The Top Tools for Your Virtual Office
By Gayle Buske, President and CEO, Team Double-Click®
At Team Double-Click® our clients often ask just how to go about setting up a virtual office in other words how does a small but growing business owner avoid renting bricks and mortar office space. Even the tiniest of offices can run several hundred dollars a month. Add to that the cost of the commute, the furniture and computers to furnish that office, and a full time assistant (whom you still have to pay even when you don’t have work to keep them busy).
Setting up a virtual office can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but once you embrace the idea and get a feel for the logistics, it’s really quite easy. We’ve put together a list of the top tools we recommend you use when setting up your virtual office.
Getting the Phones Answered (By Someone Who Is Not You!)
A virtual phone system is a must for every virtual office. This system allows your callers’ calls to be answered by your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant regardless of where she is in the country. Through the phone system, she can answer in your company name (it alerts her that the call is coming from your business), handle those calls that she’s able to handle, and transfer calls to you or other staff members as necessary.
Team Double-Click® employs this very phone system with great success, as have many of our clients. TeleCenter system makes it all seem like we’re sitting in the same central office.
And just as important, your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant can set the system up so that it only rings to your (or her) office during the hours you choose. So if your office hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, you don’t have to hear the phone ringing during off hours, those calls will go to voice mail where your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant can retrieve them in the morning. The system can also hunt for you if you’re on the road a lot. Again, your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant simply programs in all of the phone numbers you want to be located at. The system will first try, for example, your home office number; if it doesn’t find you there, it will try your cell phone, and so on until it runs out of numbers. If it does run out of numbers to try, it will transfer the caller into voice mail so you never miss a call.
Faxing: Most Importantly Having Your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant Fax For You
A virtual fax is essential so you don’t have to be the only one who can send and receive faxes. There are two companies we recommend using simultaneously for faxing to and from your virtual office.
With eFax, any inbound fax documents come directly into your e-mail inbox. You can open and forward the faxes to others, or store them electronically on your computer’s hard drive, thus, reducing or eliminating the need to keep hard files. With eFax you can SEND X number of faxed pages per month for a flat fee starting at $12.95/month.
Unlimited Incoming Faxes for just $3.95 per month!
The service offers a dedicated personal fax number with UNLIMITED incoming faxes at a very low cost ($3.95/month). The faxes all come in via email as a picture (.tif) file. This can be set up so you and your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant receive a copy of each incoming fax. Since it comes in as a picture file, your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant can easily upload those documents into your virtual filing system.
You should set up your letterhead and signatures, etc. so that your published fax number is the Packetel number because of the unlimited inbound capability. Packetel, though, doesn’t allow for outgoing faxes. That’s why we recommend eFax. Because both fax systems are virtual, your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant can fax anything you need. And you can fax files to her for processing very easily since they come in electronically. Just hang on to your hard-line fax machine or use your scanner to scan hard copy documents and you can fax to your Packetel fax number and your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant will receive that information as a picture file in an email. She can process this paperwork or send it on to someone else just as if you simply passed the paperwork across your desk to her.
Transferring Large Files
Have a file that you need your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant to work on, but it’s too big to send through email? There are two services we recommend for very easy file upload and subsequent download by your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant or a business associate. Both offer free accounts and both work very well.
Send This File
Your virtual office wouldn’t be complete without a filing cabinet! Now your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant can handle your filing with one simple piece of software. If you keep everything as an electronic file or picture file you can easily be 100% paperless, no more papers piling up on your desk, no more buying case upon case of copy paper!
Now, for your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant to actually do the filing, you will need an online or virtual filing system. The one Team Double-Click® recommends is through Xdrive http://www.xdriv.com . For just $10 per month you can store up to 5GB of files! You and your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant can both access your files similar to accessing a common file cabinet in the office or a shared hard drive.
You can simply forward your electronic files to her as needed, and she can file them away into the appropriate folders on Xdrive. Viola your filing is virtually done.
This also accomplishes off-site storage and provides for easy retrieval in the event of a fire, computer crash, or natural disaster.
File Collaboration It’s very easy, these days, to work on the same document along with your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant. For smaller documents simply emailing the document to the cloud-based virtual administrative assistant so they can make updates and such works well. Be sure to use MS Word’s track changes function (tools menu, track changes) so each of you knows what changes the other has made.
For larger documents or those in which you need more than two people collaborating, there are two great services we recommend for your virtual office.
www.laplink.com/products/sharedirect/overview.asp This is a great tool for going paperless. It allows instant sharing of any folder on your PC with one or thousands of users, without ever having to change or manage your Internet, firewall, or router configurations. And it is 256-bit encrypted!
Calendar and Outlook Sharing:
This is a great company who has designed a software program which allows you to share your Outlook contacts and calendar with your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant and vice versa. The program plugs right into your Outlook so when your VA adds a new contact for you, you will automatically receive that contact’s info. Your VA can make changes to your calendar and schedule appointments and they will appear in your calendar. Check out http://www.4team.biz/
If you and your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant need to share a calendar or spread sheets, Google offers a free calendar that both of you can view and change, as well as, being able to upload spreadsheets, that you can both make changes to and view. Just do a Google search for Google Calendar to locate it. Meeting With Clients and Virtual Staff in a Virtual Office In some cases, of course, you’ll need to visit the client or a business prospect in person to seal a deal. But for the most part, many of your meetings with both staff and clients can easily be handled from a distance.
Meeting With Clients and Virtual Staff In A Virtual Office
In some cases, of course, you’ll need to visit the client or a business prospect in person to seal a deal. But for the most part, many of your meetings with both staff and clients can easily be handled from a distance. Try these services:
www.freeconferencecall.com. With FreeConferenceCall you can have as many as 99 people on the line at once. Everyone dials into the main conference call line where you can hold meetings, conduct teleseminars, coach, train, or teach.
www.gotomeeting.com For a few dollars a month you can make use of Go To Meeting, which allows you to simultaneously meet with clients or associates via the web. When you set up a meeting you will be given a conference call line for all attendees to dial in and hear you speak, along with being able to allow them to see your computer screen while you talk. This lets you demonstrate or train on software or show a PowerPoint presentation from the comfort of your own desk and without the travel costs.
www.dimdim.com If you’re looking for free software to handle your online meetings then you can’t beat DimDim. It also allows you to simultaneously meet with clients or associates via the web. Many of our clients are using this now!
Contact Relationship Management
Of course, if you wish to have your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant enter leads into your database, or help with contact relationship management, you’ll need something that’s accessible to both of you.
Here are a few we recommend:
Sales Force www.salesforce.com
cBiz www.cbizsoft.com (this system is designed for staffing but is fully customizable and has many possible applications)
Top Producer www.topproducer.com (for real estate)
Constant Contact www.constantcontact.com
Sharper Agent www.sharperagent.com
These are our most commonly-encountered/perceived-hurdles to working virtually. Now that you’re armed with the first few tools, you can begin setting up your virtual office. Take your time and learn about the software once you get it in place. Your cloud-based virtual administrative assistant can help you with that! It may take a little time but if you weigh that against renting an office space you’ve just saved hundreds of dollars a month!
Armed And Ready To Be Virtual
Now you are fully armed and ready to be virtual! Of course there are thousands of software options available to you so if you don’t find what you’re looking for here then perhaps we can help. Our experienced team of Virtual Services Representatives are available to take you call and can place you with a cloud-based virtual administrative assistant who will also have knowledge of the latest software to benefit your virtual office. Call us today for your free consultation.
About the author:
Gayle Buske is the co-founder, president and CEO of Team Double-Click®. As the head of a virtual staffing agency, Ms. Buske is uniquely qualified to aid small business owners in their growth and development through virtual administrative assistant outsourcing. Clients across the country look to Ms. Buske and her organization to supply quality cloud-based virtual administrative assistants.
Team Double-Click®, the country’s foremost staffing agency for trained cloud-based virtual administrative assistants – Matching Top Virtual Workers with Top Companies! Visit www.teamdoubleclick.com or phone 888.827.9129 for a variety of full-service virtual staffing options.
NOTE: You may publish this article for your magazine, trade journal, newspapers, business journals, website and/or Ezine provided you keep it in its original form and include the resource box at the end.