HELP! I need a personal assistant
April 21, 2006 10:18 AM   Subscribe

I NEED HELP! I have quite a few projects that are in process and I need a personal assistant, girl/man friday, someone who can handle the little stuff while I do the heavy lifting.

I had a small business and then went back to work full time. I still have outside projects, but I need things like someone to research, followup emails, look up pricing, etc. It's all different types of work, most of it computer related.

I've needed this person for a very long time but I can't pay U.S. wages. I can, however, pay someone in another country a fair wage for there.

How can I find someone overseas who can help me? I don't want to go through an agency and pay fees that will take away from paying the individual. And I'm not trying to take advantage of the person by paying them 50 cents an hour and having them work a million hours.

I just need someone with a strong work ethic who'll complete projects and won't get distracted and disappear, etc.
posted by elle.jeezy to Work & Money (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just to clarify, you want to pay less than the $2.65 minimum wage in Kansas, but still work with someone who has a knowledge of computers, can research, write with the style of a native speaker, and conduct themselves in a business-like manner? Can you really not afford US$2.65 an hour for a college student?
posted by acoutu at 10:23 AM on April 21, 2006

Response by poster: I am really not interested in having an argument about this.

I have worked with college students and I have paid anywhere between $15-$30 dollars an hour for projects. And you know what happened? They didn't finish: the dog died, their mom died, the software doesn't work, their computer crashed, they disappeared the week the project was due, they needed me to tell them how to do the project, the list goes on and on.

I have worked with other folks, who, in the middle of the project have demanded more money WHEN they have signed a contract AND with whom I've had extensive discussions PRIOR to the signing of the contract about the budget, what I can and cannot afford and how I am not asking for champagne work at ripple prices.

I HAVE TRIED YA'LL. I don't want to spend the rest of this thread defending my request. I am very up front about what I pay and I PAY FAIRLY. BUT I AM NOT RICH, I AM NOT POCKETING MAD DOLLARS, so I don't have the extra cash to fully support another individual here in the U.S. which is what I find many freelancers expect.
posted by elle.jeezy at 10:37 AM on April 21, 2006

"hey, I need my drudge work to go away magically!"
you're gonna get what you pay for. Figure out what this work is really worth to do. If it's not worth minimum wage then you don't really want to hire someone; you'd rather do it yourself than shell out $50 a week (or whatever - it doesn't sound like it would be all that many hours). If it's worth paying for, then just offer it to competent high schoolers. You will get a better assistant if you pay a bit more; you have to decide what it is really worth to you.

imagining some 3rd world unskilled laborer is going to handle multiple personal assistant tasks and stay with the job is ...unrealistic, anyway. Not to mention illegal.
posted by mdn at 10:37 AM on April 21, 2006

Response by poster: This is so effing frustrating. And the thing is, I knew I was going to get this response.

Why is the assumption that I'm trying to take advantage of someone or that I haven't figured out what I need?
posted by elle.jeezy at 10:42 AM on April 21, 2006

I'm not looking to argue with you about the pay you are willing to offer. I just wanted to clarify your expectations.

I am surprised that you cannot find competent college students for minimum wage or above. Perhaps there has been a problem in the communication of expectations. If those with a signed contract are bailing or demanding more money part-way through, it sounds like you need a better contract. Perhaps you're not outlining all elements of the project and there are misunderstandings.

From your description of what's gone on so far, I'm concerned that you will run into further problems of miscommunication if you enlist the help of someone thousands of miles away.

I don't mean to derail your request for help in finding someone overseas -- I understand your dilemma. However, maybe there are some contractual problems that you need to iron out, which will help you regardless of which route you take.
posted by acoutu at 10:44 AM on April 21, 2006

Best answer: Craig's List -- manila. or bangaldor.

Expect to pay 3-4 dollars an hour for the person you would be able to do your jobs, so it would be at least 100 a week. Remember they have to pay for thier computer, internet access, etc. It's not as simple as you think it is, plus the time difference is a pain.

But seriously, finding a person overseas you are going to be paying more then minimum wage here and you will have to thru the same ammount of trouble training them as you would an american worker. It's a major PIA.
posted by bigmusic at 10:46 AM on April 21, 2006

I wanted to post this earlier, but couldn't remember where I saw the article. Esquire Magaine had an article about outsourced personal assistants in India.
posted by acoutu at 10:48 AM on April 21, 2006

It might be a PIA, but A. J. Jacobs (who wrote a book about reading the _Encyclopædia Britannica_ straight through, which I did not like and cannot recommend) also wrote a pretty funny essay called ["My Outsourced Life"] for _Esquire_, and in it he makes a case for what you're looking for looking good. He spends more like a thousand bucks a month, but if Brickwork or Your Man in India work as he says they work, your troubles are over.

On preview: acoutu thinks similarly.
posted by cgc373 at 10:56 AM on April 21, 2006

Response by poster: i've read the two articles. thanks. that's where i got the idea that it is possible to find someone to help me.

ya'll are funny. why is the assumption i am proposing paying less than $2.00 an hour? it's just weird what a few of you are inferring from my question.
posted by elle.jeezy at 11:01 AM on April 21, 2006

You said you "can't pay US wages", which is at minimum $2 and change per hour where you are. Is this incorrect? What can you pay? This thread might go a lot better if you try to work with people instead of setting it up to fail and flameout in a trainwreck, again, just saying.
posted by kcm at 11:05 AM on April 21, 2006

Best answer: Expect to pay 3-4 dollars an hour for the person you would be able to do your jobs, so it would be at least 100 a week.

This is probably correct- we employ workers in India, and this is what we pay them.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:07 AM on April 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: sigh.

the type of work i need ranges between $15 an hour to $50 an hour. It depends on the task at hand and I do research and find out the going rate for my area. And I pay it, and I get dismal results. The types of folk I have hired have ranged from college students to college professors to "professionals" in the particular field.

I work with contracts which are not oppressive and are fair. I discuss the budget with the person, I tell them how much time I think it will take, I'll give them a template, I'll give them everything they need. And they still flake in some way.

Don't get me wrong; I have relationships with some people that are excellent; they do good work, on time and professionally and I don't have a problem paying their rate.

I don't need a full time person; I need a person to pick up a task here and there.
posted by elle.jeezy at 11:26 AM on April 21, 2006

Best answer: I believe might have the international workers you are looking for.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:29 AM on April 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

The federal minimum wage (except for tipped employees) is 5.15/hr, so I am not sure where this $2/hr is coming from, except that 2.13 is the minimum for tipped employees, but if there tips do not equal or go higher than the minimum wage then the employeer must pay minimum wage. I think the poster means average US wages for this kind of computer work. I would try Craigslist though, there are usually plenty of takers for an odd job that needs to be done right away.
posted by stormygrey at 11:36 AM on April 21, 2006

I think something that a lot of people seem to be missing here is that:
I can't pay U.S. wages != I can't pay minimum wage.
I'm assuming that anyone competent enough to do this well here is going to be making $10-15/hour and that for $7-8/hour elsewhere you're getting roughly the same quality of service.

I could be totally wrong, but the pile-on seems uncalled for.
posted by togdon at 12:14 PM on April 21, 2006

also see RentACoder - Phil Greenspun seems pretty happy with the results.
posted by lowlife at 12:22 PM on April 21, 2006

Hi - I would email you, but there's no email in your profile.

I'm a student (22), but I'm trying to get office-y type work experience as I've only done waitressing and that's obviously not very relevant. I've been thinking of doing volunteer admin work for a charity or something, but it'd be nicer to get paid something and get to work from home (though I'm really not too concerned about the money). If you haven't managed to find someone, I'd be really interested. You can email me at the address in my profile. Oh, and I wouldn't be posting with my personal details in public if I was going to flake. :)
posted by speranza at 12:43 PM on April 21, 2006

I would hardly call this a pile-on. The simple fact is that anyone with the skills that the original poster is looking far can probably get a job that pays more than she is willing to pay. I used to work with someone from Bahrain who complained about how she couldn't get anyone (in Canada) to do the stuff she could pay someone there a dollar to do - her garden, wash her car, laundry, etc. It just ain't going to happen.

I am surprised that the poster has had such bad luck with college students - many of them are totally unreliable, sure, but there are some pretty competent ones too.

I would ask if there's something that you (OP) can offer a local, student-aged person aside from money - is there something about your line of work that specific people would find interesting or a good addition to their resume? Do you know any professors or other people who would be able to refer competent student-aged people? Hiring random people usually turns out poorly regardless of how much you pay them. I assume you don't have a ton of time to interview a lot of people, so you need to find a trusted thrid party who can refer candidates to you. Teachers, professors, maybe even church leaders - any of these people should be able to give you the name of at least one competent person who would like to make a few extra dollars on the side.

I've worked with people overseas and I honestly find it very hard to do even when everyone is making six figures and is highly motivated to make things happen. The platitude for overseas outsourcing, in any context, is that if you just do it to save a few dollars on wage costs, it's not going to work.
posted by GuyZero at 12:50 PM on April 21, 2006

We hire college students for this sort of work ($10/hr) and all 6 of them have been gems.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:53 PM on April 21, 2006

I'm unsure of the rates, but this seems like a 'virtual assistant' answer to me...

Just a lookup on google brought up:
free agent

I like the suggestion but I'd be worried about handing over my personal info to someone who hasn't been checked out with references, etc.
posted by eatdonuts at 1:03 PM on April 21, 2006

$2.65 is the minimum wage in Kansas, according to the US DOL website. It's below the federal minimum wage. But I'm not American, so perhaps I am missing something.

Elle Jeezy -- thanks for explaining that you have some good contractors. The way you had outlined things thus far, it sounded like there was a major communication problem. But I really think you can get good college students or even high school students. Maybe it's just that you aren't in the loop.
posted by acoutu at 3:55 PM on April 21, 2006

The federal minimum wage trumps the state minimum wage.
posted by knave at 12:26 AM on April 22, 2006


Keep looking for a reliable college student / freelancer. We're out there, I promise you.

My best advice to you is to screen carefully. If you're willing to pay competitive wages, then it's legitimate for you to ask for some sample work before you sign a contract.
posted by anjamu at 12:41 AM on April 22, 2006

What do you need done, precisely? I work as an administrative assistant to two VP's--but I do have some free time at home. Depending on how many hours you need, we might be able to work something out. Email in profile.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:43 AM on April 22, 2006

I hire undergraduate research assistants every semester. And I have had many of the same frustrations as you, but also have had wonderful, responsible workers.

My most succesful hires have come when I polled my department instead of relying on my own intuition of who might be a good worker. You might contact the chair of a college department in whatever area you work and ask her to help you find a person. Keep in mind that most college work study jobs pay only minimum wage, so if you offer 2 bucks more you can and should be able to find someone good. Write up a litte job description that the chair can distribute.

The other trick is to have a meeting with your assistant once a week. I meet mine every Monday in the coffee shop. The main thing we do is to go over the lists of what they promised to do the week before. We both have the list in front of us--Do you have this? Let's see it. Why don't you have it? Then we make a list of tasks to be completed the next week. These meetings only run 15-30 minutes, but I have found them essential, email doesn't cut it.

Finally, I have become very quick to fire students who are not working out. If someone flubs the first couple tasks, they rarely improve. You don't have the work? Well I am sorry this didn't work out. Good luck on your education. And hire someone else.
posted by LarryC at 8:11 AM on April 22, 2006

And call their references! It's amazing what some references will spill.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:38 AM on April 22, 2006

And it's amazing how most references won't do anything beyond confirming dates of employment for fear of being sued. The policy has even crept up here to Canada; I could have received an excellent reference from a former employer, but ironclad company policy is only to confirm dates, lest they open themselves to liability. Happily, it turns out I didn't need it... but sue-happy fuckheads who blamed poor references rather than looking at their own poor job performance have poisoned the labour market and made much of the whole point of gathering references utterly meaningless.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:37 PM on April 22, 2006

I'm a professional writer and editor and I've got a lot of free time. I'd be willing to do the kind of work you need done for discount rates. Please contact me, my email is in my profile.
posted by soiled cowboy at 2:03 PM on April 22, 2006

You said you "can't pay US wages", which is at minimum $2 and change per hour where you are. Is this incorrect? What can you pay?

Just to clarify, you want to pay less than the $2.65 minimum wage in Kansas, but still work with someone who has a knowledge of computers, can research, write with the style of a native speaker, and conduct themselves in a business-like manner? Can you really not afford US$2.65 an hour for a college student?

What the hell are you people talking about? The U.S. Minimum wage is not $2, or $2.65 or anything like that. Many states have higher rates, but the federal minimum wage is $5.15/hr for non-tip-based work.

Secondly, why are you assuming he or she wants to hire someone less then the minimum wage, and not less then the market rate for personal assistants?
posted by delmoi at 3:57 PM on April 22, 2006

From the DOL site you quoted:
The minimum wage law (the FLSA) applies to employees of enterprises that do at least $500,000 in business a year. It also applies to employees of smaller firms if the employees are engaged in interstate commerce or in the production of goods for commerce...
So the federal minimum wage may not trump the state wage, if we assume the poster runs a small, local business. The poster noted that cash is tight.

The lowest minimum wage of all the states is Kansas -- $2.65/hr. Moreover, the federal minimum wage is less than $5.15 an hour for f/t students, new workers and other groups.

Many college students carry out the work the poster requires. I was seeking to clarify whether the poster needs to pay less than $2.65 an hour for this work, since many college students work for minimum wage.
posted by acoutu at 8:55 PM on April 22, 2006

One way to look into reliable college students - if you still wanted to have that as a backup plan - is to contact the department that teaches the skills you need and ask the staff there if they have any recommendations. I often got jobs that way as a grad student. Staff asks profs, profs pass info on to others. But finding reliable part time help is always a problem for many employers, in both large and small businesses.
posted by batgrlHG at 9:14 PM on April 22, 2006

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