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This article was published on October 5, 2011

If you’d rather your virtual assistant be human, Fancy Hands is here to help

If you’d rather your virtual assistant be human, Fancy Hands is here to help
Drew Olanoff
Story by

Drew Olanoff

Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for onlin Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for online charitable movements. He founded #BlameDrewsCancer. You can follow him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, or email [email protected]

Apple has announced its Siri Virtual Assistant integration into iOS5. With the sound of your voice, you can ask Siri a number of questions and get answers quickly.

Siri won’t help with everything though, and is computer driven. Have you ever been in a bind and really needed some help doing research for a paper or presentation? Hiring your own personal assistant can be quite pricey.

Fancy Hands is another service in the personal assistance space, and it’s dead simple to use, and the results you get back are solid.

Personal assistant apps and services are getting popular on the web, one being TaskRabbit, which we’ve covered.

Unlike TaskRabbit, you’re not going to find people to pick up groceries for you with Fancy Hands, but if you need someone to tell you how many dog parks there are in San Francisco and where they are, the service might be for you. Data collection is its strong suit, and the service can even make appointments for you in a pinch for a variety of things.

Signing up

Fancy Hands has three pricing models:

  • Premium – $65/month with Unlimited task requests
  • Pro – $45/month with 15 requests
  • Basic – $25/month with 5 requests

Once you get started, you can see how you could rack up a lot of requests, because entering them is rather easy, and you get a response rather quickly with great results.

Making Fancy requests

You can submit your requests in two ways, via the Fancy Hands dashboard, or through email. Email makes it easy to request things on the fly, especially when you’re mobile. In an email, your subject line serves as the title of the task, and the body is your actual request.

The key to any personal assistant service is to make sure that your request is clear and detailed. Here are some example requests that Fancy Hands lists on its site:

  • I’m looking to get some Mirror Pond Beer. You can’t buy it here in NYC though. Can you find any place that will ship it to me?
  • Call TD Bank and ask how many checks I can use for free on a standard personal account (I don’t want any more fees!)
  • I’m heading to New York next week, can you find 3 reasonably priced (but nice!) places in East Village to eat.
  • Call and get a reservation at Momofuku Noodle Bar next Thursday around 8pm. There will be 3 of us.
  • Email these ten people and ask if they’re willing to share their thoughts on how their ads performed on Feel free to give them my number.
  • Can you find a list of twitter users who work at LinkedIn and have more than 200 followers?

There are actual people on the other end of these requests and you’ll get an immediate response from the system telling you that your request has been received. If the person who has been assigned the task has a question, an agent will email you directly. The service is pretty fast, so if you don’t hear from them in a few hours, assume that your task is being worked on.

Fancy Hands did a smart thing and posted what the service can’t do:

  • Write your business plan
  • Anything involving your credit card
  • Create an entire blog post for you
  • Pick up your laundry
  • Find a perfect web designer who works for free

From these tasks, you can get an idea of what the limits of the service are.

The Results

You’ll be notified via email when your task is complete. You can then log into your dashboard and view the results. If it’s something that can be put into the body of an email, it will be pasted right within the task. If you’ve asked for information that needs to be put into a spreadsheet, you will find it attached to the task. Better yet, once you review the work that has been done, you can give the task a thumbs up or down to tell Fancy Hands how it’s doing. If you give the work a thumbs down, it will be re-assigned to another Fancy Hands helper.

The only downside of the service that we’ve experienced is that there’s no way to know how long a task will take. You don’t get an email from the person assigned to your task with an estimate of how long it will take. I’ve actually asked for one when submitting a task but didn’t get a response, so that must not be a part of the service. It would be nice though, especially when you’re in a real pinch. Most general tasks take 2-3 hours to complete, again this depends on the size and scope of your task.

If you’d like to keep your assistant human, give Fancy Hands a try.