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Updated: February 11, 2017
I'm going to age myself here. When I was in high school, I learned how to type on an electric typewriter. I took a steno class. For those of you unfamiliar with steno (short for stenography), it was a complicated and weird set of symbols that put together actually made sense. My boss would buzz me on the intercom and I'd reach in my desk for my steno pad, go into his office and sit in a chair across the desk. Have you ever watched "Perry Mason?" He had this bomb secretary named Della Street, who used to take dictation, writing down every word that Perry said. But I digress....
Office technology has come a long way since I started working. Working outside of a traditional office is now almost normal. Some really cool tools are now out there to make working as a virtual assistant a snap. Shoot, I get way more done now than I ever did! What tools do I use? These are my favorites but chime in with yours. I'm always on the lookout for some nifty stuff to make life easier.
Here we go:
Organization & Project Management
Trello - Ooh, baby! Trello is a blessing because it keeps me super organized. A long time ago, I used to write everything down on a Post-it and put it on a board. Can anyone relate? That is no way to run a business. Well, Trello is kind of like having a Post-it but an electronic version. Where I couldn't share my Post-its with my clients, I can now share my "boards" with clients. The benefit is it cuts down on back-and-forth emails. Whoo hoo!
LastPass - Stop trying to remember passwords to all of your websites, ok? I used to be one of those folks constantly resetting passwords because I couldn't remember them. Or even worse, I just used the same password over and over again across different sites. Not good. LastPass remembers all of your passwords. You just need to remember the one password for LastPass -- it keeps all of your others in a "vault." Want to share your social media accounts with a subcontractor, team member or client? You can do that too -- no more giving out your password!
Google Mail, Drive and Calendar - Where in the world would I be without these Google products? Probably really unorganized and late to everything. I've got them all loaded on my phone and tablet. I can access my email on the go, share documents from Google Drive and keep track of appointments and birthdays in Google Calendar. Google, thank you!
Evernote - Man, this little baby replaced all of those Post-its and little scraps of paper I was famous for scribbling notes on. If I think of a possible blog post, I put it in Evernote. Find something cool on the Internet? Save to Evernote. Recipes? Yep, you guessed it. I can keep track of everything I need in Evernote. Plus, I can create these cool notebooks and share them with others. Sweet!
HubSpot CRM - As a virtual assistant, a big part of what you do is hustling. No, not the dance but bringing in new business. HubSpot CRM is a nifty but powerful tool that can track your leads during the entire sales cycle. It sounds intimidating but it isn't. Plus, it's free.
Social Media Management
HootSuite and Buffer - After a long-term relationship with HootSuite, we recently parted ways. You know the phrase, "It's not you, it's me?" Well, that's how it went down with HootSuite. I just found Buffer to be a better fit for what I'm doing currently. I use the Buffer Chrome extension to schedule social media updates, especially when I find content on the Internet. I've got it on my iPhone so I can schedule stuff on the go.
Planoly - I recently started using this Instagram scheduler and I've got to say, I'm loving it. Upload all of your images, write a caption, and schedule -- presto!
Boardbooster - I love Pinterest as much as the next person but pinning all of the good stuff you see and create can be a major time suck. When it comes to blogging, you really, really need to have a Pinterest presence. But how do you cut down on all that time it takes to follow pinners and pin stuff? Enter Boardbooster. Just pin some stuff to secret boards that you create and Boardbooster takes care of pinning when it will get the most exposure. Basically, set it and forget it! Got a board with a lot of pins that you don't need anymore? You can delete those which just one click. No more manually deleting! I spend $5 a month for 500 pins but there are other plans as well.
Tailwind - Uh oh, Boardbooster, you might have to get out of the way and make way for Tailwind! Since I've started using Tailwind, I've seen huge growth in Pinterest followers and visits to my website. I'm also in the love with the analytics because it helps me to know more about my followers and what pins are working and which ones need more work. Tailwind generates suggested content based on what you're pinning so you don't have to go fishing for pins. Tailwind also supports Instagram. I see a breakup coming soon (sorry, Boardbooster!). If you want to try it yourself, click here.
Stock Photos - Ivorymix - If you're a blogger, the struggle is real trying to find decent stock photos to use for your blog posts. My girl, Kayla, over at Ivorymix is an amazing photographer and she has been gracious enough to share some pretty awesome stock photos with the world- for FREE! The girl is good - check her out! While you're there, check out the rest of her site for more handy resources. Good stuff!
Other great stock photo sites: Pexels and Picjumbo
Grammarly - I've installed this little puppy to my Chrome extension and it monitors my grammar while I type. Whoa, baby! No more embarrassing typos or grammar mistakes. Did I mention there's a free version?
Squarespace - After a seven year love affair with Wordpress, it was time to move on. Maybe I got the seven year itch, I don't know. But I was finding Wordpress to be a bit cumbersome and laggy because of the plugins on the back end. Well, Squarespace is my new go-to when it comes to website platforms. I like the clean look and although the templates may not look to be overly fantastic, it's easy enough to customize to get it to where you want it. I used to get really frustrated with all those pretty Wordpress themes, only to download and install and guess what? It would take hours, sometimes days, to get it to look like the demo. No thanks! If you haven't noticed, I recently changed this site over to Squarespace and I couldn't be happier. If you're thinking of making the switch, let's talk!
Canva, Snappa, PicMonkey - I use all three of these sites when I need to create images for this blog or for a client. They're all super-easy to use and don't take much time to learn. I mostly use the free versions but every now and again, I do pay for an image on Canva - no more than $1.
Fonts from Elegance and Enchantment - I like pretty fonts about as much as I like nice pens and if you know me, you know I must REALLY like pretty fonts! Sometimes the standard font already installed on your laptop just won't cut it. You want something that'll POP off the screen. Well, sign up for Michelle's mailing list and prepare to get some good stuff sent to your inbox every week, including free fonts!
DaFont - free fonts galore, for every type of project imaginable. Free and easy to install. You may get sucked in for awhile so get comfy!
Invoicing & Contracts
HelloSign - If you want to get a client contract signed quickly, HelloSign is the way to go. Create your contract, save it as a PDF and email to the client. The client signs it (electronically - how cool is that?) and emails it back. Sign it and you've got a legally binding contract without the hassle of emailing or (*gasp*) snail mail.
Toast Invoicing and Time Tracking - When it's time to get paid for all of my hard work, I don't want to have to deal with some hard program. Toast is easy-peasy to use, about as easy as making toast (could that be where they got the name)? Not only can you invoice clients but you can track your time as well. When you're ready to bill your client, just choose a time range, save your invoice as a PDF, send it and BOOM! Sit back and wait for your payment.
Facebook groups - This by far is the best way to network, not only to get your business name out there but for advice from fellow virtual assistants. There's no way you're going to know it all, especially if you're just starting out. The Facebook groups I belong to are super supportive and I highly suggest joining a few. Here are some active ones:
Skype - I've been using Skype for a long time and I like the fact I can share my screen for free with a client. I also use it as an instant messenger, if I have a quick question.
Well, folks, that's it. These are the tools that I use to run my virtual assistant business. I'd love to hear what you're using so feel free to share. Let's make this a resource for others.