The Tools That I Use To Run My Virtual Assistant Business

The Tools I Use To Run My Virtual Assistant Business

Some time ago I published one of my most popular blog posts Must Have Software For Virtual Assistants.  It was such a hit that I decided to publish Must Have Software For Virtual Assistants Part II.

I get emails nearly every week asking about the programs, apps, software, etc., I use. I’m always happy to lift the curtain to give people a peek  but, I figured instead of answering each email individually, I've decided to write this blog post.

So without further adieu, here is the list in no order of importance.

Email: Gmail  and Google Apps for Business

I adore Gmail – not just for the easy-to-navigate interface, but because it’s so easy to organize! You can also add fantastic apps like Boomerang to make managing your overflowing inbox a breeze and Rapportive for helping me see who I’m emailing with.

Proofreading: Grammarly

It goes without saying that virtual assistants write a lot of emails. Whether you're writing emails to prospects or to a client, it's crucial that you use correct grammar and punctuation. Grammarly is my go-to tool to check everything I write and I can't live without it. No seriously, I don't publish anything anymore without Grammarly. What I love about Grammarly is you can add their plugin to Google Chrome and it will check your writing whether you're writing an email, a social media post or a blog post.  It literally follows you around your computer screen to where ever you're writing to save you from making embarrassing mistakes.

 Document Sharing: Google Drive and DropBox

Google Drive (formerly known as Google Docs) is an online software suite similar to Microsoft Office.

I use it to create action plans for my clients, as well as saving all my client specific information. It’s easier than DropBox and accessible whether I’m on my desktop computer, my laptop, or someone else’s computer.  It's pretty much vital to any virtual assistant.

DropBox is another must have document sharing software.  You can save any type of file to DropBox.  Just create an account and share folders with your clients and you have a great way to share files/folders instantly.

Merchant Services: PayPal

PayPal is the golden standard.  Your clients don't have to have a PayPal account to pay your invoices with PayPal.  All they have to have is a valid credit card.  It's a simple and easy way to start taking payments as a new online business, and I recommend it to everyone starting out.  

 Invoicing and Accounting: Freshbooks

Freshbooks has a ton of features.  From time tracking, invoicing, and accounting this is an all-in-one solution that I've been using since 2008.  I've researched competitors and I've always come back to Freshbooks.  Freshbooks is free for just one client (bummer), after that it's $19.99 for their seedling plan.   I have to offer up an honorable mention to another invoicing and accounting tool called Harvest.  While I don't use Harvest many virtual assistants swear by it so check both options out.

Online Conference Calls: Skype or Google Hangouts

I've been using Skype for as long as I can remember.  It's super reliable and you can share your computer screen with for free during your call.  That said, Google Hangouts has been amazing and I've got to give credit where credit is due. What I love about Google Hangouts is you can add up to 10 people to the call at no extra cost.  Both Skype and Google Hangouts have smart phone apps so you can hold a conference call from your phone when you're not at home.  Super helpful when you clients need to talk you when you're not at home.

Project Managment: Asana and RedBooth

I've been using Asana for awhile now but I've also used RedBooth (formerly TeamBox) and I love them both.  Whether you have one client or several you must use a project management software to stay organized.   If you have virtual assistants that you sub-contract work to you can add them as team members to both platforms and have complete visibility as to where things stand with each project/client.

Shopping Cart Software: eJunkie

This is my number one recommendation to people starting out online who want to set up shop quickly and easily. For $5 a month e-Junkie lets you sell your digital products and programs simply by creating a new product, uploading a digital file or pointing to a page on your site for a program and naming your price.

Then you can choose from a range of payment methods like Google Checkout or PayPal and embed that code straight into your website o ensure people can `buy now’ and setup a simple affiliate program.

This is a great suggestion to clients who want to sell stuff online and want you to manage everything from the backend.  Super simple and cost effective.

Domain Name Registration: GoDaddy

I've been using GoDaddy since I created my first website.  I only use them to purchase my domain names.  I never use them for hosting.  See below for my web host recommedations.

Web Hosting: HostGatorand BlueHost

I've been using HostGator for awhile now and I've got no complaints.  They give you a variety of plans to chose from and allow you to upgrade at any time.  I went from their Hatchling plan of $3.95 per month to their Baby Plan when my traffic increased.

BlueHost is what my clients use to run their WordPress sites and I love their customer services and ease of use.  Highly recommend!

Email Marketing: MailChimp

I've been using MailChimp for a few years now and I love it.  They offer a free plan for up to 2,000 subscribers.

I recommend it to anyone starting out in email marketing because it’s so simple to use, and easy to navigate. You can create campaigns easily and setup autoresponders to go out automatically each time you get a new subscriber to welcome them.

Online Photo Editor: PicMonkey or Canva

Whether I need an image for a blog post I've just written or my client needs an photo touched up for his/her website I use PicMoney or Canva.  PicMonkey and Canva are favorite tool for entrepreneurs because they are both easy and quick, allowing you to add text and overlays to photos for blog posts. If you can’t afford Photoshop check them out.

Website Creation: WordPress.org

I love my WordPress website and I firmly stand behind this platform and encourage other virtual assistants to set up a WordPress site.   WordPress offers thousands of free themes.  Once you've loaded up your  theme WordPress sites are easy to update.  If you can use Microsoft Word than you can add a new page on to your WordPress site.  There are plenty of free tutorials on YouTube on how to get your WordPress site online but I'd recommend checking out Lynda's WordPress Tutorials.  They are free and have various skill levels starting from beginner to advanced WordPress training.

Once you install WordPress you have to pick a them. Right now I'm loving two themes for WordPress. They come from  Elegant Themes and the first is called the Divi Theme.   Divi is a great theme because it's responsive across all devices (phones, tablets, etc) and is super easy to use.  The next theme that's a huge hit is BlueChic Themes and my personal fav is the Jacqueline Theme. These themes are great if you have a small budget for website design.

What software are you using to run your virtual assistant business?  List your suggestions below in the comments so everyone reading can benefit.

See you in the comments!

Rock on,

Reese

How To Use Google Drive To Organize And Share Files

Of all the online software I use, Google Drive is the one I use the most.  Whenever I am coaching an aspiring virtual assistant on the ins and outs of the virtual assistant business I usually always mention the importance of learning how to use Google Drive.

Google Drive is an office suite of productivity applications.   What does that mean?

It means that you can collaborate and share documents such as Word documents, Excel documents and PowerPoint presentations with your clients without having to send the files as attachments in email.   No more going back and forth dictating what changes need to be made and multiple copies of a document.  Just choose who you want to share your files with and viola!

To give you an example of how I use Google Drive let's say I have several clients.  Each client has the contract that we signed before we started working together.  In addition to our contract I have all the log in information they have shared with me for their websites, social media accounts and other software they use to run their business.  I need to keep all of this information stored, organized and easily accessible so that I can access this infomration at a moments notice no matter where I am in the world.

For each and every file I have on my Google Drive I have the ability to share that file with anyone I want so long as they have a Gmail account (note: to share with non-Gmail users click here)

In the video below I'll give you a quick tutorial on how to use Google Drive to organize your files and share those files with your clients.

 
 

Leave me your questions and comments below!

Rock on, Reese

5 Tips For Controlling Email Chaos For Your Virtual Business And Clients

As virtual assistants we are often asked by our clients to manage their email inbox.  If you are not managing your email communications by using some sort of system than you're doing things wrong.

email inbox
email inbox

In this blog post, I am going to talk about some of the most widely used email management techniques and systems.  Use the ones that make the most sense for you and your clients.

One of the most popular is a technique called Inbox Zero, created by a guy named Merlin Mann.  Click here to watch the famous Inbox Zero video.   This video was recorded when Merlin was asked to speak at Google's Moutain View offices in California. It has since sparked a frenzy over this popular productivity technique.

Boomerang

This is an awesome Gmail plugin. Boomerang allows you to send emails, with reminders for that email to boomerang back after a set period if it goes unanswered.  The only drawback to this plugin is that the free version only allows for you to Boomerang 10 emails per month. That's not a lot so you would need to use their paid plugin. This might be a great suggestion to offer your clients who have a great deal of email communications.

BaseCamp

BaseCamp has a great feature that allows you to forward emails to the BaseCamp system by simply adding your BaseCamp email into the cc: field.   This is invaluable as it allows you to keep everything organized per project so you'll never have to wonder where the last email communication was.

Followup.cc

Followup.cc is an AWESOME email solution that allows you to schedule your emails to be sent out at a later time, remind you when an email hasn't been opened or responded by setting a snooze button on any particular email.

Lastly, do you need to answer every single email that comes in? Think about it, are some emails that you are managing for your clients - questions that are repeated over and over again?  Wouldn't it make sense to create an FAQ's page on your clients' website? Or you could set up an auto-responder system for your client letting the customers know that they can expect to hear from you within a certain amount of time and in the meantime to check out the FAQ's page.

Part of a larger team?

If you are part of a larger team of virtual assistants or your client's business has a team you need to communicate with consider setting up an account with Yammer.  There is nothing better than taking a conversation off of email and speaking with someone in real time to get instant feedback.

Yammer is a private social network just for your company. In order to get an account with Yammer everyone must sign up with the same email address so this is only for groups working within the same company.

What are you doing to manage e-mail chaos for your virtual assistant business and the business of your clients?

Let us know below in the comments!

Rock on,

Reese