The contractors thought it was pretty strange to have to deal with someone in a different state, but it worked out pretty well. Our culture (at least here in the US) doesn't appreciate outsourcing day to day tasks (and I felt embarrassed telling people I had an assistant). Maybe this comes from our Protestant roots.
It reminds me of an episode of Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. Some of his characters from Minnesota visit California and find out one of their relatives has a gardener, and they ask if the relative is having any health issues, because they couldn't imagine having someone do their gardening for them, unless they were severely ill.
Update: The poster above mentions getting what you pay for if you pay $2 per hour in the Philippines for instance. I agree with this. I payed significantly more, but I feel as though I got my money's worth. It isn't that expensive to hire in the US if you look to lower cost areas like the Mid-west.
For this project, I felt it was worth it to have someone who understood the problems of hiring and managing contractors in the US. The person I hired was a homeowner, understood what I wanted to accomplish, and did an awesome job. It turned out to be a fraction of the cost of the overall project, and was money well spent.
That said, a lot of people do outsource tasks like cooking--but they do so in different ways (like going to restaurants) rather than by explicitly hiring help.
Despite it costing less, though, several of my fellow Americans thought the chef was like, bourgeois, or pretentious, or something.
(I would still do it, except now I have a wife who cooks, and resists my lobbying to outsource this function...)
Housecleaning and grass cutting are really common to pay people for in the U.S., though. I think in the neighborhood I grew up the same large company must've had at least 20-30% of the lawns, because they basically came through with their big trailers of equipment and went house to house marching through their customer list.
I don't know the numbers but it likely varies a lot even among those with houses and decent-sized lawns. My guess would be that in upper middle class developments where this sort of thing is more or less the norm, people will be more likely to avail themselves of these services. If all your neighbors cut their lawns on the other hand, I can see able-bodied people feeling funny about hiring someone.
Also, I have found Odesk very helpful when our sales people ask for custom demos for clients. Instead of distracting our team I hire someone on Odesk to reskin our demo app. The best part is I know exactly how much that demo costs and like to let sales know so they can decide for their self if a demo is warranted in each situation.
As for personal tasks, I love using the concierge service attached to my credit card. Just recently I had them research all the candidates up for local election for me, find out how to return a jacket I bought on a business trip across the country, and suggest some recipes for a halloween party.
I have a running list of my favorite things I have sent to my concierge on Quora: https://www.quora.com/Concierge-Services/What-are-some-good-...
I also have a running list on my blog: http://delegnation.com/
A presentation I did at a Product Camp recently about using outsourcing to support product management: http://www.slideshare.net/russjhammond/product-camp-nashvill...
If you could produce a complete transcript, I bet the podcast hosts would be delighted to post it for each episode. Not only would it be useful for listeners, but it would help them show up in web searches on their topic.
Perhaps the hosts or other listeners would even help pay for the transcription.
On your credit card - is that the Amex Platinum? I have a friend that uses them as a personal assistant basically.
As for the card, yes I use an AMEX Platinum but believe Visa Signature and MasterCard World Elite also offer a similar service.
I finally sat down, did a few of my tasks & documented each one, step by step, creating SOPs (standard operating procedures) for each one. It was a little tedious as first, but once my VA got after it - it freed up tons of time for me (but almost more importantly - head space & energy).
Most people who have bad experiences with VAs either don't have a good idea how to manage them or don't have a budget to get someone competent for the tasks they're requesting (paying people $2/hour & you'll get what you pay for).
Go in with reasonable expectations, good systems & processes in place & you'll have a great experience.
I don't suppose you'd elaborate on some examples of tasks you give to your VA?
Competitive research. Having your VA research these tasks & put together a database of information becomes a 1-day task that has immense value down the road.
Customer Service - haven't done this yet - but having them take messages, be my secretary, handle refunds & answer 80% of the support messages that come in (usually variants of the same problem with a fixed, simple solution).
Basic writing skills (non-native english is tough here, but if you want just a paragraph or so written, they can usually do a pretty good job here - after which I have an native-english editor / copywriter go back through & clean up any leftover artifacts).
Lots of people try to skimp by by paying $2-$5 (I've tried this) but if you take into account extra time correcting, supervising & fixing their work - it simply isn't worth it. Outsourcing is supposed to make less work for you - not more!
I would say this kind of behavior has pretty big social implications that everyone seems to be glossing over.
BTW: when we had first baby, we hired doula for several weeks. Very good investment.
For some things, if you want them done right, you have to do them yourself.
This is an emotional response to the economic mindset that the article purposes. In the article - the entire point is that it doesn't matter what you do with that extra time, but if you value your time at $100/hour and you do a task that you can pay someone to do for $10/hour, it's not an efficient use of your resources. That's the economic theory - whether or not you do anything with that extra time is up to you.
If it's not displacing paid work, then it becomes a matter of subjective valuation of your time, which depends not only on the time, but the task and what you would do instead. In that case, you really have to place a subjective value on how much you like or dislike mowing the lawn, and how much you like or dislike what you would do instead. Since you're just displacing one kind of unpaid time for another kind of unpaid time, there's no objective economic basis for determining what the delta value between "sitting in a chair" and "mowing the lawn" is. I personally put it fairly low, because I don't mind mowing the lawn (plus it's exercise, something I'd have to find time to do anyway).
Of course, the question then is how do you value that time? I don't think there's any objective answer to that, but it's probably more than zero.
EDIT: Of course, I just re-read your comment and see this is basically what you just said. I'll admit I got distracted and misunderstood your point the first time I read it.
It's just my viewpoint, I know how much time I waste (heck I'm wasting it right now) and how much time I have to take care of the lawn, etc. I don't need to add to the waste because I don't feel like doing it.
Why is there something inherently wrong with that?
The reality is that pretty much everyone outsources some tasks that they could in principle do themselves. Could I learn to be a passable car mechanic? Probably but I don't care to make that investment of time. On the flip side, could I eat out more? Sure. But I generally enjoy cooking.
I would take minor issue with that advice because "we" live in a downwardly mobile society where the median is poorer every year, and upward economic mobility is immensely less likely than downward economic mobility. Its much easier to learn how to change your oil when you can trivially afford substantial backup labor from tow drivers and pro mechanics if it all goes bad, up to and including simply buying another car, than trying to learn how to change your oil after you've been downsized and ageism means you'll never work above $10/hr again, medical induced bankruptcy and job loss, etc etc. Also its easier to learn "poor people skills" at 25 than 50 or 75.
Yes, yes, it only happens to other people, not people like me, or us, because I / we are special. Sure. Culturally, poor americans consider themselves merely temporarily inconvenienced millionaires. Anyway, learning/maintaining skills is exactly like buying insurance when you might need those skills.
There is also an aspect of management where learning/maintaining skills makes you a better consumer. How do you intend to manage your relationship with your mechanic if you intentionally have no idea what you've hired him to do for you? Oddly enough business relationships based on unidirectional blind trust never work out very fairly.
This doesn't mean you have to do everything. Last time my thermostat failed (open, thankfully) I learned how to replace it and whats involved and basically threw away $200 on labor to have a mechanic do it, because I can easily afford it and there was no way I'm doing this in six inches of snow and slush in February. If I couldn't afford to throw around $200 like pocket change, and maybe some time in the future I won't be able to, I could have done it. May have ended up with frostbite or pneumonia but I could have done it. On a nice sunny 70 degree day in May I'd probably have done it myself for fun.
Doing chores is beneficial and a nice way of taking a break.
> (Oddly, it’s perfectly fine if leisure time includes those inefficient D.I.Y. household tasks that some people find rewarding and fun, like pickling beets or knitting.)
If you find it fun - do it. If not, outsource it as fast as possible.
To me, at least, part of the satisfaction of being a regular adult is that I take care of myself to some extent. I can't do everything of course (e.g., I'm no doctor), but I usually cook, clean up after myself, do laundry, sort my recyclables, sew on buttons, the usual stuff. Cooking in particular I like to do, partly because I get better at it, which means I can do things like cook for friends, and partly because I understand food better by doing it.
I tend to hire people for things that are non-routine and where a specialized professional seems like they'd be much better. For example I do have someone come and clean a few times a year, because while I can generally keep things reasonably clean, a professional cleaner does it to another level. And of course I eat out sometimes, and have professionals do home repairs (that's one area people traditionally knew more about that I know virtually nothing about... I can barely use a hammer).
If you want to or have to do it - do it. If you don't want to do it & absolutely don't have to do it - then outsource it.
So I could pay someone to mow my lawn so I'd have the spare time to take a short nature hike as exercise ...