9.5 Ways to Outsource and Automate for Free (or almost)

If you want to outsource and automate things here are a few services that are either free or very cost effective. I’ll tell you upfront that I have a bias against outsourcing things that I can do myself faster, better and cheaper. I try to reserve tasks for VAs that require more time and expertise.

Here are my top picks in declining order of cost:

FancyHands (www.fancyhands.com) – $30 per month for 15 tasks – This is a very cool, simple service founded by Ted Roden. I’ve talked to Ted (via email) a fair amount about his service, capabilities and approach. I have to say, for the price, FancyHands is the best I have used. I have used them to do everything from powerpoint charts to market research. They do not have a good way currently of handling recurring tasks or tasks involving a high degree of content creation (reports, web pages, etc.) One of the best things about the service is that if they cannot do the task or don’t think they can do a quality job, they will tell you right away and credit your account for the task. Quality on just about everything I have asked them to do has been outstanding.

mturk.com - The Mechanical Turk is an awesome idea. Without going into a lot of detail, if you have a task that can be broken into 1000 little pieces then you can post it on mturk.com and get 1000 people to do each little piece for pennies each. There are lots of examples but here’s one for now: You have 10,000 photos in your library and you need to have them cataloged and tagged for your website, i.e., is it a photo of a bird, a dog, a car, etc. Give it to mTurk and pay 1 cent each for every photo correctly tagged.

reqall.com - I use this everyday. Dictate to dos for yourself through your cell phone or assign a task to co-workers or to your VA. Reqall then transcribes your dictated task (almost always perfectly for me), categorizes, places it on your Outlook task list or automatically sends it to your VA.

Some people use VAs to keep their calendar updated. Reqall recognizes dates and times that you dictate and automatically places these appointments on your calendar (Google Calendar and Outlook, maybe others). There is a free version and a $2.99/month Pro version.

jott.com - Very similar to Reqall above. I used to use Jott and generally liked it but tried Reqall and found that the transcriptions were far more accurate. It’s been a while since I tried Jott so things may have improved.

Opentable.com - FancyHands and many other VAs tout the idea of having them make restaurant reservations for you. With Opentable and other web and smartphone apps available I have a hard time understanding why I would ask someone else to make the reservation for me. If I do ask someone to book a table for me, there is the potential for lots of back and forth — what if there is no reservation available at the time requested, do you trust your VA to find suitable nearby alternatives. Maybe its a good thing for some people to outsource, for me a few taps on my iPhone and I’m done. Free.

Kayak.com - The same hold true for airline reservations. I prefer Kayak, but there are many alternatives: Expedia, Orbitz, …. I can definitely click faster than I can tell someone what flights I want. Free.

Taximagic – Again, this is one of those things that various VA firms say they will do for you, but why would you. Taximagic (an iPhone app) can find you a cab in most major cities. I have yet to find a city where it does not work. Free.

GoogleVoice - I don’t want to leave Google out. The Google Voice transcription service is truly awful. Many of the transcribed messages make no sense whatsoever, BUT, the follow-me features of Google Voice are awesome. Just tell Google Voice where you are and all of your calls can be forwarded to that phone. Free.

DragonDication – Need voice transcription on the go, DragonDication is a free iPhone app that makes typing an email or any other text document on the iPhone much easier. Transcription accuracy is not perfect but then neither is my typing on the iPhone. Free.

Evernote.com - This is simply an awesome app. It doesn’t quite fit in the category of outsourcing (hence the 9.5) but its a great way to keep all (and I do me all) of your documents, notes, photos, voice notes available to you on any platform. Syncs to all your devices and also has web based access. I wrote this blog post in Evernote over a few days using different PCs and the iPhone. Free, Pro Version available at $45/year.

I am sure there are other ideas and apps people have. Please post your comments here and let me know.

One Response to “ “9.5 Ways to Outsource and Automate for Free (or almost)”

  1. bloog says:

    You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

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