Home Office Essentials for the Virtual Assistant

You are thinking about becoming a virtual assistant but don’t know if you have the right software and equipment? Here are the basics:

  • Computer with high speed internet
  • MS Office software
  • Printer
  • Fax capabilities (either e-fax capability or a physical fax machine will do)
  • Unlimited long distance calling, preferably from a dedicated home phone line
  • Hands-free devise for your phone to make it easy to talk and type
  • Anti virus program for your computer
  • A backup storage system for electronic files (external hard drive, or my favorite – an automatic backup program like mozy.com, ibackup.com, or carbonite.com)
  • A quiet and comfortable place to work

Anything else will depend on the services you are offering and the clients you will be assisting. The basics listed above should be enough to get you started.

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Online Form Solution

Google has done it again. They have created yet another cloud-based solution for virtual assistants and businesses. The online form. It sounds simple and even a little boring, I know. But here’s what makes it great.
1.     The forms are easy to create
2.     They look professional and have themes and question types you can use
3.     The results get automatically put into a spreadsheet for you
4.     You can easily create charts and graphs with the data collected
5.     It’s part of the Google Docs offerings, so if you already use Google Docs, the forms are a natural progression
Try it for yourself: Google Forms

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Time Saving Website: ZAMZAR

Visit ZAMZAR to convert one type of document to another type, even without owning the software! This is useful for converting PDFs back into Word or vice versa.
Poof – and it’s done!

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The Website Dilemma

New virtual assistants who are not extremely tech savvy will struggle with the decision of building a website or going without. Start-up budgets are often low and if a skill isn’t building websites, finding a designer or building a site can be daunting.

Today, having a web presence is important. Even if a potential client meets you at a networking event or hears about you through a referral, chances are they will want to visit your website before deciding to work with you. You are a business owner and need a professional business presence.

So what are easy, cost effective options for building a website? There are many, but let’s look at two:

  1. WordPress allows you to build a website with little to no HTML knowledge. There are templates you can choose – some free, some for a fee – and you can make the websites as fancy or basic as you want. The backend gives you a lot of website statistics (how many visitors per day, who has linked to your site, etc.). 
  2. ...
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Are you prepared? I mean really prepared?

I’m writing to you from a borrowed Mac laptop. My trusty PC died a couple days ago at the end of my workday, without warning. My immediate reaction was, “Agh!! I run my entire business from this computer! What am I going to do?!?”  My next thought was, “Oh yeah. I have a virtual business. I can access my documents and databases from anywhere. I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine and start my evening. I’ll work off a borrowed computer tomorrow and it will be business as usual.”

Think for a minute about what would happen if you had to be without your computer or physical work space without warning. Do you feel panic rising to the surface? Are you worried how you will be able to assist your clients? There are many free and easy programs that will help you do that.

Here’s a quick and easy checklist of the absolute basics you should have available to you virtually:

  • Email: If you rely on Outlook, look into how you can access your...
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Time Saving Resource: Get Human

On the occasions our service issues cannot be resolved over the internet, it can feel like torture to wait for a live person on the other end of the phone. I’m sure we can agree that talking to a computer isn’t the most comforting way to have a phone conversation. 

At Get Human you will find the phone numbers for over 500 common companies, and the quickest way to speak to a human without waiting for the endless menus of options.

Have the Get Human list handy the next time you need to dispute a cell phone bill or make a last minute flight change for you or a client. Your sanity is worth it!

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Appointment Scheduling for VA’s

One of the more popular requests VAs get from their clients is to help schedule appointments. This can be a tricky and time consuming project if you need to find a day and time that works with multiple people. Here’s a website that will make finding the perfect meeting time easier than ever: TimeBridge

TimeBridge is a web-based application that makes scheduling and leading meetings incredibly Timebridge also helps you follow up after your meeting. As the Timebridge Team says, “Think of us as your calendar-wrangling, agenda-making, note-taking, team-motivating, secret weapon in the battle against workplace inefficiency.”

You can choose from two account types: Free and Plus. The Plus account is far less expensive than you would think, and both accounts offer the option of using Timebrige’s conference call and webinar services.

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Two Common Virtual Assistant Blunders

Sure, we all make our fair share of mistakes in life, but isn’t better when we can learn from ones that other people have made, so we do not have to repeat them? Well, you are in luck! Here are two common blunders that virtual assistants make that you will want to avoid.

1. “Cross Your Fingers” marketing. This happens to many new virtual assistants. They know they have the skills and motivation to be an outstanding VA! They have the business name, website, and service offerings all in place. Then they sit at their computers, cross their fingers, and wait for clients to find them. That is a marketing strategy that has failed for everyone who has tried it. Successful VAs know where and how to find clients. They have an effective marketing plan created, and they do the activities needed to meet prospective clients.
 
2. Undervaluing your services. Just because you think it’s easy to do the responsibilities you do for your clients, doesn’t mean you...

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Shared Workspaces for Virtual Teams

Working virtually is usually as seamless as working down the hall. For times when sharing information with a virtual team member is more complex than what email will allow, there are virtual workspaces. For situations when you need to share files, timelines, calendars in order to be most effective, consider using one of the more popular and user-friendly options: BaseCamp, ClientSpot, and iMeetCentral.

Most have free versions and then different payment plans depending on how robust of a system you would like, and the number of users you will have. A virtual shared workspace is an excellent solution for virtual work teams.

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“I’m a virtual assistant” The Good, The Bad, and The Opportunity

The good news: Virtual assistance is quickly growing in popularity.
The bad news: A large part of the population doesn’t know virtual assistance exists.
The opportunity: You can help educate those people and may be just the solution they need!
 
Try this. Tell new people you meet that you are a virtual assistant. Chances are many of them will have a blank smile on their face. Their eyebrows may raise a little, and now and then you’ll get a little nod of the head. That seems to be the universal look for “Huh. That sounds interesting but I wonder what it is.” Guess what… That’s also the look of opportunity. You can be the person to introduce virtual assistance, and if they realize that they or someone else they know could benefit from a virtual working relationship and the services you provide, you have found a new client or referral source.
 
Of course you will need to be able to explain what a virtual assistant is in a way that they can...

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