If you’re venturing into the brave new world of working with a virtual assistant, you already know this is going to be a game changer for your small business. We’ve been testing the waters with this in my own insurance agency with excellent results so far. And I know several other small business owners who have done the same.
Before we jumped into working with a virtual assistant, my team did their research on what tools we’d need to ensure seamless collaboration with their remote worker. Below is a list of 7 essential tools we’ve determined are essential for working with a virtual assistant.
1. Virtual Freedom
If you’re new to the world of working with a virtual assistant or if you want to become more productive with the VA you have, I highly recommend reading Chris Ducker’s book: Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business.
Virtual Freedom is the step-by-step guide every entrepreneur needs to build his or her business with the asset of working with virtual employees. Focusing on business growth, Ducker explains every detail you need to grasp, from figuring out which jobs you should outsource to finding, hiring, training, motivating, and managing virtual assistants.
Chris’ company Virtual Staff Finder is probably the most well known firm that connects entrepreneurs with virtual assistants. This guy knows what he’s talking about. That’s why I include this book in my list of 10 Books Every Small Business Owner Should Read.
Skype is the standard for how video conferencing and video calls should be. I’ve experimented with Google Hangouts, and I can tell you, it just doesn’t provide the quality of video and audio our agents need when working with a virtual assistant.
A few things I really like about Skype include:
- One-click video calling.
- Add up to 10 people to a group video call.
- Share your screen with other callers in just a couple of clicks.
- It’s completely FREE! (my favorite price)
Hands down, using Skype is the best way to quickly video call your virtual assistant. There’s one guy in my office who makes it a habit of doing this at least three times a day, just to be sure they get the needed face time to keep their business relationship in good working order.
Of course, what good is Skype without a solid performing webcam to go with it. When working with a virtual assistant, so much get’s lost in translation when you can’t see the other person. Body language reveals so much more about what each person is feeling or thinking than just a phone conversation.
In our agency, we’ve deployed the Logitech HD Webcam C310. This little guy has been a workhorse for so many meetings and quick conversations between not only our virtual assistants but some of our remote offices throughout Georgia and Florida. It captures a clear, crisp picture every time, even in full screen mode. Love it!
More Great Webcam Options
Here’s a range of other webcams you might want to check out.
Visualize your office desk with stacks of paper, note cards, magazines and photos all neatly organized just the way you like them (You’re OCD like me, aren’t you?). Now imagine a software suite that allows you to stack and organize those documents on a virtual desktop and then file or share those documents however you’d like. That’s what Paperport Professional from Nuance does.
Nuance is the company behind Dragon NaturallySpeaking. These guys know efficiency. And that’s why I like Paperport when working with a virtual assistant. You and your VA can edit PDFs, including adding text, highlighting, drawing and even (Gasp!) erasing.
The big advantage of using Paperport with your virtual assistant is that both of you can work on documents in a completely electronic environment without the need to print something out and fax it or scan it back to your email. And if you do have paper files you need to work on (lame), you can scan them in and edit and organize to your heart’s content.
5. Google Drive
Another tool related to document management is Google Drive. The tech giant’s version of Microsoft’s Office suite is a cloud-based document creation and file storage hub for personal and business use. Google Drive has been a huge part of our insurance agency’s journey into the cloud. I actually don’t use Microsoft Word or Excel anymore unless I absolutely have to. Google drive allows me to:
- Create documents, spreadsheets, slide presentations and forms.
- Store ANY type of file in the cloud and sync folders and files it to your Mac or PC.
- Access and edit files from your desktop, laptop and mobile devices.
- Share files with anyone you choose.
- Collaborate with others on documents, spreadsheets, slide presentations and forms in real time.
- Access historical files versions to see changes over time.
Google Drive is probably one of the most essential tools for working with a virtual assistant because it allows both of you to collaborate on documents without the need for sending files back and forth. If I make a change on a spreadsheet, my VA can see it immediately and visa versa. It’s pure online magic!
6. VoIP Phones
Our lives were forever changes when we switched to using a VOIP service for phones in our agency. Being spread out with multiple offices and different local phone providers made it more of a hassle (and more expensive) to call each other and our clients and vendors. VOIP changed all that for us.
We’ve had good success with the Polycom SoundPoint IP 335. It’s a minimalist phone design that can work with just about any VOIP service. Call quality will depend on a lot of things beyond just your phone (Internet connection, VOIP service provider). But when those things all align, this phone is spot on.
7. Fast Wireless Router
The last essential tool you’ll need when working with a virtual assistant is a fast wireless router. Nothing stops the flow of Skype calls, VOIP calls or continuous file sharing quite like poor Internet connectivity. Assuming you have good quality cable Internet, or better, fiber connection in your office or home, you’ll want a router that can handle:
- Dual band wireless connections to play nicely with your laptop and your mobile devices
- QoS for your Voip phone and Skype calls
- Good WiFi range for a larger home or office
- Wicked fast data rates
My 2 Favorite Routers for PC & Mac Users (I use both of these between work and home):
- Faster WiFi speed 300 + 450 – up to 750Mbps
- Improves WiFi range for medium to large homes
- Wirelessly access and share USB Hard Drive and Printer
- IPv6 Compatible-Future-proof your network
- NETGEAR GENIE APP – Personal dashboard to monitor, manage and repair your network
- Supports Windows 8
2. For Mac: Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station (ME918LL/A):
- Ultrafast 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Reach data rates of up to 1.3 Gbps
- Simultaneous dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi support
- New 6.6-inch height with smaller 3.85-inch base
- 6 antennas located at the top allows for a faster and more powerful connection
- Easy setup with Macs and iOS devices
Are you working with a virtual assistant yet? If so, what tools are you using to work more productively with them?
Let me know in the comments below. And let me know how working with a virtual assistant has helped your small business grow.