As a virtual assistant, you will have different sets of tasks to do for different clients. Without the proper tools, you may have to chase after deadlines which could result in you hating your job (and losing your contracts).
The good news is that most of the tools you will need as a virtual assistant are free. In fact, you may have heard most of them already even if you haven’t tried using them.
Of course, there are different services and platforms out there that offer the same features as the tools you’ll see below. However, this list is a personal preference of what seems to be the best out there.
With that, let’s get the ball rolling!
1. Google Drive
When I was still freelancing as a virtual assistant, Google Drive was one of the tools I often used.
Most of my tasks back then had something to do with documents. Google Drive made it super easy to share and transfer documents to and from my clients.
Aside from being able to share documents and files with other people, you can instantly access any Google Docs apps you need to use. Then, instead of sending the document file over to a client, you can simply send him a link and he could comment or edit to his heart’s content.
Now, some of you here might argue that…
Dropbox seems better so why aren’t you recommending it instead?
For starters, I used Dropbox way before I started using Google Drive. Yes, it’s certainly better in terms of being an “online folder with a desktop sync feature”, which Google Drive is lagging a bit behind.
But beyond that, Google Drive is more superior. For one, the free plan itself on Google Drive includes 15 GB of storage while Dropbox only offers 2 GB of storage. With clients left and right, you could easily fill out 5 GB in just a year.
Second, even with Dropbox’s (recent) productivity apps, it still wouldn’t beat Google Docs that’s poised to rival Microsoft’s Office365. The collaboration in it is superb and intuitive that your client doesn’t have to learn a thing in order to use it.
Lastly, most of us who are intelligently using the internet have a free Gmail. As you know, once you create a Gmail account, you have access to most of Google’s tools and features including Google Drive.
So if you’re thinking about which tool to use, Google Drive or Dropbox, I would definitely recommend Google Drive.
However, since both tools have free plans, you’re always welcome to try both and see for yourself. It wouldn’t hurt to have an account on both of these tools.
This list wouldn’t be complete without a project management tool. Although there are quite a lot of them, most of which have free plans, I like using Asana the best.
(But if you’re a “simplicity is beauty” person, Trello is the way to go.)
One of the reasons why I like Asana is the complete control over how you would want your project management tool to function. You can use it as a board, timeline, calendar, and more.
Also, I like how robust the tool is. Compared with other project management tools, there are more things you can do with Asana. For example, when viewing a task, there are so many available actions you can take.
And probably the best of all, there’s a unicorn (or some other creature) that comes out every time you finish a task. Asana calls this feature “celebration”. It may be a small thing, but it sure feels great to be rewarded for completing a task.
On a side note, most of your clients probably have a project management tool already (unless you’re tasked with creating a project management plan yourself).
But using such a tool for your tasks would come in handy, especially if you’re juggling more than three clients at one time.
If you would like to keep things simple, you can also use Google Calendar or your own phone’s calendar. What’s important is that you would be able to keep track of all your tasks and their deadlines.
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PicPick is a screen capture (snipping) tool with awesome design and editing capabilities. Ever since I discovered it, my screenshot-edit-publish process could be done in less than 10 seconds.
Before I started using any snipping tools, I always thought the easiest way to do a screen capture was by pressing Print Screen and Ctrl + V on Microsoft Paint. Embarrassing, I know…
PicPick is like the second most important tool I use when writing. Every time I need to capture the screen and use it as a visual aid, all I need to do is press a mode shortcut and then, edit the image inside it.
Within it, you could put a circle, a square, or even an arrow on the image. You could also blur or pixelate anything that you don’t want your readers to identify.
Think of it like a super-advanced Microsoft Paint with a few Photoshop-like capabilities.
Besides PicPick, I’ve tried using Microsoft’s very own snipping tool and even the Jing snipping tool. But none of them could match PicPick’s capabilities.
By the way, another tool I’m using that’s a bit related to PicPick is ScreenToGif. It’s also a free tool that would enable you to record the screen and save it as a GIF.
When I started taking on freelance work as a virtual assistant, I didn’t have to think too much about any time tracking tool. Upwork has its own time tracker which I was obliged to use for any hourly-contracts I won on Upwork.
Further reading: If this is the first time you’ve heard about Upwork, I wrote an awesome Upwork review article and whether or not it’s still worth it. Definitely check it out!
When I needed a time tracking tool for personal reasons, I tried a few of them (though I don’t actively use one now). One of them that stuck out was Toggl.
The name must be familiar to you already since they have done a few ads on Facebook.
One of the reasons why I like Toggl is because of how simple it is to use. All you have to do is click on the play button and the timer will start ticking. You could also assign a task to a folder to group them together.
Even with a free plan, you will definitely find Toggl helpful. Although you won’t be able to make full use without the “Clients” and “Projects” feature, you could still tag your tasks with the client’s name.
Then, to show the time tracked to your client, all you have to do is download the report either in PDF or in CSV.
On the free plan, you won’t be able to add anyone as part of the team so you’ll have to settle down with downloading the report weekly and sending it to your client. Not a bad exchange!
Your client may already have a time tracker in mind since there are lots of them with a free plan. But if not, I highly recommend Toggl. If he doesn’t like it for some reason, my second suggestion is Screenshot Monitor.
Whatever you are tasked with, your clients may have left you with login credentials for a certain website or tool. Without a password manager, you will have to copy and paste the credentials every time you have to use it.
That’s where LastPass comes into play.
It’s a freemium password manager compatible with most devices in our time. Personally, without a password manager like LastPass, I’ll have to keep on repeating passwords just so I wouldn’t forget them.
Aside from remembering login credentials, I also trust LastPass when it comes to password generation. As you know, the world will never run out of people with ill-intent. This very blog itself experiences a hacking attempt daily.
As a virtual assistant, you will have to use a lot of tools. Most of them will require a username and password. So having LastPass on all your devices will save you time and mind-memory (is that a thing?).
With LastPass, all you have to remember is the login credentials of your LastPass account and its associated email account. That way, if you accidentally forgot your LastPass account, you would be able to retrieve it with your email account.
Hootsuite is a social media marketing and management tool. You can use it to create and schedule posts for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others. It’s an awesome tool great for virtual assistants with social media tasks.
Further reading: If you want to get started as a virtual assistant, this is the sign! To start, read my guide first on how to become a virtual assistant even without experience.
What I like about Hootsuite compared to some of its competitors (like Buffer) is the number of features you get to enjoy even with the free plan.
For example, you could use Hootsuite to engage with customers who sent you messages across different channels.
In addition, Hootsuite has a social monitoring feature called Streams. Basically, you would be able to track all mentions about the accounts you’re handling across different platforms. Naturally, you could also engage with those mentions inside the tool.
Some people don’t prefer Hootsuite since it feels a bit complicated to use. Unfortunately, it’s true. The first time you open the app might seem a bit overwhelming.
However, I assure you that it’s easier to use than you imagine.
Here’s a tip if you ever decide to use Hootsuite:
If you would like Hootsuite to generate a featured image when creating a post with a link, make sure to include a forward slash “/” at the end of the link. Without that slash, Hootsuite wouldn’t generate a featured image on your post.
Canva may not be as powerful as Photoshop, but I bet there are at least 10x more people who use Canva than Photoshop.
If your virtual assistance services revolve around social media, branding, marketing, or even graphic design, you would love Canva.
This tool is an easy-to-use graphic design platform that would let anyone, even those without design know-how, to create stunning social media graphics, posters, presentations, and even documents.
Although you can definitely design your own piece from top to bottom, the crown of Canva lies on its thousands of templates you could readily use. All you have to do is either change the text or replace the element (usually an image) with your own.
Aside from that, Canva is 100% free to use. You won’t see any watermarks on your finished products unless the element you’re using isn’t free. You can also download any design without any problem.
Canva also has a premium plan. I’ve tried it and it’s awesome! My favorite feature of their premium plan is the ability to resize your image at will to fit any platform where you would be using the design.
The premium plan is ideal if you use a similar design across channels but want to fit the size into the recommended proportions. Thousands of “premium” elements will also become available to you.
Wave, in simple terms, is an invoicing and accounting software that’s totally free!
If your clients didn’t come from any virtual assistant services marketplaces, then you would definitely need Wave for your general bookkeeping.
This tool offers three primary services:
- Professional invoicing
- Basic bookkeeping
- Receipts database
One thing that keeps Wave on the top is how easy it is to use. If you have used other invoicing software, you must know how difficult it is to sometimes navigate through the interface. You don’t have to worry about any of that with Wave.
Furthermore, Wave has a feature that would enable you to see the big picture of how your transactions are doing. You could see your income statement, balance sheet, and even your cash flow.
If all you need is an invoicing tool and a payment method, then you’re better off using Payoneer.
Further reading: I wrote a Payoneer review article and whether or not it’s safe to use. After transferring more than $38,000 worth of transactions, I’m definitely sure it’s safe to use.
It doesn’t matter if your mother tongue is English or not…
The bottom line is, you could still commit grammatical mistakes and spelling errors. Sure, you could reread what you typed. But there will still be times when a mistake or two will slip by.
That’s why I find Grammarly a must-have tool for any freelancers out there. It might not be able to replace editors, but it does a good job of catching minor mistakes that you might often not see.
Now that I’m writing content for clients, Grammarly is a vital part of my life. However, when I was still a virtual assistant, I make sure it’s turned on so that I’m confident with my conversation with clients.
I recommend you install Grammarly both on your browser and on Microsoft Office365. It’s entirely free though it has a premium plan.
However, even if you’re a novel writer, I still wouldn’t advise you to get the premium plan (since there are free tools out there with the same capability). Sorry, Grammarly!
Skype is last since you were probably expecting it already. You need it to communicate with your clients online. Sending an email could work but Skype is the better choice if you want an instant conversation.
To be honest, I could put here pretty much any communication tool out there. But the reason I chose Skype is that I find most of my clients, and people in general, have a Skype account. I have yet to encounter someone who doesn’t have one.
If you’re looking for a conference tool though, Skype isn’t the answer. I also wouldn’t recommend Zoom especially with their security lapses in the past. For conference calls, there are only two that I trust — Google Meet and Cisco Webex.
Plus Some Other Service-Specific Tools You Might Need
I’ve listed here 10 of the most important software tools you would need as a virtual assistant.
However, I’m fairly certain that there are still others out there you might have to use, especially ones specific to the services you’re offering.
For example, if you’re a video editor, then you must learn how to use tools like Adobe Premiere or Vegas Pro. If you’re helping a client with his ecommerce business, then you must familiarize yourself with tools like Shopify and Oberlo.
Now it’s your turn…
- Which of the apps I mentioned above do you use most often?
- Are there any apps you would like to add to the list? Why?
Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts below.
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