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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Professional Email – This is a non-negotiable for me. No Gmail, Hotmail or generic emails please. You should have a domain specific email (like firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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?