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17 Outsourcing And Virtual Assistant Resources for Small Businesses

This article is part of a series covering tools that help you run your small business like a large company. You can find the first article in the Scale and Upscale Your Business here, which will have live links to each installment. 

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Some of these resources may be familiar to you for individual or micro-business purposes. However, you may also be surprised to learn that some of the personal outsourcing solutions also have options for small business. Can’t decide if you should outsource, or what to task to a VA? Try the previous article in this series on Scaling and Up-scaling your small business with Virtual help.

Once you’ve decided what to keep in-house and what to hire out for, the list of 17 Outsourcing and Virtual Assistant resources below will help you figure out where to find the help you need on a small business budget.

ODesk allows you to hire hourly workers and pay only for time spent on the work being done for your project, with their unique tracking system. Recently merged with a similar service, Elance, oDesk was previously associated with smaller projects, however their combined resources will soon be under the umbrella of a single company. In the meantime, oDesk is best for projects paid by the hour.

Elance, which we’ve just mentioned, has an interesting solution for managing larger outsourced teams, called a Talent Cloud. Partly because it’s been around so long, you may find more high quality workers on Elance, but they’ll also be more expensive.
You may have heard of Fancy Hands, a service that can provide assistance for a certain number of 15 minute tasks per months, depending on the plan you select. They now have a business option available as well.

If you’d like to test the service first, reach out to your network; you can be gifted a task from someone who already uses the service to see if it’s a good fit.

TimeSvr is similar to Fancy Hands, in that its basic service provides assistance for 15 minute tasks. However, their personal plan gives you unlimited tasks, and the workers are primarily in Singapore. Business owners will likely prefer their TimeSvr Dediated Plan, which assigns you a dedicated virtual assistant in the neighborhood of $7 an hour. For those of us who are late night workers in the States, it is ideal for assigning tasks that can be completed overnight while you sleep.

Freelancer has a database of independent contractors, freelancers and consultants available for hire. As the name implies, if you’re looking for workers who already have the skill set you need, this may be a good place to start. It seems to be best suited to finite project work, rather than hourly or open-ended arrangements.

Guru boasts the “largest marketplace for online talent”. It also has a loyalty system by which you can earn extra Guru Loyalty Dollars, which can be spent on future hires, as well as an answers network you can use to gauge the competency of potential hires, or just ask a quick question that requires expertise outside your wheelhouse.

If you’ve got just one quick job, you can try Fiverr.

There are thousands of offerings from people who pledge to get your job done for as little as $5, sometimes within 24 hours. The providers state what jobs they will do and for how much, although there’s an option for you to describe what you need done in the hopes that someone will respond.

Be sure to check reviews before buying – but also note that since Fiverr holds your fee until the job is completed, you will be able to get funds for work you aren’t satisfied with credited to your account toward future jobs, if you and the seller can’t come to an agreement.

PeoplePerHour is a newer service connecting you to freelancers. One key feature is how fast you can be up and running, as your sign-up information can be pulled from Facebook or LinkedIn.

Need technical expertise? You need Rent a Coder. You’ll find programmers, designers, and other tech-savvy workers, as well as consultants in other fields such as writing.

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk helps the most with “micro-jobs”. It’s helpful if you need one task repeatedly, simple tasks that can’t be tasked to a computer. For example, if you have a list of several hundred images, and you want to find just the ones that have a smiling person in them, Unlike with traditional outsourcing, dozens of hundreds of people would sign on to complete the job, each receiving as little as a few pennies for their efforts. Browsing their current list of available jobs, which they call HITs, will give you an idea of how it works.

WorkHub has a similar set up it called “cloud working”, specifically geared to collecting, organizing, and evaluating data.

Task Rabbit specializes in bringing you skilled people to do work that requires a live person, in your local area, although they’ll do virtual tasks too. Describe your task and name your price, then find a person who is a good fit, or let their system find them for you – if you like them you can even hire them directly for future work. They also have a business offering.

To use Task Army, type in a few words describing what you’re looking for into the search box on the front page. On the results page you can then pick from the available projects.

It’s a bit of a cross between oDesk and Fiverr – the freelancers set the jobs that you can pick from, and there’s no bidding system as the price is already set. Prices tend to be higher, but at least theoretically, so does the quality of the work since the workers can set the price, and yet still remain competitive with other offers on the site.

Task Bullet is a US company that assigns one of its university trained virtual assistant to you.

Talent Gurus has virtual assistants with various specialties such as Real Estate and Administrative work.

ZIrtual is an invite-only virtual assistant program which screens its applicants’ts and clients in an attempt to control the quality of their assistants.  Clients on their plan can expect a dedicated US based assistant, who optionally be set up to take or place orders on your behalf.

For an extra charge you can also get 24 access to a floating assistant after your dedicated “Zirtual” is offline, the ability for your “ZA” to use an email on your domain email to complete tasks, or set you to share your assistant with another person. Their ZIrtual Plus program extends those services to even more services through partnerships, some of which provide offline services.

AskSunday was named Time’s #2 site in 2007, and more recently has been featured in NBC news and in the New York Times. Their assistants have a range of skills, and they also have a new premium program to put you together with VAs who have specialized skills. They also allow you to gift a membership for a month or several months.

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, but it should cover enough of the most popular services to get your started. Remember to do your own due diligence and read reviews about each service before you sign up. You could also try a free sample of the services that offer them.

And if you have a favorite virtual assistant or outsourcing service that’s not listed, feel free to add to our list in the comments!

 Flickr image courtesy of Victor1558.

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