Some recent developments in my business led me to a unique solution for a not-so unique problem: virtual employees.
We’re not talking Smart House, Bicentennial Man, the computer-generated Scarlett Johansson voiceover–nope. These would be the kind of virtual employees who are never late, who are reliable, who are technologically savvy, who are made up of 0s and 1s. They’re computer programs, not robotic flesh and blood.
Since I started in my internet career, I have been flying pretty solo. I lost track of how many times I felt alone, unsupported, overwhelmed, and unproductive. It’s the plight of any solopreneurs and microbusiness owner.
Fortunately, I have a wealth of computer and internet expertise that helped me custom build a digital office over time, one that is founded upon the digital framework of various automation tools, software programs, and online platforms; and I’m going to review the lot of those today.
Instead of trying to do everything on my own—from my internet marketing and web design to my customer service and accounting—I make use of this digital office to take that majority of the work off my hands without always having to outsource.
As a bonus for doing so, I spend less time on the mundane, unproductive tasks and more time on the things that align with my business strengths: my writing.
My Recommended Digital Tools & Resources for Entrepreneurs
I’ll save you the stats—you know that Google is like the mecca of internet search and plenty more. The company has created a robust suite of useful digital products and online platforms, most of which are free to use.
Gmail is not just an email service but also an entire CRM and social media automation tool. That’s why I adore it. Having a Gmail account is practically imperative as long as you want a straightforward way to manage your business emails and contacts, not to mention that you can attach your own website domain name and replace the “gmail.com” portion of the address.
I own a Windows Phone and a laptop that runs on Windows 8. If Microsoft made it, I want to know what it’s about. I’m the equivalent of an Apple Fellow for the PC world.
Something about the way their products look and function just work for me; and I think it’s important for everyone to find a unique set of tools and systems that work for themselves too.
If you’re still in the process of finding those things, know that my recommendations are based upon extensive trial and error. When it came down to it, Microsoft offered the most comprehensive benefits to my business needs.
OneDrive (SkyDrive), like Google Drive, is also a data recovery and cloud storage platform. It can sync with Google Drive if you need both. For someone like me using a PC, particularly one that runs on Windows 8, OneDrive is more than I could want in data storage. With one click, my documents become available on my computer as well as my phone. No more cluttered email attachments, no more virtual assistants, no more lugging around flash drives—OneDrive cuts down on that work by at least 60%.
Office 365 comes with a suite of Microsoft software programs like Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Excel, and Access. My personal favorites are OneNote, Outlook, and PowerPoint. All the applications work on both the PC and on the Windows Phone. Not only that, but they’re incredibly versatile. OneNote, for me, is kind of a dashboard and place for client files. Outlook is a communications and client relationship management tool. PowerPoint is—get this—my back up PhotoShop and video editing tool. I wrote a tutorial on Kinja about making vines with PowerPoint. Check it out if you’re into creative editing.
The Automation Tools that Tie Everything Together:
Zapier connects with hundreds of apps and online software programs, including some of the ones listed above. Sign up using this link and you’ll save money by getting 100 free automation tasks every month.
IFTTT, although less robust than Zapier, provides more straightforward ways to automate internet tasks. Using what they call “recipes,” IFTTT (meaning ‘If This, Then That’) automates actions that would otherwise require you to do them manually.
iDrive is the most advanced cloud storage system among the others on this list. The iDrive backup and cloud storage components can be configured with PCs, iOS devices, smartphones and tablets.
As I said earlier, every entrepreneur and small business is going to have work within the confines of their own unique needs. Then again, one cloud storage system doesn’t have to and shouldn’t replace the other. They all can work interchangeably and they each offer different benefits and capabilities that constitute a comprehensive digital office.
Other Great Uses for iDrive:
iDrive also networks between multiple computers, which would be a remarkable capability for virtual offices.
When choosing where to back up files to, you can select to have them sync to and even from your OneDrive or Google Drive.
You can use any one of these IFTTT recipes to sync the data between your cloud storage platforms.
- Email > Google Drive: Use this to recipe to have all email attachments you send to a specific address automatically saved to your Google Drive.
- Gmail > OneDrive: Whenever you have a Gmail attachment in your inbox, it will automatically save to your OneDrive.
- Instagram > Google Drive: If you like how I use my Instagram pics as my featured photo, this would be another method to try if you’d like to do the same.
When you download the PC versions of either OneDrive or Google Drive, you could have the files there backed up a second time by iDrive. You can also play around with these combinations in order to affect how your content gets automated, saved, synced and transferred. This is a godsend for people who are tired of manually doing things themselves.
I hope this post was profoundly helpful. If you need ideas for automation tactics that will save you time in your life and business, let me know in the comments.
Here’s to many doors and worlds of opportunities opening for you!
P.S. If you have detailed questions about this post, I invite you to also join us over at The ILMC Network facebook group where plenty of others like yourself are answering those very questions. There’s plenty more tips and life hacks on that end.