How to Perform Virtual Assistant Services Remotely

What software is needed to perform Virtual Assistant services?  This is a question I asked when I decided to become a Virtual Assistant in 2008.  I spent so much time trawling through VA forums to find out what Virtual Assistant services I could do and what software was needed.  Therefore, I compiled all that information I found into one document.  I have recently updated it and made it into a post that will hopefully save you time.

It is advisable to only purchase software as you need it. In addition, before purchasing any software confirm that it has all the features that you or your client requires.

If a highly specialised piece of software is required, that you may never use with another client, you may decide to charge your client for this software. You will need to discuss this in advance with your client.

There are so many free trials available and I suggest that you try the software before you buy it.

ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE

Antivirus software is a must for a PC these days with the constant virus threats around.  When performing Virtual Assistant services and working on documents you should ensure your PC is protected.

Avast Antivirus

Avast offers a free version (in the UK) for home use which blocks viruses and malware. This is antivirus software that I have used in the past.  It is not a run of the mill free software.

The paid version of the antivirus is also extremely reasonably priced.

Avast have other products such as VPN for true online privacy.

ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE

As a self employed Virtual Assistant it is a must to keep a track of your income and expenditure.  This can be done on a simple spreadsheet.  I have been using a simple Excel template to record income and expenses since I started in 2008.

My Accounts Spreadsheet

So here are the screenshots below.

It is a simple low priced spreadsheet with a worksheet for income, one for expenditure and then all the totals feed into a third worksheet.

CHECK IT OUT

For those who do not like using accounting software, which can be a bit complicated, then this simple excel template for accounting will save you the headache of creating your own.  

Of course you can always try to recreate a simple Excel account spreadsheet yourself.  Some kind of accounting package is a must have Virtual Assistant software.

QuickBooks

Now I’m sure you’ve all heard of QuickBooks, yeah? It’s a great accounting package that I have used in the past.  However, it is a monthly commitment and when first starting out as a Virtual Assistant you want to keep your costs down. Currently the lowest is £6 per month +VAT and if you want to add in payroll then it is extra.

FreshBooks

FreshBooks offers a free 30 day trial.  It is always great to trial a product to ensure it is the package that works for you.  Once you have completed the trial you can opt for the lite option which is billed at 108.90 for the year. This is for up to 5 billable clients which is enough when you first start out.

Zoho Books

Zoho offers a free 14 day trial so not as long as FreshBooks.  It can create VAT compliant invoices in seconds.  In the UK you don’t need to start charging VAT until your VAT taxable turnover goes over £85,000 (the ‘threshold’), or when you know that it will. VAT registration: When to register – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT TOOLS

Best social media scheduling tools:

Hootsuite

Hootsuite offers a free plan of managing two social accounts and the ability to schedule up to 5 posts.  It is worth signing up for the free account to see if you like the layout etc.  In addition, Hootsuite has an academy where you can learn the platform for free or you can get certified for $99.  I have used Hootsuite before and unfortunately I don’t find the layout to be very user friendly.

Socialbee

Now although I haven’t used this before one of the features that I really think would be handy is that you can organize your posts into categories.  Also, you can requeue posts over and over and slightly change the content i.e. post variations which would save you so much time.  You can also save #hashtag collections either by category, social profile or social platform.

Check out Socialbee as it is reasonably priced and starts at $19 per month and offers a 14 day free trial.

EMAIL MANAGEMENT VIRTUAL ASSISTANT SERVICES

LastPass

This is a great piece of software that allows you to access client’s software including their email without actually knowing their password.  It is extremely easy to download as an extension to your browser.  The client will add their passwords into a vault and then they can grant you access to their email or software as required.  There is a free version available.

Gmail

A Virtual Personal Assistant will no doubt  manage a client’s email.  This can be done using Gmail. According to How to Geek it supports up to 5 different email addresses.  For more information on how to do this check out How to Geek guide.

Chrome Remote Desktop

To remote onto a client’s windows PC or device you would need to have Windows 10 Pro.  Therefore as most people only have the home version you would need to use a third party tool.  A free solution is to use Chrome Remote Desktop from Google.  It’s a bit technical and here is an in-depth guide.

LogMeIn or GoToMyPC

Now if you are not technically minded then a paid third party option may be better such as LogMeIn or GoToMyPC.  However, these are not free.

By remoting on you will be able to check your client’s emails. You will define a policy with your client for dealing with emails. Your client may want you to respond to a particular email with a standard template email. Therefore, you would need to establish the rules before you start. It is also advisable to determine times when you will check the emails.

EMAIL MERGE

Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook

It is possible to send out mail-merged emails using Word and MS Outlook, dependant on the version you have. This can be used to send out regular email newsletters for clients. The current limit for Outlook 365 is 500 recipients per message.  Check Microsoft for further information.

You can set up distribution lists within MS Outlook.

If you are going to exceed this amount then there are a number of software packages that you can use such as Aweber.  This will be discussed later in more detail.

Some considerations you need to think about are:

  • It is advisable to have an ‘opt-in’ and ‘opt-out’ system. You will then have the necessary permission to send out the newsletters and offer the receiver the option to stop receiving the newsletters.
  • Do not enter more than one address in the To: box, think about data protection and GDPR!
  • Personalise the emails by using the merge function to add the first name of the recipient within the email.

CALENDAR MANAGEMENT

Microsoft Outlook

If a freelance Virtual Assistant wants to offer calendar management services then Microsoft Outlook allows you to share a calendar.

Google Docs to provide Virtual Assistant Services

The free alternative is Google docs which allows a calendar to be shared. Check out this guide on how to share a Google calendar.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT VIRTUAL ASSISTANT SERVICES

Client Spot

Client Spot software allows you to collaborate with your client on projects. It allows you to set up a project, assign tasks, assign a person to each task, add project files and log the time taken for each task to be completed. The client will be able to view the information of their own projects. Client Spot offers a 15 day free trial. The personal and small teams option is well priced at only $29 for 10 users and 10 projects.

Basecamp

BaseCamp provides tools tailored to improve the communication between people working together on a project. If you have a number of associates that you work with, it will allow you to delegate work to your associates. There is a 30 day free trial. There is an option for personal use which is limited to 3 projects and 20 users.  For pricing details click here.

Trello

Trello is a free collaboration tool that you can use for projects.  It consists of boards and allows you to see who is working on a project, what they are doing and where it is up to.  Trello describes it as “Imagine a white board, filled with lists of sticky notes, with each note as a task for you and your team”. This is a great piece of Virtual Assistant software for those who have a number of projects on the go.

TIME MANAGEMENT / TIME TRACKING SOFTWARE

MyHours

MyHours is a time management, timesheet and time tracking solution. It enables you to track your Virtual Assistant services.  You can log your work time, projects you work on and tasks you perform. It is web based and can be used from any location at any time.  myHours.com has a free option at the time of writing.

MyHours.com appears to be the most widely used software by VAs for tracking time, perhaps because it is currently free ! There is also a paid option.

Toggl

Toggl offers a free plan for time tracking so you can manage projects across teams.  This will allow you to make better decisions for project estimates and team planning.

Easy Time Tracking

EasyTimeTracking currently offers a 30-day fully functional trial software. After 30 days the trial will switch to the free mode and certain functionality will be disabled.

FREE SOFTWARE YOU CAN USE INSTEAD OF MS OFFICE

Google Docs

You can create word processed documents, spreadsheets and presentations using Google Docs. These can be shared with clients online.

OpenOffice

Openoffice is opensource (free) software created by Sun Microsystems with the following products:

WRITER is a fully equipped word processor or desktop publisher software.

IMPRESS is a tool for creating effective multimedia presentations.

MATH is a tool for creating equations and formulae for your documents.

DRAW is a drawing package.

CALC is the spreadsheet program.

BASE is the database software.

You can save the documents in numerous formats. Your client may need it as a Microsoft document and this is possible. For example, you can save a WRITER document as a MS Word document.

PHONE SYSTEMS

Microsoft 365 Business Voice

Teams has a Microsoft 365 Business Voice that requires you to have a Microsoft 365 subscription including Teams.  You can make calls from Teams, Outlook or a mobile device.  It has many features including auto attendant, contact centre integration, call queues and cloud voicemail.

RingCentral

RingCentral offers a virtual phone app that you can use from any computer or mobile device. The all-in-one communication allows a centralized communications environment.  Any team member can easily find a co-worker through a company directory.  Then they can reach that person via a simple direct-dialling system.

EMAIL MARKETING SOFTWARE

As I have mentioned earlier it is possible to use Microsoft Outlook to send out a number of emails. It is important that you consider the points previously mentioned in the email merge section. Once you have reached the email limit that your provider allows, you can either send emails out in batches or you can use an email marketing tool.

When performing Virtual Assistant services you may support bloggers who would use an email marketing software to capture email addresses.

An autoresponder is classed as an email marketing tool. An autoresponder is a computer program that will automatically answer an email sent to it. Autoresponders can be set up to send a drip emailing campaign i.e. to send one email per day for a number of days.

I have in the past signed up to a drip email campaign that offered me 89 tips for writing press releases. I received an email every day for 89 days ! That is a very long campaign but if the tips are good enough (which they were) I will stay subscribed in order to receive them all.

There are so many around so let’s look at the most commonly used ones:

Mailchimp

Mailchimp has a free version of up to 2000 contacts and one audience. I am using Mailchimp at the moment but I don’t find it particularly easy to understand. However, it does seem to be improving and is great to use while building up your audience.

Aweber

AWeber has been around for many years.  I have used this before and it is simple to use and was heavily used by internet marketers in the past.  That was until the next software came on the market.

ConvertKit – my fav!

ConvertKit would be my number 1 choice.  It was created by internet marketers to be more intuitive and having used it, I have to say it is the simplest email software I have used so far.  I did, however, stop using it because I wasn’t putting any effort into building a list and was paying monthly. You will be glad to hear that ConvertKit now has a free version of up to 1000 subscribers.  This is ideal while you are growing your email list.

Mailerlite

Mailerlite is another popular email responder.  It also offers a free version of up to 1000 subscribers and a limit of 12000 emails a month.  This is great for when you are first starting out.  I haven’t used Mailerlite before but I have seen posts that it is well used and liked.

WEB CONFERENCING

Microsoft Teams

The free version of teams allows up to 300 participants and a meeting of up to 60 minutes. Who wants to be in a meeting longer than 60 minutes anyways?!

Adobe Connect

Adobe Connect has been around for many years. It currently offers a free trial of 30 days.

Webex

WebEx also has a free option and it allows up to 100 participants and a meeting of up to 50 minutes.

I haven’t gone into a lot of detail with the features as I believe a Virtual Assistant would only really need the free version of Teams. 

COURSE CREATION

Teachable

Teachable is a monthly paid product and on top there is a 5% transaction fee. I have seen many courses using teachable and they do look extremely professional.

You can link your own domain easily.  Furthermore, to engage your students it allows you to create quizzes and course completion certificates.

In addition, it works well with other third party software.

WordPress plugin MemberPress

MemberPress is a WordPress plugin.  Its plans include subscription billing, payment integration, customizable checkout, content protection, course creation, member management, content dripping, email reminders, corporate/umbrella accounts, self-serve member dashboard, coupons, autoresponder integrations, affiliate program, fantastic support and much more!  It is a yearly fee of around $249 for the basic package.

Learndash

Learndash license is a yearly charge and the basic package starts from $159. They offer a 30 day money back guarantee.  It has a drag and drop course builder.  It allows you have dynamic content delivery such as drip feeding lessons and set the need for videos to be watched before moving on.

Optimizepress

Optimizepress will help you to create opt-in pages, lead magnet pages, webinar registration pages, waitlist pages, email confirmation pages, landing pages, membership sites and much more.

STOCK PHOTOS

Canva

Canva has a good selection of free photos available.  I use Canva to create Pinterest pins.  I have now upgraded to the pro version as I love it so much.  You are not allowed to use the free images in items you are going to sell such as printables.

The pro version of Canva is £10.99 per month for 5 users. This gives you access to 75+ million premium stock photos, videos, audio and graphics to use which I believe is great value.  Try it for free.

Unsplash

I have used photos from this site to use in my articles.  I generally link back to the photo from my website, although you don’t have to for most photos.

Pexels

I did a quick search on Pexels for Dictaphone and there weren’t any images. When there are no images available it then suggests images from a paying stock photo site.  I then searched on “office” and there was a good choice of photos available.

BLOGGING SOFTWARE FOR VIRTUAL ASSISTANT SERVICES

I’m sure you’re all familiar with what blogging is.  If not, read this post on starting a blog. However, you may not be aware of the software that is used for blogging.  Blogs are generally interactive and allow other people to provide comments on your posts.  Using a blog on your Virtual Assistant website can dramatically increase the traffic to your website.  Blogging software is known as content management software and can be used for full website design.

There are numerous blogging platforms out there. The most popular one used by Virtual Assistants appears to be WordPress.  I have used WordPress since 2008 and would not use anything else!

WordPress – Free Content Management Software

WordPress is a free blogging platform and is one of the most popular blogging platforms on the internet. There are two options for using WordPress. You can either get a free blog on WordPress.com or read this post of setting up a website or blog which offers you the most flexibility.

Blogger

Blogger is another free blogging platform. It is owned by Google so you need a Google Account to use this platform.

WEBSITE CREATION / MANAGEMENT

When creating or maintaining a website as Virtual Assistant services there are a number of options you can use:

  • Use HTML / CSS and write the code yourself.
  • Use a WYSIYUG (What You See is What You Get) HTML editor.
  • Use a software package.

I am not going to discuss website creation as the subject is too vast. I will, however, briefly mention some tools and standards that you should be aware of.

If you want to learn how to create websites using HTML/CSS then you should use W3 Schools to ensure you are producing standards compliant coding. You can validate your files here before you upload them to your web server.

So if you don’t want to learn html/css then you would need to opt for a software package.  I have listed a couple of paid options below:

Adobe DreamWeaver

Adobe DreamWeaver offers a free trial so you can test it out.  It allows you to easily design and build responsive websites.

Envato Market Website Templates

If you’re looking for an already done website template then Envato Market has a huge selection.  Check out their templates for websites.

WordPress

WordPress is a Content Management System and can be used to setup your Virtual Assistant website or business website.  I, personally, wouldn’t use anything else. You can also find WordPress templates at Envato.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

You may need FTP client software to upload your files to a web server. FTP is relatively simple to use. You must be careful not to overwrite files unintentionally. It is advisable to keep backup copies of websites before a change and after a change, just in case a problem arises.

There are a number of FTP software programs available:

Filezilla

FileZilla is an easy to use, free ftp-client, which only took me a couple of minutes to download. This is such a good product there is no need to pay for a FTP program, but I have listed a couple of others just in case you have a problem with Filezilla.

CuteFTP

CuteFTP offer a 30 day free trial. CuteFTP offer three ftp-client options, Professional, Home and Mac Professional. Click here for pricing.

GRAPHIC DESIGN

Photo and Imaging Software

GIMPshop

GIMPshop is a free program intended to replicate the feel of Adobe Photoshop. Its primary purpose is to make users of Photoshop feel comfortable using GIMP.

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is ideal for:

  • Professional photographers
  • Serious amateur photographers
  • Graphic designers

Corel Draw

Corel Draw is an easy to use all-in-one design and layout tool.  It allows you to create eye catching leaflets, banners, web graphics and much more.  They offer a 15 day free trial.

Canva

As already mentioned Canva is a great tool for creating graphics such as Pinterest pins.  It has standard templates for social media, brochures, videos, Instagram stories etc.  The free version is great but if you are planning on becoming a Pinterest Virtual Assistant then the monthly cost is extremely reasonable.  Try it out for free.

Colour Management

Imagecolourpicker.com

Imagecolourpicker is a free online tool for colour matching.  You can either upload an image that has the colour on that you want to match or click on a colour on a website and it will give you the HTML code for it.  You can also get the HEX colour code value, RGB value and HSV value.  This is an extremely handy tool.

Taking Screenshots

No doubt you know that you can simply press prt sc (print screen) on your device and then paste the print screen into a document.  However, the quality isn’t always great.  Let’s look at some other options.

Techsmith Capture (previously known as Jing)

Techsmith Capture is an extremely powerful screen capture software. It is by far the best screen capture software I have used and it is free. I would advise you use this product over the others listed as it is far superior. It is a free product by TechSmith who also have great video software Camtasia.

FastStone Capture

FastStone Capture is a screen capture and screen video recorder with built-in editing tools. You can capture windows, objects, menus, full screen, and scrolling windows/web pages. The captured image can be sent to an editor, file, clipboard, printer, email, Word/PowerPoint document or a website. Editing tools include resizing, cropping, sharpening, annotating, applying effects, watermarks and many more. You can save in BMP, GIF, JPEG, PCX, PNG, TGA, TIFF and PDF formats.  It also has a colour picker feature.

VIDEO SOFTWARE

Camtasia

Camtasia is software for creating videos. It can be used to produce training and presentation videos. There is 30 day free trial.

DESK TOP PUBLISHING

Scribus

Scribus is opensource desktop publishing software with an easy to use interface. It also has the ability to save documents as PDFs.

Openoffice

As mentioned earlier Openoffice contains WRITER that is a fully equipped word processor/desktop publishing software.

PDF CONVERSION

Office 365 does allow you to convert a Word document to a PDF but if you don’t have this facility then there are a number of free software products that create PDFs.

Pdf995

PDF995 offers three products Pdf995, PdfEdit995 and Signature995. These are all free to download but will display a sponsor page in your web browser each time you run the software. It can get annoying with the ads but does the job. It also allows you to combine a number of documents into one PDF. You can pay for the software and the sponsor page will not appear.

PrimoPDF

PrimoPDF is another free PDF converter. It claims to be free of ads. The free version only allows you to convert documents to PDFs. In order to edit the PDFs you would need to upgrade to nitroPDF Professional which you will need to pay for.

Adobe Acrobat

Adobe Acrobat is the most renowned PDF converter/editor. Why not try it before you buy it? They have a free 30 day trial.

PDF Escape

This is a great tool for adding fillable fields into files that have been created with software such as Canva.

AUDIO TRANSCRIPTION

Express Scribe

Express Scribe is an audio player software for PC, Mac or Linux designed to assist the transcription of audio recordings. It is easy to download. It can be controlled using a transcription foot pedal or using the keyboard (with ‘hot’ keys). It has the ability to play most audio file formats (including encrypted dictation files).

Express Dictate

Express Dictate is a computer based voice recorder that works like a dictaphone. It allows a client to send dictation to a VA by email, internet or over a computer network.

SendThisFile

SendThisFile is used to send large files that may be larger than your email ISP allows. You will need to register for a free account. There is no file size limit. For the free account you can only send one file at a time. The security is the same as email.

TRANSCRIPTION WORKFLOW SOFTWARE

When your transcription business is expanding and you are hiring transcriptionists then you will need transcription workflow software.

ScribeManager

ScribeManager is what I am currently using and works really well.  You can have a upload page on your website – mine is below:

Once uploaded you can assign it to a typist group or a specific typist.  It charges by a standard line rate of just US $0.0016 per line at the time of writing.

Check out this post for more options – transcription workflow software.

INTERNET FAXING

I recently read that faxing is still a popular way to communicate which did surprise me.  So if you want the facility to fax but don’t wish to purchase a fax machine you can utilise internet faxing. The advantages of internet faxing are:

  • You do not need an additional line for a fax machine.
  • If you do not have a separate line for a fax machine, when receiving or sending a fax your phone line will be tied up. Utilising internet faxing software will not tie up your computer or your phone line.

eFax.co.uk

It has three accounts namely eFax Plus, eFax Pro and eFax Corporate. They have limitations on how many pages you can fax per month.  If you reach your limit you will then get charged per page. They do offer a free trial for you to try it out.

Your eFax account can have up to 10 fax numbers.

TOOLS FOR A PINTEREST VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

Canva

As already mentioned Canva is a great tool for performing Pinterest Virtual Assistant services such as creating Pinterest pins.  It has standard templates for social media, brochures, videos, Instagram stories etc.  The free version is great but if you are planning on becoming a Pinterest Virtual Assistant then the monthly cost is extremely reasonable.  Try it out for free.

Tailwind

Tailwind is a scheduler for Pinterest and Instagram.  You can schedule in advance and it’s extremely easy to use.  I started off with the free version and upgraded soon after.  When working with many clients it is extremely useful as it would be difficult to manage them manually.  Try it out for free now and start scheduling up to 100 pins on Pinterest and 30 posts on Instagram.

Picmonkey

Picmonkey offers a free 7 day trial so you can test it out.  Once the trial has ended if you choose to purchase then you can either pay monthly or for the whole year saving money.  Why not try both Canva and PicMonkey and see which you like best?

Farewell Thoughts:  There are some great free tools that can be used to perform Virtual Assistant services.  In addition, most of the software listed will give you a free trial to test them out.  What’s your favourite piece of software?

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