Open Thread: What Chores Do You Outsource?

It can make good financial sense to outsource nonpaying work like cleaning your house, maintaining your lawn, and driving your children to after-school activities. Typically, career advisors will tell you that you should hire out nonpaying work so long as you free up enough billable time to cover both the taxes on the resulting income and the cost of the service.

However, focusing on extra income alone may understate the benefits of outsourcing, because presumably you enjoy the work you’ve chosen, so spending more time on it rather than on routine chores and paperwork should make you psychologically better off. Also, improving your skills by taking classes or doing nonpaying pro bono work with the time freed up by outsourcing can increase your so-called “human capital.” That means you could make more money later.

If outsourcing is such a good idea, perhaps you’re not doing enough of it. Maybe you could fill up your real and psychological bank accounts by outsourcing even more chores than you are already. Pamela Slim suggests you outsource everything possible, including bookkeeping, project management, home maintenance, childcare as necessary, and housecleaning. For administrative tasks, she suggests hiring a virtual assistant — someone who works remotely from his or her own office to get your paperwork done.

It’s not too difficult to find a decent maid service or someone to mow the lawn; just ask the neighbors or put a posting on Craigslist. How do you find a virtual assistant though? DoMyStuff.com offers an online marketplace for finding people to help you: you post your task descriptions and potential hires bid on the work. Payment is through an escrow system and employers can rate the workers. Great idea — but it hasn’t gained many users or much traction yet.

Alternatively, you could look for a virtual assistant on a VA directory such as this one, organized by geography. It might be more useful to organize it by language and by type of services, because the “virtual” part of it theoretically means geography doesn’t matter. However, it could be useful to meet with your virtual assistant in person to see if there’s a personal fit and to go over the work that needs doing.

The best way to find a virtual assistant may be through online networking. Post on your blog that you’re looking for someone, ask your virtual colleagues if they know of anyone, and check blog postings mentioning virtual assistantship, because VAs looking for work may have commented about their services and availability. Visit websites and blogs run by virtual asssistants to see if you like their style and to get a quick read on their skillset — someone whose posts have typos might not be as attentive to detail as you’d like.

Other than tax accounting, I haven’t taken the plunge to outsourcing any of my administrative work, though I’m intrigued by the idea. I use housecleaning and lawn maintenance services and have hired out some child care tasks.

What tasks do you outsource? And what tasks would you like to hand off to someone else, if you could only find someone qualified?

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