If you are planning to start working from home and putting up your very own virtual assistant business, there are some key tools that will help you establish your business. Here are some of the most important tool that I currently use which I find very effective.
1. A separate workspace. Yes you really need one. Whether it is a closet turned home office or a small corner in your room, you need to establish a separate work area for your business. Working from home means a lot of distraction from the people around you – husband, kids, and even family and friends. Most of the time they wont actually feel that you are working because they will take it that you are only playing or sitting for hours in front of your computer. It is important that you set your working schedule. Let them know that at this time schedule you will be working and should NOT be disturbed unless it is an emergency. It may not be as easy to start this with, but as soon as they see that you are serious about this and you follow your schedule yourself, then they will start respecting your schedule.
2. Phone System – as an offshore virtual assistant, most of your clients will contact you through email or skype. However, it is important that you connect with your clients over the phone even once a week or once a month to discuss work and project status. Overseas calls are very very expensive. Thanks to technology cause you now have other options other than IDD calling. What I use is a cool tool called Magic Jack. It is very handy, comes with USB plug in and all you need to do is to connect an actual phone in it. It will come with your very own US Phone number so your clients can contact you, and a voicemail service. You can do unlimited calls to the US for free for the first year. I bought mine from a friend in high school and ordered through ebay, and got it the following day.
3. Back Up and File Sharing tool – sending files and storing them can be very confusing especially if you are not organized with your files. When I first started as a virtual assistant almost 4 years ago, I didn’t have any system in place. I have lost countless files, missed deadlines all because I lost the file somewhere in my documents or lost it because of a hardware problem. This can cause a lot of negative feedback for your business. Now, I use Dropbox. It was first introduced to be even before they were officially launched online by a client. Since then me and my team have been using it ever since. The coolest thing about dropbox is that it is quick to install and quick to access! It works just like your “My Documents” in your computer. You can easily drag and drop files into folders and share folders with anyone or everyone 🙂
4. Online Fax – Similar to IDD Calling, sending fax to clients as well as signed documents can be very expensive. I use j2Connect for receiving fax messages from my clients. You will be provided with a US Fax number that your clients can use for sending fax messages. All messages received will be forwarded to your email address in just minutes. Documents will be sent in PDF format. J2connect has free and paid services. Free accounts allows you to receive unlimited fax messages while the paid account allows you to send messages to your clients.
5. Echosign – As an online business entrepreneur, one of the most common thing we do for clients are sending agreements or contracts. When I first started out, I used to do it the “old school way” > Print the contract >> sign >> scan the signed document >> then send it to the client. Echosign has made it a whole lot easier for me, saves me time and money! It allows you to upload the contract, sign it electronically and send it to your client for signature. No need to scan documents or print duplicate copies of your contract!
Working with clients who are thousand miles away from us may be very challenging. However, knowing the right tools to use will help you and your virtual assistant business be more efficient and successful.
What about you, What’s your favorite virtual assistant tools? (leave a comment!)