These are the applications I use as a Virtual Assistant as I’ve been asked to do many things by clients & have sourced a number of free online apps. These have enabled me to split PDFs & also combine separate pages into one doc; change the saved format of a file to something different; crop & filter images; tidy-up a photographed signature for inserting into documents; obtain random passwords; send a one-time email with a password link & suggest apps to clients to improve their productivity or make their life easier which then demonstrates my authority as a VA.
From my conversations with new & start-up VAs, you have the same concerns, so here’s a list of the essential apps I use on a daily or weekly basis:
Web Browsers – all three simultaneously:
- Google Chrome
- Mozilla Firefox
- Microsoft Edge
- Explorer (when I can find it on my laptop)
For accessing all my own emails. My website host provides webmail, but I like the GMail interface & for £3.30 per month have this for my VA Centre & Direct PA Services email accounts. It’s so convenient to open-up all my GMail inboxes in different tabs & quickly switch between them.
Since purchasing a new Windows 10 laptop, it was time to upgrade to Office 365. Personally I’m not a fan & dislike the OneDrive function of auto-saving documents, however it’s the default for most people & I need access my own & my client’s emails via the web-app. Unlike GMail, if opening-up more than one Office 365 inbox, you need to do-so in a different browser or private / incognito / inprivate window.
A password manager which recognises saved sites & will auto-populate login details, but only when you’re on a secure network. If using an open network (why would you?), for protection of sensitive information, you remain logged out of LastPass. Also save document information such as passport & driving licence details & securely share passwords with others.
I prefer DropBox to OneDrive & for long enough, managed with the free version, however due to increased amounts of documents, now have DropBox Plus at £7.99 per month. Search for this as DropBox will try & push their Business paid plan.
I used to have Evernote, until you required the paid version to share amongst different devices. SimpleNote is much more basic, but free & syncs across all my devices. The app sits in my taskbar & with different notes, I use it to capture information which is then quickly & easily available.
Part of the Microsoft Office Suite. I don’t keep paper copies of many documents so take a photo of receipts (as proof of allowable expenditure) & save with details to OneNote.
Part of Windows (find it in Accessories) & is always open for jotting down notes & writing blogs. NotePad strips out most formatting, so its particularly useful for copying text from web pages or other documents, pasting into NotePad & then copying/pasting to where I need it when the text will then (mostly) match the required formatting.
Part of Windows, Snipping Tool is very useful for capturing a snapshot of your computer screen & saving as an image. Use the whole screen, Windows snip, rectangle or free-form options.
Great for managing different workstreams & also for sharing amongst teams. I may be a VA, but do work with other freelancers in a virtual team on one particular client’s programme & we use Trello to keep up-to-date with what everyone is doing & what needs to be done.
Using a VPN masks your IP address & adds an extra layer of security when online, or you can chose to connect to a VPN in a country of your choice. This method won’t allow access to Amazon Prime Video, or BBC iPlayer, but does currently for NetFlix. The most useful however, is when abroad, connecting to th UK via Nord VPN changes my search engine results etc to be more pertinent for my UK client work, rather than bringing-up Spanish websites. Use a VPN when you’ve no option but to connect to an unsecured public wifi signal.
My current virus killer & online protection, however, due to constant Avast ads popping-up encouraging me to purchase further services (their Premium subscription apparently doesn’t allow access to all their apps), it’s becoming annoying & at renewal, I may change provider. I did try Avast VPN too, but it kept disconnecting & my connection really slowed down.
Not popular with sites that rely on advertising, but the AdBlock browser extension (free, or make a contribution to the developers), blocks many unecessary & annoying ads. Sometimes it’s necessary to pause AdBlock to access some sites properly.
To check train departure/arrival times for scheduling a client’s rail travel & also mine when attending meetings or working onsite. There are other similar sites, but I tend to default to Trainline.
I’ve used the Skyscanner app (since it was in beta years ago) to check & compare available flights. With filters for airports, airlines, departure times & prices, it’s easy to see what’s available & then click-through to book.
One of many apps available, but I use World Time Buddy to check times in other countries when scheduling international calls.
Is an app which compiles all your favourite blogs & news articles etc in one place. Select the feeds from the webites you want to follow, categorise under different headings & when there’s a new post or article on your selected sites, Feedly will pull in all the information together.
For booking clients’ accommodation & also my own. It’s my personal choice, but I like Booking.com’s interface much better than Hotels.com, Late-Rooms, Last-Minute or similar etc.
Currently for managing my own automated emails & newsletters & also clients. I’ve also used MadMimi (simple, so great for email marketing beginners) & AWeber. There are many others & ConvertKit is currently very popular, whilst MooSend is also worth a look.
A Windows programme for quickly cropping & compressing images. I used to like Windows Picture Manager, but this was replaced by Paint in Windows 10.
I’ve used all the packages (except Access) extensively & love Excel for recording just about everything.
For sending large files not accepted by most email clients. Upload to WeTransfer & the recipient will receive an email & time limited link to download the files.
Comprehensive dashboard for managing & scheduling social media posts. However, as one client already had her own Hotsuite account connected to Twitter & I couldn’t, I use BufferApp instead to schedule her Tweets.
For one-to-one or group calls & conversations. I’m not a massive fan & there are other alternatives, but Skype is well known to everyone & included with Office 365.
Website builder for creating my own site & blog, but then the experience enables me to update & add posts to clients’ websites too. WP Beginner – beginner’s guide to WordPress is an excellent resource for tutorials on how to just about anything in WordPress.
On my smart phone for free messaging & also calls with clients when I’m out of the UK. WhatsApp is also good between rental hosts when I don’t have a particular country’s sim.
We bought a TomTom, but have used Google Maps more (both web & mobile apps), for directions & also searching for amenities nearby.
Invaluable when you don’t speak the language & again, there are both web & mobile Google Translate apps available.
I use Facebook not just for posting my updates & photos & keeping in-touch with family & friends, but also for searching for nearby facilities (e.g. hairdressers, dog groomers) as not all businesses have a website.
Messenger is good for keeping in touch with family & friends, by text & free calls too.
If I need to do something, I Google it!
I’ve taught myself a lot by Googling, reading the results & watching tutorials on Youtube. There are suggestions in the newsletters I receive & blogs which I follow, so I make a note of them – you’ve guessed it! In a spreadsheet.
Be curious, take a look & sign-up for a free or trial account to an app or product which appeals. Most have tutorials & whilst you don’t necessary need to be an expert (though it’s good to be one), having an awareness of a wide spectrum of resources avaialable will increase both your knowledge & confidence when working with clients.