Guest Post Series

My guest blogger today is Christine Southam of CS Virtual Assistant.  Following on from an excellent post introducing herself. Today Christine is talking about the top six tools she finds invaluable. You can find Christine here:

Are you entering the Virtual world from a place where licences, software, technology and training were all arranged for you? Are you overwhelmed by the number of choices available to you?

From time tracking to password sharing I recommend, in this blog, my top 6 essential programmes / apps that I could not now function without.6 essential programmes / apps for Virtual Assistants

1.       Lastpass is for password storage and the safe sharing of login details. But, do ensure that you purchase the EU rather than the US version as converting at a later date is possible but, not problem free. Lastpass’s autofill function is incredibly time efficient and as your business starts to grow you will have more passwords than you can possibly remember. The benefits of Lastpass are that you can be granted access and grant access to others without having to reveal a password. With the app on my phone and my laptop I always have my passwords with me rather than a piece of paper manually locked in a fireproof safe or filing cabinet at home.   

2.       Toggl is for time keeping, tracking time, and generating reports. You have a choice between setting a timer or going back in after the event and manually adding your time if for example you forgot to hit start on the timer. These reports form the basis and supporting evidence behind every client invoice that send. On Toggl you can create a workspace for each Client, Team or each Project.  You can invite your Team to a workspace, and they can record their time there too because in the report it will be clear who did what.  

3.       The Microsoft Suite consists of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook for calendar and emails. MS Office software is a very popular choice for both PC and Mac users and I personally, use it every single day. When investing in this necessity make sure that you purchase the Business version and not the home and student version. Your documents will be accessible from the cloud so that you can access documents from wherever you happen to be.

A bonus tip: I found this article about why using a keyboard is beneficial and some keyboard shortcut tips particularly helpful since time saving and being efficient is top of all of our agendas. I love Ctrl 1 and Ctrl 2 especially. Which are your favourites? Please pop your answer 1,2,3 or 4 in the comment box below.

4.       FreeAgent is the programme that I use for invoicing, expenses and self-assessment tax returns. FreeAgent came free with my NatWest business bank account and the automatic importation of transactions saves me a great deal of time. You can even invite your accountant to work from the same set of books and you can bank and manage FreeAgent from the mobile app.

5.       Canva is great for creating infographics for social media posts. It has a wealth of templates: posters, flyers, LinkedIn, Facebook, photo collages, and presentations with the additional ability of changing one format from one to another easily. The templates are all pre-designed to the correct dimensions or you can choose to custom make your own. Some of the images are free and others can be purchased. You can upload your own logo, pictures, colours, font and style. Your creations can be downloaded onto your computer or phone or posted straight into social media.

6.       Asana is a project management tool which can be used effectively for both work and personal life such as: planning projects, meals, sharing reminders and tasks with your team or your other half. It’s a great visual tool for mapping out each step of the process along a timeline and you can follow a task through from initiation to completion. In addition, Asana integrates with 100 or more other software.

These programmes / apps are free for basic functionality and are accessible on both mobile devices and desktop computers.

Please do catch up with me in my next blog where I help a client with a big project that could have gone pear shaped but luckily, the project all goes well, and I exceed their expectations. In the meantime have a look at the variety of services that I offer here on my website.

Thank you Christine – that looks like a fabulous list and very helpful for any VA just starting out.

I am now wondering if any VAs have further recommendations or apps to add to the list? Please leave a comment with your suggestions 🙂

I am really looking forward to your next post Christine!

Fantastic and informative training and great to see all of the exciting functions with Microsoft Teams.
Laura Rigby – The Apprenticeship College
Shelley was really clear in her teaching and went at a pace that was helpful to us. We covered all we needed to know to get us started, as a small team, using MS Teams. She was also very helpful in the run up to the session, with check in calls and ensuring our platform was set up correctly. I would highly recommend Shelley to anyone wanting to learn to navigate their way around MS Teams.
Leigh Dowling – Innuous

Microsoft Teams One to One Training Session

Shelley was approachable, easy to work with, and agile with answering questions to apply the session to my specific needs

Melissa Marshall – Present Your Science

A course on Outlook had been on the top of my list when Shelley asked VA’s what they wanted to learn.

It was a real case of ‘so that’s how you do it’ or ‘I never knew that’. I have to say that I learnt so many great tips it has definitely improved the way I work in Outlook and my inbox is looking colourful and organised and I can’t wait to share this knowledge with my clients.

Jacqueline Leake – JLeake VA Services – Outlook

A great course with lots of examples and step by step instructions. I can now confidently create infographics and as a bonus, I learnt a lot of new PowerPoint functionality that will enhance all my PowerPoint work and save me so much time.

Jessica Bailey – Integral Resource

I really like Shelley’s courses. She has a clear and easy to follow teaching style. In ‘How to Create Fillable Forms’ I’ve learned about the functions of the Developer ribbon which will mean I’ll be able to create a bespoke Returns Form for a client who has an online shop

Freya Henderson – Virtual Office Orkney

Shelley was really clear in her teaching and went at a pace that was helpful to us. We covered all we needed to know to get us started, as a small team, using MS Teams. She was also very helpful in the run up to the session, with check in calls and ensuring our platform was set up correctly. I would highly recommend Shelley to anyone wanting to learn to navigate their way around MS Teams.

Sarah Clements – Inuous

Absolutely superb course, easy to follow and to refer back whilst putting it all into practice! I was unaware of the extent you can customise a presentation and it’s just made me want to know more – what’s next Shelley?

Denise Williams

I thought I had a pretty good grasp of Outlook until I did this course! In her videos, Shelley is clear and concise, and the language she uses is straightforward and jargon-free. Each module is broken down into manageable chunks, which helps keep your attention and means the course is easy to fit in around other commitments. I’ve created email templates and implemented rules that are already saving me time, and as all the other things I’ve learnt start to become second nature, the positive impact on my efficiency is fast becoming clear. This course has been incredibly beneficial and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to strengthen their skills and boost productivity.

Pip Doleman VA

I thought I knew Powerpoint really well, but I wanted to specifically learn how to use Powerpoint to create better infographics, easily and quickly. Shelley explains everything in a very logical and clear way, so I understood everything the first time I heard it. The most useful thing I learnt was that Powerpoint can do so much more than I thought it could. By also using the short cuts that Shelley showed me I am much quicker than I have ever been and I thought I was already quick!

Susan Marot

Shelley Fishel of Tomorrow’s VA has a wealth of experience in Microsoft Office. I met her in person 2 years ago at the PA Show in London. I also saw her in action in a fab workshop and knew she was the whizz that everyone had told me she was. I have since bought a lifetime access to her HUB and all the courses in there are a MUST if you are a VA on a mission. The courses will give you confidence in all the Office 365 components and will catapult you to dizzy heights

Alex Hughes