To Help Your Business Use Slack More Productively

In a time where the Internet and technology have found ways to connect us seamlessly and instantly, business communication has become easier than ever before. From anywhere in the world, small businesses, startups, and large corporations alike have found ways to utilize the Internet for maximum productivity, using applications and platforms like Trello, Hive and Skype to get the job done quickly and easily. One popular app that has made its way to plenty of companies is Slack, which BetaNews reports has over 10 million daily active users along with 85,000 paid customers—and for good reason.

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Companies use it as a hub for notifications, calendar reminders, project development, and uploading files—all of which increases workplace productivity. But how do they do this? And how can you take advantage of Slack to boost your efficiency and productivity? You can get started with this as soon as now, as we’re going to outline 4 tips you can follow to make your Slack channel (and your business!) more productive.

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Set up Slack channels for more organization

The best thing about Slack is that you can have as many channels as you want, and for any purpose. These channels serve as group chats, and can include (and exclude) anyone in your workspace. For instance, you can have a channel solely for file sharing, another one for discussions on a particular project, and even one for random conversations. You can also name these whatever you want so that employees can take one glance and know its purpose.

Use Slack bots to automate tasks

Once you’ve settled into Slack, automate tasks with the range of bots Slack and other developers have to offer. An article by HP on ‘Great Slack Bots for Small Businesses’ recommends Attendance Bot, which is a great bot for shift management. It can keep track of sick days, vacation leaves, and even track time or shifts. Aside from this, there are bots for all purposes—IT support, scheduling meetings, and even team building, it’s all a matter of finding the best one for your business.

Leverage app integrations

If you’re using other apps outside of Slack to collaborate with your team, you can connect them to Slack. Apps such as Trello and Google Drive can be integrated within your channels, so that you don’t have to keep switching in and out of Slack. Simply click your team name in the left-hand corner, then choose “Apps & Integrations.” Make sure that you have the permission to do so, as only team owners and administrators can limit who can add apps to the team’s workspace.

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Silence notifications

A basic, yet sometimes necessary tip that digital consultant John Boitnott recommends is to silence notifications from channels, users, or everyone when you need it. Being the team owner can get a little hectic—especially if you’re part of all the channels. Not to mention, all the push notifications coming in can distract you from your work, which will definitely be counterproductive. That said, you can mute notifications from certain channels or users. You’ll still see how many new messages there are in your sidebar, but at least you won’t have to suffer from the classic Slack notification every few seconds anymore.

In a nutshell

At its core, Slack is a messaging app meant to improve workplace communication and reduce the emails sent, and while it still serves this purpose, Slack can do far more, according to SmallBiz Club’s article on ‘Top 5 Business Communication Tools in the Modern Workplace’. By using Slack strategically and taking advantage of all it has to offer in terms of bots, app integrations, and features, your business’ communication and productivity will improve in no time.

Tips for Starting a Virtual Assistant Business

Virtual Businesses of all sizes need administrative help, but having a full-time employee onsite can be cost-prohibitive. Enter virtual assistants (VAs), administrative professionals who offer a wide variety of services remotely, operating as their own small businesses.

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Through technology like cloud collaboration software, video conferences, project management apps and instant messaging, entrepreneurs who want to start a virtual assistant firm have all the tools they need to successfully work with business clients.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of this lucrative business opportunity and becoming a VA, here’s some expert advice on how to make it work.

Operating as a VA on your own can feel like you are all by yourself, but in fact, there are professional groups, online forums and books to support you in your business dream. By reading and researching what services a VA can perform, you can narrow down your own offerings. And by networking with other VAs, you can benefit from subcontracting work or advice from more established VAs.

“Most VAs are more than happy to help out someone who is new to the field. And even if they don’t have any subcontracting work, they may be able to refer you to someone who does,” said Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, MBTI Certified, with All Things Admin.

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As with any business, you need to develop a business plan before launching a VA company. A business plan is an outline of your company and how you plan to operate. The business plan acts as a timeline for your company. Also, if you plan to seek out loans or investors for the VA business, lenders will request a copy of your business plan.

Structuring your business is a requirement before making your services public. There are multiple business structures available. According to the Small Business Administration, a sole proprietorship is ideal for low-risk business ventures or individuals who want to test the waters with their new company before formalizing plans. Additional structure options include corporations, LLC, and partnerships. All structures have tax advantages and disadvantages.

Before launch, check with your municipality about any licensing requirements you may need for your new business.

There’s a lot more to being a VA than helping with the tasks your client needs you to do. Having office experience will help you in your day-to-day duties, but as an independent business, you need to learn the ropes of how to run it.

“Working virtually means you must exercise great discipline,” said Tim Petree, senior vice president of BST Concierge. “You’re your own boss, (but) those corporate rules that once seemed to be a drag can save you from financial ruin when you’re the CEO or sole proprietor. If anything, you must now be conversant in all areas of business administration – sales, marketing, IT, customer service, project management, receivables, payables and compliance.”

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As with any type of virtual work, not being in the office for face-to-face interactions with your clients can present some difficulties if your or their communications are unclear. VAs perform many of the important day-to-day tasks that keep a business running, so knowing what’s required of you as a service provider is key to customer satisfaction.

Marketing is essential when developing a successful VA business. Keyword research will help you get started on a marketing plan for your company. Find out what keywords clients are using to find VA services. Tools like Moz are useful in researching keyword terms. Once you select your keywords, integrate them in all marketing materials for the VA business. Your marketing efforts should include a professional and user-friendly website. An optimized and well-designed website will attract new clients. Social media marketing should also be a part of your strategy for your VA venture.

As a VA and as a business owner, you’ll need to be able to deliver exactly what each client needs. It’s a good idea to determine the best structure for your service packages and pricing based on what your clients are looking for.

“A VA provides business owners with the opportunity to get exactly what they need, when they need it, like ordering from a menu,” Anastasio-Festi said. “Because most VAs offer a wide range of services to various industries, it becomes confusing as to who needs what most. [Our firm] is moving away from hourly retainers and more towards customizing individual monthly packages that are tailored to each client’s needs.”