One of the most frequently asked requests we hear from new VAs and freelancers is, “Tell me all the cool stuff I can use for FREE.” We’ve compiled a list that covers the basic business essentials you can get for no cost. Here they are in alphabetical order:
Canva. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! Before Canva, I spent way too much time creating my own images and trying to get them the right size in PowerPoint. Canva does the same thing in a fraction of the time and with no frustration. With just a little practice, you can create high-quality images that look like they were done by a professional graphic designer. The free account only allows you to access a limited selection of the thousands of templates and images in their library, but you should be able to find something to suit almost every need.
Chrome Remote Desktop. If you need to dial in to someone else’s computer, this is the fastest and easiest way to do it. It’s great for the not-too-tech-savvy client who needs occasional remote support or who needs you to perform tasks from his/her computer.
Clickup. This is an all-in-one solution that will let you handle your to-do list, manage projects (with dependency functions), set and achieve goals, track your time, collaborate with your clients, share documents, and much more. It offers more than 50 integrations with other apps, and 24/7 online support is included with the free account. There’s a learning curve, but it’s still easier to pick up than almost any other comparable platform on the market.
ConvertKit. In the past, this was the high-end marketing platform for online entrepreneurs with BIG audiences and lots to sell. It had a lot of bells and whistles that were attractive, but out of reach for those who hadn’t yet reached advanced stages of building a business. The typical track for a new email marketer would be to start out with Mail Chimp or Constant contact, then move to a lower-cost alternative once you exceeded the 100 contacts allowed in their free version. Then when you outgrew the new platform, you moved to ConvertKit. Recently, however, ConvertKit decided it would be better to offer a version of their product that allows beginning entrepreneurs to grow with them from the beginning and save the hassle of moving large lists and voluminous content repeatedly.
Meetingbird. Providing a way for prospects and leads to book time with you online is a must for any VA. It saves time, eliminates the frustration of endless back-and-forth, “Will this time work?” emails, and projects a professional image to potential clients. It used to be that none of the scheduling apps would sync to your calendar with a free account. Most of them do these days, but Meetingbird makes more features available in a free account than any of its competitors. If you want to upgrade to remove their branding, their Pro account is one of the lowest-cost options around at $9 a month (when billed annually).
Slack. This little app is an inbox-saver! It allows you to communicate with anyone – subcontractors, clients, fellow VAs, family, friends – without clogging up your inbox. You can type messages, share files, place voice and video calls, and much more. The free account allows you to integrate it with up to 10 other apps, so you can connect it to your calendar, email, Google Drive, Dropbox, Trello, and dozens of other apps available in the App Directory. I know one woman who literally runs her life from a free slack account and the apps she has it connected with.
Social media. I almost didn’t include this because it’s so obvious, but a lot of VAs/freelancers don’t really get on board with marketing themselves with social media quickly enough (myself included). You don’t want to rely on any one platform for your sole means of promoting your business, but it’s one of the best ways to spread your message quickly and reach an almost unlimited audience. Bonus tip: don’t start out posting on all the social media channels at once. What works on LinkedIn won’t work on Instagram. Find out which platform your ideal customer uses most, and master it before adding another.
Wave. The free account has a robust set of features that provide all you need for entry-level bookkeeping, invoicing, and scanning receipts on the go with the mobile app. It’s quick to set up and is much less intimidating than QuickBooks. You can even use it to take credit card and ACH payments on a pay-per-use basis.
Zoom. This amazing tool has long since replaced GoToMeeting/Webinar as the gold standard for online meetings and events. Up until a few weeks ago, there were still people who didn’t know about it, but the massive and sudden shift to remote work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made Zoom a household name. The free account is all you need to get started having one-on-one meetings with clients and prospects.
Rachael Hodo is the Founder of ProAdmin Solutions, LLC, a VA firm that specializes in general administration, content marketing, and association management services. Rachael and her team work by referral only. You can reach her on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/rachaelhodo.
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