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One of the unfortunate things about the internet is that there are always people that can do what you do cheaper and better. Fortunately, that’s also one of the great things.

VMG BPO

A while ago, I read Tim Ferriss’s book ‘The 4-Hour Work Week‘. You can see why the title immediately appealed to me.

And while I’m in favour of doing less work for more reward — and spending more and more time doing the kinds of things I love doing — mostly I actually already love what I’m doing.

That said, there were some really good ideas in the book.

However, one thing I had immediate problems with was the idea of outsourcing my more menial administrative tasks to India — something that is actively recommended in the book. Alarm bells ring. Surely this is something that exploits foreign workers, destroys jobs for local people, and puts me more or less in the same sweat-shop club as a certain sneaker manufacturer…

Well, apparently not. The work’s done well and it’s done quickly — and most importantly, even though it’s incredibly cost effective, the money paid is good money for the people who are doing the work, many of whom are university graduates working from home on their own broadband connections.

There’s a fairly thorough overview of the practice on Wikipedia.

The companies you find tend to focus on general office and research stuff, but they’ll also help you set up a website, run email campaigns, do tech support, help you buy Christmas presents, and pretty much anything else you can think of that they don’t actually have to be physically present for.

After looking at a few companies (Brickwork, Your Man In India…) I went with VMG BPO (don’t ask me what it stands for), who for US$4.95 a month and US$6 per hour will assign you a Virtual Assistant, and you can start offloading tasks.

They seem to be most in line with the kinds of things I need to do — and other than the monthly token fee, you only pay for the work you assign. I do tend to have slow months (or at least…. I used to, and may do again — possibly).

Personally, I needed some transcribing done — over 12 hours worth — and not only could I not afford to get it handled by the British-based transcription firms I spoke with, I was also made very aware of exactly how much the people I could have asked to do it as a favour were keen not to get involved.

Have you ever tried typing out 12 hours of interviews?

This was the perfect solution — and now I’m on board, I’ll no doubt find more things to seek assistance with.

Funnily enough, this experiment has coincided with me actually employing a real PA who turns up and deals with actual physical pieces of paper. Shelley is exactly the right person to be helping me with the stuff that I need someone to be here for — and my new Virtual Assistant can do the stuff that Shelley’s not working on.

My story — and I’m sticking to it — is that I’m building my team so I can spend more time blogging for you.

Of course, there are other services that will handle work for you at a very reasonable price, some of them specialising in IT development and web work, and some of them are even located in Britain and the United States. I’d be interested in hearing what services you’ve used that have saved you time and money in the past.

Recommendations please…
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In other news, I can report that The 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online is being translated into Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese. This has pretty much all come out of the blue in the last 48 hours, and is entirely voluntary. How’s that for outsourcing?