Essential Virtual Assistant Equipment

My name is Caroline and I am a gadget addict… There are boxes of unused gizmos lurking all over my office and somehow I just know that when a new one comes out I’ll still need it.

One of the things I get asked a lot is: “As a newbie, what virtual assistant equipment do I need?”

As a new VA, you will be bombarded with systems and gadgets and “solutions” from IT gurus.  Scratch that!  Here’s what you REALLY need:

  1. Computer with Microsoft Office – Microsoft Office is still the choice of most clients, and they will expect you to have it.  If you are using it for business you need the Business licence which costs more.
  2. Reliable broadband – Freebie ones like Sky or Orange tend to be oversubscribed and you can’t yell at people when they go down.  Invest in a proper line.
  3. Phone number VOIP opens up a whole world of possibility, there is no excuse for having a dodgy mobile on your website.  We recommend a local 01/02 number so that people know where they are calling.
  4. Basic website – You’re a virtual assistant so people will be looking for you online.  Even if you contact them via traditional means, they will still look for your website before hiring you.  All UK online traders should include by law a contact mailing address.  Additionally if you want to be included in SVA’s approved list, you need to include T&Cs and info on your cookie policy, privacy policy, and acceptable use policy (if relevant).
  5. Professional Email – This is a non-negotiable for me.  No Gmail, Hotmail or generic emails please.  You should have a domain specific email (like caroline@virtualassistants.com) so that if a client mistypes your email address their sensitive material doesn’t end up with someone else.  At least if they mistype a domain specific email it will probably just get held by your website host or lost in the ether.  A basic rule of thumb is: if the email is displaying adverts, then it’s not secure.
  6. Business cards – You’ll probably develop your services over time, so don’t print too many.  But you want enough to give a wadge to friends and family to hand out to their contacts.  We suggest a minimum of 200.  It’s the first thing people see, so make sure they are good quality!
  7. Backup – Another non-negotiable.  You want to use a secure off site back up for all your computer files so that should the worst happen and your computer dies, all you need to do is download the back up. Make sure the back up you pick is compatible with GDPR.
  8. Data protection registration – SVA recently invoked this as one of our “Golden Rules” for VAs on the approved list – we took the view that VAs would definitely be handling data for their own clients, as well as on behalf of their clients and so should have an understanding of their responsibilities under The Data Protection Act and the incoming GDPR.  As an administrative burden, registration is £35/year so not overly onerous.
  9. Professional Indemnity Insurance – again this is a fairly recent addition to the list, and after extensive discussions with various industry bodies, we took the decision to include this as an essential element of professional VA businesses.  You are providing a professional service and part of the fee paid is for your professional expertise… So clients do have right to hold you responsible for that advice, and hence why PI insurance is essential.  Usual prices are under £50 a month and can include cover for equipment and public liability too.  Our fave supplier is PolicyBee.
READ  What made you become a virtual assistant?

Other things you may need:

  • Great office chair – never underestimate how important this is!
  • Printer – think about the volumes and colours you’ll be printing
  • Diary – either paper or online, but make sure all your appointments are in one place
  • Pens, post-its, calculators, pads, stapler, general office stuff

Things which are currently lurking under the office sofa and probably shouldn’t have been bought:

  • Binding machine – why??
  • Laminator – although my dad likes to use this
  • Letterheads – we only finished our original print run of letterheads 6 years into the business.  It’s completely unnecessary, just buy high quality paper and overprint it with your details
  • Mini cassette/tape machine for dictation – it made me very uneasy to have the only copy of tapes in our office.  Everything is now digital.  Actually also lurking under there is a foot pedal and some very expensive dictation software which isn’t as good as the freebie Express Scribe.
  • 5,000 business cards – yes really.  I got a cracking deal on the printing and now have more than anyone could ever want!!!
  • Coloured card/paper – I’m not entirely sure where this came from, perhaps it breeds under there?

Is there anything I missed?  Did you have something which you thought was essential and then never got used?

  1. Lyndsey McKendry on 24 August, 2010 at 9:44 am

    I have to agree with everything mentioned. There are loads of gizmos and gadgets that you feel are necessary but you actually do not need at all. I also have a laminator and this has been used once, along with a dictation machine but this has been used quite a few times to be honest as a client was still on mini tapes for ages. Everything is now digital but still have it as a back-up just in case. It would be my luck I would toss it and need it again. Also have a footpedal but I use this everyday with the Express Scribe software.

    I also have a bulk of business cards as I think I got the same deal as you lol. Loads are sitting in the loft and think it is about time that they are thrown out as they are a bit dated now.

    There are also promotional pens, calculators and mugs too. Although have given out most of the pens, and I think I will end up just using the rest of the mugs personally instead of for business use.

    No doubt there are loads of other bits and bobs that I have bought that were useless and have been chucked over the past 5 and a half years.

    I agree that the things that you defintely need are a PC (laptops are ok but you would need a seperate keyboard as they are not good for your wrists to use constantly), printer, business phone with VOIP line. Definitely need a back-up for your client files etc.

    Suggested software would be Microsoft Office, Express Scribe if you are going to offer transcription services, google calendar / outlook calendar for all your appointments.

    Think that is everything but no doubt something will come back to me and if it does will post later.

  2. Caroline on 30 August, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Hi Jodi

    We’d be happy to recommend Microsoft Live if a couple of criteria were established:
    1) the VAs need to have domain specific, secure emails. They can’t be redirected using Hotmail or similar.
    2) the VAs must retain control of what appears on their website, so no adverts.

    So we can’t really recommend the service unless they upgrade to premium accounts.

    Sorry!
    Caroline

  3. Daiva Pakalniene on 1 September, 2010 at 12:16 am

    May also suggest, that I think it is crucial to have (or to create one yourself) a simple book-keeping software. I think it is too much to spend hours and hours trying to sort out income/expences with messy notes, lost control over credit etc.

  4. Kerry Field on 24 October, 2012 at 9:43 am

    I agree with you Caroline quite a few things end up being unused which you thought you had to have at one point.

    However as I solely offer transcription services the Olympus transcription kit is the best. Express scribe is a great starter or part time user especially if you don’t need the nifty gadgets Olympus has to offer – most of my freelancers in fact use Express Scribe. I did in fact use that system myself for well over 2 years before changing.

    I would also like to say that another essential bit of kit for any business is a shredder. You may cover this in your ‘other general office stuff’ but I think it’s important to state it on it’s own. Although we run virtually paper does seem to accrue too due to confidentiality and data protection does need to be disposed off professionally.

    I also feel that online banking is a godsend if you run a virtual business as it used to be such a pain to go to the bank with a mass of cheques and then wait for them to clear when people paid you. Now you can be paid and pay at almost the click of a mouse and it has saved so much time.

    I shall be watching out for other recommendations.

    • Caroline on 24 October, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      Good points – I must admit I found the Olympus kit v clunky to use as I don’t use footpedals etc. so it’s not really a bonus to me.

      Shredder: I absolutely agree. And no, although I’ve minimised paperwork, it still exists!!!
      Online Banking: totally agree on this one – couldn’t live without it!

  5. Steph Middleton on 24 October, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Absolutely agree with all of the above, Only thing I’d add is a scanner/copier. I have a great 3 in 1 printer/scanner/copier and actually very very rarely print anything at all, but use the scanner all the time. Being virtual, Outhouse has a 100% online policy. we don’t own a filing cabinet and never will! Any important piece of paper gets scanned and filed electronically. It’s also important for things like signing contracts and sending handwritten/printed docs to clients. What you’ll spend on a decent printer/scanner now, you’ll easily make back in saved postage fees.

    Have to admit I’m also a gadget addict. Wonder if there’s a support group for people like us?? My collection includes 4 different hardware VOIP phones (there’s only me in the office – I only need one!) and 3 wireless routers – don’t ask!!

  6. Jo Tompkins on 25 October, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Thanks for this – I’m just starting out and appear to have all the essentials!! Big phew for me…..

  7. Naomi Nicoll on 13 October, 2017 at 9:56 am

    Love this article and related comments. I am just starting out and found this so helpful. Much love to all!

  8. Debbie Gore on 20 November, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    Hi all just reading the above as thinking of starting up – bit daunting tho as used to working in an open plan office and all th hub you get from it therefore not sure how I would cope working from home all the time!! I would also need nearly full set up if th above therefore does anyone have an approx cost? What services do you all offers? Are we limited to what we can offer working from home? Thanks Debbie

  9. Naila Akhtar on 28 November, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    I’m considering the change from a PA to VA. This was very informative. Thank you

  10. Rachel Munro on 23 January, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    This is so useful. I’m just at the beginning of doing much valued research into becoming a VA. All positive stuff.

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