5 Reasons Not to Use Your Virtual Assistant

Virtual Assistant It’s no secret I love outsourcing—after all, I outsource hundreds (sometimes thousands) of tasks every month.

However, I find I’m increasingly seeking ways to avoid outsourcing via my VA.

As many of you know, the methodology of Less Doing teaches you to optimize first, automate second, and then outsource as a final resort. The more we can automate, the fewer errors we encounter and the faster we can scale. Even if you can only automate 90% of a task, it’s still practically a complete automation—the 10% that requires a human touch is so small it mitigates the risk of error or delay.

For the past year, I’ve noticed a growing trend of hyper-specific outsourcing services. These services tend to be cheaper, quicker and more effective than a general virtual assistant. More importantly, hyper-specific outsourcing services allow you to issue a task with minimal (or sometimes no) instruction.

Please know, I’m telling you to abandon your VA—but consider these hyper-specific outsourcing services as a supplement to the more general work your VA can continue to handle.

To help you get the ball rolling, here are five services you should consider instead of your virtual assistant:

1) WP Curve

For $99/month WP Curve provides you with UNLIMITED WordPress support. They won’t design a new site for you (you can get that done on Elance or Fiverr) but if you have any small task that’s required on your site, they can not only do it, but do it within 4 hours (typically).

If a plugin is conflicting with a theme, your search function isn’t working, or you need to install analytics code in your header (whatever that means) they can do it. In fact, they can even do your blog posting for you, which is one of the things I take full advantage of.

I haven’t posted something to WordPress myself in years. It’s always been assigned to a virtual assistant through IFTTT and, as good as I believe I am at the “explaining processes,” blog posting would frequently cause problems for my VAs. No matter how many times I explained how an image should look or the title should be formatted, there was always measurable room for error.

Now that I use WP Curve, I can pretty much send an email with the content and a note that says “Post This” and they get it done perfectly every time. They have all the login information they need, can look at previous posts for proper modeling, and – since they’re developers not generalists – they know how to code everything the right way the FIRST TIME.

Cherry on top?—WP Curve will also do proactive maintenance on your site, performing daily backups, regular security checks, and offering suggestions to improve SEO or site performance.

2) Design Pickle 

This service has been an absolute game changer for me.

Design Pickle offers UNLIMITED graphic design work for $195/month. Whether you need a variation on a logo, color adjustments on a photo, or an original image for a blog post or podcast episode, they can handle it.

Yes, there are definitely virtual assistants capable of good graphic design work but it’s definitely not the type of task you should issue on a regular basis to your generalist support staff.

There’s no limit on revisions and your designer will usually provide you with two or three design versions for each project. I use them to create images for my podcasts, blog posts, Facebook cover photo, Instagram feed – heck – I’ve even used them editing our family photos!

Stop asking your virtual assistant to create an image or search on iStockPhotos for something that’s been used by a dozen other sites before—get with Design Pickle yesterday.

3) Fetch 

The personal buying assistant, Fetch, has eliminated a major pain point of the virtual assistant game.

Payments have long been a contentious issue for outsourcers. Many people, myself included, don’t feel comfortable just handing their VA a credit card or access to a PayPal account, and –even if they did – many VA services have small purchase limits (for instance, Fancy Hands will only make a purchases up to $100).

Fetch has no limits. If your credit card can take it, so can they. Fetch securely stores your payment (and you can store more than one card), billing and shipping information, as well as your preferences for things like frequent flyer accounts and airline seat selections. Fetch assistants are skilled at finding the absolute best prices, finding/applying coupon codes, and saving you money on most of the purchases you make.

Fetch is more than a buying assistant, they are your complete purchasing concierge. I run all of my purchasing through them at this point which means that if I EVER have a problem with a purchase, I just send a quick text (yeah you can do that) to Fetch, tell them what happened and then they deal with the return process. It’s that simple. Seriously.

Six months ago, Fetch purchased a new refrigerator from Home Depot for us and when the water dispenser recently stopped working, I just sent Fetch a text and they got it fixed. How much time did that whole process take me? About 30 seconds.

Booking air travel? Forget about it. Fetch does it better than you or your VA ever will. Besides, without a lot of back and forth email approvals, most VAs can’t even book air travel due to the rules of their managing companies.

Fetch does all this and so much more for just $10/month.

4) Rev 

Rev is a simple service that does one thing, transcriptions.

Transcriptions are a regular part of many peoples’ lives nowadays and, if it isn’t part of yours, you are missing out on a huge productivity opportunity. Whether you need a podcast transcribed so you can post it to SlideShare for a huge SEO boost (it works!) or just want to record the next chapter of your book while driving to work, Rev will do it for $1/minute and get you an accurate transcription within 24 hours.

Rev also has a really cool Zapier integration so you can automate the entire process, turning a recording on your phone into a document that then gets placed in your Evernote, Dropbox, or even posted to your WordPress blog automatically.

Transcription is a tedious and inefficient process for most VAs, particularly if there are multiple speakers. So while you can still send a quick two or three sentence recording to your VA, anything more significant should go right to Rev.

5) Amy 

Scheduling is the bane of many people’s existence.

Did you know the average number of emails required to schedule a meeting or phone call is 8.1? That’s an absurd use of email and, worse, your time.

Fortunately, now Amy will schedule the meeting for you.

All you need to do is put amy@x.ai in the cc field of the email and the combination artificial intelligence/people-powered service will do the rest. Amy knows your availability, office location, Skype ID, and favorite coffee shop. Most importantly, Amy knows better than to schedule back to back meetings that are at opposite ends of town.

Amy will get in contact with the other party (or their assistant), find a time, place and schedule the event. The next time you hear from Amy will be when she sends you and your meeting-mates a calendar invite.

Honorable Mention Cloe

Cloe is my text concierge buddy. I’ve never seen a service deliver so much personality by SMS.

Cloe is a free, text-only service that provides people with very personal recommendations of places to go or things to do.

A month ago I was meeting a friend for dinner and texted Cloe “we’re on the corner of 15th and 3rd and I’m with a friend, we want Mexican food.” The response about 90 seconds later “Hey Ari, nice to hear from you again, well it’s a little bit of a walk but La Lucha is in the East Village, it’s a great spot and you HAVE to try the Carnitas Tacos.”

Sure enough, we walked over to the East Village, found this hole in the wall joint and enjoyed what was one of the best Mexican dining experiences I’ve ever had.

Straight up, the speed, accuracy and delivery of this type of specialty knowledge cannot be replicated by a virtual assistant pouring over Yelp reviews.

The only knock on Cloe?—Right now, she’s only available in New York, but look for that to change sooner rather than later.

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