Websites and apps offer services that plan meals, do odd jobs, pay bills, and much more.
By Janet Groene, F47166
Outsourcing, once a tool primarily for business, has gone mainstream. Thanks to the Internet, energetic entrepreneurs everywhere now offer a variety of services, from writing love letters to standing in line for theater tickets. As a result, full-timers can have more time for the things they enjoy most.
The explosion of on-demand services includes Uber for transportation; Shyp for mailing packages; and Fancy Hands, which provides personal assistants. In addition, many supermarkets offer home delivery. Amazon is testing delivery from farmers’ markets.
And there’s much more. Depending on your location, TaskRabbit.com may be able to find a handyperson to do odd jobs such as deep cleaning an RV interior. Other places to find independent contractors for unskilled to semiskilled tasks include Zaarly.com and Thumbtack.com.
At Freelancer.com, the list of available services includes writing, marketing, and design. Websites such as BlueBirdCards.com and Touchnote.com help people take charge of their greeting card lists and dates. And eMeals.com will plan your menus and send recipes and a grocery list.
Busy people may hire virtual assistants at Zirtual.com and FancyHands.com to handle online chores such as paying bills, buying products, and scheduling travel. A virtual assistant also might tend to your Facebook page, research a new phone plan, or untangle a disputed bill. TasksEveryDay.com provides virtual assistants based in the Philippines and India who perform a variety of clerical work for $6.98 an hour. Some websites offer plans with prices that vary according to the number of monthly tasks or the time needed to perform them.
Imagine that you’re out West for the season but are in charge of arranging a class reunion back in New Hampshire for next spring. You need to schedule group meals for two luncheons and the grand banquet, book a bus tour of the city, give attendees a choice of hotel rooms from luxury to budget, and find a place to have a 1970s-style disco. For the right virtual assistant, that job is a snap.
Perhaps you need someone to organize your notes for the book you plan to write or to catalog the music collection you just transferred to MP3 files. Or you hope to settle down someday in Costa Rica, and you need an unbiased research assistant to look at it from all angles. The more specialized the task, the more important it is to search carefully for apps and websites that make such matches. With luck, you’ll connect with a competent person you can hire regularly no matter where you are.
Many food delivery services are online, but availability depends on your location. Websites such as TaskRabbit.com can find someone who will take your list to the store, fill the cart, and deliver the order.
Results can be spotty with a personal shopper who chooses your clothing or gifts. Men who hate to shop can try Bombfell.com or Valetmag.com (click on the “personal shopper” tab). Women who have a personal style might develop a relationship with KeatonRow.com. You’ll be matched up with a stylist who will help build a wardrobe that’s just right for travel, versatility, and saving space.
If you love to cook from scratch, sites such as HelloFresh.com and BlueApron.com offer meals-in-the-raw. For about $9 to $12 per person, you get a gourmet dinner that includes frozen meat or fish (or a vegetarian alternative), fresh vegetables, and condiments, including hard-to-find fresh herbs and spice mixes, all premeasured. You don’t have to find recipes, plan a menu, or shop, but you do all the work, from peeling the potatoes to cooking to washing the dishes.
Frozen meals from a longtime national chain, Schwans.com, also are available for delivery to your home or campground, at least in some areas. So, too, are meals from diet plans such as bistroMD.com, JennyCraig.com, and SouthBeachDiet.com.
When preparing to go full-timing, downsizing in a rush can be an expensive mistake if you let the family’s sterling go for the price of a plate or you put a $3 price tag on an ugly vase that’s actually a rare art deco piece. Some antiques and collectibles are money in the bank. It can cost $75 an hour and up to bring in an expert to price your treasures. A written appraisal costs more. Whether for resale or insurance purposes, it’s good to know the worth of valuables you plan to sell, give to charity, take along in the motorhome, or put in storage.
Start with an Internet search to get an idea of what some items are worth. Presort to save the appraiser’s time. It may pay to put some items in a storage unit or vault rather than make a quick sale now. Shop carefully for an expert. Some websites list any “appraiser” who pays to be listed.
If you simply want stuff to be hauled away, a new business, JDogjunkremoval.com, has franchises owned and operated by military veterans and their families. Their trucks and trailers are painted in a distinctive camouflage design.
When you need to return a product, send a gift, or ship a warrantied item for repair, it’s a hassle to find a box and packing material, then lug things to the post office. But if you have the supplies, you can arrange for the post office, UPS, or FedEx to pick up at your campsite. You also can outsource the job through TaskRabbit.com.
In most areas, custom shipping is available from sites such Shyp.com, which picks up and packs the item, ships and insures it, and sends you tracking information. You pay a basic service fee, plus shipping charges.
Postmates.com, which specializes in local deliveries, picks up your order at a local business and brings it to you posthaste, sometimes in an hour or less. Desperate for an ink cartridge to finish a project? Want to avoid a special trip to the fish market? Running short of paint in the middle of a job? Postmates charges a delivery and service fee.
Hiring a professional organizer may make sense if you need help with your smaller motorhome kitchen, clothes closets, or office. The advantage is that a pro is deaf to your inner packrat and is able to make unemotional decisions about what to scrap. She’ll also know the marketplace of unusual shelving, bins, and other space stretchers. HomeBlue.com will match you with a screened organizer and, if needed, an installer.
Help for a variety of needs is available online and probably at your location. And it’s getting handier every day. Still, following are things to consider when deciding whether to use an outsourcing agency.
- You may have to create an account with a credit card and other sensitive information before learning whether the service is available and what it costs.
- Some sites are not service providers; rather, they provide reports from ordinary consumers who voice a personal opinion on a restaurant or service. There is no way of knowing whether the reports are unbiased. Other sites offer a choice of service providers but include only those that have paid to be listed.
- Some online outsourcing companies work overseas with people whose first language is not English. If the job involves communications, test out their language skills.
- Speed and convenience come with a price. You pay for the product, delivery, and a service charge. One rush-rush delivery service even charges a hefty fee to prioritize your request on its waiting list.