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Personal Outsourcing, Personal Offshoring, and Smallsourcing

February 5, 2013

 

You’ve probably heard about Crowdsourcing, the gentle art of getting other people to do your work without realizing that they are working for you. But what about personal outsourcing?

A J Forbes may have kicked of the personal outsourcing movement with a 2005 article in Esquire magazine (http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0905OUTSOURCING_214). It was a tongue in cheek piece and written with a sly wink. But somewhere between 2005 and the present personal outsourcing has gone from a good joke to an actual business.

Maybe personal outsourcing is not the right term. The Wikipedia refers to the concept as “Personal Offshoring” or “small sourcing”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_offshoring) If we can’t agree on the terminology, then I guess that the concept is still in flux.

The Wall Street Journal had an article in 2007 about “outsourcing your life” (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118073815238422013.html).

“When David San Filippo decided to create a tribute video in honor of his sister’s wedding, he could have gotten a recommendation from a friend or looked up video editors in the phone book. Instead, he did what big corporations have been doing for more than a decade: sent the work offshore.
On the Internet, Mr. San Filippo located a graphic artist in Romania who agreed to do the whole thing for $59. The result was a splashy two-minute video with a space theme and “Star Wars” soundtrack. It won raves at the wedding.”

One of the places to look for offshoring services are elancing sites such as elance.com or guru.com.
The WSJ article gave the following successful example of small sourcing:
“Dan Frey went in search of an artist to illustrate a children’s book his mother had written for the grandkids about her life growing up in New York City. He thought about finding a student from a local art school, but then it dawned on him that he could outsource it without leaving his house. The job didn’t necessarily require a face-to-face meeting — he could just email the draft.

He logged on to Guru, which he’d learned about from computer programmer friends who had used it for work. Within a week, 80 bids had come in from countries like Lebanon, Ukraine and Malaysia. To narrow the field, he had 10 finalists send him sample drawings depicting a young girl. He rejected the illustrators who didn’t follow instructions and sent pictures of animals instead, and he bypassed an Indian firm that seemed big and impersonal, offering him a “project manager” to oversee a staff of artists.

The woman he finally hired lives in the Philippines. He says her drawings, styled after Japanese anime, were more cheerful than other entries, and he was impressed by her polished portfolio. She offered to do 25 drawings for $300 — what some others wanted for a single illustration. “I was kind of amazed at how easy it was,” says the 36-year-old sales and marketing consultant. He says his mother was “overwhelmed” when she saw the finished product.”

Too good to be true? “Some labor experts are skeptical that this kind of outsourcing will ever go beyond a small group of enthusiasts. One issue is being able to trust a worker thousands of miles away with projects of a personal nature.”
The Wall Street Journal tested out personal offshoring with some examples. Here are a couple that worked out well:
PastedGraphic-1
Tim Ferriss had a chapter on outsourcing life in his 2007 book “The 4-hour work week”. Here is a sample of his advice on the topic:
“Golden Rule #1: Each delegated task must be both time- consuming and well-defined. If you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off and assign your VA to do that for you, it doesn’t improve the order of the universe.

Golden Rule #2: On a lighter note, have some fun with it. Have someone in Bangalore or Shanghai send e-mails to friends as your personal concierge to set lunch dates or similar basics. Harass your boss with odd phone calls in strong accents from unknown numbers. Being effective doesn’t mean being serious all the time. It’s fun being in control for a change. Get a bit of repression off your chest so it doesn’t turn into a complex later.”

And here are some tasks that are supposedly good to delegate (http://janderson99.hubpages.com/hub/Tips-for-Personal-Offshore-Outsourcing-and-Using-Personal-Executive-Assistants)
PastedGraphic-2
Outsourcing a wedding! I wonder how many brides-to-be would be willing to do that. Maybe some of the busy ones.
Recently Nick Loper put together a report on the state of personal outsourcing (http://www.virtualassistantassistant.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/The-State-of-Personal-Outsourcing.pdf)
For me the most interesting part of the report was this graphic on the amount of investment being made in outsourcing companies.
PastedGraphic-3
It seems that Elance is still at the head of the pack.
Let me close this with a few more suggestions about tasks that can be outsourced, from Lifehacker.com:
” • Laundry. Depending on your living arrangements, laundry is one of those things that can be easily outsourced. In most major American cities, people usually spend at least 1.5-2 hours each week doing their laundry (assuming a standard sized load—you may indeed have more). Thus, the opportunity cost of doing laundry (in addition to the cost of machine operation if any) would be about $28-37. In would be relatively simple to find someone on Craigslist to do your laundry for you at less than that amount.
• Grocery Shopping. When I lived in San Francisco, I used to visit the grocery store twice weekly, spending about an hour each time getting there, shopping and then unpacking once home. For a minimal cost, I could have had my groceries delivered (or even free if over a certain amount), thus freeing up my time to work on my business.
• Gardening. If you have a garden or yard, it is usually worth your while to have someone else mow the lawn or even water the yard. Plus they’ll have all the proper equipment, which you would then not have to buy.
• Everyday Errands. These are errands like waiting in line at the post office, calling your credit card company or even visiting the bank. Of course, there are certain limitations (especially with financial transactions) but for the most part, you simply don’t have to deal with these. Know a neighbor’s teenager who wants some pocket money? Have them take your mail to the post office for you. Have to call and discuss things with your bank/credit card company? You can find an offshore virtual assistant to do that for you for $4 an hour.
• Maid or Cleaner. This is where we start to get into the more “expensive” areas of outsourcing. Having a maid or cleaner come in on a weekly basis seems like a luxury for most people, but using Craigslist or local classifieds in your area you can probably find someone to do it for you – in half the time.
• Cooking and Food. Having a chef come in and prepare meals is pretty nice, but can get pricey. A better solution is to have an arrangement with a local takeout place to deliver you food daily. Prepay them if you can, and tell them to mix and match however many dishes you want per day… and never worry about working out what to cook again.
• Driver. If you have a long commute where you are capable of being productive, this is something you should consider. See this article by the CEO of JangoMail to find out more how you outsourcing to a driver can make your business grow.”

 
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