So. You’ve got a client, or two. Congratulations! Now you need to keep those clients. You know, to build your resume, and save you the $40 you spent on the FlexJobs membership for that website where you found the job by canceling your membership.
Or maybe you use a free search site and spent hours finding your one client, and you can’t lose them because you don’t have the energy to find another one.
However you got to where you are, you likely want to stay here. You want to keep your clients, and when you’re a new VA, it’s important that your client interactions are professional. The tools you use will not only show the client that you plan ahead (you do plan, don’t you?), but also that you are able to problem solve.
Now, not all of these tools are free, but quite a few of them are. There are usually free options if you look hard enough, but the free option may not always be the best option (Especially if you’re going for truly professional client interaction!), as you’ve probably discovered with your job searches.
A Professional Website
This is non-negotiable. You can get a free website when you purchase hosting through BlueHost. They have plenty of options for a useable theme. Your website needs to include:
- your rates,
- your available hours,
- a way to contact you, and
- a terms and conditions page (to protect yourself).
You also need a website host. Now, there are lots of options out there. You can go with GoDaddy, BlueHost, or HostGator. I’ver personally used all of them and have nothing bad to say.
If you’re HTML challenged and want to create a great personalized site by just moving things around, GoDaddy offers a website builder that is incredibly easy to use…but it’s not cheap.
Video Screen Capture
You’d be surprised how often you need to create a quick video to convey a thought, idea, or tell someone how to access GoogleDocs (yes, it’s happened).
Jing is a free tool that provides 5 minute video clips that film your computer screen. This is especially helpful when you’re training someone, or you need to hand off a task, along with instructions.
You are going to come to a point, especially if you are a copywriter, where you need to share large files, or lots of photos, or a huge PowerPoint presentation with your client. To do this, you need access to somewhere to upload those files.
Email doesn’t always have the space, unfortunately. BUT, there are two great options that will allow mass storage for you to share files and even have a workgroup if you choose. Dropbox and Basecamp both have their benefits, thought Basecamp offers a workgroup atmosphere while Dropbox is more of a file sharing software. I use and enjoy both.
You may only be keeping your books, but you definitely need to keep track of your income and expenses (tax season, anyone)? I personally use QuickBooks (not free), and have also used (and liked) WaveAccounting (free). Both offer helpful tools and are easy to navigate.
This also extends to time keeping, for which I use Freshbooks. In fact, if you use my link you can get a free month! You can have up to 3 clients for free, which is fine for some, but not for others.
Let’s face it, with all of these sites, you’re going to have lots, and lots of passwords. And with all the hacking, you need a place to keep them safe. I use LastPass, which not only stores all of my passwords securely, but helps me by generating totally random passwords. It’s awesome (and saves me a bit of a headache).
I’ve found that letting clients know I use LastPass helps, as it offers the option to share your passwords with a group, as well.
Skype is great for talking to your clients if you need to have a quick chat or review a project together. It’s free, easy, and most people have heard of it. There are other options out there, like GoToMeeting, but usually they are costly, and most larger clients will house their own licenses should you need that service.
When you prepare for a video conference with a client, keep in mind that you (and your workspace) are going to be on display, so for heavens sake, take a few minutes to pick up and hop in the shower. More on that later, I promise.
Sometimes, you’ll need to remotely access your client’s computers. It doesn’t happen often for me, but there are times when I do need something like LogMeIn.
Now, this is by no means an extensive list, but these are tools that I personally use on at least a weekly basis in my business. Depending upon your specialty, you may have other tools that you need (graphic design tools, plagiarism checkers, etc.).