So, first, let me say that using a VPA has been a rough road for me. I have tried a variety of companies, a plethora of plans and a myriad of approaches. I have hired a semi-dedicated VPA which did NOT go well. I tried companies in the Philippines, India and a variety of other locales around the planet. As you know from my earlier post, I have even tried using American Express Platinum’s Concierge as a VPA ( Summary ~ Not Too Shabby).
All of that said, a VPA just makes sense for my life. Given the different businesses I am involved in and the heavy systemization my work has undergone since refining EDSAM, it seems that having a smart, capable, dependable and affordable resource for delegation is a key need. Thus, my persistence around identifying a solution. Enter, Fancy Hands.
Fancy Hands is an overall well recommended VPA service, though as you can see here in the public reviews, there have been bumps along the way. Their tagline is “Assistants for Everyone” and they seem to mean it. The service seems to be very popular. So popular, in fact, that they have an iOS app to help manage their service and customer interactions. (The app is actually quite useful to me.)
You can send them tasks to perform via the iOS app, email, the web portal and/or a dial up voice mail box. There did not seem to be a speed difference in the the way the task was submitted, in my experience. The tasks all go into a queue and are then performed by the VPAs, with updates and information being delivered via email/web portal/iOS app. Overall, the system seems intuitive enough to me and the commentary and updates are excellent, especially when considered against the Amex Concierge and other services I have used.
I am on the 15 tasks for $45 per month plan. That plan is currently meeting my needs, usually with a couple of tasks to spare. This is especially true given that using Fancy Hands to schedule meetings, calls and other items that end in a Google calendar event are basically “free tasks” and don’t consume a monthly task for their performance. This is especially useful. I used Fancy Hands as a drop through task schedule system when my simple rule-based filter system couldn’t handle it. That is, if there were multiple people involved, or if the scheduling of a call/meeting/etc. was anything more than a suggestion to meet on X day at Y time. If it was complex, I simply passed the request to Fancy Hands via email and they handled scheduling it via my shared “busy time” calendar on Google. I then sync that calendar back into my work flow across all of my devices. This has been FANTASTIC. No more back and forth, no 25 emails to schedule a call, Fancy Hands does it, and from what I hear from my customers ~ they do it very well with polite interactions, professionalism and courtesy. I have not been disappointed so far, even when multiple time zones were in play. I have scheduled over 50 meetings with them, with only 2 errors, both of which were due to my mistakes with calendaring.
In terms of the satisfaction for their task performance, I would say I am at around 85% satisfaction. As usual, the learning curve is on my end. I have found that the more clear I am about the tasks, and the more focused the tasks are, the better Fancy Hands does. I really try to be very clear about my research requests and very specific about all other tasks. I try and stick to something that is a single task and that could be done by an average person in 15 minutes or less. If I have multiple tasks to outsource in a project, then I determine if they can be done in parallel, and arrange the tasking of the VPAs as such. This approach has led me to success and I believe that the satisfaction percentage will rise over time as I refine the tasking process on my end.
So, what have they done successfully?
- Reformatted, proofed (proof reading experience has varied) and prepared blog posts
- Filled out web forms and updated entries in online databases for me
- Scheduled medical visits and followed up on medical equipment purchases
- Called my aunt and sang her happy birthday
- A wide variety of research projects – from helping solve technical problems to general research about companies, people and places
- Travel assistance – pick great restaurants, identify what locations have non-smoking rooms, etc.
- Re-format data – convert data from a PDF list to a spreadsheet
- Find the best price on an item and if below a given limit, purchase it for me
These are just some of the things they have done for me. As I said, the more creative and specific I can be with them, it seems the more valuable their services will become to my work flow.
So, all of that said, if you want to give it a try, please click here to use my referral code. If you sign up via this mechanism I get a $5 credit. As always, thanks for reading and let me know how your experience goes.