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Young Architect

Here's Mike showing his love for Fancy Hands!  

Not only is Mike Riscica an architect, a writer and an avid yellow labrador fan, he's also having Fancy Hands take over so he can manage the rest of his busy schedule. He's taken time out of his busy schedule to show his love for Fancy Hands on his blog Young Architect

"An Imaginary Friend

For the past few months I have had a little imaginary friend that does all the annoying things that I don’t want to do. Ya know thinks like: make appointments, research things on the web, call this person or place for me to find an answer on something and even copy and paste something over and over and over again.

After they finish each one of my little tasks they send me a neat little email with the summarizing results from whatever task I gave them to do.

Sounds crazy, but I can’t tell you how much more productive I have been by getting all these silly little things off my plate.

What the hell am I talking about?

Over the winter (shortly after I built this Young Architect website) I started using a little service on the web called Fancy Hands.   Fancy Hands is a virtual assistance subscription service that does small tasks, which take about 15 minutes. It works like this.

I send Fancy Hands a task either by logging into their site, email or by leaving them a voicemail. Just for an example say my task is something like:

Subj: Find exterior Pictures of a building in Portland Oregon

Hey Fancy Hands,

I am working on an architecture project. Can you find me as many pictures of the building located at 2023 NW Hoyt St, Portland Oregon? The building is also called the William Temple House. Shots that show as much of the exterior of the building are gold.  Interior shots are of no use to me.

Please send me the JPGS. Include the screen shots from google earth and maps, but also look elsewhere on the web.

Feel free to ask any questions.

Thanks so much.

- Michael Riscica

This request then sits on the Fancy Hands server where it waits for someone to pick it up, do the work and email me the results.

After the task is completed they send me an email, which sends a notification to my phone and updates my account on their website with the results from that task.

20 minutes later, I got back a .zip file containing the files I requested above.

Why?

Heres why I am using Fancy Hands for as much as I can.

I am insanely busy
In an average week, I attend between 5-15 meetings, make routine site visits at various locations, and meet with many different people. I need help. Often, I call fancy hands while I’m running from one meeting to the next asking them to make a call or look something up that I just don’t have time for.

I get distracted
Looking for pictures of a building on the internet? Sure it sounds simple enough. But I guarantee you it will take me twice as long to accomplish this task than someone who isn’t invested in the process. I’m a sucker for  being derailed by something while I am in pursuit of an answer. I have learned that letting someone else vet the information as a first pass is more effective process. These small 15 minute minutia tasks are derailing me from getting larger, more important work done.

Sometimes I need a fresh point of view
A lesson I learned a long time ago early in my architecture career is that when you have been working on and looking at the same drawing for many hours at a time there could be a very blatant and obvious error on the drawing, but because you have been looking at the drawing for long time You just can’t see it.Are you a bad Drafter or Architect? No! definitely not. But I bet if you walked away and came back a few hours later you would immediately notice that error.

Fancy Hands has been a great place for me to run something past someone with a fresh point of view to make sure that something I wrote makes sense.  (PS – that was just an example, I doubt Fancy Hands can check your Architecture drawings. But you can try it and let me know how it works out.)

My Small Tasks

Here is a short list of some of the things I have Fancy Hands doing for me.

  • Research the purchase of a laptop that meets 10 different requirements.
  • Create a list of quotes on various topics.
  • Find the lowest price of a product I am looking to purchase.
  • Find the number for the building department in this town, call them to see if they have building permit records on this property.
  • Find a local store that has a certain product.
  • Help me narrow down when to take my vacation by looking at the cost of flights.
  • Find me the cheapest non-stop flight that works best for my schedule.
  • Make a dinner reservation for 7:30pm, if that doesn’t work then call these 2 other restaurants.
  • Call the print shop, send them this PDF and tell them I want 50% scale prints in black and  white. Print and bind 4 sets. I will pick up tomorrow at 11am , they can bill my account. Give them my cell to call if they have any questions or problems.
  • Proofreading professional emails that I have spent a great deal of time crafting.
  • Fancy Hands has proofread all blog posts written on this site. Yep, even this one.
  • Search the internet for the office number of Mr. Engineer and tell him that I need to cancel our afternoon meeting, but reschedule for next week.
  • Search the web and find out who designed the building at 2023 NW Hoyt.
  • Call my 5 local art supplies stores and find out which one has this specific glue.
  • Research which dog food I should be buying.
  • Help me find answers to my never ending cell phone problems. "

But wait...there's more! You can check out the rest of Mike's post here: http://www.youngarchitect.com/2014/07/05/fancy-hands-review/

Working Smarter

 

Meet Nick Loper: Fancy Hands subscriber since 2012, head of the #1 virtual assistant company directory and review platform, and published author. 

Nick’s new book, Work Smarter: 350+ Online Resources Today’s Top Entrepreneurs Use to Increase Productivity and Achieve Their Goals is now an Amazon Bestseller, and we’re proud to say Fancy Hands helped. We asked Nick to weigh in on how he used Fancy Hands to help him write his newest book.

In his own words:

“How Fancy Hands built an Amazon Bestseller, 15 minutes at a time.

Recently I undertook a big project to find out what online tools and resources today’s top entrepreneurs are using to run their businesses.

My original idea was that it would make a viral blog post, but as the post grew past 10,000 words (10x the length of a typical blog post), I knew I had something bigger on my hands.

The final project became a book called Work Smarter: 350+ Online Resources Today’s Top Entrepreneurs Use to Increase Productivity and Achieve Their Goals.

In total, over 500 entrepreneurs contributed their favorite tools – which included Fancy Hands.

The book went on to reach the top of the Amazon charts during launch week, generating more than 20,000 downloads and earning dozens of positive reviews and a position as the #1 free business book that week.

As you can imagine, there was a lot of research and preparation that went into this project, and I actually relied heavily on Fancy Hands to build the foundation of the book.

For this book project, Fancy Hands:

**Built a spreadsheet of all the contributors and resources named.

**Categorized the resources.

**Found/wrote descriptions for the tools I hadn't heard of, which was a lot!

**Found links and pricing information.

**Transferred the spreadsheet data into sentence format.

**Found contact information for the contributors and the companies named.

**Submitted the book to free kindle promotion sites.

**Found relevant questions on Quora related to the book’s content.

Most of the work was done in shared Google Docs spreadsheets and document files. We could collaborate and have multiple people working on one file at the same time.

All said and done, I used 79 requests over the course of 6 weeks to research, build, and support the launch of Work Smarter. (I had to upgrade to Super-Premium after running out of tasks!)

At 15-minutes a pop, Fancy Hands contributed nearly 20 hours of work to the project, and proved that a non-dedicated VA service can still be an asset for larger projects.”

You can check out Nick’s new book, as well as his other books, here

In the meantime, we'll be awaiting Nick's tasks for his next book! 

Rad Dad

Father’s day is right around the corner, and if you’re still looking for the perfect gift, look no further than Fancy Hands! We can help you find a gift that will show Dad how much you care. 

Is Dad's favorite place outside in front of the BBQ? We can help you find cookbooks, utensils, aprons, rubs, spices and sauces.

Does your Dad need to upgrade his bar? We’ll help him keep it classy with items like whiskey glasses and decanters, home brewing kits, beer and wine clubs and cocktail recipe books.  

Keep Dad hip with a new wardrobe. We can do all of the legwork and find you shirts and sweaters, ties, belts and hats, shoes and socks, and athletic, outdoor and swimming attire.

Need to update Dad’s entertainment system? We can get you the best deals on tablets and phones, stereos, speakers and Sonos, Set-top boxes and e-readers, and TVs and computers.

So, your Dad is a huge sports fan. We can scour the Web for gifts like golf gear, tickets to the game, autobiographies of sports legends and rare baseball cards.

Does your Dad love gear and gadgets? We can help you find popular new items like headphones, fitness tracking wristbands, watches and bags, backpacks and briefcases.

If you’re looking at this list and you’re thinking: “My Dad doesn’t want or need any of these things!” you can give him the gift of time with a gift subscription to Fancy Hands. You'll find gift subscriptions here.

In addition to helping you figure out a gift, we'll help you plan a special day for your Dad if you're going to be visiting.

No matter what you need this Father's Day, Fancy Hands has got you covered. 

Happy Father’s Day, from all of us here at Fancy Hands!

Always a Bridesmaid

Oh, May. The flowers, the warm weather (finally!) and... the beginning of wedding season.

While I'm still waiting for Prince Charming to swipe right on Tinder, I could not be happier for my many wonderful friends who have found someone equally as wonderful to spend the rest of their lives with.

What does all of this everlasting love mean for me? Let's just say that starting in May, I have (at least) one wedding to go to per month through December. It's just so difficult being wildly popular.

For one of these weddings, I'm not only an attendee, but I'm the MOH (for those of you not reading The Knot daily, that's code for 'Maid of Honor'). Being the MOH, I am responsible for planning the most incredible Bachelorette party the Bride-to-Be (let's call her 'B2B') has ever attended. No pressure, right?

Much to TLC's dismay, my real life thankfully involves a total of zero bridezillas. B2B let me know she wanted to go to Atlantic City for her party and she knew the exact hotel she wanted to stay in, as well as where she wanted to go for dinner. Being from New Jersey, I'm sort of ashamed to say I've only been to Atlantic City once in my life and I can't even remember the name of the hotel we stayed in when I went, so clearly I'm useless in this situation. So, when the B2B told me this, I was excited about planning but needed some help ironing out the details. That's where my Fancy Hands came through.

First things first. I had made the hotel reservation, but the website said check-in is at 4pm. I'm not sure if you've ever traveled with 15 girls, but 4pm is not nearly enough time for all of us to get ready for the big night. 

My request: 

"Call the hotel and make sure that a. we can check in early and, b. our rooms are next to/near each other."

Within minutes, my assistant had called the hotel I had booked, made sure that we could check in at 1pm instead of 4pm at no extra charge, and confirmed that our rooms were near each other, as it said they would be when I booked them.

One down, several to go.

Next request:

"Can you please call Margaritaville in Atlantic City and make a reservation for 15 people on the 16th at 7:00pm. (If this is not available, please make it for 6:30 or 7:30pm.) This is for a bachelorette party. They said on the website that they can't take reservations on Saturday evenings during the Summer, but if you can do this, it would be a big help.

Also, please get an email confirmation or have them call me to confirm the reservation after you've made it. Thanks!"

Response:

"Hello Lindsay,

I have called Margaritaville in Atlantic City and made the reservation on the 16 at 7:00pm for 15 people.

They can't send a confirmation e-mail and said to call back a week earlier to confirm the reservation. However, it is already in their system.

All the best,
Celine M."

It's a miracle! I can now rest easy knowing that lodging and food are taken care of, and that we don't have to try and squeeze a party of 15 into a restaurant without a reservation at dinner time.

Now, onto the fun part: drinking! Normally I know my way around bars, but as I said, I've been to AC once and my memories are fuzzy. Fancy Hands to the rescue.

Request:

"I know little to nothing about Atlantic City. Can you find some good, non-sleazy bars in Atlantic City (might want to look up reviews) preferably on the boardwalk near/around our hotel? If you can find 3-5 popular or well-liked bars, that would be delightful. Thanks!"

Christina really nailed this response. She came back to me with 5 bars that she had verified are popular with the local crowd, as well as visiting patrons. Not only are the bars well reviewed, but there is a diverse selection of bars to choose from that will make everyone in attendance happy. Christina also kept cheap drinks in mind, which is key. 

Lastly, the B2B has requested a jitney/rickshaw/bicycle taxi ride around the boardwalk. Sounds like fun! I know about as much about jitney-rickshaws, as I know about Atlantic City. Let me get my assistant on the case.

Request: 

"Hello! 
Can you please get as much info as possible on how much it is to rent a rickshaw/jitney (I'm not really sure what they call them) in Atlantic City? It would probably be for anywhere between 1-4 hours on a Saturday evening. Are there companies that own them, or are they just dudes on a bike with a wagon attached? Enlighten me. 
Thanks!"
Tiffany came back with a plethora of knowledge about these bicycle taxis and now I know more about rickshaw rentals in AC than I ever could have hoped. Just FYI, a one hour rickshaw ride down the boardwalk will set you back $40, but a 5 block ride will cost $5 (the same amount as a Fancy Hands task!). You don't have to reserve in advance, you can just hop on
I'm confident that I will enlist Fancy Hands to do more research for me in the coming months, but for now I'm feeling at ease knowing that most of the party has been planned and that Fancy Hands has my back if anything else comes up. 
I'll be sure to keep everyone posted on how that rickshaw ride goes. As for the rest of the party, well, you know what they say: what happens in Atlantic City, stays in Atlantic City. 
Wait, that's how that goes...right? 

Mother's Day Dilemma

Today my Dad called me in a panic. "I want to get your Mom tickets to a Broadway show for Mother's Day, but I don't know how long the star is going to be in it, and I don't know when we'll have time to go!"     

"Dad," I said. "First of all, when did you become so popular that you have such a packed schedule? Second of all, why don't you have Fancy Hands call the box office and figure out when the star is leaving the show? Also, you can have Fancy Hands suggest a good day to bring Mom to the show based on the calendar you integrated when you set up your account." 

"Oh," he said "That's a great idea! I'll go do that now. You're my favorite child."

OK, so he left out that last part. But, within about half an hour, Fancy Hands informed my father that the star was going to be in the show through August, and that he could take my mother to the show in July. As a bonus, they also found him a discount code for tickets. 

Operation Mother's Day Gift: complete.

Need help with your last minute Mother's Day gift? We can help

Happy camper.

Fancy Hands client Michelle, who works under the name Bombchelle (cute, right?) wrote a great article about how she's using our service.

Path to Productivity.

Joel Kelly, an enthusiastic client of ours and one of our favorite Tweeters, wrote this article on Medium and we'd like to share a part of it:

 

My path to productivity

Delegation Salvation.

Espree Devora, founder of SaveBusinessTime.com and Fancy Hands client, wrote a great post on The FoundersCard blog about all of the ways she delegates. Here's what she has to say about Fancy Hands (I added two of my own notes, in parenthesis and without italics): 

Worth It.

It warms our hearts when people blog about their experience as a Fancy Hands client. Here's what Keith Korneluk has to say:

"Quick. Make a list of the top ten things you have to accomplish this month but have absolutely no desire to start or finish them. Now take that list and circle the tasks that could be accomplished if you were a Hollywood celebrity with a personal assistant. Got the list?

Great.

Guess what? You can have that personal assistant working for you without the burden of paying them thousands of dollars and selling your underwear to TMZ. Because your assistant is in the cloud.

Enter Fancy Hands.

Sanity, reclaimed.

Fancy Kids.

I don't have kids, but our founder Ted does, and if the amount of times his son has ruined a road trip or a night of sleep by throwing up is any indication, it seems like being a parent can be quite a challenge. 

Our clients with children rely on Fancy Hands to help them with all of their kid-related inquiries. Here's a sampling of their recent requests:

The pre-work of the work.

How many cows are there in Texas?

That's just one of the questions that Fancy Hands client Kate, of Prepwise.com, has asked her assistants to research for her. And then she sent us this email:

I logged in to place another request, but realized you may not hear often enough how appreciated you are.

The service is great and admittedly so is the price point. Thanks.

Also, big kudos to your user interface team. I recently had to build another site (which is NOT my bag), and was reminded how unsung cohesive design is. Your design aesthetic works for me. This dashboard is perfect. Nice contrast with the tasks remaining and reboot date. All above the fold. Clean. Simple. Pleasant design really does make it nice to return. Thanks for all you do.

-High five from The West Village, NYC

I reached out to Kate further and she added: 

The question I had when I signed up was, "Will I really need 25 requests? What can I possibly need every month that they can do?" You'll see I've used most of my requests most months.

One call, two ways.

One of our clients' favorite requests to ask of their Fancy Hands assistants? 

"Make this phone call that I've been dreading." 

Frequently, the calls will have something to do with a service account of some kind, like a cable or phone company. 

We can handle those calls in two ways. 

Example #1 - Patching You In: 

Dear Fancy Hands,

Can you call Time Warner Cable and tell them that I've been without my HD channels for two weeks now?

Please schedule an appointment for a technician to come fix it - anytime next week on a weekday morning is fine.

And please negotiate a credit for my lost service as well.

I'm around all day and I'll look out for your call - please patch me in on my cell phone and I'll verify my permission for you to speak on my behalf. 

The important things to remember when requesting a patch-in are: 

  • Please give your assistant a window of time that you'll be available for the call. 
  • Remember to answer an incoming call from a number that you don't recognize. 
  • Specify which phone number on your account (if you have more than one entered) you'd like them to call. 
  • Specify, if you'd like your assistant to make a service appointment, a few times that work for you. If you have your Google calendar linked to your account, they'll drop the appointment in for you once it's confirmed. 

Your assistant will call the company, hold until they get a real person on the line, then patch you in so that you can give the customer service representative your account information, and let them know that you authorize your assistant to speak on your behalf. 

Then you can hang up and be on your way while your assistant handles the call for you. 

Example #2 - Including Your Information:

Dear Fancy Hands,

Can you call Time Warner Cable and tell them that I've been without my HD channels for two weeks now?

Please schedule an appointment for a technician to come fix it - anytime next week on a weekday morning is fine.

And please negotiate a credit for my lost service as well.

My account number is 876-50843 and my security password is 4531. The address and phone and name on the account are all mine that you already have in your system but I am around on my cell phone today; you can patch me in if there are any further qeustions. 

We may still try to patch you in if there's a hiccup (Did you forget that the account is actually in your wife's name? They don't have any appointments next week, is the week after acceptable for you? etc.), so if you let us know in your request that you're available for a patch-in, that will help us expedite your job. Otherwise, you'll receive an email detailing the outcome of the assistant's call and they can call the company back once they've received an email answer from you. 

Whichever way you prefer to have your assistants place these kinds of calls for you, we can eliminate that nagging "man, I still haven't called the cable company" thought that comes to you in the middle of the night. 

The truth about help.

Stacy-Marie Ishmael wrote this blog post about signing up for Fancy Hands: 

After years - years - of dithering, I signed up for Fancy Hands sometime around midnight on the Tuesday of a week during which my calendar, my inbox and my immune system all seemed to be conspiring against me.

It was similar to the situation that prompted me to sign up for Task Rabbit last year: three months of being silently mocked by the bag of clothes I'd earmarked for charity and which I failed, every single day, to deliver to Goodwill.

I quipped then that as I've gotten older, I've become more willing to exchange money for time. This continues to be true.

In the 19 hours or so since I coughed up for their basic service, the virtual assistants at Fancy Hands have:

Change is hard. Stress is harder.

Gabriel Weinberg is the CEO & Founder of DuckDuckGo, an angel investor, and the co-author of Traction

He wrote this blog post about his experience as a Fancy Hands client: 

"I find myself recommending virtual personal assistants to people quite frequently (among other services). I personally use Fancy Hands. (No, they did not ask me to write this post.)

I don't think many people I've recommended it to have converted, however.

It's a way of life change, and those are hard to make. 

"What do use it for?" is the standard question. To answer that question more effectively, here are my last twenty tasks (abridged):

  • Find me a high-quality black yoga mat on Amazon Prime.
  • Find me replacement hardware for this Restoration Hardware table.
  • Schedule an oven repair given these error codes.
  • Make dinner reservations tonight.
  • Schedule our regular painter to come out and give us an estimate.
  • Schedule our car to go in for a recall and mirror replacement.
  • Find out why our corporate filing never went through.
  • Find the gross profit margin, revenue and # of users for a variety of tech companies.
  • Buy us a membership at a local kids museum.
  • Sign us up for sewer insurance.
  • Help me find an interview of Ira Glass interviewing Terry Gross.
  • Get a kick-plate for our new fridge, which was missing from the packaging.
  • Research co-working spaces in Brooklyn given some parameters.
  • Figure out how to replace the glass on a phone cheaply.
  • Figure out how to replace a custom wood vent in our house.
  • Schedule our other car to go in for a battery and radio fix.
  • Find a place to donate some specific furniture to.
  • Schedule our regular electrician to come out.
  • Fix a messed up order with Verizon FIOS.
  • Schedule a shower door company to come out and give us an estimate.

These are all from the last six weeks. We just remodeled our basement so there is a bit more house stuff, but generally I use it mostly for:

Scheduling (reservations, estimates, etc.).

Web research (purchases, lazyweb, etc.).

Making any phone calls possible I don't have to make (orders, support, etc.).

Arranging travel (booking, what to do, etc.).

Fancy Hands also has a common requests page.

If you're on the fence, I suggest buying an unlimited plan somewhere for a year. That will really commit you up-front and force you more than otherwise to make that way-of-life change."

We agree with Gabriel about way-of-life changes being difficult to get started.

We find that our biggest hurdle as a service provider is to

  1. provide our new clients with as much information as possible so that they totally understand how we can simplify their lives, and 
  2. get new clients to actually use the service once they sign up. 

It's frustrating to join Fancy Hands, pay for it, and not use it. 

So sign up...AND jump in! 

Good Grooming.

Gone are the days when women would handle all of the wedding planning and men would just show up at the altar.

In today's world, weddings require teamwork. 

Fancy Hands client Bellowser was a groom who got in on the action, and he added Fancy Hands to his party planning team. Our assistants can handle all of the research and legwork that you don't want to do or don't have the time to do.   

He wrote about his experience here

No Hourly Fees

Basic

Less than $1 a day

5

Requests

per month

-25%

Professional

Most Popular

15

Requests

per month

-25%

Premier

Best Value

25

Requests

per month

-25%

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