4 Reasons to use Google Apps – and a Challenge #30dayVA

This is an extract from the 30 Day Starting up as a Virtual Assistant Challenge by @HelenStothard

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There is nothing worse than seeing someone in business using a Hotmail or Yahoo email address, something I will keep talking about throughout the challenge. You are not setting up as a back bedroom worker, you are setting up as a proper business and need to be perceived that way.

I am also going to suggest that you really consider your existing email client if you’re using something like Outlook. You’re setting up as a Virtual Assistant. This means that provided you have an internet connection you can work from anywhere in the world! If you use Outlook then you lose that capability as you are stuck with the machine that it’s installed on.

What happens if your computer dies? How quickly can you be back up and working again?

My suggestion, and of course it’s up to you, would be to set up a free Google Apps account.

You may have a Googlemail account but did you know you can get a free Google Apps account? This allows you to have your emails linked to your domain name, share access to documents online, and even share calendars.

Gmail

I moved away from Outlook at the beginning of 2011 because I was tired of losing information when I changed pc and couldn’t remember how to restore the backup file, or the pc crashed and refused to restore Outlook, but mainly because I wanted to access my email from wherever I was and for it to look the same and be the same. In other words if I hit delete on my phone I wanted it to delete on my laptop as well. I wanted one list of contacts, I wanted to be able to use my phone, netbook, tablet or laptop or even a friend’s computer if I was away from the office. I’m not greedy, I just like to stay connected. Google allows me to do this. To start with I couldn’t quite give up my Outlook folders so used the Outlook/Google sync tool that linked my email and calendar, but once I understood the ‘labels’ in Google there was no excuse not to make the move permanently.

My email now filters itself as it arrives, email relating to client A goes into a folder specifically for client A, newsletters go into a folder to be read later when I have time, certain senders go into an ‘Urgent’ folder, and there’s even a filter for my daughter’s school who now use email to communicate with me.

Calendar

Google calendar is an excellent tool if you wish to work virtually as you can allow access to other users, who can either view your calendar or view and edit. This means that as a Virtual Assistant you can book meetings on your client’s behalf and they automatically appear in your client’s calendar.

Another useful feature of Google Calendar is the reminder service. You can choose when you wish to have a reminder arrive and in what format. This means that you can not only book an appointment on behalf of your client but you can set a reminder to go to their mobile phone several hours before as well. Other options include pop up or email reminders.

Google Docs

If you have a document that both you and your client need to edit then Google Docs is an excellent idea, it allows for word and excel, albeit without a lot of the pretty formatting, and the best part of it is that you can both edit the document at the same time. It is kind of spooky the first few times that you do this but is so much better than trying to share a document via email, with different revisions. This way there is one document and all the changes are made on the one document.

Domain Name

Google Apps works on your domain name, the one we bought yesterday just for our email through 123Reg.co.uk.

As you go through the sign up process you will be able to create your personal email address that is linked to your domain name.

I have helen@hlsbs.co.uk, I also have accounts@hlsbs.co.uk for when clients send me receipts etc for bookkeeping. With the free version of Google Apps you can have several email accounts or users. This will be very useful later on in your business when you need to start working with Associates (an Associate is another Virtual Assistant who you subcontract work to when you have too much on, or if you don’t have that particular skill).

Google Apps will guide you through the sign up process. You will need to log into your 123Reg control panel and make some changes but these are explained to you as part of the set up process.

Once your email has been set up you will be able to access your email via the internet, and download a shortcut to your desktop which will make Google work in just the same way your Outlook used to work.

When you decide on your email address don’t go with the generic style such as info@ or help@, everyone does that. Use your name, it’s more personal and more reflective of the type of service that you are offering your clients. In my opinion an info@ or sales@ email is the one that was given to the office junior as they hadn’t yet earned an email address of their own.

We need to set up our email account today as we will need our email address quite often during the rest of the challenge.

Challenge Ten

Today’s challenge therefore is to set up your free Google Apps account (they offer a free professional trial but professional charges for each individual email address so this isn’t necessarily the best option for your new business, stick with the free for now).

http://www.google.com/apps/

Scroll down the page until you find the Google Apps Free in the footer at the bottom of the page and sign up for your free account.

Because you will need to carry out the amendments to your domain name this is the only challenge we have set for today. If you get stuck drop me a line helen@hlsbs.co.uk and I will see if I can offer any advice.

You can see the rest of the Challenges by buying the ebook below:

30 Day Setting Up As A VA Challenge - eBook
With the 30 Day Setting up as a Virtual Assistant challenge author Helen Stothard will share her experience of running a successful business and help you over the pitfalls that many start up Virtual Assistant businesses encounter. Out now!
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