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Meet Helen: Assistant

For two years, Helen has been happily assisting Fancy Hands clients near and far. Originally from Pennsylvania, Helen enjoys spending time with her family and loves spicy food. Want to learn more? Take a look at what else Helen has to say! 

What has been the most memorable task you've handled? All the Disney Vacation tasks are memorable to me because I love all things Disney!

What is one interesting fact you've learned from a task? Not everything is how it seems.

What are your hobbies?  Ummm...Does being Fancy count? 

What is your favorite karaoke song? "Your Nobody Called Today" by Sylvia 

What is your spirit animal? I think I might be part squirrel

What is your favorite kind of ice cream/froyo? Strawberry Cheesecake.

Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world? Egypt.

Who is your biggest inspiration?  My family!

What are some of your favorite apps (technology)? Yelp, Google and Skype!

What are some of your favorite apps (food)? Hot wings, jalapeno poppers and cream cheese wong tongs.

What do you want to say to the Fancy Hands community? I am truly grateful to have the wide variety of tasks to choose from! Everyday is a learning experience. 

If you see Helen working on your task, say hello! 

Meet Anne: Assistant

Everyone say hi to Anne! She's been a Fancy Hands assistant since October 2014 and lives minutes away from NYC in the Garden State: New Jersey. Anne has answered a few questions for us to help get to know her better. Check 'em out below! 

What has been the most memorable task you've handled?  I had to call a client's 18 year old brother during the holidays and tell him that he missed him, and then proceed to tell him three funny jokes.

What is one interesting fact you've learned from a task? Perseverance always pays off!

What are your hobbies? Camping, softball, and unfortunately, shopping! Since I have no children of my own, I love spending time with all of my 19 nieces and nephews.

What is your favorite karaoke song? "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad"- Meatloaf

What is your spirit animal? A Swan. Swans are idealistic, open-minded, and passionate. My good nature often leads people to think they can take advantage of me, but they should be careful—beneath that serenity lies a fighting spirit. I love fiercely and unconditionally.

What is your favorite kind of ice cream/froyo? Edy's French Silk

Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world? That's a toss up of Ireland and Italy; I'm half Italian and half Irish 

What is your go-to dance move? A very strong chocolate martini

Who is your biggest inspiration? I know this sounds cliche, but my mother. She raised 8 wonderful children, and is a very involved grandmother of 19, and ALWAYS had a smile on her face no matter how hard things got, we never knew it. She's also been an amazing wife of 44 years of marriage to my father, who is also wonderful.

What are some of your favorite apps (technology)? EBay, Amazon, (anything shopping related), Fox News, One Note, and Microsoft Office Mobile (I go to school online, so this is always open!)

What are some of your favorite apps (food)? Fried calamari, mozzarella sticks, buffalo wings, hot spinach dip, stop me now.......

What do you want to say to the Fancy Hands community? It's always a pleasure assisting you! The kind words and feedback are more appreciated than you know! There's nothing more gratifying and rewarding in my work than knowing I have left the client happy! Because of you, I love my job and the challenges it presents! 

Meet Emily: Assistant

Emily is the daughter of Peace Corps volunteers, so she was born and spent the first 17 years of her life in the Philipines. She currently resides in Omaha, NE and has been a Fancy Hands assistant since May of 2014. Keep reading to learn more about Emily! 

What has been the most memorable task you've handled? I love the proofreading tasks, and I love transcription.   Those really stick with me because I enjoy seeing what people have written and I like helping with it!

What is one interesting fact you've learned from a task? How to find email addresses at various companies - I had to find 150 recently.  I had no idea that this was even possible, but I got some great advice from other assistants!  

What are your hobbies? I love to travel. I was stationed in Germany when I was in the Army, and I'm planning on going back this summer. I also love to read and cook!  

What is your favorite karaoke song?  I don't do Karaoke, but I love singing along to the radio.  Much to the chagrin of my 19-year old daughter, right now, I really like "All About the Bass" .

What is your spirit animal? A butterfly, because I'm always flitting from one thing to another.

What is your favorite kind of ice cream/froyo? Ben and Jerry's Peanut Butter Jam Session.

Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world? Back to the Philippines.  I spent my childhood in a mountain town called Baguio and I would love to go back!

What is your go-to dance move? I'm taking the fifth on that one.  Emily has no rhythm!

Who is your biggest inspiration? My husband, Andy. He went back to school to become a teacher in his 40s, and I admire the courage that took!

What are some of your favorite apps (technology)? Aviary is an awesome photo editing app from Adobe.  Mint helps me keep my finances in order, and Skype helps me keep up with family and friends around the world.

What are some of your favorite apps (food)? Oh, I love food.  I can't pick just one!

What do you want to say to the Fancy Hands community? Our clients are great - supportive and friendly and great to work with.  I've learned so much about so many different topics since I've been doing this.   Most importantly, I've learned that "I can't do that" is a phrase that has no place in my life!

Volunteer Day

Today, Fancy Hands HQ volunteered at the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger (BSCAH) food pantry in Brooklyn, NY. BSCAH was founded in 1998 as a traditional food pantry, and they’re currently the largest pantry in Brooklyn. They provide food to over 12,000 New Yorkers in need of food a month. This past year, they provided over 1.8 million meals to Brooklyn residents in need. Straying from the standard food pantry protocol, BSCAH allows their clients to select their own fresh produce and non-perishables through a supermarket-style pantry setup. BSCAH gets their food donations from several organizations around New York, including the Food Bank for NYC. They also own and operate two urban farms, which is where a lot of their fresh produce comes from. They are always looking for volunteers and accepting donations. If you’d like more information about volunteering or if you'd like to donate, you can find that here. A very special thanks to the staff and clients for allowing us to spend a few hours helping out today! 

FH HQ outside of the BSCAH food pantry. 

Meet Allen: Assistant

Meet Allen! Allen hails from Portland, Oregon ("a weird place") and he has been an assistant at Fancy Hands for longer than most: since April 2012. Keep reading to see what else Allen has to say about polyphasic sleeping, dance moves...and more!

What has been the most memorable task you've handled? Helping one of our clients find their lost dog. We created digital flyers and emailed/faxed them to hotels, restaurants, pet stores, humane societies.  We called dozens of proprietors along the beach. It took a few days but we found that little dog.

What is one interesting fact you've learned from a task? Let's see...polyphasic sleeping...Quantified Self...Cold Shower Therapy...I love the fact that I learn something new every day. Whether it's something about myself, serving the client, or subject matter the client needs an assist with, my horizons are constantly being expanded.

What are your hobbies? I work for Fancy Hands.

What is your favorite karaoke song? Yeah, right.  If I am singing something must be wrong with the universe. But I love a round of Boston's Rock and Roll Band.

What is your spirit animal? The Beagle,  loyal, playful, and keenly led by the nose.

What is your favorite kind of ice cream/froyo? Vanilla- there are literally 100's of ways to dress up a nice big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world? Someplace where it rains less than nine months of the year.  But more to the point, 

What is your go-to dance move? Scientists have found that women rated male dancers higher when they performed large, variable movements of their head, neck, and torso. Male dancers were also considered "good" dancers if they displayed fast bending and twisting of the right knee.  I would say if you need a go to move thats the one to do.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2x7bMzDPDbs

Who is your biggest inspiration? My wife. She accomplishes so much in such little time. She has an infinite amount of time for a husband and children and still figures out how to impact literally 100's of families over the last 15 years. She is amazing.

What are some of your favorite apps (technology)? Reminder is a great app-keeps me on task; Square Up  lets me accept credit card payments like the big dogs; and of course I love Dropbox.

What do you want to say to the Fancy Hands community? Thank you, for allowing me the opportunity to assist.  You make my life better.

Eleventh Hour Valentines

It’s here again: The time when you can’t walk into your local Walgreens without being tempted to buy all of the candy (two 64-oz chocolate hearts for a $2.99? I NEED THAT) or being bombarded by oversized teddy bears that seemingly stare at you as you walk through the door. Yes, I’m talking about Valentine’s Day, and it’s only a few days away. For those of us who are procrastinators (hand raised) you might be thinking to yourself “I need to get a gift, but I don't know what to get!" Luckily for you, I’ve compiled a few ideas for great last-minute gifts that’ll show you care, and that you totally had this planned a while ago. You’re welcome. 

Oh, and for those of you who are more into Anna Howard Shaw Day or Galentine’s Day (ovaries before brovaries!) I’ve got some ideas for you as well. 

Singing Telegram: 

What better way to show your loved one you care than sending a talented stranger to lovingly embarrass them through the gift of song? Singing telegrams are a fun and unique way to sing “I care for you.” If you're not into the idea of a telegram, why not hire someone to write and perform a song for your main squeeze? Either way, it’s sure to be a gift that will be remembered for years to come. 

Personal Chef: 

Since you’re likely not going to get a dinner reservation for Valentine’s Day at this point, you might as well have the restaurant come to you. A personal chef will be able to cook a meal designed by you and you’ll be able to have a romantic dinner without having to leave the house. Fancy, fresh and delicious food without having to put on pants? Sign me up. 

Customized Jewelry: 

Contrary to popular belief, it’s OK if you don’t go to Jared. Why not work with someone to have a special piece of jewelry made for your loved one? It could be a customized watch or a necklace that symbolizes an inside joke. Whatever it is, it will be one-of-a-kind and will be sure to bring a smile to their face. 

Scrapbook: 

It’s like a Facebook album, but tangible. This will be an enjoyable gift for you as well as you decide which pictures to add to your scrapbook. You’ll have a fun trip down memory lane together, and a thoughtful and fun book to look through in the future!

Spa Day: 

This can work for Valentine’s Day, Anna Howard Shaw Day or Galentine’s Day. You can treat yo’self (and maybe your loved one) to a spa day that will get you pampered and looking and feeling fresh. 

Recipe In A Jar: 

This is geared towards you, Galentines, but could work for any of the above holidays. Get a mason jar, fill it with the dry ingredients to your favorite waffle (or other baked good) mix, decorate the jar and voila! You have a memorable and edible gift. There’s no better way to show you care than giving someone food, IMHO. 

Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage: 

Ok, I guess this could be a useful gift for anyone, in general. Read up on “the most outstanding woman suffrage orator of her time” and prepare to drop knowledge on all those who haven’t read this book. Knowledge is power, y’all. 

Flowers & Chocolate: 

This is a classic and is sure to be a hit. *Please note that this is always a great gift and should be given in excess year-round. 

Well, there you go Valentines. Get out there and have the best February 13th and/or 14th ever! In the meantime, I’ll be anxiously awaiting one/all of the above from you. 

PS: If you need help finding any of the above, feel free to use Fancy Hands to get the job done. 

Meet Michael: Assistant


Meet your assistant Michael, originally from what he calls "a small town in New Jersey known as Barrington". He has been an assistant at Fancy Hands since January 2014. Check out some cool facts about Michael below! 

What has been the most memorable task you've handled? 

I had to create an road trip itinerary for a client going from San Francisco to New York City. That was really fun looking up all the places they should stop and see across the country. 

What is one interesting fact you've learned from a task? 

There was an article about "the 10,000 hour rule" which it means anybody can be a master at something if they put in that time. 

What are your hobbies? 

I'm a big history buff so I am always seeing what new exhibits museums are displaying. The artifacts from the past really help me keep things in perspective.

What is your favorite karaoke song?

"Sweet Home Alabama" Lynyrd Skynyrd

What is your spirit animal?  

A crow, it is a problem solver and enjoys a great meal.

What is your favorite kind of ice cream/froyo?

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, no more feeling guilty of eating the dough beforehand.

Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world?

Italy, it's such a beautiful place and where my ancestors emigrated from.

What is your go-to dance move?

Don't sign me up for any dance competitions but I'm known to do the Twist.

Who is your biggest inspiration? 

My father, he's always willing to help someone without expecting anything in return.

What are some of your favorite apps (technology)?

Google Maps, it's my go to app for going two miles away or two hundred.

What do you want to say to the Fancy Hands community?

Thank you all for helping to grow this incredible service.

Meet Athanasia: Assistant

Meet Athanasia, a Fancy Hands assistant who has worked with us for over a year and a half. She was originally born in Greece and made her way across the pond to Chicago. She later moved to California for college but has gone back to her US roots and currently resides in Chicago. She's the proud mother of two and has so much more to share below! 

What has been the most memorable task you've handled? 

They are all pretty memorable.  My best was this poor woman who wanted to get a wig for her granddaughter because she has leukemia.

What is one interesting fact you've learned from a task? 

I have learned so much from the tasks that I have done.  It is very hard to answer this question because everyday I learn something new.

What are your hobbies?

I love the outdoors and anything to do with water.

What is your favorite karaoke song?

"Like a Virgin" by Madonna

What is your spirit animal? 

According to the quiz I took, my spirit animal is the butterfly.

What is your favorite kind of ice cream/froyo?

I am a caramel swirl ice cream kind of girl!

Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world?

Egypt.  I would like to see the Pyramids in my lifetime. 

Who is your biggest inspiration? 

My children, they inspire me to be a better person every day. 

What are some of your favorite apps (food)?

Of course, Greek food, and Sushi!

What do you want to say to the Fancy Hands community? 

I have learned so much working here and I really enjoy helping others.  I also work with some very sweet and smart people.

Athanasia and her daughter Michaela.

Taking Some Pain Out Of Tax Time: Part 2

We proudly bring you Part 2 of 'Taking Some Pain Out Of Task Time' by Chris Remus. 

In Part 1 of this two-part series I talked about why we experience pain at tax time, how we can relieve that pain by making the tax information collection process easier, and how Fancy Hands can help with that process. In Part 2 of the series, I’ll introduce you to how the three principles of Tax Pain Relief and Fancy Hands can help you take the pain out of tax time.

Principle 1 - Establish a Single Digital Repository for your Tax Information

This is a single digital storage location that you send all of your tax documents to throughout the year. By establishing this digital repository, when tax season approaches, all the information you need is already in one place.

Having all the information in a single place saves you the trouble of scrambling around at the last minute, trying to collect all of the information you need, while hoping you’re not forgetting anything. If you setup the Digital Repository the right way, getting the required information into it should be simple, seamless and self-organizing. Certain information collection tasks can even be automated, if you integrate your Digital Repository with other online services. For these reasons, my Digital Repository of choice is Evernote.

Here are some ideas on how Fancy Hands can help you with Principle 1 -

1 - Setup your digital repository, e.g. an Evernote notebook if you only file personal taxes or multiple notebooks if you file personal and business taxes.

2 - Research and develop a checklist of the information you need to collect for each deadline. If you use an accountant to file your taxes, Fancy Hands can also contact your accountant for a list that they may have available for clients to use. This also makes your accountant’s life easier, since he/she will be getting the information he/she needs, without having to follow-up with you to fill in the gaps.

3 - Add the checklists to the reminders of key tax dates that Fancy Hands set up for you in Part 1 of this series. (Link to Part 1, preferably #2 “Reminding you…” of Part 1.)

4 - Integrate additional systems with your digital repository to automate certain tasks like expense receipt and financial statement collection.

Principle 2 - Use the Single Digital Repository throughout the year

How you setup the Digital Repository is important. However, if you don’t use it throughout the year, it’s not going to be too helpful to you at tax time. Make sure your Digital Repository:

1. Is available to you on whatever device you may have handy when you come across a relevant piece of tax information.

2. Has extensions to make it easy for you to get the document, whether digital or paper, into the Digital Repository.

Again, I’ve found that Evernote excels in each of these two areas. There are also tools that allow you to automate the collection of some aspects of expense receipts and financial statements. You can link those to Evernote too and have them feed the relevant information into your Digital Repository for you throughout the year.

Here are some ideas on how Fancy Hands can help you with Principle 2 -

  1. Check to see that your automated systems are correctly sending the right information to your Digital Repository on a Quarterly Basis and help you fix them if they’re not.

2. Run digital expense reports, using a system like Expensify, on a monthly or quarterly basis, to generate digital expense receipts for you. Add the reports to your digital repository.

3. Send your financial statements, that have been automatically added to your Digital Repository by a service like FileThis, to your accountant or bookkeeper for reconciliation on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Principle 3 - Use the Single Digital Repository at tax time

This is where you feel the Tax Pain Relief. As tax season approaches, everything you need is now in one place, in your Digital Repository. If you do your own taxes, everything is in one place for you and you can focus on completing the forms, reducing your chance of making costly mistakes, since you won’t be distracted by having to collect tax information while simultaneously concentrating on getting your calculations correct.

If you work with an accountant, you simply need to share the Digital Repository with your accountant, if your accountant is tech-savvy, or export and send the contents of the Digital Repository to them, if they’re not so tech-savvy :) Either way, everything’s where it needs to be and once you get the information over to them, you can focus on the more value-added activities like making key tax-planning decisions for your household and/or business.

Here are some ideas on how Fancy Hands can help you with Principle 3 -

1 - Review the information in your Digital Repository against the checklist developed in Principle 1 and let you know what’s missing.

2 - Share the Digital Repository with or export and send the information from your Digital Repository to your accountant, for a truly hands-off experience.

3 - Pat you on the back for a job well done :)

In conclusion, while these principles may seem simple at first, the real challenge is addressing and following them throughout the year. The fact that your Tax Pain Relief system is very easy to use should help you actually use it throughout the year, be better prepared and feel less pain at tax time as a result.  Using Fancy Hands to do some of the work and/or remind you of the things you need to do makes it even more likely you’ll follow these three principles and experience your Tax Pain Relief during this tax season and those to come for many years.

P.S. - If you decide to give Tax Pain Relief a shot, use code “FANCYHANDS” at check-out to receive 10% off the purchase price and access to a lifetime of free updates to the eBook.

About the Author: Chris used to really dread collecting all the information needed to file taxes. Since He was spending way too much time collecting various tax forms, bank statements, receipts, etc., this would lead to him being super-stressed and behind on a lot of other important things during tax season.

Over the past few years, Chris developed Tax Pain Relief to make the tax information collection process a lot easier and better for himself and is now excited to share that relief with others.



Taking Some Pain Out of Tax Time: Part 1

Chris Remus is a Fancy Hands aficionado, so much so, that he has figured out a way to take the pain out of tax season with the help of Fancy Hands. Chris has written a two-part guest post on how you can also take the pain out of your own tax season. Enjoy Part One below, and stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow! 

Just over one-third of us like doing our taxes, yep, really...at least according to a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2013. This post isn’t for those people.  This post is for the over 56% of us that either dislike or even hate doing their taxes. I fall into this category of people and am guessing you do too, if you’re still reading :)

For people like us, tax season can be a source of pain, that manifests as a combination of stress, tension, and anxiety. Because of this pain, we may find ourselves trying to avoid it as long as possible, by putting-off doing our taxes to the very last minute. As a result, we haphazardly rush to collect all the information we need to file and either complete the required forms as best and quickly as we can or dump the information on our accountant to do it for us.

This approach leaves us with even more (and now lingering) stress, since we’re afraid that in our rush to get the taxes done and off of our plate, at least until next tax season, we may have made a costly mistake along the way.

A few years ago, I began to believe there had to be a better way to approach tax season and reduce the pain resulting from stress, tension, and anxiety that would build along the way. OK, I thought to myself, if tax season is going to be painful, maybe I can make it less painful by being better prepared when it rolls around each year, or in my case, as a small business owner, multiple times a year.

Daily Worth reinforces what most of us already know, yet still rarely carry-through with, by reminding us that getting a jump on taxes is - 

Worth the Effort

What if just a few hours — or even minutes — of effort could result in hundreds, maybe even thousands, more dollars in your bank account? You’d make the effort, right?

Well, maybe. At tax time each year, many of us take shortcuts or overlook important items that cost us big bucks, payable to Uncle Sam. Next year, don’t pay more than you owe. Rather than waiting until the last minute then rushing to file your taxes on time, start early and put in a little time. Do more research. Plan ahead. And you’ll be able to avoid these costly tax mistakes.

What I discovered was that, by setting up a system to collect tax information throughout the year, collecting tax information became so easy to do, I actually did it in advance of each tax season. As result, I became better prepared for each tax season. Being better prepared meant spending less time on taxes during tax season, which also meant less tax season pain. This past April, for example, the time I spent on collecting my tax information and getting it to my accountant dropped from what used to be hours to under 30 minutes! 

After experiencing the wave of relief that came along with this pretty drastic reduction, I decided to document the system I used, in the hope of sharing this tax pain relief with others. The result is an eBook called Tax Pain Relief that is based on three very simple principles.

Fancy Hands has been instrumental in keeping me on track, as I developed Tax Pain Relief, while balancing a number of other projects, as well as a my personal life. Looking at my account, it turns out that January 30, 2015 marks my two year anniversary as a very happy client and heavy user of Fancy Hands. The stats on the Fancy Hands dashboard tell me that over the past two years I’ve made 885 requests and that Fancy Hands has placed 777 calls, spent 2.1 days on the phone, sent 167 emails, and scheduled 2378 events for me.

Everything that Fancy Hands has done for me allows me to focus on the things that I actually need to do myself, essentially the places where my time is most valuable. To me this is one of the biggest value-adds that virtual assistants provide and the Fancy Hands assistants excel at providing this value.

Another really big value-add is that Fancy Hands can do things for us that we may have an aversion to doing, however that still need to get done, in essence helping us fight through our own mental barriers and keeping us out of trouble :) Taxes fall squarely into this category for me.

For example, as a small business owner, one of the reasons I subconsciously delay doing my taxes is to avoid coming face-to-face with the reality that a lot of the hard-earned money sitting in my bank really isn’t mine, since a good chunk of that cash needs to be paid in taxes. This sub-conscious avoidance mechanism also would also contribute to me putting-off my taxes to the 11th hour, only compounding the stress, tension and anxiety I would experience each tax season.

So since taxes are something I really hate doing, wouldn’t it be great if Fancy Hands could help me get them done, while making sure I don’t put things off until the last minute in the process? Putting a system like Tax Pain Relief in place also opens the door to allowing Fancy Hands help you take even more pain out of tax time.

As a matter of fact, even before you get started setting-up your own system to take some pain out of tax time, Fancy Hands can help you prepare to make each tax season less painful by: 

1. Adding key tax deadlines to your calendar. Ask Fancy Hands to either research a good calendar of key tax dates for you or contact your accountant for one.

2. Reminding you about key tax deadlines throughout the year, with sufficient advance notice to address them. Ask Fancy Hands to add recurring reminders to your calendar events, set up the reminders in a service like Resnooze, or if you need some extra help, schedule recurring Fancy Hands tasks to remind you when key tax activities need to get done. I like this last option a lot, since if you’re experienced with Fancy Hands, you know they won’t quit reminding until you get done what you need to do ;)

In the second part of this series, I’ll introduce you to how the three principles of Tax Pain Relief and Fancy Hands can help you take the pain out of tax time.

P.S. - If you decide to give Tax Pain Relief a shot, use code “FANCYHANDS” at check-out to receive 10% off the purchase price and access to a lifetime of free updates to the eBook.

Meet Kelley: Assistant

Meet Kelley, a Fancy Hands assistant since November 2012. A mother of three with a grandchild on the way, Kelley was born in the Philipines and currently resides just outside of Philadelphia. Keep reading for more fun facts about Kelley! 

What has been the most memorable task you've handled? I found a picture of a client’s grandfather that was published in a magazine in 1970.

What is one interesting fact you've learned from a task?  What I lack in knowledge can be learned in a pinch

What are your hobbies? Gardening, Playing MMO & MMORPG War Games and sleeping

What is your favorite karaoke song? “I Need a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler

What is your spirit animal? A pit bull

What is your favorite kind of ice cream? Macadamia Nut

Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world? Hang Son Doong in Vietnam, The Batu Caves in Malaysia and Bora Bora in the French Polynesia.  

What is your go-to dance move? The Tootsie Roll

Who is your biggest inspiration?  My children.  Everything I do is for their future, and the benefit of their existence.  

What are some of your favorite apps (technology)? Auto Text Expander and Google Docs

What are some of your favorite apps (food)? Thai spicy beef salad, chicken wings and lumpia

What do you want to say to the Fancy Hands community?  Do what you love, and I'll take care of the rest. 

Kelley and her family. 

Meet Tesha: Assistant

 

Tesha, sparkling! 

Meet Tesha, a Fancy Hands assistant since May of 2014 from Marshall, Missouri. Tesha is a mother of two and really loves her job working as a Fancy Hands assistant. We've asked Tesha to answer a few questions to help you get to know her better. Check 'em out! 

What has been the most memorable task you've handled? The most memorable task I've had was making wedding invitations. It was very exciting!

What is one interesting fact you've learned from a task? I learned how to use the Neat program. 

What are your hobbies? I LOVE playing old board games like Clue.

What is your favorite karaoke song? "Shake it Off" by Taylor Swift

Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world? I've always wanted to explore Italy.

What is your go-to dance move? The head bob

Who is your biggest inspiration? My daughters, Lily and Lemi. Without them, I wouldn't have motivation or inspiration!

What are some of your favorite apps (technology)? Groupon, Yelp, and Wish

What are some of your favorite apps (food)? Wings and toasted raviolis

What do you want to say to the Fancy Hands community?  I'm so grateful for everything I've learned and can't wait to learn more!

Tesha and her family. 

Incoming Calls API

Today we would like to introduce a brand new Fancy Hands API, the Fancy Hands Incoming Call API.  Using this API you can have your very own Fancy Hands phone number that our assistants will answer for you.  

What can you build with this?

  • First Tier Support - Have us handle simple support requests. If it becomes too specialized we can transfer the caller to second tier support.
  • Call Screening - We can screen calls for you, take notes for you, have basic questions answered for you, and transfer the call to you if necessary. 
  • Scheduling - If you have shared your calendar with us, we can set up appointments for you without ever having to answer the phone.

Anything you can think of that starts with an Incoming Call, and we can handle it!

The Basics

Incoming Call Numbers - This endpoint is used to search for and buy phone numbers that anyone can call from anywhere in the world. These numbers can be attached to Incoming Call Objects.

Incoming Call Objects - This endpoint is used to create the Incoming Call Objects that define what the call will be like. An Incoming Call Object is a combination of a phone number you have previously purchased, and a Conversation Object that defines how the Fancy Hands assistant will lead the call.

Incoming Call History - This endpoint is used to get the history of Incoming Calls that have been received by our assistants.

Step One - Buy A Number

The first thing you need to do is search for and buy a phone number. You will be charged a flat fee for the phone numbers every month, and the monthly price is listed when you GET the Number endpoint.

Once you have found a Number you would like to purchase, you will need to POST the full number, including (+) and country code, to the Number endpoint. Once you have a number you can hook it up to a conversation in Step Three.

Step Two - Create a Conversation

Conversations are how our assistants interact with whoever is calling your number. You can have the assistants ask questions, answer questions, transfer the call and take notes. Head over to the Script Builder to see examples and build your own.

Step Three - Create An Incoming Call Object

The incoming call object brings together the phone number you purchased in step one, and the conversation you created in step two. Make a POST to the Incoming Call endpoint with these two pieces of data and your new phone number is ready to be called.

Get started now in the API Explorer! If you have any questions, features you would like added, or use cases you would like to discuss, email our developer team at api@fancyhands.com.

Lending A Helping Hand

The season of giving is upon us, and what better way to give back than to help someone who is always helping you. Fancy Hands and FlatRate Moving have teamed up to give a few extra helping hands to a very special someone who is always helping others. Do you know someone who is selflessly giving their time to help others? Tell us about it! Visit FlatRate’s Facebook page to nominate someone who deserves some extra help this holiday season, and they could win 3 free months of Fancy Hands! You can submit nominations here through November 27th only, so don't miss your chance to give an invaluable gift to someone in your life who deserves it. 

New API Features - Outgoing Calls

The Fancy Hands API is constantly being updated and improved and today we would like to introduce some new features to our Outgoing Call API

Call Recording

You can now have the entire call recorded for quality control.  Listen as your conversation scripts play out in real life, and learn how to tweak them to get the best results. Just mark [record] as True on your http://www.fancyhands.com/api/v1/call/outgoing/ POST request and you are all set. You will be able to find a history of recorded calls in your developer dashboard.

Call Windows

Do you want to have calls only go out in the afternoon? Or how about first thing in the morning? Now you can with call windows. Just send UTC date times to [call_window_start] and [call_window_end]. Call windows can also be set days in advance.

Webhooks

If you are already using the Outgoing Call API you may have noticed you are receiving more webhook callbacks. We now send you status webhooks when the following things happen:

  • Our assistants pick up the task
  • The call has been placed
  • The call has been answered
  • The call has been transferred
  • The call has ended
  • The request has been completed

Now you can pass that data along to your end user, and always know where we are on the call.

Stay tuned for more updates coming shortly!

Fancy Halloween

Halloween is upon us! Check out what the Fancy Hands HQ dressed up as today. 

Clockwise, from the top: 

1. Fancy Hands HQ Group Photo (minus Scott & Mandie)

2. Lindsay as Lucille Bluth from Arrested Development

3. Nick as Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction

4. & 5. Ted & Josh as Duck Dynasty Brothers 

6. & 7. Dave as a gorilla 

8. Orry as “Fun Boy”  

Hope you're having as much fun today as we are. Happy Halloween!  

Meet Mandie: Assistant Operations Manager

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve added Mandie as the newest member of the Fancy Hands HQ family. Mandie is joining us as Assistant Operations Manager, and while this is a new position for Mandie, she’s no stranger to Fancy Hands. Prior to joining us at HQ, Mandie was as a Fancy Hands assistant for over two years and it’s likely she’s completed at least one task for you during that time. In order to help you get to know Mandie a little bit better, we’ve asked her to answer some questions. Enjoy! 

What is your go-to karaoke jam? 

There is not enough alcohol in this world to get me to sing karaoke. Trust me….this is a good thing. 

What is your go-to dance move? 

“That girl has had too much to drink.” 

What is your favorite guilty-pleasure TV show? 

NCIS and Persons of Interest- I threaten people to disturb me on Tuesday nights. 

What are your top 3 apps (technology) right now? 

I’m simple in this department: Pandora, DropBox and Google (Hangouts/Gmail and the Google voice search “OK GOOGLE!")

What are your top 3 apps (food) right now? 

Wings, Wings, Wings (Hot with a side of celery and ranch)

What are the next 3 movies in your Netflix queue?

Reign Over Me, The Numbers Station, Fire With Fire

Who is your inspiration?

My mom. When people question how I am today (all of it) it’s okay to blame her. She’s proud! 

Where did you grow up?

Sumter, South Carolina

If you had to choose one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Pizza

If you could grab a drink with any historical figure, who would it be and why?

Benjamin Franklin- he was a pioneer inventor. 

What are you most proud of? 

My life- all of it. It may sound like a cop-out response, but there’s no one thing I’m proud of. I’m honestly happy with/proud of everything. 

Welcome to the team, Mandie!

Fancy Face. Redesigning our Dashboard


Yeah, redesign! Yeah!

Welcome to the newly improved dashboard.  Some changes here will be obvious while others are but a single note in a large orchestra. We’ve dug in deep to examine and improve all aspects of the user experience and while we still have a healthy list of improvements and features we want to roll out, we now have a solid base to build upon — and most importantly, a structure to make web and mobile experiences identical. 

“How?” you say? CARD UI!

Much has been said about card UI (here, here, here, here and here to start with) but the reason everyone is talking about it is because it answers a problem we (designers) all have with the ever changing nature of web browsing. Cards allow you to unify your product with a design that transcends any singular viewing format. They can easily be restructured to display information beautifully no matter what device you’re using.  The dashboard was only phase 1 of this overhaul (I’m looking at you iPhone and android apps!).

My personal theory on the benefits of using a card based UI is that these smaller, self-contained morsels of information are easier to take in than an infinitely growing email-like list. They clear up clutter visually and mentally. When I open my email and see a wall of text demanding my attention, it just feels like work and that’s the opposite of what someone has come here to do.

Some unsung heroes that deserve a shoutout in our new UI: the new color palette and redesigned icons (now with consistent line weights!) that make up a simple color coding system to match the type of task you’ve placed (coral: Call, turquoise: Schedule, blue: New Request, gray: Research, green: Purchase… of course). We’ve (well, I really) pined over spacing and the relationships of elements to help bring the focus of your attention where it needs to be giving more weight to important items and less to secondary items. Simplicity and straightforward-ness were my top priorities for this redesign.

Speaking of straightforward-ness — a seemingly small but important tweak to our new navigation is making a more visible, general purpose “New Request” button that stands out front and center. We’ve kept the 4 other quick links to the request categories since these have proved to be successful in speeding up response times and assistant replies, but sometimes you just want to get something down and our of your brain without having to tackle the new problem of mulling over where to file your request. After all we’re aiming to simplify your life.

 

Finally, lets talk about sorting. Although the ability to sort out archived and recurring tasks isn’t brand new, we’ve improved visibility ofthese features and given them a more prominent home. For those who haven’t seen it, the “archive” function will allow you to tuck away old requests to keep your focus on newer requests. You can do this by either swiping right on a request or by clicking the floating archive button inside a request. We’ve also pulled your recurring list out of the menu drawer and into this tab structure.


And thus concludes my brief design overview of dashboard changes. Enjoy them and be on the lookout for more to come!

Good day.

Decoupling the Dashboard

The Fancy Hands dashboard has seen a number of different iterations. At first, you couldn't even call it a 'Dashboard', it was merely an input field and a text area where you would write and send your request. Since then it has evolved to be more of a central place where you can create new requests, browse your old ones and see your usage statistics. With our latest iteration, the design has shifted to a more modern theme that places more emphasis on what's important to you right now. One of the biggest changes though, has less to do with the design and more to do with the way the front-end is architected.

Previously

Our stack at Fancy Hands is based on Google App Engine Python SDK. Built into it is Django’s templating system which works extremely well for displaying static (Ok, maybe static isn’t the right word. I think technically it’s considered dynamic since its retrieving values from a database. Let’s call it unresponsive....) content. We can fetch stuff from the database and display it, but it didn't change without a page refresh or (later on) a lot of ajax calls and jQuery dom manipulation. We wanted something that would have a more fluid user experience and also be easier to develop and extend. We chose to go with a frontend javascript framework, and the one we picked was AngularJS.

Why Angular?

Well… simply because we were already using it for small things on the site here and there. Last year we leveraged the framework to create a simple forum for our assistants. We also used it to rebuild our TeamWork dashboard. One of the nice things about Angular is that you can use it in conjunction with whatever framework you already have in place, and use it as you see fit.

So why use it in the first place?

One of the main benefits of Angular is it’s two way data binding system. Meaning that if something changes in the model, it will automatically get updated in the view and vice-versa. The beauty of this really begins to shine when you are able to get rid of all your jQuery code that targets certain id’s only to update some text. Instead, the views get updated seamlessly once the model is updated. You then are able to build views that automatically update to reflect the state of a model. For example, in the new Fancy Hands dashboard when you load up a request and send a reply to an assistant. What happens is the reply gets sent via an ajax call to our server, the server then responds with a JSON object containing a list of all the messages associated with that request (including the new one). We then set the newly retrieved list of messages as our model, and BAM, our view gets updated automatically with the message we just sent. No fussing around with jQuery trying to recreate the message template, the new message just appears as it should.

So what do you mean by Decoupling the Dashboard?

The main goal was to move from server side rendering of the templates to client-side. By doing this, we could keep front-end concerns out of the server-side logic as well as build a more fluid UI.

Angular, and frameworks like it, work astoundingly well when you have an API you can hit that spits back JSON. We fortunately already had most of our private API built for use with our mobile apps. With just a few tweaks here and there, our API could be used to power the entire dashboard and request pages.

Before, the process of rendering a page was like this: User sends request -> server makes appropriate database requests -> server renders values onto template -> server serves the fully rendered page. This often resulted in long wait (4 seconds + )periods between pages where the server rendered the template.

Now, leveraging Angular and our API, all of the view logic is done client side instead of server side. The flow looks like this now: User sends request -> Multiple (if necessary) ajax calls get sent to the server (API) -> Server responds with JSON -> client asynchronously updates each part of the UI as necessary. The great thing about this method is that instead of having a 4 second wait between pages, we can now instantly show the user an updated view when they click, and load in content as soon as we get it. The result is an app that feels a lot more fluid and a lot more responsive.

Cache Bonus

As an added bonus, we’re able to easily cache request data locally. Since we’re dealing with JSON objects exclusively, we can store the data we receive into localStorage and then load it up on subsequent visits. The result is a dashboard that is even faster since we don’t have to wait for the server to respond at all.

Try the new dashboard out now and let us know what you think!

Fancy Hands API Wrappers

Earlier this year, we launched an API to allow developers to build apps and provided a single developer SDK (for python). The API gave developers the ability to make a custom request using the Fancy Hands platform. This type of request allows you to submit a request in natural language, specify a price that you're willing to pay, specify the data (including datatype) that you'd like back, and a human would get right on it. 

We thought this endpoint was super powerful, and many developers agreed. This endpoint has been used by everyone from laundry delivery startups to Lipton Iced Tea's huge summer promotion.

While this API endpoint has proved powerful, we've learned from feedback and have recently launched even more endpoints.

General Request APIs

We've added fancyhands.standard.Standard, which lets you make requests in plain text and get your responses in plain text. This also includes fancyhands.request.Message so you can communicate back and forth with an assistant.

Call APIs

We've added fancyhands.call.Call which is an endpoint dedicated to making outgoing telephone calls. Developers can specify customized scripts, make a single API call, and an actual human will be making the call within seconds. The scripts can be as simple as a "Hello, goodbye" and as complicated as custom sales scripts with logic trees based on the responses we hear. We can even transfer the call to another number at any point.

Next week we'll be launching additions to the outgoing call API including:

  1. The ability to record phone calls
  2. International phone calls
  3. The ability to specify windows when we should call (make an API call in the middle of the night telling us to make the call at 9am)
  4. Lower prices for transferred calls

We'll also be launching incoming calls. This will allow you to set up the same robust scripts and use them when people call you, not just on outgoing calls.

Developer SDKs

When we launched the API, we launched with only one SDK, the python SDK. Since then, many users have built their own wrappers for other languages. There have been forks and pull requests and bugs squashed. We've come a long way. 

Now we're thrilled to announce that we have official wrappers for Python, JavaScript (Node), Java, PHP, and Ruby. There are also third party libraries for PHP, Ruby, and Go! 

We're not experts in any of these languages, so please send us pull requests!

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