Even before the pandemic forced many businesses to switch to a remote work structure, eCommerce companies saw the value in hiring virtual assistants.
There are many benefits to hiring a virtual assistant, including reduced cost in office space, the ability to hire and work with skilled help throughout the world, and an ability to schedule your work hours during your most effective work time during the day.
However, there are drawbacks that arise from not having direct contact with an assistant. Motivation can slip. Commaradie is difficult to maintain. Misunderstandings can occur. In fact, one of the biggest drawbacks to a virtual team is communication. Fortunately there are several apps you can use to eliminate some of these problems.
Here are our top four recommendations for managing your remote team:
Slack: Where Work Happens
Slack is more than a messaging platform. You can use Slack to stay in constant contact with your customers as well as your team. There are many ways you can use Slack.
The app allows you to create channels that include specific users. You can set up a channel for your sales team to bounce around ideas. You can set up a different channel for your production team, accounts management team, and so on. When you have a whole team working on the same platform, you create a record of the discussion, the problems and decisions, and the to-do list. You can refer back to these notes when you want to implement decisions.
If your team uses several other apps, you can set up automations to push notifications directly into Slack. It can alert certain employees or teams to important events directly.
Slack can help build team morale. You can set up specific channels for non-work or watercooler-style chats or create a lounge where employees can share life updates or cute pictures of their pets.
Slack even has a call feature, allowing for you to directly call your employees when situations arise where you suddenly need an actual chat to help put out fires.
Slack has a free plan for small teams.The free plan has limited features as far as message history, but it allows for up to 10 integrations with other apps. The paid plans start at $8 per user and includes more memory for messages, more integrations, and other features that are useful. If you pay annually, they offer a reduced price for the year’s service.
Miro: An Online Visual Collaboration Platform for Teamwork
Miro is an online whiteboard that facilitates the synergy you used to experience during in-person meetings. There is power in brainstorming where everyone comes together and throws ideas onto a whiteboard. The visual aspect of a white board helps a team mull over those ideas, keep the best ones, and let go of the ones not worth pursuing.
You can use Miro whiteboards to pull together a single team, several teams combined, or the entire company. It’s even great for customer brainstorming. Their website has several interesting use-cases and templates to help you get started.
A free plan for a single user includes the ability to invite viewers and allows you to use core integrations. Paid plans run from $10 per user for many features. The price increases with more features. There is a discounted price if you pay annually.
ClickUp: One App to Replace Them All
ClickUp is a project management and collaboration tool that offers every productivity feature you use in one single app. There are infinite ways you can customize it to meet your team’s needs.
ClickUp helps you track and manage your tasks, set goals, and create documents. It also makes your day more productive by reducing the amount of clicks used per day, even inside the platform itself. It already has integrations into quite a few other apps, allowing you to bring your work into a single workspace, with more being planned and implemented all the time.
All of the possible ways to customize it for you can be overwhelming and confusing. Their site offers quite a few resources, including videos and demos, to help you get set up. If you would like to know even more about ClickUp and how it came to be, you can listen to our podcast episode with founder Zeb Evans.
ClickUp offers a free forever plan, and while the features offered through this plan are few, they are unlimited. They offer one paid plan, at $9 per user per month that includes all features and capabilities. ClickUp does give you a discount if you purchase an annual subscription. There is also a “let’s make a deal” button, that allows you to negotiate your own discount.
Zoom: Video Conferencing, Web Conferencing, Webinars, and More
Zoom is a video conferencing tool for one-on-one or group calls where you can see each other. Even in a predominately digital age, there is a real need for face-to-face interaction. Text based messages, emails, and even phone calls are not always adequate. You gain added clarity when you see the facial expressions and body language of those in the meeting. This is a great tool not only for professional use, but also for team building and maintaining a positive company culture. Video conferencing may take more time, but seeing the emotions involved in a project or meeting can prevent mistakes that could cost you a lot of money.
Zoom offers a free plan, which allows unlimited meeting time with two callers. If you have three or more on the meeting, there are meeting time restrictions. The paid plans start at $14.99 per user per month for up to 9 users. If your needs are greater, there are more plan options. The paid plans also offer premium features such as transcription services. As with the previous apps we’ve mentioned, you can get a discount if you pay for an entire year at once.
Paid Versus Free Plans
You may have noticed each of these tools has a free and a paid version. When looking for new tools to help you manage your business, consider the added value that might come from the paid versions. If you only use the app periodically, all you need is the free version. Keep in mind, free services are likely to have less support, and sometimes disappear as the programs evolve and develop.
Paid plans give you added features that can boost your business, and make you more profitable. In the end, the paid versions often pay for themselves in terms of increased productivity and business.
In deciding which plan to use, you might want to try out a paid plan for a month or two and learn how to use some of the paid features. As the month passes, track your usage. Use that information to determine whether or not to go with an annual plan.
Honorable Mention: Outsource School, Not an App, but a Community
The apps listed above are great at helping you navigate the online business world. Remember that apps are only tools to help you manage your team remotely. You still need to know how to hire, manage, and maintain a remote team. The best way to learn is to find someone who has been there, done that before you. Outsource School is a great online community, with lessons and resources designed to help you scale your business with virtual assistants.
Blog submitted by Data Automation