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Virtual Assistants: Worth It?

Virtual Assistants: Worth It?

    Everybody wants an assistant. Not only is a mark of status and rank, but it’s essential for any working professional who has any management responsibilities whatsoever. But what the economy being what it is, the number of people who can afford assistants are few and far between.

    Increasingly, professionals and entrepreneurs are turning towards virtual assistants to help them manage their workloads. Depending on the service you select, most virtual assistants are able to assist you with tasks as varied as tracking your expenses, ordering your lunch, or assisting with your PR needs…and almost all charge rates that are a mere fraction of what you would pay an on-site assistant.

    But how effective are virtual personal assistants? And how much can they really boost your productivity (or your bottom line)? Like with any business practice, there are pros and cons. So, are virtual assistants worth it? Here’s how it breaks down…

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    Pro: Low cost.

    Con: You get what you pay for.

    The great thing about virtual personal assistants is that many companies offering these services have workers based overseas, meaning that the prices they charge for a full day of work are equivalent to what you drop at Starbucks on your way to the office each morning. Obviously the prices will vary based on location and services rendered, but some workers will help you with your workload for as little as $1-$3 per hour.

    That being said, you get what you pay for. So, while you might not be shelling out big bucks to your VPA, you will have to put up with lost-in-translation issues, foreign holidays, and occasional breakdowns in communication.

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    Pro: The work gets done in your sleep.

    Con: Staying in contact can be tricky.

    It’s really hard to communicate effectively with someone who works three time zones away from you, let alone eight or twelve time zones away. If you’re working with a team of VPAs, this is less of an issue, but it can still take a bit of getting used to.

    All that being said, there’s nothing quite like writing up a to-do list at the end of the day, emailing it off, and coming in the next morning to find everything has been taken care of in your sleep.

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    Pro: Free trial periods are fairly common.

    Con: Fees and quality can vary widely by company/person.

    Services like TimeSvr will offer you a free trial period to assess the quality and fit of their services. That’s great for people who are on the fence about whether they can really benefit from a virtual personal assistant.

    That being said, you need to make sure you’ve budgeted accordingly. For example, ihabilis.com charges a base rate of $10 for five tasks, but charges up to $1,000 for 160 hours of work a month.

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    Pro: Some services offer you an entire team of assistants.

    Con: It’s hard to track who’s accountable for your needs at any given time.

    You basically have two options to consider when selecting what virtual personal assistant is best suited to your individual needs. You can put all your eggs in one basket and throw in with a single assistant, or you can work with a service that puts several people at your disposal, such as GetFriday. You generally have one person who is your “primary”, along with 2 or three other secondary assistants that are available during off-peak hours.

    But while having a team available to you 24 hours a day sounds great, it can be a little confusing knowing who has been assigned to which task in the event that you have last-minute changes to make to your instructions.

    Closing Thoughts

    So, there are a lot of things to consider when selecting a virtual personal assistant. Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide if this kind of service is worth it. If you would like to do some further reading, you might want to check out some other reviews. For example, the Wall Street Journal has a detailed chart that breaks down the price and features of four popular virtual assistant companies, including GetFriday.com and RedButler.com

    If any of you lovely readers has an opinion about virtual personal assistants, or has a past experience with one of these services that they’d like to share in the comments below, please share with the rest of us! I’m curious to hear what you all think about the perks and pains of virtual assistants.

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on June 19, 2019

    8 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn in Less Than 6 Months

    8 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn in Less Than 6 Months

    Everyone has the ability to learn a life-changing skill not just this year, but in the next 6 months.

    By life-changing, I mean something that can have a positive impact in your life moving forward, even if it’s something you can’t envision today. Certain skills we can immediately reap the benefits of, while others will be life-changing when we least expect it.

    In this article, we’ll share 8 life-changing skills you can learn in 6 months, where you can learn them, and how you can get started today.

    1. Speed reading

    Bill Gates has been known to state that if he had one superpower, it would be the ability to read faster. What Bill and the rest of the mega-successful understand is that knowledge is power. The ability to process information faster from books, articles, and reports is what will help us learn faster, and therefore improve each aspect of our life faster as well.

    Where you can start learning: Speed reading courses are becoming more popular, as more people realize how important it is with the limited time we have. You can check out free courses like Read Speeder or you can start learning how to use Spritzlet, which allows you to speed read articles online with a browser extension.

    2. Public speaking

    Research shows that people fear public speaking more than death itself. There’s something terrifying about being in front of dozens or hundreds of people, and exposing yourself completely. It’s when you’re most vulnerable, but learning how to public speak is a life-changer.

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    Warren Buffett has given advice to recent graduates that the number one skill you can have to succeed is public speaking skills. Everything from communication, confidence, and sales is developed when you develop your public speaking skills.

    Where you can start learning: Luckily, there are great communities out there like Toastmasters that organize local meetups all around the world. You’ll find amazing public speakers that are looking to get to the next level to beginners that are just getting started. Check out Toastmasters’ website here.

    3. Spanish

    As the third most spoken language in the world, the ability to speak Spanish will allow you to reach over 500M people around the world. No matter where you live, knowing how to speak Spanish is becoming increasingly more important, with the Hispanic population and economy spreading quickly worldwide. If you’re living in the US, this is even more important, with over 30% of the population being Hispanic.

    Spanish is also on this list, because it’s one of the easiest languages to learn. Sure, Mandarin is an important language to learn, but it’s an incredibly difficult one to learn. If we were to measure the level of importance and the time to learn for all the languages available, Spanish would make it to the top of the list.

    One of the biggest reasons why people never reach fluency in any foreign language is: using the wrong method, and lack of time.

    It turns out that humans retain only 5% of what we learn from lectures, 20% of what we learn from apps (visual cues), and 90% of what we learn from immediate immersion. Yet, how do 90% of learn a new foreign language? Language schools (lectures), books, Duolingo (apps), etc that don’t provide the real-life immersion required for our brains to learn faster.

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    Where to get started: If you want the most effective way to learn a language, learning from real-life interactions is the best way to do it. There are great websites like Rype, which offers Spanish coaching for busy people, solving the issue of lack of time and bringing real-life immersion to your screen. With Rype, you can book as many lessons as you want, at any time of the day, any day of the week, allowing you to fit it into your schedule, no matter how busy you are.

    4. Accounting

    If you’re looking to get into business, accounting is one of the core fundamentals you’ll need to succeed. While you don’t need to be an expert, you definitely should understand the basics.

    This skill can also be used to manage your personal finances, to meet your financial goals, and having more control over your life.

    Where to get started learning: If you didn’t learn accounting in school, no worries. You can either teach yourself using books, or check out free accounting courses online.

    5. Microsoft Excel

    Most people reading this probably have a basic understanding of Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet. While this is a good start, there are so many powerful functionalities that are hidden, which could make your life a lot easier.

    Excel is also a great asset to have whenever you’re looking for a job, as many corporations rely on Excel to organize and manage multiple parts of the business.

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    Where to get started learning: With the popularity of Excel, you can find tons of free resources and videos online to learn. Check out Excel Exposure, Lynda, and Excel with Business.

    6. Blogging/Vlogging

    Blogging is a powerful tool if you want to spread your ideas, build your brand, or grow your business. Since it was introduced, blogging has taken on a life of its own, and today there are ~2M blog posts being written on a daily basis.

    Where to get started learning: Anyone can start blogging today. All you need is a content-management system like WordPress, which is completely free. Personally, I think the best way to start learning how to blog is to just start writing. There are techniques you can learn on how to promote your blog, but the best way to grow your blog is to write great content.

    7. Weight training

    Yes, weight training is a skill. It’s not as advanced as learning how to code, nor will it take as long as learning a new language, if you just want to learn the basics.

    We’re not promising that you’ll get a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but you will see much faster results for whatever goal you have, just by understanding how to workout properly. And of course, when you’re dealing with an activity that involves physical strain, you’ll always want to caution yourself.

    Where to get started learning: There are amazing body builders that are sharing all of their secrets for free on Youtube. You can check out Bodybuilding.com’s Youtube channel to get started.

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    8. Photo and video editing

    In the digital world that we live in, from Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook, there is no avoiding photos and videos. In fact, social media has increasingly gone away from text sharing and almost everything to photo and video editing.

    Where to get started learning: For photo editing, you can use Photoshop. For video editing, you can use iMovie or Final Cut Pro. Keep in mind, there are dozens of editing software tools for video and photo editing, but what’s more important are your editing skills, not the tool itself.

    Check out education websites like CreativeLIVE or Skillshare, where you can learn from experts themselves on how to best use design and software tools.

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