Virtual Office Must Have Essentions

If you have a virtual offices you need these basic essentials, no matter what your personal style may be. 

They include:

A calendar system
A scheduling system
A filing system
A business operations manual

You might decide to add additional items if your office is in a space where there is no door you may decide that finding a different location is essential for your working style, or just to block out any distractions -- if being in an office is not for you and maybe working from the kitchen table is best for you, then go for it. Having worked virtually for over 9 years now, there are times when I forgo the office and try out other areas of the house. Also, if you have little ones at home, not being behind a closed door will allow you to keep an eye on them while still getting your work done.

Another essential not mentioned previously is a journal or erasable whiteboard to write down your prioritized tasks for the day.

Appointments & Scheduling

Calendar and   Scheduling

One of your most essential items should be your calendar. If you have trouble being organized, you may want to try two types—a long-term calendar for keeping track of deadlines and appointments over 6 months and another for daily appointments, reminders, and immediate activities/tasks and basically helping you track your time more effectively.

Your long-term calendar should be whatever works best for you—a program such as Outlook or Google Calendar or a physical calendar that you can pick up from the office supply store.

Google Calendar is very popular amongst those with virtual offices because of the option to create multiple calendars and selectively share them with others. You might create a promotion calendar to share with your team or assistant or use it to set up a family calendar to share with your spouse or kids and an appointment calendar for scheduling your business calls. Google allows you to see all of your calendars at once, or you can select to only see the calendar you’re working with.

Another great feature of Google Calendar is that you can color-code appointments so you can see at a glance exactly what’s on your schedule for the coming days, making it easy to plan ahead.

If you work with others or manage a team, consider using a project management software that includes a calendar, such as AsanaMeisterTask, Airtable, Trello, Teamwork Projects, or any of the other tools out there.  When I first started online, Basecamp (which has a free 60-day trial and subscriptions starting at $20 per month) was the dominant software. Now there are many more options.

All of these integrate well with iPhone and Android, and you can set up automatic “Milestone” notifications to your team. (Use it also to manage project messaging and communication.)

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of options when it comes to project management tools.  I suggest you pick one and focus on mastering that so you are not wasting time trying to figure out too many different tools and not focusing on your core.  If you have a team or assistant, let them take care of this for you.

Organizing Physical & Digital Files 

Most virtual offices use a combination of both physical and digital filing. 

While it’s a great goal to “go paperless,” the reality is that many still print out documents in paper format every day. You’ll need a way to organize:

PDF docs
Course information
Bank statements
Tax forms and payment documentation
Business & Miscellaneous receipts

Physical files, by necessity, rely on a hierarchy of folders for organization.
You’ll want to spend some time setting up a folder system that makes the most sense to you. For example, you might choose to have a separate file drawer for business only, keeping all your office documents separate from other family and home paperwork.

Start with new hanging files or manila folders and a label maker. Avoid reusing old folders and scribbling your labels with whatever pen is handy. Taking this “shortcut” will only make finding your files later more difficult. Spend the time now to organize your filing cabinet fully, and you might even find that you actually enjoy filing since we now have more time to take care of it.

Using your current paperwork as a guide, decide on the folders you will need. Some common folders include:

This year’s tax receipts
Past tax documents
Client files
Business procedures and checklists
Other business-related documents

If you are organizing your home here are some of the things you can get started with:

Home repairs
This year’s tax receipts
Past tax documents
Medical information
Car repairs (keep a separate folder for each vehicle)

Once you’ve decided on and created your folders, simply sort all your current documentation into your new filing cabinet.

Pro tip: Set aside time right now (block it off in your calendar) to do your filing each week. Getting organized is only half the battle. Upkeep is the ultimate goal.

For your digital files, you have more options. Since physical files can only exist in one place at any given time, you are forced into the folder model. Digital documents, however, offer more flexibility, and there are endless tools you can use to manage them.
Here are some possibilities:

The key to filing is to determine how you want to set it up, and then take the necessary steps to maintain it. 

Make it easy on yourself. The more complex the system, the harder it will be to keep track of?

Business Operations Manual

Business Oprations

Every successful business—whether a solopreneur, mom and pop on the corner, to major corporations—owes a large part of their success to systems. When you have a business operations manual that outlines your business processes, you’ll never again waste time re-inventing the wheel, and it helps you stay focused.   

Your business operations manual should be your go-to resource for:

Performing routine tasks efficiently or outsourcing to someone who will do them exactly how you want them done.
Deciding on new programs and offers (that align with your overall business vision?)
In addition to information such as your mission, focus, goals, licensing numbers (if applicable), and contact information for team members or outsourcing contractors.  Your manual should also include key information because we never know when something may happen to us, create a one-page list of instructions so that if anything does happen to you:

This can easily be done using a Word document, Google Doc, or an Excel spreadsheet.  Your key company information document.  Here a list of information it should include: 

Emergency Contact Numbers
Retainers or Other Recurring Payments to Cancel
List of Current Clients
Subcontractors & Virtual Assistants
Domain Names and Renewal Dates
Recurring Business Expenses
Email Accounts
Recurring Business Expenses
My Websites
Other Accounts
Software Licenses
Further Instructions

Create a document for each of those areas and include the following for every subscription, contractor, client or account:

Contact person name, phone number, mobile SMS address and/or email address.
What you need this person to know (or do)
The amounts in question (if we are talking a service, contractor payment or subscription).
Payment arrangements for contractors, subscriptions, etc.
Payment method for each: (E.g. “Business bank account” or “PayPal automatic payment”.
The date each payment is due for each item.

Also include a separate page stating where (on your computer) such things as client files or projects can be found—and anything else that will make it easier for family members or business team members to have access to that information should something happen.  

Finally, be sure to discuss this plan beforehand with a trusted family member, your business manager, or someone you trust to have access to this information.

Be kind to yourself, stay focused, and stay safe!