Working as a Virtual Assistant is all about tools, tools, tools.
The funny thing is, you source out and use one tool then before you know it, a new and better tool is already available.
It can get a bit confusing. There’s this feeling that you are using an outdated tool when a new and better version is out there.
So, I think the most important thing is to know what you truly need. “Better” doesn’t always mean it’s for you.
Let me share with you the 5 essential Virtual Assistant tools that you will need as you start taking on outsourced work.
I came up with this list not only because it is needed. But also because they are either free, clean, easy to use or all three.
You can use other email services but I highly prefer Gmail because of the following reasons:
Faster email composing and organized email threads
Composing an email, saving the draft, opening the reference email, then going back to the draft may seem like a simple procedure. But doing this frequently (which normally happens in a Virtual Assistant’s day-to-day job) can be time consuming.
Good thing is, Gmail allows users to compose an email in a separate pop-out window which makes it easy for you to view emails while composing. Users can also compose two messages simultaneously.
Another awesome thing about Gmail is it stores emails into threads, making your emails more organized and easily accessible.
Effective spam filtering
Compared to other email providers, Gmail’s spam filtering system is pretty tight. The way they filter spam emails is influenced by community responses to a particular email. If a user marks an email as spam, Gmail remembers this when identifying the same emails as spam for other Gmail users.
Integration of different Google platforms
Google included its main services such as Google Drive, Calendar, News, Maps, Google Keep, YouTube, etc. in the Gmail navigation bar which makes it easy to shift to another online task. Now, that’s perfect.
Downloadable Gmail apps for wireless devices and access to Gmail and other apps even when offline
Simply install Gmail offline app on your desktop or device, and you can use Gmail and Google Apps even without an internet connection. Changes you’ve made in your Google Docs (for example) will be synced automatically when you go online.
Since I started working as a Virtual Assistant, I’ve always used Skype to communicate with clients. There used to be days when it was so unreliable but I noticed that it improved when it was acquired by Microsoft. Aside from being a tool to communicate online, Skype also has features that can be used in effective collaboration such as:
There are times when you are just stuck at a task because, for some reason, you can’t “see it”. Skype screen sharing solves this problem.
You can simply ask your client or fellow team member to share their screen to you and show you where and how you can “find things”.
Record Skype meetings
Meetings are normally conducted for important purposes, hence, matters tackled should always be taken into account. Rather than taking down notes during the meeting, you can use the downloadable Pamela Call Recorder. The free version is capable of recording audio calls of up to 15 minutes and video calls of up to 5 minutes. Never miss a minute detail again with this Skype feature.
Sending out announcements or working on a task with a team will no longer mean messaging or calling members one by one with Skype’s conference call. From the contacts view, click “Create a group”, then another window will open up, where you can drag contacts that you want to be included in the conference call.
Even during the call, additional contacts can be added to the conference. Users can save the contacts group for faster calling in future conference calls with the same group. Now that’s collaboration – 21st century style.
Dropbox is just the coolest cloud storage service.
Why I think Dropbox is awesome:
- It’s multi-platform. It works in Windows, Mac, Linux, and even on mobile phones.
- No file size limits.
- You can backup and sync files of any size and type.
- It syncs only the latest version of your edited file which doesn’t eat up your bandwidth.
- Work on files Offline. Once, you have installed Dropbox, you can utilize this feature. All files edited offline will be synced automatically once you go online.
Prepare to receive heaps of log in details from your client. Make sure these are saved in one place by using Lastpass. Clients also prefer to share encrypted passwords because of security issues so make sure you have it. Simply download and install the program.
Lastpass works on Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Blackberry apps.
You gotta get paid, sistah!
A service that will facilitate remittance is a very important tool for a Virtual Assistant. A fast, reliable and secure global payment facility such as Paypal is definitely the way to go.
PayPal is the world’s most popular online payment service. A free account allows the user to do the following:
- paying out of the registered debit/credit card or PayPal balance
- paying conveniently to millions of online establishments accepting PayPal payments
- transferring funds to another PayPal account
- receiving payments in your local or 24 other currencies
- experience security in making payments with PayPal’s Buyer Protection
PayPal will not require an applicant intricate identification, statutory and financial documents. All you need is a valid email address and bank account. However, a credit card that you will link your PayPal account with can give more advantages such as making online purchase through credit.
What to keep in mind
Although setting up a free account is easy, it is important to ensure the correctness of all account details. This will avoid the much dreaded problems in remittances. This will also allow the client to contact you should the need to arise.
More importantly, it will ensure a smooth transmission of the funds from your PayPal account to your bank or debit/credit card.
Making the most out of PayPal
Familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions, transaction fees, account features, etc. By being knowledgeable about these information, you can more or less expect a closer estimate of the net amount that you are supposed to get from your remittances.
Adding a bank account or credit card to will not just allow you to retrieve your funds and use it locally. It will also verify your PayPal account and allow you advanced features such as increased withdrawal limits.
Yay! You’ve got all the essential tools! All the rest will just be icing on the cake!
* By the way, if you are wondering why I did not include a project management software, it’s because I already mentioned Google Apps. You can utilize this tool to establish an effective project management process/workflow. I also mentioned Google Keep which is good for beginners who want to simply tick off things from a to-do list.
Here is a short straightforward video about how you can use Google Apps for project management:
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