I admit, sometimes my frugality goes a bit far. Have a look at my black 2001 Toyota Corolla and you’ll see what I mean. The bumper is mangled. It looks like I ran into a large rock. I probably did at some point. But the early 2000’s Corolla is the optimally frugal car. Its parts are easy to find, it gets super good gas mileage, and it’s one of the most reliable cars on the road. Corollas frequently hit 300k miles. Because it lasts so long, there is also a good shot that vanity items like the bumper cover will fall apart.
I’ve been thinking about fixing this plastic bumper cover for a while. It looks pretty bad, almost as if the poor car is missing its pants. While not my primary concern, I do value aesthetics. But I had put off fixing my Corolla for a while because I wasn’t motivated enough to do the research to see what it would take to fix it.
Whenever I find myself not moving on a project, I switch my method. In this case, I decided to take my problem to a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant is a person who hires themselves out online to do tasks, usually on an à la carte basis. Virtual assistants work from all over the world with varying levels of skill and abilities. Anyone can hire them, pay securely through an intermediary site by credit card, and tap into the power of reduced labor costs in developing nations. I want to lay out how I’m using them to solve my Corolla problem and how you could benefit by taking advantage of a virtual assistant.
The site I like to use for virtual assistants is Upwork.com. There is no subscription fee. You pay assistants based on the work they do. They have people who do just about everything that can be done remotely.
After listing my problem with the Corolla on Upwork and searching for good job candidates, I offered a Mexican man named David who lived in the US for 20 years and knows the auto insurance industry quite well. He has 9+ years experience in customer service and unlimited calling to the USA. He seemed like the perfect fit for finding a solution to my bumper cover problem. I had David call every auto body shop within 15 minutes of me for estimates on the bumper replacement cost. This gave me an idea of what the cheapest way for me to outsource this labor would be. Turns out having David call for estimates was a flawed idea. Only 3 out of 22 places were willing to give a quote over the phone. But the consensus was that this was at least a $500 job. The car is only worth $1,900, so I’m not about to spend that much on it. Taking the car into a shop was not the answer, especially because this is a part that can be pretty easily replaced by anyone with a 10mm socket wrench.
I had David call up 8 salvage yards near me to find me a cheap part. At $270 on Amazon, I didn’t even want to spring for a new bumper cover. Unfortunately, no auto yards near me have a bumper that matches my color and trim. I ended up eventually finding a reasonable deal ($72) on a bumper cover on discountbodyparts.com. I’m going to do the installation and maybe spray paint (if necessary) myself with guidance from YouTube instructional videos. Knowing the costs and tasks involved helped me make a more informed decision. More importantly, it got me to take action.
David’s phone research would have been a major pain for me. I would have ended up frustrated. I would have spent hours on the project. Instead, for $13, I had someone else go through the motions for me. Check out this extensive Google doc he put together during his research. He did the task in a couple days and in an efficient time. His work progress was logged in the UpWork monitoring system. I can see what’s on his screen as he works so I know I’m not getting cheated. He kept in close contact during the process and was very transparent with his work process. He even made an effort to ask me if I needed help making an insurance claim on the damage. He was extremely flexible and responsive.
What tasks that you really want to be done are you putting off because they seem like “too much effort”? Consider hiring a virtual assistant. The service works best for tasks that are fairly simple and only require very straightforward directions.