Managing a virtual assistant business (or any business for that matter) involves monthly or annual expenses that you need to consider and record against your income.

When you’re just starting out, it’s important to keep these expenses at a minimum so that you can avoid a significant loss whilst attracting your first clients.

As a business owner (and a self confessed tech-nerd!) for the past 5 years, I’ve tried and tested hundreds of online tools and chosen the top 6 that I believe are essential, yet affordable tools for setting up and managing a virtual assistant business.

Many of these tools can be used not only to manage your own business, but to service your client’s as well.

Google Business Apps (Free with a gmail email account or US$5 per month)

Email is essential for communicating and collaborating with clients as is an online calendar for taking bookings, therefore Gmail and Google Calendar are at the top of my list! Also, with Google Business Apps you get access to Google Hangouts (great for communicating by video), Google Drive (a cloud-based storage system where you can share and store all your files and folders) as well as a YouTube account, Google Sites (for basic website or intranet), Google Analytics and Adwords for future advertising – all for just $5 per month.

Paypal (Free to setup, various transaction/bank fees)

You need to get paid right?! Most people have a personal Paypal account which they use for shopping online, but in order to get paid by others you need to upgrade to a Premier or Business Account. This is free to do and just involves completing a form and providing copies of your ID for money laundering regulations etc.  Once you’ve upgraded, you can send invoices to your clients, request payments, set up Paypal buttons and all for a fee of 2.9% plus US$0.30  per transaction.

MailChimp (Free or US$10 per month for the automation feature)

If you’re planning to build a list of email subscribers for your virtual assistant business, MailChimp is one of the easiest and most flexible tools to use, and it’s free for up to 500 subscribers. To use the Automation feature (to be able to send out an automatic email sequence) you’ll need to upgrade, but it’s only approx. AU$14 per month.

Note: Building a subscriber list isn’t essential for a Virtual Assistant business, but knowing how to use such tools is, as many of your clients will use MailChimp to build their audience. To learn how to use MailChimp, check out this training video.

Canva (Free or optional to upgrade to Canva for Work for US$12.95 per month)

I LOVE this graphic design tool! With a free account, you can create social media images, business cards, presentations, PDFs etc. for yourself or your clients, and you don’t even need to be a graphic designer. Canva enables non-graphic pros to create their own images with ease.

They have an option to upgrade to Canva For Work which offers some additional features, but not essential for new virtual assistant business owners.

Want to learn how to use Canva and create amazing social media images for your clients? Check out this training video.

Buffer (Free or US$10 per month for the Awesome plan)

Don’t let your daily Facebook posting suck up all your time! Buffer is a social media management tool which is free to use for 1x Facebook, 1x Twitter, 1x LinkedIn and 1x Google+ profiles. The free plan also allows you to schedule up to 10 posts per platform, so it’s a great tool to schedule your weekly posts in advance. If you upgrade to the Awesome plan you can schedule more posts per platform and add more accounts, such as Pinterest and additional Facebook Groups and Profiles.

Ontrapages (Totally free!)

Ontrapages is one of my favourite lead page tools as it allows you to build up to 10 lead pages for free. Choose from an awesome template library and create lead pages that are mobile ready, integrate with many email service providers, and can be split-tested and tracked for optimum performance.

All of these tools enable you to setup and manage the initial and ongoing procedures for your virtual assistant business, such as promoting your business on social media, attracting and communicating with potential clients via lead pages and email newsletters, and working with your clients, all for under $100 per month.