What tools do I need to work with a virtual assistant?

It’s usually fairly simple to start working with a virtual team member. In most cases, phone and email will get the working relationship started. For some people, phone calls and emails suffice if you don’t have complex requests. Examples are when you need a VA to do research, make phone calls on your behalf, format documents, or update spreadsheets. Normally documents can be emailed back and forth and conversations can happen by phone or email.

In other cases, there are free and inexpensive online software and tools that make working virtually even easier. Below are some to consider.

If you are working with a virtual assistant or team on an ongoing basis, think about having online programs that you use rather than software that is stored on your computer. For instance, there are many CRMs or databases that are available online (Sugar, Salesforce, etc). Having something that is accessible regardless of what computer is being used makes it much easier to have your VA manage, update or find information in the system.

Sharing capability is also nice in a virtual relationship. Google lets you store, access and share documents for free, and they have the most popular calendar for virtual assistants and their clients to use. Programs like Box.com or Dropbox.com let you share documents easily and for minimum cost.

Project management systems come in handy if you are working on a lot of ongoing projects or just want to see work tracked and documented without sending emails. Popular programs for entrepreneurs are Basecamp and Central Desktop.

Will your VA be answering phones for you? Look into a VOIP phone system like Ring Central that will allow your local or toll free phone number ring to any phone in the world, without the caller knowing the person on the other end is on the other side of the country.

The key is to determine what your virtual assistant will be doing for you, and then identify what resources she will need to access in order to be successful.  From there you can determine if you need anything other than email and phones. And remember you can always ask your VA to research the online solutions that will be best for your situation if you are not sure!