I’ve been in a string of cheap hotels and crowded, delayed airplanes since Sunday night with little time or energy for working on the computer. I’m still recovering from some Zombie Death version of the flu that kept me home all last week and really screwed up my schedule. But things are on the upswing now.

My new Virtual Assistant is Tina with Get Friday. Last week I assigned Tina her first task – find me a temporary office worker who can come to my office and clean, sort, and file nearly two years worth of back mail including all my bank and credit card statements. This isn’t as bad as it sounds, as I’m an independent operator with an individual’s load of mail. It’s not as if there is a container-load of mail for some corporation. Still, it’s significant. I’m terrible at organizing my own back office stuff. I’m great at organizing what I get paid to do, just not the stuff that I don’t want to do. So it piles up and interferes with my ability to do tax returns and such. That’s bad.

I’ve been trying to solve this problem with various accounting and office support things for over five years, including stints with two separate small business bookkeeping services. It’s one of the two greatest burdens in my life and weighs on me constantly that I can’t stay on top of my papers and finances and taxes and such. There have been times when I got caught up, but I never solved the problem and a year or two later I’m in the same situation again. It’s the proverbial recurring nightmare.

So the first task I assigned Tina was to contact temporary agencies and see if they could provide someone to come in and clean up the backlog and prepare the statements for scanning. As a secondary requirement I wanted someone who could do the scanning if I provided the tools. I gave Tina a list of three local services and all pertinent details about the work. I instructed her to start with the three locals and spread out into greater Atlanta if needed.

Over the course of two days Tina contacted a dozen different agencies in the greater Atlanta area and gave me a spreadsheet with all the data about who, when, what, where. In almost every case she got voicemail or some other sort of delay/barrier/put-off – mostly voice mail. That alone would have stopped me cold. Three voicemail responses in a row from businesses that are supposed to be in the support business would have pissed me off to the point I would have dropped the whole exercise. I don’t have two days to deal with fucking voice mail for something like this when all I’m doing is a basic inquiry to determine if my request is even feasible. But this took Tina a total of about two hours over two days.

Wed-Thu of this week some of the agencies began to return Tina’s calls and contacts and she forwarded them to me to ask how to proceed. So I had her give the agencies the details again, and tell them that they could contact me directly if they were prepared to directly answer my three basic questions:

  • Can you offer someone to meet the stated requirements?
  • Can you meet the timeframe?
  • What are typical rates for such work?

That’s all I wanted to know.

So yesterday afternoon I got a call from a nice young lady with an office service just a few miles from my home. She asked me a couple of pertinent questions about the work and my situation, offered a couple of alternative service scenarios, and told the the costs/advantages of each. She was very helpful and very informative. I think she can solve my problem – at least this part of it. And I would never have known about her if Tina hadn’t gone through the exercise of contacting all the agencies. We have an appointment to meet next Thursday when I am home to interview and see if I want to hire them.

It’s too early to judge the overall success of Tina and Get Friday, but this first task result shows great promise. For $25 I avoided all the hassle of dealing with phone tag and I found a new (potential) source of office help. Fantastic.