I am a firm believer in the waterbug model, but sometimes when I suggest it to my clients, they say they don’t know where to start. Often you can find a good match in your existing network (which is why solos should always continue to build their networks, even if you never want to go “job hunting” again!) Ask your friends and clients if they know anyone who might be a good virtual assistant, web designer etc. But if you don’t get any leads that way, there are some fabulous resources for online outsourcing. I’ve compiled this list to get you started, but I want this to be a living, breathing document! If you know of any that I’ve missed, contact me and let me know. Here at BSR, we’re waterbug evangelists, and want to make this model as accessible as possible for solos everywhere. (And who knows—you might be able to find your next client on some of these sites too!)
Fancy Hands: “Get your time back with our team of virtual assistants!” Fancy Hands has a US-based team of virtual assistants to whom you can hand off your tasks as they come up. They will do “[a]nything that doesn’t require us to physically go somewhere for you. Anything a smart, patient, internet-savvy person with a cell phone can conquer. As long as it’s legal, we’ll do it.” Their pricing plans and memberships start at $29.99/month for five requests per month, and go up from there.
Zirtual: “Work. Life. Balanced,” reads Zirtual’s home page. “Dedicated virtual assistants for entrepreneurs, professional, and small teams.” Their “ZA” (Zirtual Assistants, presumably) are U.S.-based, detail-oriented people that go through a rigorous vetting process that tests their communication and tech skills, creativity, and problem-solving ability. Rather than pricing on a “per task” basis like Fancy Hands, their plans are hourly; they offer a free, 30-day, risk-free trial period, after which monthly plans start at $399/month.
Elance: Elance has a simple tagline: “Hire great freelancers.” Short, sweet, and to the point. The freelancers in question come from more than 180 countries, and the Elance community as a whole consists of over 3 million freelancers and 1 million businesses. In some ways it works like a classified section (or CraigsList): you post the job you want done (for free), and people will respond with bids. Elance will provide recommendations based on your requirements, as well as payment production. The only additional cost to you is an 8.75% fee which Elance adds to your bid (although you can also choose to “feature” your task for $25).
oDesk: The oDesk homepage says “Welcome to the world’s largest online marketplace, where 1+ million companies hire freelancers to get the job done.” Categories of freelancers include web developers, designers/creatives, writers, virtual assistants, customer service agents, accountants, marketing experts, and more. They come from all over the world, and when you post a task, applicants will submit cover letters and a link to their oDesk profile. Posting a job is free, but oDesk receives 10% of each payment.
TaskRabbit: TaskRabbit is a nice breath of fresh air in the world of online outsourcing—in 19 cities and counting, their workers focus primarily on non-digital tasks like cleaning, moving, and repair jobs. Their “taskers” will clean your house, run your errands, clean your oven, build your IKEA furniture…the list goes on! They run identify checks and insure each task, so you can rest assured. You’ll pay your “tasker” an hourly wage online, and TaskRabbit takes a 20% service fee on each task.
For more information, check out Virtual Assistant Assistant, which provides reviews and can help you decide which virtual assistant/online outsourcing avenue is best for you. They can guide you clarifying your vision and weighing the pros and cons of various options (i.e., VA company or freelancer?)
So, let’s get started! Make a list of business-related tasks that you hate doing. Figure out what you can afford to outsource. And start finding the help you need so that you can continue to thrive as a solo business! Don’t become the “reluctant CEO” from the pyramid model. Remember the waterbug!