I have worked with virtual assistants (both abroad as well as in my local city) for two years now and my experiences have varied widely. Unfortunately, I’ve had more negative experiences than positive, but today I want to focus on the positive.
(Note: if you want to learn from my not so good experiences, check out a previous post 4 Key Lessons I Learned From My Rotten Virtual Assistant Experience)
Today I’d like to share some tools that have been essential to work effectively with a virtual assistant primarily for my real estate investing business.
Dropbox: Dropbox is an awesome free tool which allows for online back-up, syncing, and file sharing. My assistant and I use the file sharing feature which makes it super easy to share important documents like marketing materials, digital signature files, contracts, and more (Cost: FREE).
Google Docs: Google Docs provides a free online word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and form service and makes collaboration a cinch. One of my favorite uses of Google Docs is the forms. My assistant is able to easily enter lead data and not have to fool around with spreadsheets. We can also use spreadsheets with project plans and she can provide status updates in real-time (Cost: FREE).
Jing: Jing has been a lifesaver for me because it allows me to quickly create videos to train my assistant on various things I need her to do. For example, I needed her to look up specific data in the public records and record it in a spreadsheet. It was a simple enough task, but the fact that I could do a screen capture and show her exactly how to look up the data I needed was invaluable because it answered any questions or possible confusion that she’d have about the task. Jing is free and the only limitation worth mentioning is that the video must be less than 5 minutes long (Cost: FREE).
Skype: This one goes without saying, but Skype is fantastic. It allows us to have quick chats, phone calls, and video calls with ease. For a small fee you can have a Skype subscription and make calls to telephones from Skype and have voicemail, so my assistant is able to handle phone calls as often as I need her to with no concerns about long distance charges or using up cell phone minutes. By the way, if you need to record your Skype conversation, there are free tools like MP3 Skype Recorder. (Cost: Free for basic use, $2.99/month for unlimited U.S. and Canada)
Stamps.com: If your assistant is handling direct mail campaigns for you, it may be worth investing in a Stamps.com account so that your assistant can save his or her time (and your money) by printing postage stamps online. You’ll also receive discounts on postage and have online tracking of your postage spending for your business (Cost: $15.99 for small business/single user account).
TimeTrade.com: I stumbled upon this tool when I was setting up an appointment with another business owner I met at an event. It’s an online appointment scheduler with automatic reminder and Outlook & Google Calendar integration. You can simply provide people with your own personal URL so that they can set an appointment based on your calendar availability. This actually means that you can handle appointments without an assistant, but the truth of the matter is that some people don’t want (or won’t) use this tool to confirm appointments with you, so your assistant may have to schedule some of them. If you’re setting up a lot of appointments with Realtors, sellers, buyers, or pretty much anyone else, you can use a tool like TimeTrade and it will save you quite a bit of time (Cost: one-time charge of $29.95).
These are just a handful of tools that have been very helpful for our businesses and in working with virtual assistants. I’d love to hear about tools that some of you have used that have been major time, money, or grief savers!