I've often dreamed of finding the perfect virtual secretary to manage those mundane tasks of life—paying bills, filing paperwork, keeping track of appointments, making travel arrangements—that are difficult to manage on a hectic schedule. Now it appears that I haven't been dreaming big enough. An article in Saturday's Wall Street Journal highlights the potentially huge phenomenon of "personal offshoring":
Offshore outsourcing has transformed the way U.S. companies do business. Now, some early adopters are figuring out how to tap overseas workers for personal tasks. They're turning to a vast talent pool in India, China, Bangladesh and elsewhere for jobs ranging from landscape architecture to kitchen remodeling and math tutoring. They're also outsourcing some surprisingly small jobs, including getting a dress designed, creating address labels for wedding invitations or finding a good deal on a hotel room, for example.
Along with Guru.com, one of the bigger players is Elance, a California-based company whose site lists a huge variety of freelance jobs. Disturbingly, many of the tasks listed are in my job description: blog writing, copy editing, article writing, web layout ...
Evalueserve, the Indian research firm that wrote the white paper (pdf) that prompted the Journal's story, estimates "the total addressable market in the United States" for personal offshoring to be "easily" over $20 billion. Gulp.
The good news is that my dream of having a personal assistant is now attainable: There's GetFriday, an unfortunately named Indian company that offers a "personal virtual assistant" for as little as $7 an hour, depending on which plan you choose. So as long as I don't get offshored myself, my life may just have gotten a little easier.