Effortless Collaboration with Shared Folders
Managing a project that requires a lot of back and forth of files is a harrowing experience. Email works for the first round or maybe two, but after that, it quickly gets out of control. You’re working on version “c” while your client is already on version “e” and soon important revisions and notes are lost.
A better way to work from a single document is to simply add files to a shared folder. This way, as you or your client make changes, they’ll appear in real-time, leaving no doubt about which version anyone has, or what changes were made when.
There are several players in the folder sharing market, making it easy to find one that will work not only for you but for your clients as well.
A favorite in the shared folder race is Dropbox. The simple setup and generous amount of free storage space (2GB) make this a top choice for many people even if sharing files isn’t on their minds. If you work from multiple computers, need access to files on your mobile phone or iPad, or just want the extra security of knowing your important documents are backed up in “the cloud” then Dropbox is a good option.
The free version includes 2GB of storage space, which is plenty to get you started, but you can earn more space by Tweeting about Dropbox, referring friends, and connecting other applications. You can also upgrade to 100GB for around $10 per month.
Not surprisingly, Google has its own document sharing system. Formerly Google Docs, Drive now operates similar to Dropbox in that you can view your files in a folder on your computer. However, opening a file requires a web browser and the use of Google Apps. If you want to edit a spreadsheet in Excel, you’ll have to download it first.
Google Drive offers more free space than Dropbox does, starting out with 5GB. Upgrades are less expensive as well, with 100GB available for just $5 per month, compared to Dropbox’s $10 fee.
One noteworthy difference between Dropbox and Google Drive is how files are stored. With Dropbox, files exist both on your computer and in the cloud, meaning you can work on them without an internet connection. As soon as Dropbox detects a change to a document, it syncs the new version with that on the Dropbox server. If you and your client are both working on a file at the same time, this can result in a “conflicted copy” showing up in your Dropbox.
Google Drive is different in that only one copy of each file exists. When you’re working on a file, you’re actually editing that file on Google’s server. You can see this in action if you have a file open that your client is working on – you’ll be able to watch as she makes changes.
There are a variety of other file sharing services available as well, and chances are your clients will have their own preferences, so you’ll likely use several in your business. But to start out, Dropbox and Google Drive offer a simple solution for collaborating with others, or just sharing files between computers.]]>
The All-In-One Communication Tool Every VA Needs
The phone rings and you dash to grab it before your toddler – newly able to answer with a barely understandable “Hewo?” – can get to it. After all, it might be a client, or worse, a potential client.
Such is the peril of publishing your phone number on your website. Yet many virtual assistants find that offering a phone number increases the inquiries, and consequently, new clients, they receive. Having a separate office line would be a good solution to the toddler-as-receptionist problem, were it not for the cost.
The solution? Skype.
You’re likely used to using Skype day in and day out to chat with friends, IM with colleagues, and perhaps talk to online clients as well. But did you know you can use Skype as a phone replacement?
Skype offers two types of services: Incoming and outgoing phone calls, and you can purchase them together or separately, for maximum flexibility.
Make Phone Calls
If what you really need to do is call out to clients or others, and don’t want to eat up your cell minutes or reveal that number to the public, then Skype credit is just the answer. Purchase a monthly or annual subscription or a pay-as-you-go plan, depending on your needs.
With Skype credit you’ll have the ability to place a call to either cell phones or landlines right from your Skype app. And if you need to call internationally, options are available for a variety of countries starting as low as one cent per minute.
Accept Incoming Calls
Want to publish your number on your website and answer it at your desk? The answer is to get a Skype number. For as little as $30 per year, you get your own phone number that rings right to your Skype desktop or mobile app. You don’t have to reveal your home or cell number, and you don’t have to worry about anyone else answering your calls, taking messages, or tying up the line.
When you sign up, you’ll have your choice of available numbers, so you can choose one that’s easy to remember and that shares your area code.
Combine with Google Voice for ultimate flexibility.
Having an office number is nice, but what if you’re not in the office? A Google Voice number (available only in the United States) will allow you to control your incoming calls. You can forward your calls to your Skype number when you’re at your desk, or to your cell phone when you’re out of town. A Google Voice number also gives you the ability to block certain numbers, send others right to voice mail, or forward some to your home phone and everything else to your Skype number. You can even set a call schedule, so you only receive incoming calls during business hours.
Google Voice is free, and like Skype, you can choose your own number from the available pool. You can also use Google Voice as a stand-alone solution, and make outgoing calls right from your Gmail account.
Having a phone number on your website helps visitors feel more secure, but publishing your home phone isn’t always a good solution. With Skype and Google Voice, though, you can have the convenience of an office phone without the high costs.
Infographic via Perception System]]>
Computer Workstation Variables (Wikipedia)[/caption]
Today we’re going to talk about Ergonomics. After 17+ years of working at a desk for long hours, I know a little something about keeping my best asset at its best. I can always tell when I haven’t been seated at my desk correctly, my back hurts. When I sit right in the chair, utilize the lumbar, footrest and position everything in the right place I don’t hurt. Having said that… over the years I have learned some lessons.
Buy good ergonomic equipment: I prefer the natural wave type keyboard – I don’t care if its wireless and would probably not use it properly if it were. Your hands need to be at a natural position, its more natural for our wrist almost even your fingers so try to get used to a keyboard that lets you position them that way. Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 is a good option. I have been using Microsoft’s natural keyboards for many years and consider them as important as a good computer. The keys are large and naturally spaced so you’re not over reaching – and this helps me since my hands are very small.
For your desk, I’m sure there are tons of different ideas on the proper desk. I purchased my desk configuration one step at a time. The main desk/workstation first, it has the drawers, printer trays and such to the right of the keyboard/monitor area. Then I found the hutch for on top of the desk, its got all the shelves, cubbies and cabinets to the right of the monitor except for the area above the monitor has a shelf which is removable. Since my eyesight is so bad, I can change the monitor for a larger one as I need.
I have a left return (of sorts) that is actually a dining room table and is about 2 inches shorter than the desk. But, I don’t mind since I have my second monitor there and its adjustable in height. I keep my journal to the left, the phone (or laptop/ipad) and the TV is there. And, a second hutch, which gives me some more storage, and makes me feel more ‘executive’. Overall, the setup works well for me.
Recently I changed my phone system to all digital on the laptop – which is older and beginning to be troublesome – to an IP phone on my desk. I still highly recommend a headset though. Since my IP phone is very basic, I don’t have the option of a cordless headset like I did with the laptop, but with a long cord this is all right for now. When I update the phone (I’ll want a larger display) I’ll update the headset then. I didn’t opt for a more advanced phone because my service provider and I were not sure the display would work for my particular setup and now that we know it does, I’ll upgrade later on.)
How is your work area configured? I’d love to see your pictures and if you send them to me I’ll post them! Here’s mine.
Have a great day! Kathy McCabe
- Your mouse is the next most important piece of equipment since you will be clicking hours at a time, especially during research. Its really important to use an ergonomic mouse since your index and middle fingers can develop repetitive motion disorders. I have used a trackball by Logitech for many years and since I made the transition I have never felt pain in my mousing hand. I love that I can program the buttons, and I no longer have feelings of numbness and tingling in my thumb, and fingers. Since I have had surgery for a radial nerve entrapment (workplace accident in 1993) I need to be especially cautious.
- Your chair… There are several schools of thought on the correct chair to be ergonomic. I prefer an adjustable chair, good lumbar support, and armless. I’m short, and to get me where I need to be to actually be able to SEE the monitor, I scoot up as close as possible. (Yes, this sometimes means my keyboard is partly under the desk with the keyboard tray pushed in closer.) I prefer armless because invariably I’m scooting my chair in closer and pinching my fingers between the chair arms and keyboard tray! I think my next desk chair will be fabric or mesh, not leather. My office tends to get hot in the summer and I think fabric or mesh would be more comfortable.
- Your footrest. If you’re short like I am, you’ll need a good footrest to rest your feet on. Since I have to raise the chair up to make my hands rest properly, my legs dangle… (Ok, I’m REALLY vertically challenged all right??? lol) The footrest doesn’t have to be expensive. I’ve used a Fellowes Standard Foot Rest for years that was very inexpensive.
[caption id="attachment_638" align="alignnone" width="300"]
Kathy’s work area configuration[/caption]]]>