Maintaining productivity can be a challenge for any virtual assistant. Matthew Brown guides us through some online applications that will save time and boost your productivity. Best of all, they’re free to use.
Like all the best online applications, Dropbox is a devastatingly simple idea that solves a frustrating everyday problem. If you work on more than one computer, you probably carry around a USB memory stick to transfer documents and files, or spend a lot of time sending emails to yourself.
Dropbox simplifies this process by setting up a single folder – a drop box, as it were, on your computer. Simply place a file into this folder, and it will be saved and synchronised with the Dropbox website.
By installing Dropbox on other any other computers you use, files can be shared without the need for email or a USB stick. Alternatively, you can access your files by logging in to the Dropbox website.
Once a file is placed into your Dropbox folder, it will automatically update and sync each time it is changed, no matter which computer you are working from. Files can also be made public, allowing them to be shared widely for easy collaboration.
Users who need more space can pay to upgrade the basic 2GB account. Dropbox is also available for smartphones, with iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry apps.
Collaborative working is a big part of a virtual assistant’s job. Google Docs allows documents to be shared between colleagues and worked on concurrently.
Essentially it is a suite of office software programmes hosted online and available free to anyone with a Google account. It includes word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications.
One of the main benefits is the ease of sharing documents, simply by sending an invite to other users you’d like to include. Documents can also be organised into collections, a handy feature for those who work for multiple clients or on several projects at the same time.
Effective note-taking can be difficult online. A good old paper notebook will never be replaced as essential equipment for noting down telephone calls and errands. But sometimes a digital equivalent would be just as useful, and that’s where Evernote comes in.
Text notes, web links, clippings from online articles and more or less anything else can be stored by the application. Tags can be added, and the online notebook is fully searchable. No more flicking through pages of indecipherable scrawl to find the address of that supplier you need to contact.
Evernote can also be installed on your smartphone. If someone hands you a business card, you can snap a photo of it using your phone camera, upload it to Evernote with relevant tags, and have a digital record of the card in seconds, without having to manually enter the data into a spreadsheet of contacts.
Remember The Milk
Remember the Milk is a highly customisable to-do list application, allowing tasks to be planned out in advance and reminders to be set in an impressive number of different ways. The application can deliver reminders via email, SMS, Skype, and a range of instant messaging services including MSN, Yahoo and Google Talk.
Locations can be added to tasks with a map display, and to-do lists can by synched with Google Calendar and Apple iCal. Whatever software or smartphone you use for work, it’s a good bet Remember The Milk can integrate with it to ensure you never again forget to return a call or send out an invoice.
Remote working doesn’t have to mean the end of face-to-face discussions with clients. Skype allows free video and voice calls to be made between users on computers or smart phones with the Skype app. Landline phones and mobiles can also be called, for a fee usually lower than regular calls.
Skype is especially useful for businesses dealing with overseas clients, as it can save a substantial amount on international calls. Conference calling is also possible. The application is easy to use and can be set up with a download and quick installation process.
Which online applications do you find useful as a virtual assistant? Share your thoughts with a comment below.