primetime exposure. Read More

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The Personal Outsourcing Olympics: Bangalore Butler or American Assistant?

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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… Read More

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LitLiberation: How to Travel the World–and Get a Personal Assistant–for Free

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First, a few questions from Eastern Europe for you all. Take a minute to seriously consider each:

Envision the 5 books that have most impacted your life. How would your life be different if you’d never read them?

Where might you be today if you’d never met the most influential teachers in your life, past and present?

How would your options be affected if you could never again read a book, menu, or sign?

Here is the huge competition I’ve been promising. It’s the biggest I’ve ever done, and there are some incredible world-famous people involved. You won’t be disappointed:

If you’d like to support this idea, please take a second to vote for it here. Be sure to see the “prizes” sectionhow could you get into the 10K Club if you had to?

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

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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… Read More

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