Cans as telephones

Over the course of the day, you do a lot of communicating — from making phone calls to sending emails, it may seem like all you ever do is communicate. And, for some of you, that’s absolutely the case. However, there are ways to streamline how you communicate by outsourcing different aspects — such as managing contacts, answering phone calls, and clearing your inbox — to the many professionals and tools at your disposal.

  1. Managing contacts: There are a number of different tools out there that take address books a step beyond. Gist, for instance, allows you to import your contacts. The tool then goes out and builds a profile on each person in your address book with sources like LinkedIn or Twitter.
  2. Processing incoming email: It can take time to sort out spam and other emails that you really don’t need to read from your inbox. A good virtual assistant can clean up your inbox and let you focus on the emails you really need to read.
  3. Multiple phone lines: There are a number of tools that bring all your phone calls together in one place, such as Google Voice. You can make sure your phone calls find you no matter where you are.
  4. Transcribing voicemails: Another benefit of using an online phone system such as Google Voice is that most can transcribe your voicemails, letting you skip listening to all those messages.
  5. Less crucial communications: For communications like setting up meetings, it rarely makes sense for you to spend hours playing phone tag or sending emails about availability. Let a VA handle the sort of communication tasks that don’t require your expertise.
  6. Updating contact information: Depending on your contacts, it’s necessary to go through your address book every so often and check to make sure that all of your information is current. It’s a time-consuming project, however, and requires only the ability to send out emails and phone calls — the perfect type of project to delegate.
  7. Getting urgent messages: Continuously checking email can make it hard to get any work done, but some times you need to see an email the minute it comes in. AwayFind makes it possible for you to receive a text or notification when specific emails come in, letting you ignore your inbox most of the time.
  8. Standard emails: If you routinely get similar emails, setting your VA up with a set of templated responses will let your assistant handle those routine emails and let you focus on more important work.
  9. Answering the phone: No matter how big your business is, it’s possible to get a phone system that can answer and direct calls through online services like Phonebooth.
  10. Sort your mail: Earth Class Mail will receive, sort and scan your mail so that you don’t have to deal with all the paper.
  11. Mailing letters: While you can’t get out of writing a letter to Grandma, there are many tools that allow you to write your letter on your computer and then have it directly printed and mailed without needing to go to the post office.
  12. Letters from Santa: If you’ve got a little one at home, a nice holiday treat can be a letter from Santa. There are a number of writers how offer letters from Santa personalized for your child, such as Letters by Santa.
  13. Calling home: Many task management systems make it easy to set up recurring tasks, such as phone calls to your parents or other contacts, but a VA can also be helpful in making sure that you keep up with your regular communications commitments.
  14. Business letters: It’s not uncommon to need to send out similar business letters on a regular basis. Depending on your business, it can sense to have a professional business writer draft you a template that you can adjust as needed.
  15. Help requests: If you’re in a position where you’re routinely asked for help or support, it makes sense to train a VA to handle those requests. Support requests tend to be similar enough that you can train a VA for the most common and then only handle the big problems as necessary.
  16. Managing VAs and other help: The number of online project management tools has exploded. Systems like Basecamp can make keeping in touch with the people working on your projects significantly easier.
  17. Contact forms: Having a contact form on your website is becoming a requirement. But with all the spam that comes through such forms, responding to inquiries can take a lot more time than you like. Having an assistant sort through such inquiries, handling those that are fairly standard and deleting trash, can free you up to handle the more unusual requests.
  18. Automated responses: With Gmail, as well as some other email tools, you can create automatic responses based on subject lines and other email characteristics.
  19. Schedule emails: If you don’t want an email to go out until a certain date, you can get the email written when you have time and then use a tool like LetterMeLater to schedule your outgoing emails.
  20. Assistance with letters: There are letter writing experts available who will take on just about any sort of project, even writing love letters or letters to break up with a significant other. In many cases, they recommend you use their letters as a template, but it’s definitely a way to speed up the process.
  21. Mass mailings: Many marketing firms offer mass mailings assistance, helping you craft the message and then taking responsibility for getting the mailing out to your list.
  22. Conference calling: Need to set up a conference call? With a conference bridge, you can let someone else make sure that all the participants can get in easily.
  23. Call recording: If you’re making a call through software like Skype, recording it is a matter of adding on another piece of software, like Skype Recorder.
  24. Transcription: Got a recording of a telephone conversation or a conference call and need notes out of it? Having a transcriptionist turn it in to a recording you can use can be much easier than trying to sit through the whole conversation over again. Many VAs offer transcription services.
  25. Finding new contacts: While social networking sites find it relatively easy to locate interesting people in fields you want to explore, having a VA sit down and identify certain types of contacts can speed up sales calls, as well as many other projects.

Image credit: EmiSta / iStockphoto