Running a small business can feel like a lonely endeavour, especially if you’re based at home. Being freed from the tyranny of rush-hour commuting (and not having to coo over photos of workmates’ relatives’ babies) means you lack the social interaction provided by a room full of colleagues. There’s a distinct absence of help and moral support when things go wrong, while many entrepreneurs end up becoming multidisciplinary specialists in everything from accounting and tax calculations to marketing and advertising.
Fortunately, the internet is a great resource for help and support. With virtual assistance a few mouse clicks away, you’re never truly alone in cyberspace. These are some of the virtual assistance tools and technologies every sole trader or budding entrepreneur should be aware of…
IT personnel can remotely take control of your computer to troubleshoot problems, install new software or advise on emergencies such as malware infection. Software like Splashtop SOS establishes a secure connection between two computers, using randomly-generated identity keys. Someone on the other side of the world can offer help and support by controlling your computer using their own peripherals – ideal for resolving email problems or software conflicts.
It’s often hard to keep on top of larger projects without a supervisor to provide timelines, or the defined agendas and typed minutes of meetings. Virtual noticeboards such as Trello are ideal, supporting multiple windows where hundreds of colour-coded notes and hyperlinks can be added. Other people may receive limited or unrestricted access when working collaboratively, which is where messaging services like Slack come into their own.
Accounting aptitude is a rare skill. Google Sheets and the Office 365 version of Microsoft Excel are great for maintaining records and sharing data with accountants at the year-end. Financial software has been tailored around numerous different industries. Landlords often use full-featured web-based management tools like Rentec Direct and ResMan, handling everything from ledgers and payroll to budgeting and financial reporting.
Virtual assistance has expanded into the secretarial sector, thanks to platforms such as eReceptionist, The Virtual Secretary, and SmartPA. The leading platforms provide offsite support for diary management, telephone answering, social networking, and marketing. Virtual assistants are shared between multiple clients. However, they’re able to remove bureaucracy and administration from a time-starved entrepreneur’s daily to-do list.
Every business needs a website, which should ideally be updated regularly with SEO-focused blogs and news stories. There’s no finer platform than WordPress. An estimated 30
Search Engine Optimisation
SEO is an ever-changing art form where last year’s rules may no longer apply. Fortunately, the process of boosting a website’s position in Google and Bing results can be simplified with WordPress plugins like Yoast. A straightforward traffic light notification system makes
You can stick the letter E in front of almost anything nowadays, and e-mentoring is no exception. Experienced professionals offer online mentoring for graduates, entrepreneurs, and sole traders. Individuals share their wisdom and acting as a sounding board for ideas. Advice may be provided via email, video-call meetings, or across portals like Slack. Many people become mentors to ‘pay forward’ help they received at crucial early stages of their own careers.