Outsourcing My Virtual Assistants


As you may know I’ve struggled finding constant work for my VA.   I’ve got a few brothers that are in varied businesses and we often help one another out with advice and projects.   I’ve offered up my VA to do basic level tasks (research, data entry, etc.) for them whenever they need it.

Well, one of my brothers finally took me up on the offer.   He needs to locate the company info (CEO name, company contact info, etc.) for about 100 companies.   In almost all cases the info is available on the websites… we just need someone to visit the sites and compile the information.   What a perfect project for my service provider!  I asked him if he had a budget for the project and he said that as long as I provide him with samples of the work as we progress then he’s fine with whatever it takes to get the job done.

I asked my brother to send me a layout of what he wanted in an excel sheet along with a row already filled out as an example.  I took the sheet, refined it (based on my experiences so far communicating with outsourcing providers) and added as much detail on how to proceed.

The bad news… my provider is out on a scheduled vacation so I’ll need to wait a while until she’s back to begin work.  Fortunately the task isn’t super time sensitive, but I’m pretty impatient about the opportunity to give my brother a taste of person to person outsourcing.

Has anybody else outsourced their assistants to someone else?  If so, did you do it:

  1. Indirectly like I’m doing – Basically my brother knows I’m outsourcing and is providing almost all the info, I’m just lightly managing and sending the project along
  2. Directly – For example:   VA, meet my brother… brother, meet my VA.

The $4 Per Hour Virtual Assistant

There are a plethora of blog entries and forum posts that reference poor experiences with the companies mentioned in “The World Is Flat” by Thomas L. Friedman and “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss . Specifically, Brickwork India, YMII, & GetFriday.com. Many people have expressed their displeasure with the quality of work and lack of communication. Many hypothesize that this is due to the huge influx of demand to these two companies and their inability to handle the growth. Some say it is just the nature of outsourcing to India and other countries.

In my post, What Is A Virtual Assistant? I received a few great comments. Two questions (in my interpretation of the comments) have been raised:

  1. Can a provider who charges only $4.00 an hour really provide quality work?
  2. Is it even possible to find “good” providers under $15.00 an hour?

I personally can’t definitively answer the first question because I’m still new to outsourcing, but if the taste I’ve had so far is an indication, then I believe the answer is yes.

The second question is the one I want to focus on. Tim Ferriss makes it sound like it is pretty easy to find someone for $4.00 per hour. I’ll say this, it is difficult to find quality providers at this rate, but I believe it is possible. A few points brought up in the comments mentioned above say that many of the outsourcing service firms have raised their rates. That may be true, but there are plenty of companies that still have rates around $6 – $8 an hour if you are willing to commit to 40 hours a week.

Okay, $6 – $8 an hour is great, but it isn’t $4.00 an hour. What if the die hard worshipper of “Four Hour Work Week” is absolutely determined to find a Virtual Assistant (yes, I’m going to keep using this term until there is a widely adopted alternative to VA) that is $4.00 an hour?

As I mentioned before I’ve found a great virtual assistant success using oDesk. I may have been lucky, but I found a very inexpensive provider that has really helped me get a bunch of stuff done. What if this provider decided to break up with me and end our relationship? Would I be able to replace her with another similarly skilled and inexpensive virtual assistant?

Well, as a test I did a search on ::oDesk(“a”):: for administrative support providers that had at least 50 hours of ::oDesk(“a”):: experience and had a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. This returned 20 providers that matched this criteria. Not a ton of results, but the search proves there are experienced providers with good reviews who are available for work. If I expand my search a bit by increasing the rate to under $6.00 an hour and at least one hour of ::oDesk(“a”):: experience then I get 103 virtual assistants who want to work for me!

For reference I thought I’d post some information about the VA I’ve been using who is under $4.00 per hour:

  • Education: Bachelors in Biotechnology and a Masters in Business Administration
  • Worked for a large bank in India doing data entry & customer support
  • Top rating on tests for English and Telephone etiquette

Keep in mind I’m not expecting providers in the $4 – $8 per hour range to be Jack / Jane of all trades or be able to do everything I’d expect from a US based $30 per hour VA. With that said, I think there is a huge market for admin assistants to do things like:

  • Data entry
  • Internet Research
  • Email filtering / first tier support
  • Other general admin assistant tasks
  • Basically any task you’d give to a college intern

What do you think? Are $4.00 an hour person-to-person virtual assistants a viable option for small to medium sized businesses? Try a search for a provider on ::oDesk(“a”):: to see if there is a good match for you.