An Expensive Proposition
Traditional onsite employment is a very expensive option for employers. Especially if your a startup or small business. The cost of accommodating a full-time employee on site is huge. Think about it.
- Office Space
- Office Furniture
- Software licenses
- Internet Connection
- Parking Space
- Office Supplies
- Utilities, and more. “Ca-CHING!”
Not too long ago a new company needed to purchase expensive software licenses for every employee in the building. With G-Suite you get a suite of apps. All you need is a Gmail account and $6 per seat, per month. This gets employees everything they need from mail, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, storage, and more. With free or nearly free services having made doing business less costly, how do you manage people you don’t see on a daily basis. The ticket management system by Commence is also a nice idea to help you manage your employees and for your employees, it helps them access the important data anytime they need it.
How Do You Manage People You Can’t See
Companies that have remote employees are faced with the challenges of managing a workforce that they don’t see on a day-to-day basis. Some managers excel at this where others fail miserably. So what’s the plan?
A fair amount of knowledge work like customer service or technical support can easily be done with a distributed workforce. A web hosted knowledgebase provides the data the team relies on and needs to update. In this model its easy to see who’s working and who’s not since team members likely need to login to a CRM, or ticket system, and phone system. Standard reporting in these systems give a manager a clear picture of individual productivity. This is also true for sales, development, design, and marketing. All of these jobs can be accomplished remotely.
Other scenarios may require an in-person, all hands on deck approach, but much can be accomplished with a distributed workforce with the addition of telecommunications. The Gig Economy of recent years gives credence to this.
Building and managing a distributed workforce requires planning, lots of documenting, scheduling, reporting, engagement, interaction, and clearly communicated goals and expectations much the same as working on site. The stark difference between the two approaches is mostly cost.
Even with these challenges, a distributed workforce is a win-win for smaller companies or startups who need to manage costs carefully. With the current quality and minimal cost of collaboration and meeting technology that is available to everyone, tasks and goals are manageable.
Working From Home – Personal Experience
Whether you are in business for yourself or working as a member of a distributed workforce for a larger entity, working remotely is a smart move. I’ve been working remotely from home for twelve years now. Eight of those years I spent working for other companies as a remote employee. The rest of that time I’ve managed my own business. If it wasn’t for the home office, no commute, and the free or nearly free tools and services available to everyone today, I could not afford to do what I do. However, you do need to ask yourself an important question and answer it honestly. “Do I have the self-discipline to manage myself and meet goals?” If the answer is yes then a good place to start is learning about the free or nearly free tools that are available to you.
Free or Nearly Free Tools
Apps like Grammarly will keep spelling and grammatical errors in check with both free and paid versions. The free version is pretty powerful on its own. You can run it from the desktop or as a browser extension, which is great for blogging.
Another blogging essential is a plagiarism checker like you’ll find at plagiarismsoftware.net. There are a number of plagiarism checkers available. Here you will find a review of the best free plagiarism checkers online.
Need images for that presentation? Unsplash is a warehouse of free images. All they ask in return is acknowledgment. Wikimedia Commons offers over 46,000,000 free images and also has simple requirements for use. FreeDigitalPhotos and Pixabay are also excellent resources for free images.
Discount VoIP services like Ooma offer a suite of standard phone features at a fraction of the cost of traditional business landlines and some digital packages as well.
The partial list below is arranged by category and is in no way complete, but there is enough to get started. I’ve used many of these services in my own business and many of them provide a lot of value.
- Skype (Free Voice & Video)
- Ooma I’ve been using Ooma for years now and it is very affordable and reliable. I cannot recall any problems with this system in all the time I’ve been using it.
- TopTal is for those really important projects that require top designers, developers, project managers, or finance experts. This is not a discount service so be prepared for higher fees than you would get from other sources. But as they say “you get what you pay for.”
- rev.com provides transcription and caption services for $1 per minute and translations for .10 per word.
- textbroker.com provides copy from writers who are ranked with 2, 3, 4, or 5 stars for just about any project. Prices range from 1.3 cents to 7.2 cents per word.
- Fiverr offers all sorts of gigs at a reasonable cost. I have found some real gems on Fiverr.
- www.soundcloud.com If you’re an aspiring sound artist, musician, or audiobook author, you can upload up to 3 hours of sound content for free. More room available for a fee.
Video Training & Tutorials
- YouTube We all know about YouTube and it can be an excellent information source once you get past the funny cat videos. You can also use it for hosting training videos for clients. (Training videos can be uploaded as “unlisted”. Access is restricted to those who have been given the link.)
- www.screencast-o-matic.com A great tool for creating screencasts. Capture your screen, either full screen or a user-defined window for up to 15 minutes. Trim video, add captions, up to 3 music tracks, save to desktop or publish to screencast or YouTube, Quick Share. Paid plans are very affordable and provide many more features. Solo Deluxe $1.50 per month or $4.00 per month for their Premium plan.
- http://www.techsmith.com/ is where you will find SnagIt® and Camtasia®. There is also Jing for the instant sharing of ideas. These are great tools for developing training and education videos.
Presentations and InfoGraphics
Free Project Management Tools
- Google Docs https://docs.google.com – Can be used to create and collaborate with others on a document (includes tracking of all changes, so you can always go back), or create surveys easily with Google forms (https://support.google.com/drive/answer/87809?hl=en).
- OpenOffice an OpenSource free alternative to MS Office
- SimpleMind Free mind mapping software
- I am a big fan of BlueHost. I have been with them for the past two years and on the few occasions, I found myself needing help, their support was top shelf.
- Cloudflare is another service we use to provide CDN (Content Distribution Network). Like BlueHost, CloudFlare has been a reliable partner with great service.
- Google Analytics
- Webmaster Tools
- Google Search Console
- www.google.com/drive or www.dropbox.com – Make sure that you have a backup of your local data, just in case… these tools do not only backup your local data to the cloud, you can also give other people dedicated access to certain data.
- ZoHo is an inexpensive email host offering both personal and business accounts. It has a lot of cool feature and no ads. If you want to try something other than Gmail or Outlook, ZoHo may do it for you.
- JoinMe Host or join meetings, screen sharing
Service/Support Ticket System
- Freshdesk Doing customer service or support via email is no fun. This is where a smart ticketing system comes into play. Freshdesk is one such service. With a free plan for those just starting out or all the way to enterprise solutions, Freshdesk easy, intuitive and has some really cool features, like a knowledgebase and creation of call tickets, even in the free version.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many services to help you get the job done. Many more than I can possibly list here. With these tools and the drive to pursue your dream, get your creative juices flowing, and build something.