For those who work from home, own a small or middle size company and want to maximize profits by cutting down unnecessary payments, resorting to a wide range of basic tools will help you create the perfect virtual office. Whether you have just started a business or you already own one, monthly office bills can become very expensive. Every office has to pay for the rented place, chairs, desks, cabinets and even for a water cooler, things which are not cheap.
All of these costs represent a big hole in your pocket, so we suggest that it’s time to think about creating a virtual office for you and your clients. In this way, costs will be kept at a minimum and the advantage from working smarter will certainly be seen.
How to Set Up a Virtual Office
Not long ago, the idea of a virtual office came out. A virtual office is the result of the combination of technological innovation and the actual period of time called the computer age. This type of office implies communication and address services, such as a remote receptionist, virtual assistant, answering services, virtual office space, business meeting space, mailing addresses and more.
Selecting a Virtual Assistant
When working for your business you have to do a lot of repetitive tasks concerning paperwork and other stuff. The solution is to hire a personal assistant whose only job is to make all of these tasks in your place, but nowadays we have another solution called virtual assistant.
Because of the fact that the physical presence in the office of an assistant isn’t really necessary, hiring a virtual assistant can represent a better choice when you want to cut back that extra monthly payments. For about $10-15 per hour you can hire a dedicated virtual assistant or a team of personal assistants.
While for the first class users will be able to use their own virtual assistant and keep in touch with him over phone or email every day from 10:30 AM to 7:30 PM, for the second choice they will have a 24/7 assistance which will be provided by a team through phone, email and even through the web.
For example, depending on your needs (weekly hours or budget) you could be interested in services provided by the AskSunday or VirtualAssistent companies which offer virtual assistants at very good prices. Also, keep in mind that doing this you won’t have to pay anymore extra money on technology costs, office space, health insurance, contributions or taxes for the employee. Which is great.
Hire a Virtual Receptionist
Instead of hiring a real person to make and take all your calls, you should consider having a robot to do all of these. This will dramatically cut the losses and you will manage to save a lot of money by using a simple VoIP service. So, it’s time to change your old telephone with Skype, which is a great service that offers free calls between Skype users.
Also, to be able to receive calls from non-Skype users you will have to pay only $3 every month in order to receive a Skype number. There are two options in order to be able to call landline or cell phones from your Skype: Skype credit or a subscription. So, you can charge your account with credit and pay 2.2 cents per minute for callings in USA or you can pay for a subscription that can reach the astonishing value of only 1 cent per minute. Furthermore, developers offer two special subscriptions for unlimited calls in USA and in the world.
All of these aren’t enough, because somebody has to answer the phone and Pamela for Skype comes into your help. This is an add-on for Skype that can do a lot of things that a usual receptionist can do, such as recording the incoming and outgoing calls, acts like an answering machine, plays sounds during calls and more.
It has four different account types: Basic, Call Recorder, Professional and Business, which have different features included. While for the Basic account type you don’t have to pay anything, but you will only have 15 minutes of audio recording and 5 minutes of video recording, for Professional you will have unlimited recording for a price that is a little over $30.
Also, you should take a look at the Google Voice service which permits calls over Internet to any phone through the Gmail account. The calls have very low prices and the video call is also possible by installing a special plugin.
Use a Professional Calendar
It’s time to drop out the traditional Microsoft Outlook’s calendar and start enjoying a more professional one. One of the best choices is Google Calendar where users can set up calendars for everyone and share them between employees. A big advantage is that Google centralizes them and shows all of them in one big calendar.
When you are about to miss an appointment, the calendar sends you an email and a SMS to remind that you have a meeting. Users who have a Windows Phone or Palm OS can automatically synchronize their devices’ calendars via a special application called GooSync which can be found here.
Besides all of the things that we already presented, Google Calendar has a major advantage in front of its competitors because it has an offline capability. To discover how to be able to use this awesome feature, just follow the simple steps from this Google Support page.
An alternative is represented by the Trello service which has great reviews by major publications, including The Verge, The New York Times and TechCrunch. It’s a unique application that keeps track of everything, from the big picture to the very little things.
It has a lot of features, such as a to-do list and note manager, email scheduler, ideas voting system, it permits assigning photos, sketches and drawings to normal ideas and more. If you are interested you should know that this service is completely for free and that developers created awesome applications for mobile devices too (Android, iOS and Windows 8 Tablet).
Choose a Virtual Meeting Place
Nowadays, even the meetings are made over Internet with the help of special software, which allow users working face to face with anyone, from anywhere. Doing this you will save a lot of time by not going to one place or another and the best part of it is that all of these can be done with only a couple of dollars.
GoToMeeting and WebEx are some of the best choices one can have and they are available for prices that go up from only $49 a month. In these payment plans users are able to make unlimited calls and hold meetings with up to 25 attendees in the same time. The videos have HD quality and both companies are offering 24/7 support.
If you are searching for a free solution, it’s good to know that WebEx also offers a free account type from which users can make unlimited calls and hold meetings with maximum 3 people. Another free and good service is FreeConference which allows making up to 4 hours separately calls with as many as 150 people.
Also, you should take into consideration that you have to do the following things too:
- Decide the workspace from where you will coordinate your virtual office.
- Buy furniture and other necessary things (papers, drill press and so forth) for a normal office.
- According to the amount of work you will have to do, decide whether you need a PC or a laptop to do all the job from it.
- Buy all the all-important electronics for your virtual office, like faxes, printers, shredders or scanners.
- Be sure that you have everything (especially the important software, like antivirus and programs you daily use) up-to-date on your computer.
- Open a special bank account for your company.
- Make a contract for a good Internet connection.
- Realize an intranet circuit in case you have more computers from which other employees work. This will protect your documents and important files from the eyes of unwanted leaks.
- Make a DropBox or a Box account to deposit and share files with your clients.
- If you don’t want to spend money on Office 2013 or Office 365, you always have the free solution of using Google Drive or OpenOffice.
- Use TeamViewer for Screen Sharing between you and your partners.
- If the Skype and Pamela add-on doesn’t please your demands, you could always hire a call-center to do all these things for you.