Tuesday Tool Madness: An Offshore Virtual Assistant’s Must Have

Working from home has kept me pre-occupied for almost 4 years now. In fact, I found myself working 10-16 hours a day in front of my computer. It is in fact more than work, but its a business.

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!)

 

 

 

 

Best Online Resources

Here’s my top online resources:

Fantastic Books
Billys Books – A fantastic Book Store

Furniture Sore
ROCKA er opptatt – Hos ROCKA har du muligheten til � innrede hjemmet ditt innvendig og utvendig med stilfulle og lekre m�bler

Internet
Website Design – A fantastic site for website design and Optimization

Internet Marketing
Doctors Marketing Campaigns – Doctors Add Campaings, Professional marketing for doctors

Joint Pain
Knee pain relief – OsteoTrim is an advanced knee pain supplement that soothes your knee joint pain while helping you lose weight.

Mortgage Loans
Mortgage Loans – By Mandalay Loans – Mandalay Loans – Mortgage Loans

Online Printing
Business Printing – Printerbees.com is a fantastic site for business cards,envelopes,calenders,stickers, notepads,postcards and lables.

State Auctions
State and Government auctions – State and Government Auctions

2009 – Zero Negative Feedback

2009 is finally here… This year I didn’t set any New Year’s Resolution but Ive set an ultimate goal for myself and for my business: Zero Negative Feedback from Clients.

For 2008, we have learned a lot of things and new experiences. Some of it were bad experiences from clients which we got negative feedbacks from. And in the virtual assistance industry, negative feedback can break your business. Learning from that experience, I am currently working on a motivation campaign with my team that focuses on eliminating negative feedback and seeking to provide excellent service to our clients. 

I know this goal isn’t that easy to achieve, there are a lot of areas that we need to work on such as improving our skills, our communication with clients and a whole lot more. So I am raising up my sleeves ready to work hard on achieving this. 

What about you, what’s your ultimate goal for the year 2009?

Suggestions for 2009 Planner?

I have been Marcia’s Organising Queen blog follower and she influenced me a lot in terms of organising my life as a whole and my VA business. I’m still a newbie and still have a long way to go in terms of this but I surely learned a lot of things.

I envied her post about her 2009 planner and too bad Im located in a rural province that doesn’t have a decen’t bookstore that sells similar planners. I looked online and found several planners. However most of them are either focusing on the barnd of the planner or just too expensive for me. I am actually looking for something that would fit my lifestyle and busy needs.

Of course most of the planners have a daily time of 8am – 7pm for all other normal individuals. However my day starts at the opposite. Since most of my clients are based in the US and UK I work late at night. Is there such a thing as a 24-hour daily planner? I would love to have one! I guess  I will have to continue my quest to look for a planner…

In the meantime, I will go back and use my MS Office One Note since it helps me organize my life! and rely on outlook for my appointments! Unless you guys have a better suggestions. Anyone?

A Virtual Assistant’s Wish List this Christmas

christmas-giftNo one can deny that Christmas is here. This is my second Christmas here in the province and my first as a Virtual Assistant. I haven’t actually made any christmas shopping as of yet and I still have 6 other VA’s to include in my Christmas list.

Then I thought what would a VA want for Christmas? What would I want for christmas?

I came up with my own top 10 lists of gifts I wanted (or hoping) to receive:

1.  Bonus! – I guess one of the things I missed from being an “employee” is receiving bonus from the company. As a VA, we cannot mandate our clients to give us one (but Im sure that most VA’s like me would hope to receive one!)

2. A free online training – I still consider myself a newbie in the Industry and to be honest I still have a long way to go in terms of training. For months I have been dying to be able to attend to online trainings offered by other remarkable VAs such as Dreamweaver Basic, Photoshop Basics, and Internet Marketing.

3. SPA! -Honestly I haven’t been to a spa my whole life! I wanted to but I have always thought it was a waste of my hard earned money. I would rather spend on investing it to office supplies rather than treat myself.

4. Referral – I once read that the best compliment one can ever get is thru referrals. And it is very true.

5. Promotional Items from Client’s office – I surely appreciate personalized items with my client’s logo in it. I’m sure that other VA’s would agree with me that it is something we can display in our small office. Something nice to collect.

6. Testimonials – Even a simple recommendation for LinkedIn or a testimonial that we could post at our websites and profiles is priceless.

7. Nicer Office Chair – I still use a dining chair till now. It has been long in my shopping list but I don’t even know why I haven’t bought one.

8. Award – it can be just a simple certificate or an engraved trophy. Even if VA’s work in our very own home office it is still rewarding to see recognition from clients.

9. Digital Photo Frame – I have gazillions of pics that I wished I could show off.

10. Personalized Gifts – whether its a client’s own e-book or a jewelry they made, the thought that the gift is made by you is already rewarding enough.

Of course I don’t expect that my clients would send me these gifts, but I hope that the readers of this blog who has other VA’s too would get an idea what a VA would want this season.

Happy Holidays!

epVirtual Assistants Moved to a New Home!

You are probably wondering why I’ve been so quiet for the past weeks. Well, here’s the reason why… we’ve finally moved to a new and better home! Larger office, more storage space, access to a new internet service provider, better location.

We’ve been hunting for the best place to settle for months and at last we found a new one. It is still in the same town. In fact its just several blocks away from our original office. This is what we originally had:

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I am so excited to brag about our new office. It is still set up as a “home office” but its larger than what we originally had.  Have a look at the before and after pictures below and let me know your thoughts about it!

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