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The Tools That I Use To Run My Virtual (1)

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.

 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 up to 3 clients, after that it’s $19.99 for their seedling plan.

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.

Web Hosting: HostGator

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.

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.

My new favorite WordPress theme comes from Elegant Themes and 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.  Divi is the next theme on my list to buy as I’ve been playing around with it on client’s sites and I love it.

 

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

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Getting Started with Squarespace for Your Virtual Assistant Business

It’s obvious to all of us now that online presence (and presentation) are a requirement for most businesses to be successful.

As virtual assistants, this is even more so the case as we conduct our business 100% online.

Reese recently wrote about the options independent virtual assistants have for creating their own websites. She mentioned that we don’t all have the option of paying a designer/developer to create a great site, but we also don’t want to sacrifice good design because of a limited start-up budget.

This dilemma is the point at which I always recommend Squarespace. I’ve worked in both WordPress and Blogger before, but after creating multiple websites through Squarespace, I’m totally sold on the platform’s sleek, expensive-looking design and the company’s top-notch customer service.

If you’re interested in exploring Squarespace, here’s a quick Getting Started guide:

1. Choose a Template

With any platform, choosing your template is one of the hardest decisions in the early stages of creating your site. We all want something with just the right look and functionality for our offerings and business model, but it’s easy to get distracted by beautiful-looking templates that aren’t the right structure for what we do. If you’re not sure which route to go, consider these tips:

Screenshot 2014-03-09 14.00.28

Use the industry groupings on Squarespace’s site. Virtual assistants will get the most use out of the “Personal” & “Businesses” options. Graphic design virtual assistants, like me, should also check out the “Portfolios” choices.

Screenshot 2014-03-09 14.01.50

Review the Feature Index. This can be pretty lengthy, so don’t get overwhelmed, but this is where you can confirm that features you need (and maybe some you hadn’t even thought of!) are available under your choice of template.

2. Sign Up for a Free Trial

Once you’ve got a template in mind, sign up for a free trial. This is a great option for anyone on the fence about starting/switching to this platform. You can play around with site design, upload all your own content, all while the site remains locked to anyone but you and you don’t even have to submit your credit card info.

3. Play Around with Each “Type” of Page

Be forewarned, if you’re used to the back end of other platforms, it might take a little patience to get used to the setup of Squarespace. Their prioritization of sleek design means that icons are more prominent than words, and functions are sub-categorized to minimize each menu. Don’t lose hope! I promise you’ll get used to locating everything once you’ve set up a few pages and given everything a test drive. If you’re still having trouble, their customer service is very speedy and personalized in a way that will help you get through pretty much any issue. Be sure to check at least these 3 features:

Blog Posts: See what a published post will look like, along with the process of adding photos, videos, etc. to the blog post through Squarespace’s editor.

Screenshot 2014-03-09 18.05.47 Screenshot 2014-03-09 18.11.55

Style Editing: In “Preview” mode (the eyeball at the top of the left-hand menu), you can select to enter “Style Mode” by clicking the paintbrush in the bottom right-hand icon section.

Use this mode to play around with colors, fonts, site width and header images. There are a ton of options for customizing your template, and you can see the changes live before saving anything.

Newsletter Signup & Buttons: I know this seems pretty simple, but I just love the capabilities of the “Newsletter” & “Buttons” blocks. You can sleekly link out to your social media sites, directly connect your MailChimp account to a newsletter signup on your site, and both of these can go at the bottom of every blog post you write, which opens up a lot of promotional opportunities.

There you go! This short guide will get you started managing your own elegant and expensive looking design without any financial commitment.

Good luck designing and I’d love to see your new sites when they’re up and running!

DPM_About_Pic_smallThis guest post was written by Stephanie Schertz.  Stephanie is a graphic designer and virtual assistant specializing in monthly content design services and website creation through Squarespace. Her blog features weekly design tips & stories of the entrepreneurial experience.

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Why Virtual Assistants

There are so many options out there today for vitual assistants to use for task management and bookeeping. Which one should you choose? Should you choose by cost? Should you choose by feature? Should you choose by quality of customer service? Should you choose by popular opinion?

Today we’re talking about one of the most popular options out there, Freshbooks.

Freshbooks really embodies the spirit of the virtual assistant world. It’s mobile, it’s simple, it’s efficient. It’s shareable and affordable. In the end, everyone has their own parameters for selection, but here’s what people are loving about it.

Freshbooks is cloud accounting and task management software that you can take with you wherever you need to go. You can send invoices and approve payments while you are standing in line at the bank, or waiting for your turn at the Doctor’s office. Imagine if you will, that your printers breaks down. You stop work, you hop in your car and realize that you need gas. You stop at the gas station to fill up, when you’re finished, you could enter your fuel expense into your Freshbooks account from your smartphone! Once that new printer is packed up and in your vehicle you can add that as well! Then you are ready to get back to work. Look at the time you’ve saved! How cool is that?

You can track working time by the second using the timer. When you close the timer, it automatically adds those hours/minutes/seconds to your project! Check this out:

FreshBooks Timer

FreshBooks Timer

Try this scenario on for size. You sit down to work on website redesign. Start the timer. You have to stop to answer the phone; stop the timer. Restart the timer when you begin work again. Stop and start this timer all day long if that’s what it takes, Freshbooks will keep a running tally of your time and add it to the project. Perfect! No more billable hours going unpaid!

Here’ s a peek at how the task times are managed by day, week or month. Pretty fool proof! You can even mark the hours you have logged as billed, not billed, or ready to delete.

 

FreshBooks Timesheet

FreshBooks Time-sheet

 

Some of the other boasted features include free automatic upgrades, automatic secure backup and a stellar customer service team. Freshbooks can create an estimate for your client and then when the client accepts, morph that estimate right into an invoice….magic!

It will also track every step in the life of your invoice, you can see when your client receives and views the invoice.

 

Freshbooks Estimate Interface

How to create an estimate in Freshbooks

Last but not least, Freshbooks will handle your important reports and documents like aging, expense reports and profit and loss. You can track billable and non billable hours as well.

The cost options are very reasonable for a virtual assistant’s business, starting at $19.99 per month for up to 25 clients and it can be used in conjunction with Paypal. Freshbooks is a great option, it’s one of many, so do your homework, compare, and see what feels right for you and your business.

What is your favorite accounting and time sheet software?  Leave a comment below and let me know what you’re using and why.

This guest post was written by Marie Gray, Founder of Gray’s Virtual Office.

Marie is a small business support guru and writer who lives in Southern Vermont. She enjoys an eclectic mix of loud music, hiking and homesteading as well as all things internet, social media and networking.

 

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Sale

As virtual assistants we KNOW that entrepreneurs need us.   We know that they can’t be as successful as they want/need to be without our help.  We get that and they get that but there is a HUGE gap between knowing that and actually signing up new clients. I’m going to bridge that gap right now so read on.

As virtual assistants we need to put ourselves in our ideal clients shoes and FEEL what they are feeling.

Most entrepreneurs have no idea how to work with a virtual assistant.  Most of the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with have really stressed about hiring someone else to work on their stuff.  I mean for g-ds sake, their work is their baby and they are not too keen to just hand over their baby to a complete stranger.

Hiring a virtual assistant can be very stressful.  It’s our job to address their concerns and make it easy for them.

We have to be very aware that this fear exists with our prospects.  So this begs the question, how can we quell their fears?

The answer is offer your prospects and easy entry into working together with you.

Enter the starters package.

If you want to get clients than you’re going to want to offer a starters package.

You don’t have to call this a starters package.  Call it what you want, a beginners package, the baby package, get creative!

Here is a suggestion that you can use right now to craft your own starters package:

Are you scared, nervous or worried about hiring a virtual assistant?  I can understand that.  I would be, too.  That’s why I am offering you my starters package.  I want you to experience what it feels like to have the support you deserve so you can finally exhale a breath of relief that someone has your back.   Try out my services for 30 days.  You set the amount of hours you want me to work each week.  Get ready to have more time than you know what to do with.

Now, go and update your Work With Me page right now and come back and leave a link to your page in the comments.  I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Need help crafting a great starters package?  Get in touch and let me know.  I’ve got a couple of ways we can work together and I’d love to tell you about it.

Rock on,

Reese

 

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