My So-Called Virtual Life

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As best as I can figure, we’re not going to discover a 25th hour in the day. So instead we’re left attempting all sorts of tricks and tips for using the time we have more effectively. While I’m not quite at Tim Ferris level of Four Hour Work Week or outsource and automate your life, I do rely upon a number of different virtual assistant services to solve problems for me that would be time consuming or full of suck. Here’s what I use and how I use them:

Facebook Messenger’s M: Human and AI-based chat assistant currently in limited beta testing (California only as best I understand). The interface is via Facebook Messenger where M appears as a contact. M is great for single purpose tasks — call this place and let me know their hours, confirm/make a reservation — and I use it frequently for these types of requests. Especially when I can log a bunch of needs off-hours and know M will be on them the next morning during local business hours. M solves coordination costs for me more so than performing any specialized tasks that require thinking.

Fancy Hands: My go-to task-based assistant. I’ve been a Fancy Hands customer for several years and just thrilled by their service. Since I’ve got an admin at work, I don’t use FH for meeting scheduling but instead rely upon them for a strange variety of requests. Such as:

  • Create a map of the neighborhood around my daughter’s school and annotate with street parking restrictions
  • Make me a Twitter list of the cast of the musical Hamilton
  • Travel stuff of course

FH can book stuff with your credit card on file and it’s fantastic for tasks which require a bit of judgment, research or back and forth. It’s human assistants but they’ve got a shared software system which draws on the work of all FH assistants in the network.

Wonder: I use Wonder for b2b’ish research but they’re really good for any type of research question where you could imagine a subject expert needing 15–30 minutes to pull you together an answer. I’ve found them to be, at worst, directionally correct, but quite reliable. Use this URL to get yourself a free task: https://askwonder.com/r/hunterwalk

GetService: For solving customer service issues, this startup has been fantastic. You basically just tell them the problem and perhaps a desired resolution. They go into the customer support hell on your behalf. Depending on the problem, they may need to come back to you with questions or get you on the phone with a representative from a company, but I’ve found it still to cut down the time required from me by as much as 90%.

So those are the four I rely upon. As I try more, I’ll update the post. Any great ones that I’m missing? I don’t yet find myself needing things like Magic and haven’t gotten access to Operator yet.

Update: forget two that I use!

Reserve: For restaurant reservations at awesome, often hard-to-book places. I didn’t think of it as a virtual assistant but I guess by my definition, it fits. ($10 free if you sign up using my code E1J8EE).

Hourly Nerd: Sort of like outsourced management consultants, you can get projects done affordably. For example, I used them on diligence for an investment where a consultant called 50 hotels in five cities to ask a question of the concierges.

Originally published at hunterwalk.com on December 8, 2015.

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