How do I find a personal assistant: Ask the Grumpies

Houstonian asks:

I just got a huge raise at my corporate job and am now making $180K as a single childless person with two cats.  I have way more money than time.  I’ve heard of people hiring personal assistants to do things like wait for the plumber or figure out how to get someone to refinish the front door and so on, but I don’t know how to go about doing that myself.  Have you ever hired a personal assistant?  How did you find them?  How do you figure out what to get them to do?  Any recommendations for working with them once I’ve found somebody?

At first I was going to say that we’ve never hired a personal assistant, but then I remembered that’s not actually true.  We’ve had mother’s helpers do additional personal assisting stuff.  So… I guess the lesson there is have a kid, then find a nanny or mother’s helper, and then hire them for more hours.  Kidding!  That is very much not useful advice!  Kids suck away way more time than personal assistants bring!

My first thought is that you should ask around and see what your higher paid colleagues are doing for personal assisting.  (Hopefully not all answers are, “My wife takes care of everything.”)  If they’re using someone part-time maybe you could hire the same person.  You can ask around to other folks as well– you may find that you have friends of friends who would love to get paid to sit at your house waiting for the plumber so long as they’re allowed to take their child along.

Otherwise, you might have luck with some of the online services out there.  I know some people swear by care.com for nannies, and I’m pretty sure they also do longer-term personal assistants.  People talk a lot about upwork.com and taskrabbit.com for smaller jobs.  Possibly you could try one of those out with a smaller project and see where that goes.  Alternatively you could advertise at a local community college or university.  I bet there’s a lot of Sam Houston State students eager to do odd jobs for $15 or $20/hr depending on where you live.

In terms of how to figure out what to get them to do– we wrote a really long list of tasks we needed to get done that just weren’t getting done.  For us this was things like painting DC1’s dresser or getting rid of a bush in the front yard.  There were a bunch of small deep cleaning things as well and some web-searching.  Once we got someone to take care of things, all of a sudden we had a ton of other stuff we realized she could just take care of and we wouldn’t have to.  It was great!  (Sadly for us, but happily for her, she graduated and her husband came back from Afghanistan and she left us for a full-time job.  But by then our list of delayed chores was empty.)  Some people use personal assistants for regular tasks like grocery shopping or laundry.  There’s a ton of stuff that people can do for you in exchange for money.

In terms of working for people– make things clear up front.  Make sure you know what their limits are and they know what your limits are.  What happens if they don’t show up or if they’re late?  How and when should they communicate questions?  How much autonomy do you expect them to have?  You may need to make this clear generally or on a project-specific basis.  It’s probably not that different than any kind of management you do at your corporate job, except that they have a different set of job responsibilities.  Be willing to fire people if you need to.

Here’s one person’s experience with hiring an assistant.

Here’s another person’s recommendations— I especially like the cat litter rule (yes, you can have a personal assistant clean out the cat litter box).

Here’s an entrepreneur article.

Grumpy Nation– do you have any experience with hiring personal assistants?  Do you have experience with being a personal assistant?  Any advice for Houstonian?

3 Responses to “How do I find a personal assistant: Ask the Grumpies”

  1. CG Says:

    We have totally gone the nanny-segue route, but I was just talking with some working mom friends about how we have no problem doing our laundry but we (and our spouses) all HATE to fold it (our nanny does the kids’ so at least we don’t have to worry about that). It was funny to me that that was the chore that sends us all over the edge. One of them said they have hired college students to do it in the past, as suggested. Also, we get an ivy league alumni magazine and there are always unintentionally hilarious personal assistant ads that, reading between the lines, indicate that you would essentially be the 24-hr slave of a very rich and high powered family, but at least you’d get to live in a sweet apartment “with separate entrance.” The same ad runs month after month, so either this family is still looking for someone to help them or an agency is running ads for a whole category of super rich people.

    Enjoy your newfound ability to outsource!

  2. Debbie M Says:

    My boyfriend’s favorite aunt once told me that she likes to hire recently retired ladies, though I don’t know how she found them (church, perhaps?). She said it was common for people to retire, to spend about two years finally fixing up their houses, and then to get very, very bored. Then it was win-win for them to work for her.


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