Virtual personal assistants make life easier

All stressed out? Get a personal assistant online to schedule appointments, send birthday cards, and pay the bills.

Too busy to book airline tickets, order takeout food, or call your parents? For $19 per month, virtual personal assistants from AskSunday.com will run 10 such errands for you.

Welcome to the world of online errand outsourcing, where on sites like AskSunday.com and GetFriday.com, ordinary people can get assistance with everyday tasks, for a small amount. SFGate recently ran an Associated Press article on the phenomenon, citing the growing number of Web sites that are making it easier to outsource virtual errands overseas to countries like India, China, and Bangladesh.

Credit card on computer

Some of the more unusual tasks handled by GetFriday.com include:

• Daily wakeup calls that also deliver the local weather report and instructions to get up, make the bed, and exercise

• Reading bedtime stories to children over the phone

• Buying underwear on behalf of clients (online purchase only, the company points out)

• Talking to mom and dad in a client's stead

AskSunday.com provides its service 24-7. At GetFriday.com, clients get a personal assistant working in time zone-specific shifts, available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., for instance.

Virtual assistants for individuals and small businesses represent a small but growing market. Last year, the estimated revenue for these services was $250 million, according to research firm Evalueserve, which expects the market to grow to $2 billion by 2015.

For more specific tasks, there are sites like Guru.com, a Pittsburgh-based company that helps employers find freelancers helping with Web design, language translation, and photography. Guru.com launched its online job board in 2000 and has a rating system similar to that of eBay, with reviews from earlier customers, as well as hourly rates, yearly earnings, and locations of the freelancers.

Another site where customers can search professionals based on rate, location, earnings, or feedback is Mountain View, Calif.-based Elance.

Elance and Guru.com are not only platforms for low-wage workers in the developing world, but also for Westerners. Will sites like this level the playing field of the global economy?

 

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