Working remotely, working from home and generally keeping going without going to your actual workplace is a hot topic at the moment, and is suddenly happening on a massive scale. While it’s not the way I’d have chosen for it to take off (cheers, coronavirus), there are definitely some wonderful upsides to working at home.
Having said that, if you’ve never done it before, or if your business hasn’t needed it, it can be a bit overwhelming, so I thought I’d round up my best tips, tricks & tools for you. Whether you’re a business owner or an employee, I hope you’ll find something helpful here for you.
Tools for working remotely
I’m going to assume that if you have an employer who has asked you to work from home, that you have some guidance and tech from them to do so, but I hope some of these are also helpful to you.
If you’re self employed and you don’t do a lot from home, or you’re changing the way you run things for a while, or if this is all new to your employer too, here are my top recommended tools, arranged by the thing you might want to do:
Writing & collaborating with a team
Google Drive, including Google Docs and Google Sheets, are about the best things I’ve ever found for this. No worrying about version control, you can work simultaneously (and see each other’s cursors & typing in the document), and also leave comments. Changes are logged with the user who made them, so any issues can be easily resolved, and reverting to a previous version is easy.
Sharing files, version control, comments
Dropbox* is my go-to for this, it’s free for a small amount of storage and then £95 a year, but I run my entire business from it and couldn’t be without it.
Sharing brochures & contracts with clients
Both practical and eco-friendly, displaying your brochures online rather than posting physical ones can be good for everyone involved.
My go-to is Issuu, which has built in page flip effects and lets you zoom within the document. You can see mine here! Excellent for everything from catalogues to line sheets if you’re a product based business, too.
Meetings and/or presentations
If you can’t have meetings physically, then Zoom is the perfect replacement. It’s the best face to face software I’ve found, and you can record the calls if you need to as well.
Zoom is ideal for shifting your consultations, planning calls and one to one catch ups online, and you can also have virtual meetings with up to 100 participants on the free plan (limited to 40 minutes, but that is in no way a bad thing!).
With all of these, especially in group calls, do consider whether you need the video on or not. For consultations of course it’s much nicer to see each other, but in group situations, video can be quite stressful – especially if you’re not used to virtual meetings.
Chatting to your colleagues & coworkers while working remotely
Or just getting some support from other business owners in the same boat!
WhatsApp is the obvious one, plus a private Facebook group – I am using the Improper Job Collective to keep in touch with some very varied but very lovely business owners – come & join us, it’s free!
I’ve also heard really good things about Slack, especially for bigger teams or groups.
Sharing your screen
Whether you’re troubleshooting or showing someone how to do something, occasionally you’ll need to share your screen. Or perhaps you are creating a course!
Zoom lets you do it live, Loom & Camtasia let you record and then send the video. You can voice over in all of them, to create your very own tutorial videos. Camtasia has video editing capabilities which can be used for other clips, not just screenshares, and Techsmith who own them also offer Snagit, which is also a screen recording service.
Taking payments remotely
You may not be set up for this if you usually work face to face! My favourite all rounder for working remotely and being able to take payments is Square*, because it integrates into websites and scheduling software as well as having a terminal when you are physically present. You can also take payments over the phone, which is epic.
Next up is Paypal, because everyone trusts it. And of course you can always request BACS payment, but be careful both paying and receiving.
Editing picture sizes
Working remotely, don’t have access to Photoshop, trying to write a post and finding your images are too big? (Psst – if you have a shoot with me you’ll get your shots in both high resolution and ready for the web!!)
In the meantime, try Pixlr, which will let you resize your images so you can upload them to any service. This also makes a pretty good replacement for Photoshop in a pinch.
Obviously if you have it, use your Adobe subscription – and if you need it, they have a 30 day free trial!
Creating graphics, headers & shareables
Canva is your friend! Easy, intuitive and the results look good – and most importantly, consistent!
Keeping track of your to do list
ClickUp has become my very own PA, and is ideal for working remotely because it works on my phone, too! I can also highly recommend ToDoist, Trello & Wunderlist, which all let you share your lists with collaborators if you want to.
Trello in particular is wonderful – it’s like having a pin board full of lists you can move around and allocate to other people!
If you need to keep an eye on what you’re spending time on, either because you’re not used to working from home, you’re doing different tasks to normal, or because you’re working for clients, then Toggl is my most recommended app for this.
Browser or app based, it’s easy to define your own clients & projects, and log hours in real time, or by going back and entering them afterwards. I couldn’t be without it!
Scheduling & calendars
For knowing where everyone is (virtually!) or when people are available, plus calendar blocking to organise your time, Google Calendar is by far the most user friendly option.
Scheduling social media
Sending newsletters / communicating with your clients & customers without getting blacklisted
Ok, with the massive warning that THIS MUST BE GDPR COMPLIANT… if you need to send mass emails, please don’t do it directly from your email address, bad things are likely to happen.
Instead, do it through a proper service – most are free up to 1000 subscribers, though you MUST ensure that you are adding people only under GDPR regulations. So don’t market to them randomly!
Phew, that was a lot of information – but I really hope it’s helped you find ways to work remotely during the coronavirus madness and also going forward.
Studio 19 Stock is open if you need photos for your content, blog posts, social media etc, and I can also do bespoke shoots if you need something specific – drop me a line and let me know. I’m also still taking bookings for brand photography, so book a virtual cuppa if you want to talk about possibilities.
* Any link marked with a star is an affiliate link, which means if you use it to purchase the thing it links to, I get a small kickback. Every little helps, and all that.