Free Online Tools for VAs
Posted on 6th September 2021 at 13:54
Free Online Tools for Virtual Assistants
Nowadays, there are plenty of online tools that make remote working easier and more efficient. However, a lot of these platforms use either subscription models or charge high prices.
You might not want to spend a lot of cash on online tools, especially if you’re new to working as a VA.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best online tools to help your work as a virtual assistant. Some of these platforms do offer a paid ‘pro’ or ‘business’ version (very few online platforms don’t), but those listed below still have excellent features that are free to use.
As you grow and expand as a VA, you might find that it’s worth it to invest some of your earnings back into your business by paying for subscriptions of your favorite online platforms. However, there’s no need to when you’re just getting started. There are plenty of free options to explore first!
If you're new to working as a VA, you might also be interested in learning more about the equipement you'll need. Click HERE to read our blog about everything you'll need to get started as a virtual assistant!
There’s nothing better than having an organized, visual way of showing your ideas.
Stormboard (www.stormboard.com) is an online platform that allows you to create brainstorms, planners, calendars, and diagrams online. Stormboard creates an overview of your project using sticky notes, which you can then edit, link to other items and colour code.
You could use it with clients to help them express their ideas and work collaboratively or you can use it alone to keep up with your projects. By far the best feature included in the free version of Stormboard is the library of templates that you can use to get started, but it’s also easy to create your own.
• Visual way of planning
• Up to 5 people can collaborate (including yourself) .
• Numerous pre-made templates
• Can only have 5 ‘open’ boards at a time (although you can ‘close’ the boards & have them as read-only).
• Some customizable features are only available in paid-for plans.
We’ve all been there. You pick up your phone to check one email and then all of a sudden you realize that you’ve been mindlessly scrolling for half an hour.
Forest is a productivity tool to help you stay on track when you’re working. The app ‘plants’ a tree when you start a timer, which then ‘grows’ as you work without leaving the page. If you make it to the end of your timer without getting distracted, then you get a tree in your virtual forest!
You can also get an extension for Chrome so that you can use it on a desktop or laptop. If you’re someone who would feel guilty for letting a (virtual) tree die, then this one is for you!
• Forest also partners with a real tree-planting charity called Trees for the Future!
• You can use the calendar feature to look at all the trees you’ve grown in your virtual forest over time.
• The app doesn’t physically block certain sites, just discourage you from leaving the app – may not be enough to dissuade some people.
Canva (www.canva.com) is a useful online platform for creating and designing social media graphics, posters, email headers, logos, and short videos. You can start from scratch or use any of the thousands of templates (all with customizable elements) to design almost anything.
Canva does have a Pro version (which you have to pay for), but their free offerings are still useful.
If you get frustrated with not having access to all of Canva’s stock images on the free version, you can always try using Pixabay or Unsplash to find royalty-free images that you can use instead.
Some templates are only available on the Pro version but, if you’re willing to spend some time, you can recreate them yourself.
• Simple to use & can create professional-looking graphics easily.
• Can customize templates, edit pictures and rearrange designs.
• Can download your designs in different formats and sizes.
• Some photos and templates aren’t available for free.
• Social media scheduler isn’t on free plan.
• Only has 75 free songs for videos – if you plan to make videos often, you may need to look elsewhere for audio.
Trello (www.trello.com) is a great tool for project management. On Trello, you create a board (using their free templates if you wish) and can then fill that board with notes, to-do lists and attached documents. You can also share your boards with others and use it to assign tasks.
Trello is visually very pleasing and easy to organize; you can drag and drop lists and cards onto different columns when needed, and mark to do lists as completed when you’ve done them.
Whereas Stormboard might work best with short, simple ideas (so that you can look at the bigger picture), Trello is great for ‘zooming in’ on the finer details of a project.
• Intuitive to use – has a drag and drop system.
• Easy to organize and customize.
• Can add deadlines and colour coding to your cards.
• Can only attach large files with the paid version.
• You can only have up to 10 boards on the free plan.
Can’t work without background noise?
Noisli (www.noisli.com) allows you to have continuous, non-intrusive background noise that’s perfect for keeping your focus.
Unlike ambient tracks that you might be able to find on YouTube or Spotify, Noisli allows you to mix and personalize your background track to include a blend of the sounds you like the most.
There are some noises that are only included in the Pro version, but there are plenty included in the free version such as rain, thunder, train tracks, white noise, and café din.
• Can customize and ‘blend’ sounds to suit your taste – for example, rain and railroad tracks.
• Can change the volume of each individual sound.
• Some sounds aren’t available for free
• Noisli compiles playlists for certain themes – most of which aren’t available on the free plan
Managing your time effectively can be one of the biggest challenges when you're self-employed - so much so that we've included it in our blog about the challenges of being a virtual assistant. Click here to read about the challenges of being a VA and how you can overcome them!
Toggl Track is a time-keeping tool that allows you to manage your hours effectively. It works by starting a timer that records each section of work that you do.
Toggl makes it really easy to see on a calendar where most of your time is going, and which projects you are devoting most of your time to. You can tag certain projects to group them together, and the app has a ‘track again’ feature so that you can re-track a recurring task.
You can also see your weekly hours added up and Toggl Track sends you an email each month with a roundup of your monthly hours.
• Also available on a phone app so it’s more convenient.
• Can group similar timed entries together.
• Billable rates only available in paid plan.
• Doesn’t coordinate with iCal or Outlook unless you join paid plan.
Most of us are pretty familiar with Zoom, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked as a great online tool for VAs. When you are working remotely, it’s essential to have a reliable video-calling program so that you can have meetings with clients.
Zoom’s free plan contains everything you need – the paid version gives you a few additional tools that aren’t necessary unless you’re running a bigger business with multiple employees.
Zoom only allows for those on the free plan to have group meetings (more than two people) for up to 40 minutes, but you can have unlimited meetings with one other person without a time limit.
• Unlimited one-to-one meetings with no time limit.
• Can have up to 100 people on one call.
• Can customize backgrounds or have a blurred background.
• Can only have meetings up to 40 minutes (if you have more than 2 participants)
Now that you have an idea of some of the best free online tools, hopefully you’ll be ready to hit the ground running as a virtual assistant! Don’t forget to ask any other VAs that you know what their favourite tools are too – you may discover something new!
Not every platform listed above will be to everyone’s liking but testing out free versions of online tools should help you figure out which tools work best alongside your business.
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