I’m starting to get the hang of this delegation thing, and I like it.
Jeff Widman pointed me to TimeSvr.com, a virtual assistance outsourcing service that’s priced much more affordably than similar services like AskSunday, GetFriday, and LongerDays. With a USD 69/month plan, you get unlimited 15-minute requests and up to 8 hours for complex tasks.
I took advantage of their a free 3-day trial period to give them a whirl, sending them 10 small tasks I’d been meaning to work on.
Tasks with clearly defined processes (approve Facebook friend requests except for those who found me through Friend Finder, request books from the library, post my checked-out books on LibraryThing and Shelfari) worked out pretty well. I may set up repeating tasks to take care of these things.
Web research tasks had mixed results. When I asked them to find me a Linux-compatible black-and-white laser printer and scanner that could do both sheet-fed and flat-bed scanning, they recommended two Samsung printers available from FutureShop. One of them didn’t do sheet-fed scanning, but the other was a pretty good deal, and we went out and picked it up the same day. (I’m very happy with my new Samsung SCX-4828 – it actually works!) When I asked them to find me that Firefox extension that adds numbered shortcuts to Google Search results, I got back a page that didn’t have anything to do with it. Your mileage may vary.
How does this compare with the dedicated virtual assistants you can hire from oDesk or other services? I’m coming to similar conclusions as Sid Savara in his post Can Virtual Assistants Make Your More Productive? An Experiment, and a TimeSvr Review (with pretty diagrams!). TimeSvr’s 24/7 availability is a big bonus. Because of their focus on 15-minute tasks, I don’t feel nearly as guilty assigning them routine, well-defined tasks. On the other hand, I’m quite impressed by the initiative and personal development shown by one of the VAs I’ve hired off oDesk. I think web research tasks benefit from having someone build up background information and certain tasks benefit from processes that we develop, so I can lean towards asking her to do more of those kinds of things.
I’ll continue with TimeSvr past the 3-day free trial to get a sense of what my small-task volume is like over a month. I’d already carved out a small portion of my budget for outsourcing experiments because I see it as valuable (and otherwise hard-to-get) education on delegation and management, and that + a little web research by Ana would fit in my budget nicely. After a month, I’ll review it to see whether it’s been a good fit, and what would make it even better.
UPDATE: Added affiliate link to TimeSvr for better tracking. Disclosure: If you do sign up and you like it, I’ll get $10 from that, up to a maximum of $30. =)
The key points of my talk “Making a Name for Yourself” at the Toronto College of Technology on March 14, 2009 were:
1. Build on your strengths. Identify your passions and skills inside and outside the classroom, and figure out how to get even better at them.
2. Be flexible and create options. Look outside large IT companies, and even outside the IT industry.
3. Change the game. Create new opportunities for yourself.
1. Focus on others. Look for opportunities to help other people.
2. Make it easy to help you. Have a strong introduction (best-test-focus: start with a brief description of what you’re good at, a concrete example of how that benefited someone else, and a question that puts the focus back on the other person and how you can help them). Bring business cards. Carry a notebook and pen, or a PDA, or some other way to take notes. Have a web presence on social networks, or your own professional website/blog.
3. Ask. Many people enjoy helping. Ask for help and reach out. Find mentors. Ask everyone.
Here are some of the resources I mentioned:
Toronto Geek Events calendar – for finding interesting tech-related events
Love is the Killer App
By Tim Sanders
What Color is Your Parachute?
By Richard Nelson Bolles
Published by Ten Speed Press
Make Your Contacts Count
By Anne Baber, Lynne Waymon
Published by AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn, 2007
How to Talk to Anyone
By Leil Lowndes
Published by McGraw Hill Professional, 2003