From sharing documents to tracking workflow and invoicing, I keep it simple. I only use a few online tools, so I asked the same question of other virtual team managers to expand the list.
Google’s version of MS Word programs offered online.
Pros: Easy and simple to use. It automatically saves, offers many formats for saving docs and document sharing. And of course, it’s free.
Cons: Some capabilities are limited. May not be best program for complex work and relies on internet access.
Online file sharing and storage.
Cost: Free; $9.99–$15.00/month for expanded storage
Pros: You don’t have to have an account for someone to give you access to their specified Dropbox files. Works with multiple platforms. Drag and drop upload, schedule backups, event log, file preview, highly accessible and good security.
Cons: File storage space is less than some competitors around the same price. Lack of urgent technical support and online chat.
Online note-taking application.
Cost: Free to $45/year
Pros: Cross-platform, collaborative notes. OCR on your images so you can find them later by searching for text within them. Phone and computer sync to online account.
Cons: Complexity, cost, web-based text editor isn’t keystroke compatible with the PC-based editor.
Web-based online project management tool for the organization and management of design endeavors.
Cost: Free trial period; $100–$150/month after
Pros: Can help streamline communication and boost organizational efficiency. Similar to a to-do list. If you work with an international team, BaseCamp is available in more than a dozen languages.
Cons: Cost, more robust than a small team may need.
Web-based online project management tool.
Soon after Trello’s release in 2011, it was named one of “The 7 Coolest Startups You Haven’t Heard of Yet” by Wired.
Cost: Free; $25/month version
Pros: Support info is easy to find, works well with Google apps, and best for multi-step workflows.
Cons: As of today, English is the only supported language
Online conferencing platform.
Cost: $49/month for 15 attendees; $149/month for 25–200 attendees
Pros: Conference from anywhere you have an internet connection. Easy to use, secure software keeps meetings private, unlimited amount of meetings for monthly price, offers PC users ability to record online meetings and hosts to have full control of the meeting.
Cons: Mac users can’t record meetings, screen sharing lacks in video support, starting a meeting can be slow as participants need to download software, expensive for only occasional use.
Online meeting, screen sharing, file sharing and audio.
Cost: Free, $13–$19 per user/per month
Pros: Easy to use, quick online gathering, no downloads or sign-ups for viewers, free up to 10 meeting participants, intuitive design.
Cons: Not for larger networks, not expandable, free version very limited.
Desktop screen sharing and browser sharing
Cost: Up to 5 hours free; $0.010/minute after
Pros: No download, colleagues can view your screen from any device in a browser without having to install software.
Cons: Mac and Windows users only, requires latest version of Java, requires browser restart of Java if not installed, limited compatibility.
Online timekeeping, billing and accounting software.
Cost: Free; $19.95–$39.95/month option
Pros: Track your time and expenses, send customizable invoices to your clients by email or mail (Freshbooks even licks the stamps for you), take online payments. Simple to use, good customer service, unlimited invoices, record business expenses, secure, free customer support.
Cons: Not really bookkeeping, clients can’t update their billing info directly, not for 30 or more timekeepers within a team. Doesn’t sync with Quickbooks (but you can download reports to import into Quickbooks).
Bookkeeping, accounting and billing online software
Cost: Free for 30 days; $10.36–$31.96/month after
Pros: Your accountant or bookkeeper probably uses it, so you can easily share your recorded business finances. Fairly simple to use and simple for clients to pay via credit card. Sync via multiple devices.
Cons: Rudimentary timekeeping and expense-tracking features, not for multiple users.
Are you currently using any of the above tools? Or, maybe you use other software to keep everything running smoothly. I’d love to hear your input, so please chime in.
And if you’d like to hear more from my Virtual Team Colleagues, be sure to attend the How-Tos of Virtual Teams on Thursday morning, May 15, 2014 at the Creative Freelancer Business Conference, part of the HOW Design Conference in Boston. It’s not to late to register: Click here. I’ll be joining the panel discussion and would love to meet you.
*Information true at time of post. Check websites to gather the most current costs and details on each tool above.