Thanks to the software available nowadays, working on and managing your business remotely is more plausible than it ever was before. To do that effectively though, you need to rely on software that works for you best and you can trust.
With the number of tools available, however, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the choices.
In our previous article on running a fully remote business, we mentioned that communication is the key while working remotely. If you want to overcome some of the challenges of working remotely, the tools you use in your communications are just as important.
To make sure that everyone is on the same page in regards to project management and deadlines, we will be discussing some of the tools we use in our daily operations. More specifically, we will be exploring the following categories and tools:
CommunicationsSlack WhatsApp GoogleHangouts Time Tracking and Security Toggl 1Password Proposals and Finances Qwilr Xero TransferWise
In any business, remote or otherwise, having the proper communication channels setup first is essential. In both cases, people often struggle with communicating and updating each other properly. Which is why you should first establish consistent guidelines so that everyone knows how to contact each other and where.
It’s also important to have separate communication channels as having only one is a sure way to get overwhelmed by the number of messages and end up with a lot of spam.
First, define the different communication mediums you’ll need, and for what purpose. For example, it’s generally good practice to have a different channel for project management recaps, instant communication, one for dealing with clients, and so on.
So, here’s our take on the matter.
Almost everyone uses Slack nowadays, and for a good reason, too. In a remote environment, a direct messaging tool is a must and for that, Slack is often the best tool.
It has a lot of features that can simplify office communication, such as setting up different channels, file sharing (and storing), tons of 3rd party integrations (with Google Drive, Zapier, so on), and can even be used for task management practices.
To make the best use of Slack, think about any other apps that you use regularly and see if you can integrate them with Slack. From fun GIFs to file-sharing and automated bots, Slack has a lot of other uses you might not know about.
When it comes to using Slack, our approach is to set up different channels, each for every our client or a project.
Other channels are mostly dedicated to each new project or task we’re working on and need to be able to share instant updates.
WhatsApp is another instant communication platform and like Slack, it can be used for both group chats and direct messages. It’s quick and easy to set up, as it is simply tied to your own mobile device phone number – making it a great option for personal communication.
Though WhatsApp lacks some of the vital features Slack has, it’s still a powerful messaging app on its own.
Depending on your business and requirements, you can also look into WhatsApp Business for additional paid features.
If you’re going to be using WhatsApp in addition to other communication channels, it’s important to have a different use for it so that you know when to use which app.
For example, while working remotely, there might be times when you need to get a hold of someone in case of an emergency. In such case, WhatsApp is ideal if you want to receive a reply straight away. Since the app is tied to your phone number, chances are, whoever you’re texting will receive it immediately.
Similarly, WhatsApp also offers a variety of formats when messaging, which means you won’t be limited to text alone.
While direct messaging can be used for most working environments (online team meetings, dealing with clients, so on), it simply can’t replace video calls.
For online meetings, conference rooms, webinars and more, Google Hangouts is ideal.
It’s easy to set up a meeting and invite other members. If you’re going to be dealing with a lot of clients in your business or need to be constantly catching up with other team members, it’s a good idea to have a stable video platform set up in place.
With Google Hangouts, it’s convenient to get set up with all of the above and jump into a meeting straight away. As an added benefit of it being part of GSuite, the app can integrate into your other Google products, such as Google Calendar.
Because most businesses use GSuite to begin with, they automatically get Google Hangouts for free.
From all of the video calling software we’ve tried, Google Hangouts ended up being more reliable, and easier for clients to join. Compared to Zoom, for example, Google Hangouts is free, can hold more people for a longer period of time, and doesn’t noticeably lag behind in terms of quality either.
What gets measured gets managed. To be successful, you need to be keeping track of what works, what doesn’t, and have the data to back it up.
This is even more the case when you’re working remotely and use a lot of tools in your business. In that case, one of the most important metrics you should be keeping track of is your time.
Toggl is a powerful time tracking software that boosts productivity and shows you where and how you spend most of your time. If you want to get a sense of how long each project or task usually takes and how (or where) your team spends the majority of their time, you can do so with Toggl.
The platform works where you do, no matter the device, even has the option of manual time entries, and by the end of it, Toggl provides a report of your work productivity based on the hours.
It can be as detailed or simple as you need it to be. For small businesses and freelancers, it’s ideal as it comes with a powerful reporting system and plenty of team management features.
Main benefits include better internal resource planning for businesses, accurate and transparent client billing, and making work time more focused, based on the specific project.
Overall, the aim of the tool is to increase team productivity. Depending on your needs and the size of the team, you can either go with the basic features or the advanced plan.
If you’re going to be using a lot of different tools, it’s a good idea to have one place dedicated to managing and organising everything. While working remotely, keeping track of passwords on sticky notes in the office won’t cut it anymore.
So, to ensure everyone on the team has access to all the shared software without exposing the company to the risk of cyber threats, it’s worth investing in a password management software.
1Password is a simple all-in-one password management tool that does what it says.
With it, you’ll only ever need to keep track of one password, which will then give you access to your other saved passwords. As with most password management tools, security is key.
This is why the information you store in 1Password is encrypted and can only be accessed from a device you’ve already approved.
Finally, if you’re going to be working with clients on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to have a ready system for the whole onboarding process, start to finish.
The order might look something like this:
First, you send a proposal detailing all of your services, the cost, and other important details in a high-quality proposal, you send them an invoice for the exact amount, and finally, have a ready-to-go money transfer account.
These are the tools we use for the above process.
Qwilr is an online tool for creating and sending professional proposals, sales, and marketing documents. The tool has a lot of different uses, from individuals to teams and organisations, allowing you to pitch your services with confidence through a proposal document that best represents you.
The vision behind Qwilr is to make the future of documents online. This means no more PDF or Word proposals. Instead, with Qwilr, you can customise your proposal so that it best represents your brand.
Their website has a number of award-winning templates to help you get started, which you can customise to fit your brand. You can add your logo within the proposal, edit and add interactive elements (e.g. customisable pricing table), and represent your visual identity through other means.
Finally, it’s worth noting that with Qwilr, you can also track your proposals. Meaning, you’ll get a notification when they first view it, how long they view it, and when they accept it.
If they don’t accept it though, you’ll know to refine your proposal and follow up accordingly.
If you’re going to be doing business online, it’s essential to be keeping track of your invoice and overall finances.
To manage your finances and invoices in an all-in-one accounting software, we recommend using Xero. The accounting software has a lot of uses, and allows you to run your business on the go from anywhere, anytime.
While finances are often an intimidating field for many startups, using Xero to manage your situation is easy to learn and has all the time-saving tools needed to grow your business.
Important features include being able to keep track of your cashflows and expenses in real-time, attaching other files to your invoices, paying bills, and finally, being able to generate an end of the month report to assess your overall situation.
The tool is easy to set up, has an intuitive user interface to simplify your finances and is powerful enough if you need to manage your overall financial situation on the go.
Finally, you might have already heard of TransferWise, as it’s another essential tool when it comes to sending and receiving money online. One of the best things about it is the fact that it comes with its own real exchange rate (also known as the mid-market rate) and doesn’t set ridiculously high fees like most banks do.
If you’re going to be sending and receiving money to different countries, you need to make sure you’re not losing any on the currency exchange fees. Most banks charge more for this.
TransferWise, meanwhile, stays 8x cheaper than the average bank.
In addition to the transfer rates working in your favour, the online digital bank also tracks your money and sends an email with each stage of the transfer.
Most online businesses and freelancers go with TransferWise to save costs, since as of right now, it’s one of the best and the cheapest ways to send money abroad.
All in all, depending on the software you use, running a business remotely can be a convenient experience for everyone involved or a nightmare of a process. To save you time and money, you need to be making sure that the tools you’re using are working for you, not against you.
Which is why you need to be using the tools that work perfectly for you.
There are a lot of different fields in which using certain software can help alleviate some of the challenges that come with working online.
The above is only a small list of the many tools we use consistently now. Finding the right set of tools that work for you best takes time and patience.
The above list is what we stuck with and so far, has been extremely productive for our team.