Monday, July 09, 2007

Outsourcing your life


If you don't have the time but you've got the money, you can hire someone to do literally anything you need

If you're willing to pony up, you can skip those chores and just about any others you haven't the inclination to tackle. In our overscheduled society, even middle-class people are hiring personal assistants. And it's gone way beyond dog walking and grocery shopping.

Today, people of relatively modest means are outsourcing everything from planning marriage proposals to standing in line to nab elusive PlayStations.

"Personal assistants used to be for Hollywood types," says Darren Berkovitz, founder of, a new online marketplace that connects busy people with helpers willing to do just about anything. "These are personal assistants for the common man."

"It's a reflection of modern times," Berkovitz says. "We have all of this new technology that was supposed to make our lives easier, but we're busier and more stressed out than ever."

All in a day's work

According to the United Nations International Labor Organization, workers in the United States put in more hours than any others in the industrialized world.

The more we work, the less time we have to relax with our families and get our personal lives in order.

And we're paying the price in ways that are subtle yet profound, says Bonnie Michaels of the Take Back Your Time Project.

"We lose a lot when we outsource the day-to-day experiences we have with our families," Michaels says. "People need to look very closely at the choices that they're making, because they will never get that time back. It's gone forever."

"It's amazing how many of my clients talk about how they would like to redefine their daily life chores, while at the same time saying they feel very disconnected from their families," Weingarten says.

In high demand

In bigger cities, busy executives have long been able to hire a concierge service to feed their pets, buy anniversary gifts for their spouses, take their car to the shop or address and mail their holiday cards.

Today, similar services are popping up all over the country, including Northern California.

Lorie Howard of El Dorado Hills started her small business, Mission Accomplished, in 2003 after being laid off from a tech job. Howard is now making a good living tackling tasks that her clients "can't do, won't do, or don't have time to do," she says.

Whatever you need

Another local company, Cinzia Concierge, puts a "green" twist on personal outsourcing. It offers clients environmentally friendly services, including recycling and "green living" consultations, as well as more traditional offerings such as party planning, furniture assembly and housecleaning.

"You wouldn't believe what we find cleaning out garages and basements," says Cinzia Pera, owner of the company., which is based in Beverly Hills and has been in business only since March, has been getting close to 1,000 new registrations per day in recent weeks, says Berkovitz. Domestic chores, from fence painting to housecleaning, are the most common jobs listed.

For Thomas Zukowski, an independent filmmaker, DoMyStuff turned out to be a bargain. Through the Web site, Zukowski found someone willing to haul props from one site to another while he was filming segments in Calistoga.

"He said he'd do it for $55, and that he had some experience on film sets. So I hired him, and it worked out great," Zukowski says.