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Mood of the Market

Editor's note: This is the final column in a four-part series. I recently signed up to use a virtual assistant service for a couple of small online research projects. These particular projects are simple to do but I never have time for them. They don't take much subject matter knowledge, but they do take a soupcon of good judgment and discretion.Done correctly, they have the potential to save me a whole lot of time. But you know what? In the past, I've actually hired on-site assistants and paid them for hours' worth of work on these projects before, and have never really seen them be done to my satisfaction. Yet the other day, I logged on to a new assistant service I'd heard about, described the project and put it up for bids. I had about eight "runners" bid on the project within the first hour after I'd posted it. I reviewed their bids (the dollar amount they said they would do the work for), and their backgrounds.I selected a runner and dropped her a line with a...

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