Starting a VA business can be overwhelming. Where to start? What do I need? How much will it cost?
Good news: a VA business, especially if you are starting out as a sole proprietor, has low start-up costs compared to other digital businesses. Here are 10 tools you shouldn’t live without.
Payment Processing Tool
Popular platforms such as PayPal and Venmo work well for domestic bank transfers, while Payoneer and Transferwise also process payments from overseas clients. Many digital business owners also use Square and Stripe, which allow you to set up recurring monthly credit card payment for your retainer clients.
Each platform charges a percentage for both sending and receiving payment, so shop carefully for the best deal for your business.
It goes without saying it is essential to have a solid contract template in place even before you get your first project or client. Portals such as Rocketlawyer.com have contract templates you can customize to meet the needs of your business.
Your contract is your first professional boundary with clients, and it demonstrates you are a professional who literally means business. Your contract will protect you against non-payment, and your client against non-performance.
Ideally, an attorney will draw up your contract or create a template for you, but that’s not always possible if you’re lean on cash and just starting out.
Video calling tools
In some cases, clients would like weekly or bi-weekly check-in calls. Tools such as Zoom, Skype and UberConference offer free versions and are compatible with both windows and Mac OS. Google also offers Google Meet, a free tool for video calls.
Graphic Design Tools
Even if you’re not a graphic designer by trade, it’s still possible to produce high-quality designs, branded images, templates, and even logos with tools such as Canva. Canva offers both a free version and the Pro version ($12.99 a month).
Clients can also share their branded templates with you through the Canva platform. Other tools such as PicMonkey ($7.99 per month) and Adobe Spark are user-friendly and easy to learn.
Social Media Scheduling Software
Even if social media services are not part of your services, chances are, you’re looking for a headache-free way to post to your own business social pages.
Tools such as Buffer, and Hootsuite offer free versions, while Later and Tailwind (both are used for posting to Instagram) charge a monthly subscription fee.
Social posting for both Facebook and Instagram are free through your business page’s Facebook Creator’s Studio.
Project Management Tool
Asana and Trello are both free tools that allow you to collaborate with clients, share projects and files, create checklists, delegate tasks, and communicate all within the app. Both platforms are user-friendly and can be configured to meet the needs of your business.
Email Marketing Tools
As your client list grows, sending a weekly or bi-weekly email is a great way to offer free tips and information, and to keep your clients and prospects informed.
Platforms such as MailChimp, Mailerlite, ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign offer tiered pricing and are easy to learn. Users can design custom email templates, automate their email sequences, and manage lists all within the app.
Prices vary according to platform and size of mailing list and users.
Platforms such as Wrodpress, Squarespace, Wix, and GoDaddy offer DIY website builders. While a website isn’t a requirement to start an online business, it’s a valuable tool in showcasing your portfolio, services, price list, and background.
Your website also helps clients find you through organic searches, since Facebook algorithms limit the number of people who will see a non-paid business post.
Alternatively, a well-crafted LinkedIn profile is a great tool for getting in front of prospective clients, and Canva offers a web design option, although the site doesn’t have a permanent domain.
Keyword Search Tools
Even if you have no plans to become an SEO whiz, keyword search tools help you optimize the content you produce: blog posts, social copy, website copy, and other digital products.
Tools such as Keysearch and UberSuggest take the guesswork out of keyword searches and SEO. The Keywords Everywhere extension is available for the Chrome and Firefox browsers.
Starting a VA business doesn’t need to cost a fortune, but there are some essential tools to help you get off to a strong start even with a small budget.