Tips on hiring digital assistant for 1-2 hours a day
February 21, 2013 4:04 AM   Subscribe

What are good places to look for a digital assistant? I know there are services who act as the middleman in the transaction, has anyone used those successfully? Are there ones I should avoid? What questions should I ask a potential digital assistant?

I need someone who will keep a schedule for me, manage my to do list and do some data entry and possibly phone calls for me. I'd like someone who I could call during the day with info and leave a message on google voice, then they would enter it on my online calendar or google docs. I'd like to talk to them in the morning around 7 am eastern us time.

I did try one of those services in India as recommended in 4 Hour Week. There was a language and communication problem, they had a minimum of 4 hours each day and I didn't have nearly enough work. I need someone who knows English well and is familiar with US business practices.
posted by Melsky to Work & Money (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Her's a directory of virtual assistants:
posted by Dansaman at 4:30 AM on February 21, 2013

Why not post on Craigslist in your area? Does it need to be super inexpensive? I have a friend who is looking for this exact opportunity. She has spent six years in marketing and admin at a major NYC financial institution and is now breaking out in her own voice career. Maybe I'm missing the point of your question. If not, memail me.
posted by keasby at 4:33 AM on February 21, 2013

Ruby Receptionists in Portland, OR (where I lived until shortly ago) is a domestic virtual assistance firm. Everybody reports to the Portland office, no remote work. Full disclosure: I temped for them very shortly and disastrously (less than a month), because I'm an introvert who hates to talk on the phone. I'd very much consider using their services if I ever needed them, though, and I have suggested them a couple times to friends starting businesses with good results (not how you'd usually talk about your awful temp job). My coworkers were all very tech savvy and articulate, there was a good system for email sorting and delivery and it was, as I recall from friends who enrolled while starting their businesses, not very expensive.

Otherwise, you could try finding people on odesk.
posted by sweltering at 5:06 AM on February 21, 2013

Perhaps remember that you're asking for someone to do what is potentially kind of a lousy job - one that is very finicky, requires remembering a lot of information for one person and a lot of "managing the boss" time....and yet is only a couple of hours per day and pays very little. I've worked for multiple bosses in split jobs, and it's tough - never mind having six or seven mini-bosses (if I was lucky enough to get that much work). I'd suggest realistic expectations about how much you are likely to pay a competent person, whether there will be minimum hours, etc - otherwise, it is sort of like "why won't people accept awful wages to do this somewhat skilled fussy job that gets in the way of their other work?"
posted by Frowner at 5:17 AM on February 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

I work as a VA (with clients that I love and understand what a VA really is!) I agree with Frowner. Working as a VA can be awesome or horrible, depending on the client.

I think the things to consider are: good VA's also have other clients and on-going projects so they can not usually be on demand for 1-2 hours a day- you have to develop a system with them and recognize that at 1-2 hours a day you may not be always the top priority. Expect to pay, for a consistent, solid VA, anywhere from $20-$40 an hour.

The best thing to do is work out a way to communicate with them daily/weekly so they have a very clear list of things to do, so things are rolling smoothly and accounted for. Speaking every day at 7 AM, for example, may be unrealistic. But once or twice a week may be doable.

I've worked with clients where we have great systems in place for working 5-10 hours a week, other clients who have treated me more like an on-demand employee, and were wishing-washy about pay, communication, schedule, etc, and yet expected me to always be on top of things.

If you want, you can memail me :), if I can't help you I may be able to put you in touch with someone who places people with VA's.
posted by Rocket26 at 5:28 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Otherwise, you could try finding people on odesk.

Elance is another.

From your description, it sounds like you need a North American based assistant. Given that you are asking here, I assume you have never used a Virtual Assistant and would caution you against the offshore option.

That 4 Hour Work Week dude makes it sound so easy, but the reality is a bit different. Remember too, that guy is selling the dreamy-world-of-the-perfect-internet entrepreneurship where money rains like manna from heaven and people using his methods spend the other 164 hours of the work week climbing Mt Everest, flying down zip lines and get to give overly-energetic Ted talks based on their efforts as the benefit of their 24th century business practices. Believe me, it is not all that rosy. I read his book and listened to his audio and while he has some great points, remember that he appears to be a borderline obsessive compulsive person who is also selling a book. He wants you to believe it is as easy and glorious as he says it is - and maybe for him it is. But the larger reality is that running a business is not as simple as what is described in that book.

Stay away from Craigslist and go with a service that has a payment machine in place. Yes, there is a fee for that, but they also provide escrow services and allow you to interview people more effectively. With CL, you run the great risk of scammers and people who are looking to pick up a fast buck for a short period. Also, many people on CL really do not understand what they are getting themselves into. Being a virtual assistant is not some club house activity, it is a job.

There is a lot more to the whole thing, but I am tight on time now. I will try to check in later. I have been online freelancing for years (not in the Virtual Assistant world so much though) and I have many opinions on the matter.

Bottom line, I would suggest the oDesk or Elance route. There are also other services as well.
posted by lampshade at 6:50 AM on February 21, 2013

Response by poster: I'm not looking for someone super inexpensive or who would be on call all day. I don't need a receptionist. I need someone to listen to voicemail messages from me once per day and do some data entry with occasional extra projects. This is the kind of stuff I was paying a college student ten dollars an hour to do for me, which worked out great for both of us until she graduated. No one in my company earns 20-40 dollars hourly, not even me at this point. I'll just find another college student.
posted by Melsky at 7:02 AM on February 21, 2013

Melsky - for what it's worth, when I have similar needs I employ a college student to help with those tasks.
posted by 26.2 at 9:44 AM on February 21, 2013

I can give you the name of the woman my husband uses. She is amazing and has made a real difference for him, as far as his outside clients go (he's a CPA). Drop me a memail if you want her contact info.

If she doesn't work, you might try using his method of finding her. He called around to local firms asking if they had interns who were looking for extra hours, or other seasonal/part time employees who were looking for a little extra cash. She was local to us at the time, so he met with her and she seemed very put together, which was huge because having someone who communicates well makes a big difference.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 10:01 AM on February 21, 2013

posted by ohmansocute at 10:04 AM on February 23, 2013

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