Productivity booster: Fancy Hands

One of the things I love about my job is that we do everything ourselves. It means that our company is less bureaucratic and there’s less hoops to jump through.

It also means that we literally have to do everything ourselves, and since I travel a lot and organize a ton of events for clients and colleagues, I could spend hours upon hours researching restaurants, booking travel, and calling venues.

Enter Fancy Hands, an awesome online tool my colleague Paul introduced me to. For $30 a month, I get a virtual concierge service that helps make me more productive, by doing a lot of the time-consuming pre-research for me. Here are a few examples of ways they’ve helped me in the last few months:

Finding and booking restaurants

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Often times I’m traveling to meet clients in locations I’m not familiar with. I’ll send Fancy Hands the address and a list of requirements: good for large groups, efficient service, good atmosphere for a business lunch. I’ll ask them to reply back with five options, and include details like the distance from the address and a link to their Yelp page.

Once I’ve reviewed the options, I’ll have them make the reservation. And then because I’m paranoid always want things to be perfect for our clients, I also have them call the day before the reservation and verify that everything is all set.

Finding hotels within my budget

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I find myself frequently arranging travel for groups of people, typically three or more. For this, I’ll use Fancy Hands to research hotel rooms in a certain area (like “near Rockefeller Center”), that have room blocks available, and will fit within my budget for my specified travel dates. I’ll usually ask them to send back a list of 3-5 hotels, including rates and a link to hotel’s TripAdvisor page.

Researching for private functions

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Every once in a while I’ll be scouting out private function rooms for larger events, and I’ll need to find out which restaurants have availability, and what their event prices are. Unfortunately, that stuff isn’t listed on most websites, so it requires a lot of time consuming phone calls. Enter Fancy Hands, who can call around to all the restaurants, find out what days their function rooms are available, what the price ranges are, and send me a list. This is a huge time saver for anyone who plans big gatherings frequently.

Making online purchases

Sometimes I need to buy multiple items for my clients or my team in bulk, have it sent to multiple shipping addresses, from different vendors, to arrive on different dates – it’s a real headache to deal with all the different forms, dates, and websites. As long as the items are under $200, you can send Fancy Hands the links, shipping addresses, dates, notes, and they can do all the ordering for you. I’ve broken up orders across several requests before so that they’re under $200 each.

Do not use not for travel booking

On the flip side, I’ve had really bad experiences with Fancy Hands around travel, so I wouldn’t use them again for that. Their team is working really quickly and I’ve had them mess up on me a few times. It’s not a big a deal if it’s research or restaurants, but for travel, it’s a real headache.

The two times I’ve used them to call to rearrange travel (once to move a hotel reservation, another time to update an Amtrak ticket), they’ve rescheduled for the wrong dates. In one case, I had to scramble to find a last-minute hotel room elsewhere (thank goodness for HotelTonight). I wouldn’t use them again for things of this nature, or if I did I would very carefully double check the confirmation emails.

Tips to maximize efficiency:

  • Fancy Hands is best used to kick off planning, whether it’s doing research for a private event or calling around to see which tour operator is available. Once it’s down to the nitty-gritty of actually planning the event or organizing, it’s best for you to handle that.
  • Be extremely specific and concrete about what you need in each task.
  • Do not expect the assistant to have any previous knowledge of you or your requests. Assistants can’t view any requests other than the one they’re working on, so you can’t reference previous requests.
  • Don’t expect a miracle; a task is a task. It’s research, a phone call, a few emails, a few minutes of Googling. Don’t expect Fancy Hands to plan an entire trip for you.
  • The iOS app is pretty solid, so when I’m on the road it’s super useful for seeing where tasks are at and what has been completed.

More than anything, I think of Fancy Hands as a tool to boost my productivity by helping me do prep work. This means that by the time I’m ready to organize, book, or arrange something, I have all the information I need to quickly complete the task at hand.