Where's my V.A.????

I’m a video writer/producer by training (and indoctrination), but when you’re in business for yourself, you do everything from client meetings to taking out the trash.

Recently a British customer wanted to buy two of my classic car DVDs in bulk (sfx: cash register). All he wanted to know was the shipping price for sending 10 DVDs, 2 DVDs, and 1 DVD.

Sounds simple, but...

...I had to recreate the entire shipping experience of cocooning the DVDs in bubble wrap, putting them in the box, and filling the dead space with packaging noodles. I needed the correct weight of the package. Then I jumped onto the U.S. Post Office web site to determine the price to ship to Britain.

Everything was like a dream sequence until I saw the prices to ship. Farg!! I knew something was wrong, so I slogged to the nearest post office, waited in the anaconda-sized line, and discovered some much lower prices. When I returned home, I found that I could have determined those prices online, but the options were buried in favor of the Post Office’s Cadillac shipping prices. Farg squared!!

This job would have been perfect for a V.A.: a virtual assistant. Everyone who runs an online business knows about VAs. Even me. But I haven’t used one yet. After today’s time suck, I will definitely be seeking a VA for tasks like this.

I’ve listened to a lot of entrepreneurial startup podcasts these past several months, and everyone says you gotta go with oDesk. (Their competitor is Elance, but the podcasters generally say they’ve had difficulties with vendors on Elance.)

For this job of determining international shipping prices, I could have hired someone for $3/hour. It would have been soooo worth it. (For $3/hour, I can get someone from the Philippines to do this very remedial task. I’ll save my money to outsource more skilled jobs, like editing podcasts, for Americans who understand my needs and the technical requirements better.)

It’s all part of learning to live the online entrepreneur’s life: do what you’re good at, and outsource the rest. Amen to that!
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