Outsourcing: A Lesson in Efficiency & Possibility

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In the late 1800’s, economist Vilfredo Pareto posited a law of income distribution that would later bear his name: Pareto’s Law.  Today, in its more generalized form, the law states that 80% of the consequences stem from 20% of the causes.  Research over the years has shown this law to be proven in almost any setting.  Let’s take a closer look at a variation of the law as it applies to results and productivity.

80% of your positive results come from 20% of your time and effort.

Pareto’s law, as stated above, asks us to rethink how we spend our time to achieve whatever outcomes we define.  Applying this principle can help you and I maximize our potential by eliminating inefficiency, multiplying our strengths and outsourcing activities that free us up to focus on those 20% activities that produce the best results.

It turns out that lifestyle redesign is a great business development tool and discipline!

Like you, I am faced with daily challenges that build into a never-ending to-do list.  I have a slew of grandiose ideas and goals I am looking to accomplish but sometimes, I look ahead and there is simply no time to address them appropriately.

By eliminating “unnecessary” activities and choosing to outsource others I have improved my productivity immensely while reducing the amount of work I do in the process.

Which leads me to an interesting resource I believe can help you achieve your goals – Virtual Assistants.

What can Virtual Assistants do for you?

I first stumbled upon this idea while reading Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat”, and later, Tim Ferris’s book “The 4-Hour Work Week”.  At that time I was barely treading water as I attempted to work a full time job, run a consulting business and publish my first book.  I was trying to do all three of these things while making sure I focused on what is, for me, my number one priority – my family.  It was becoming almost impossible to balance.

One of my biggest projects at that point in time was the design and implementation of an aggressive book launch campaign.  I needed to identify market channels online, define strategic partners, build content for presentations, and work with my publisher to make the book a reality.  Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I decided to apply the 80/20 rule to reduce inefficiencies and to prioritize my work.  And as I went through this exercise I wondered if a virtual assistant might help me accomplish some of my goals.

So I took a chance and contacted Brickwork – an Indian based company specializing in virtual assistant support for financial and health care companies.  The task I assigned them was to conduct comprehensive internet research in order to identify mental health communities I could reach out to as part of my book launch.  I had already targeted some of the more obvious communities, but found I often put off doing more extensive research.  I always found an excuse for postponing this work.  When I had further analyzed and prioritized my workload I realized that online research was an important activity, however, there were other tasks that were more critical and required more of my immediate attention.  I decided to give the idea of Virtual Support a try.

I sent Brickwork a short email telling them I was “looking for internet research to find mental health professionals and online communities I could contact as part of my book launch efforts”.   I informed them I was willing to pay for no more than 10 hours of work and I wanted to know if they could perform this kind of activity and at what cost.

Here’s the email (verbatim) I received as a reply.

Hello David,

Warm greetings and thank you for the interest in our services. We have reviewed your request and would like to share our proposal below –

Objective: You would like our assistance with –

a) Research and collate the list of blogs and online communities of professionals along with email ids who are involved with activities that support issues related to mental health. The professionals can be one of the following –

– Students of Psychology; Social Workers; Licensed professional counselors; Marriage and family therapists; Psychologists; Psychiatrists

Geographic location : Blogs and Communities of English speaking countries

Deliverables: The final deliverable will be presented in a spreadsheet that will include the following criteria –

a) Name of the Blog or Online Community
Brief description
URL of the blog or community
Email ids (where applicable. Some of the blog or online communities will only have the online comment form to leave the message.)

Methodology: We shall dedicate an experienced analyst with excellent research skills. We will share an interim update to help you gauge and provide suggestions to help the analyst’s effort meet your expectation. All our analysts have a good command over English (Oral and written).

We will source the data from various secondary research databases.

Next Step:

· We will introduce you to your analyst
We believe in collaborative approach for effective results, hence we encourage our clients to interact with the analyst directly via Email / Skype / Telephone (Email Suggested)
We encourage our clients to share their thoughts on receiving the interim update so that the efforts can be channelized towards meeting expectations.

It would be my pleasure to assist you with any further questions. Look forward to hear from you.

Thanks and regards,

Whoa!  Now that is an impressive reply to a request that had very little in the way of details.  My next step was to talk with my assigned project manager, a woman named Rajani.  After talking with her I felt very confident they would do an excellent job.

Now, having outsourced this activity, I turned my attention to other matters that required my attention.  Two days later I received an “interim report” from Brickwork to ensure they were meeting my needs as defined in the project.  The research gathered was more than I could have imagined.  It wasn’t good, it was amazing.  Even if I dedicated an appropriate amount of time to this activity I would not have come close to producing the same results.

My time was freed up for more value-based activities, and I now possessed an international list of leads where I could promote my book!

The other nice thing about using a virtual assistant is the cost.  Most of these companies are either located in developing countries (India primarily) or they outsource the activities to teams in developing countries.  As a result, the cost of labor is significantly lower even though the quality is often on par with what you might find in the U.S. or U.K.  So from between $5-$18 per hour I can hire an assistant to perform any number of tasks.  And if you compare that cost with the added productivity and improved outcomes then the trade off is well worth it.

Some companies are better for specific one-time tasks while others are great as an ongoing virtual support option.  AskSunday, featured in the video below, offers some great package deals that cost as little as $37 per month for a dedicated virtual assistant.  They also offer a one-week free trial.

Virtual Resources

The kinds of activities these companies can perform are mind-boggling – from personal errands to follow up phone calls with vendors to the creation of detailed business plans.

Here is a brief list of virtual assistant companies to review.

-  Brickwork specializes in virtual support for all your business needs.  They are top of the line in terms of quality and scope.

- They specialize in 24/7 services such as running personal errands and scheduling appointments, but they can also perform specific project tasks for business purposes.  They have great package deals that are worth a look!

- Another site worth a look and the prices are very reasonable.

- This is a very cool service where you can find and hire experts to do work for you.  Search for virtual assistants and you will be presented with a wide variety of freelance assistants.  They can help you with everything from marketing support to program research and some cost as little as $4 per hour.

In Closing

What kinds of activities would help make you more efficient as you launch your new business, add to your service offerings, or simply work to make yourself more marketable?

Hiring a remote personal assistant might sound a bit far-fetched!  But before you wipe it off your radar for good take a moment and think how you might be able to outsource certain tasks, activities or projects.  Or think about specific areas of expertise you might be able to outsource that would add impact to your business efforts (e.g., an online marketing assistant to increase your online visibility, graphic designer to make your marketing materials pop).  Visualize what kind of impact that might have on your professional and personal life.

For the past several years I have made a commitment to give service and attention to the unique, innovative and outlandish.  And during this process I have learned how important it is to give time to these kinds of ideas.  They might not all work for you but they often reveal essential truths.  And sometimes, these truths are directly in line with your present day reality.

Perhaps Pareto’s Law and the rising tide of Virtual Assistants are crossing your path at just the right time.



  1. Susan Giurleo  January 18, 2010

    David, I LOVE my VAs. At one point I had 3 VAs working on my practice: one for scheduling, one for billing and one managing my website/blog and once I brought them on my practice filled up and I was busier than ever because I could focus on what I do best: treating clients. Glad you’ve discovered the power of outsourcing :-).

  2. Barbara Radin Fox  January 19, 2010

    Fabulous advice for me at the right time. I am going to hire a V.A. yesterday!

  3. Carla Stewart  January 19, 2010

    Perfect timing. Someone just suggested to me earlier today that I get a virtual assistant. Now I have a good place to start! Thank you for the information

  4. Laura Dessauer  January 20, 2010

    Hi David,
    I’m so glad you talk about this. I love talking about the Pareto Principle. I know that this can be used in many different ways in my business: not only with VA’s but also in establishing referral resources as well. Thanks for sharing this. BTW, I have a team of 4 VA’s supporting me from SEO, to Web, to in person, to admin- and well worth every penny!


  5. David  January 21, 2010

    I have currently submitted a request for proposal on for additional help with my book launch. Hoping to find someone great as a VA on there. Will keep you all posted!


  6. Cordes Simpson  March 12, 2010

    I have yet to start my practice so I don’t know if I need to think of one yet. How expensive are they Would it not be better to get one of those bookkkeeping for therapists until my paractice hopefully grows enough to be able to outsource?

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