Working with Clients’ Virtually
One of the most frequent questions I am asked; I can say by 90% of prospective client’s is, how do you cope with you working with clients’ virtually?
They can’t physically drop folders and files on to my desk, or speak to me in person, but in these techie days, my desk is the cloud and yes we can have a daily/weekly check-ins.
Being a Virtual Assistant enables me to work with some really great people and businesses. They don’t have to worry about employment contracts, tax and NI contributions, holiday pay and other aspects of employing staff within their business. And I don’t have to travel to their office or work only during their business operating times. They hire my services Ad-hoc, and I run my business separately from my own office. I support and work with clients’ virtually.
My answer to their question is always, we keep in touch and work together via Email, Skype and by sharing documents via DropBox or other file sharing apps like Google Drive. Most Virtual Assistants are flexible and tech savvy, so we adapt to which ever system our clients’ are used to using.
Here are a few of my favourite go to, must haves…
DropBox is an invaluable tool for the Virtual Assistant and it’s really simple to use. Dropbox allows you to sync multiple files online over however many devices you have and stores all your data on a number of servers with strong encryption methods. The files you store can be accessed with a minimum of fuss from practically any device that has Internet access. It’s designed to be used on a multitude of platforms and mobile devices including Android, iPad and Blackberry, so not only am I a Virtual Assistant; I can also be a roaming VA too.
On DropBox your files are stored in the cloud. When you load the documents into Dropbox all devices will be synchronised with the latest version of any particular file, Dropbox also keeps early versions of the files. So nothing ever gets lost or shredded in error.
Through a public folder you can share your files with others, so I often work with multiple people in an organisation. Don’t worry though; even though this is called ‘public folder’ the files won’t be visible to anyone out there on the web. You initiate invitations to people to share access to specific folders. When you do this you will be sent to the Dropbox website where you enter the e-mail addresses of the people whom you wish to have access to the folder. They in turn will need a Dropbox account, although they only need to install the client if they want the shared folder and automatic downloads into their own dedicated Dropbox folder. Even though this is a more secure way of handling shared files with people who you interact with, often you can also simply give a dedicated unique URL to anyone, even if they don’t have Dropbox on their computers and mobile device.
I also share files my clients’ have sent me to use on social media…. No one has access to the other documents in their Dropbox folder, we choose what we share.
Using DropBox means that I can instantly pick up where I left off at a time that suits both myself and my clients’ without it having an impact on anyone else. I don’t have to wait to get on with a piece of work and my clients’ don’t have to wait until the work is finished ~ they can drop in and view what I’ve done at their convenience.
Not surprisingly, Google has its own document sharing system. Formerly Google Docs, Drive now operates similar to Dropbox in that you can view your files in a folder on your computer. However, opening a file requires a web browser and the use of Google Apps. If you want to edit a spreadsheet in Excel, you’ll have to download it first.
Google Drive offers more free space than Dropbox, starting out with 5GB.
One noteworthy difference between Dropbox and Google Drive is how files are stored. With Dropbox, files exist both on your computer and in the cloud, meaning you can work on them without an internet connection. As soon as Dropbox detects a change to a document, it synchs the new version with that on the Dropbox server. If you and your client are both working on a file at the same time, this can result in a “conflicted copy” showing up in your Dropbox.
Google Drive is different in that only one copy of each file exists. When you’re working on a file, you’re actually editing that file on Google’s server. You can see this in action if you have a file open that your client is working on – you’ll be able to watch as he/she makes changes.
There are a variety of other file sharing services available as well, and chances are your clients will have their own preferences, so you’ll likely use several in your business. But to start out, Dropbox and Google Drive offer a simple solution for collaborating with others, or just sharing files between computers.
So how do VAs keep in contact with clients’ and have face to face conversations?
Without any question, the answer for me is Skype
You’ve likely used to have used Skype day in and day out to chat with friends and family. But did you know you can use Skype as a phone replacement?
Skype offers two types of services: Incoming and outgoing phone calls, and you can purchase them together or separately, for maximum flexibility.
Make Phone Calls
If what you really need to do is call out to clients or others, and don’t want to eat up your cell minutes or reveal that number to the public, then Skype credit is just the answer. Purchase a monthly or annual subscription or a pay-as-you-go plan, depending on your needs. Pay-as-you- go is the package I use.
With Skype credit you’ll have the ability to place a call to either cell phones or landlines right from your Skype app. And if you need to call internationally, options are available for a variety of countries starting as 1.8 pence per minute.
Accept Incoming Calls
Do you want to publish your number on your website and answer it at your desk? The answer is to get a Skype number. For as little as £11.99 per quarter, you get your own unique phone number that rings right to your Skype desktop or mobile app. You don’t have to reveal your home or cell number, and you don’t have to worry about anyone else answering your calls, taking messages, or tying up the line.
My clients are the only people who have access to my mobile number. It’s my hotline to me!
When you sign up, you’ll have your choice of available numbers, so you can choose one that’s easy to remember and that shares your area code. I have a local number beginning in 01392. I have my own designated local business number, which I can switch on or off and also leave a voicemail message on. Skype is the business communication answer for me.