VENDOR OPEN THREAD: How do you keep in touch & stay organized when you work remotely?

September 11 | meggyfin
Running three of the tools that make my work-from-home job work from home.
Running three of the tools that make my work-from-home job work from home.
I was contacted by a job recruiter recently who offered me a cushy office job. When I mentioned my desire to only work remotely, the recruiter said, "with this kind of creative work it's not really possible to be remote. There's a lot brainstorming, meetings, and inter-office communictions…"

At this point I had to cover my mouth to stifle laughter. See, I'm doing exactly "this kind of creative work"… from home… for the past five years. And I can't imagine doing it any other way.

Since I previously talked about the problems of working from home, I thought today we could talk about the things that make working from home easier. Here are the ways in which we, at the Offbeat Empire, easily do "this kind of creative work," brainstorm, have meetings, and communicate remotely, all over the US…

Separate email accounts

I happen to have two email accounts — one for work and one for personal life. Gmail allows me to have both accounts open at the same time. This multiple account function is particularly great for our sales person who's also an editor — this way she can have both emails open simultaneously and respond to both at the same time.

Instant messaging

I believe most of our staff uses Gmail's built-in G-chat feature. I like having a separate messaging center so I can have that running separately on my desktop and not have to have my IMs running on the same page as my email. I use Apple's Messages tool, which I'm not loving as much as the now defunct iChat. (Pours one out for iChat.)

Google Hangout

When things are too complicated to type, we just ping each other for a video chat using Google Hangout. We've also used Hangouts to do special Offbeat Bride Tribe meet-ups, and we use it for our weekly meetings. The editors have private meetings with Ariel on specific days and then the whole staff gets together for a Google Hangout on Friday mornings.

Group email addresses

Now instead of Basecamp, we use group emails. Need to only ask a question of the people who work on Offbeat Bride? Just the Managing Editors? Only the Tribe mods? The ENTIRE staff? We have set-up email addresses that automatically include certain members of our staff.

WordPress

The space where all the magic happens is on WordPress. All our blog posts — the fruits of our labor — are written and published in WordPress. Since we're all working on virtual projects, we can all sign in and read/edit/correct each other's posts on the easy. WordPress also has a nifty cell phone app that helps us keep editing/comment moderating on the go.

Phones

Speaking of phones… Sometimes, with all these awesome web tools we forget that we all have cell phones! On the very rare instance when one of us isn't online, and not responding to emails, we've been known to text or *gasp* CALL EACH OTHER.

Okay, looking at this list, I realize that we're pretty basic — maybe we could learn from y'all?

What tools do you use to keep in touch when you work remotely?

  1. I will say that I used to use Basecamp, but they made some big changes a couple years ago that stopped fitting with my work-flow… so I bailed. I still miss them a bit, but they were too expensive for my tiny biz, given what the product did.

    2 agree
    • That guy I married uses it for his gig along with Log Me In to access his work computer remotely. And yet… the dude STILL isn't able to work from home! (Not that I mind)

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      • We don't use Basecamp internally, for our own operations, but we do use it for project management with our clients — it's a LIFESAVER. It allows the client to check in on the progress without having to bulk email everyone and it saves everything in one clean, clear, easy-to-navigate space. It keeps projects on time and organized and communication really transparent. We <3 Basecamp!

        1 agrees
  2. Good list, for me my cell phone is my most used tool. Skype is super handy for out of town clients, online floor planing tools that we can both access and Drop Box makes sharing contracts and documents a breeze.

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  3. Depending on the specific project I find both Dropbox and Google Drive to be invaluable. Google Drive is best for simultaneous editing and Dropbox is great for when a group of people need access to a variety of documents. I use the open source mail client Thunderbird to simultaneously manage/view email from my 4 email accounts (though I dislike Thunderbird chat function because you can't delete your chat history!). At a previous job there was a massive wiki which was TOTALLY AWESOME for both sharing documents and for simultaneous editing.

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  4. Join.me is an amazing shared-desktop tool, and I'm in love with it.

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    • OooOooOh. Extremely cool. We use Google Hangout's Screensharing option a fair amount, but this looks awesome!

      1 agrees
  5. We use GoToMeeting, email, phone, Skype, and chat to connect and most of the people in my job work remotely.

    2 agree
  6. My can't-live-withouts, for business, are:

    My iPhone (for everything)
    Skype (for when emails and texts just aren't enough)
    FreshBooks (for invoicing, accounting, time tracking, etc…)
    Basecamp (for external project management)
    Evernote (for to do lists, notes, reminders, ideas, etc…)
    SproutSocial (for social media management)
    All of Google's services (Webmaster Tools, Analytics, Apps, Apps for Business, AdWords, Gmail, Google Drive, etc…)
    Dropbox (for file transfers)

    Our home is also our office and all of our employees are remote, so the entirety of our company is pretty much 'cloud-based'.

    2 agree
  7. We use GoToMeetings and Dropbox, along with email communication, to manage our cross-country committee that I co-chair. There's 15 members so Skype isn't really an option for us for monthly meetings. GoToMeetings allows the chat function, talking, and document presentation all at once. We're also experimenting with Trello, but so far it hasn't been used much.

    1 agrees
  8. I'm pretty new to having employees ­čÖé so right now we use CapsuleCRM, which serves as both our customer/inquiry management and our project management, google drive (to share communally edited docs and spreadsheets), google talk for IM, and an e-mail account set to IMAP that everyone uses their client of choice to access.

    1 agrees
  9. When husband and I used to work across the country from the Production Company we worked for we would have twice a week conference calls. We e-mailed all the time.
    For documents we had a dropbox account for the company that we could share files and work off the same files. We also used linoit.com Its like a big board that you can put post it notes (or sticky notes as some people call them) digitally that everyone can edit. You can change the colors of the notes if you've finished a task. It worked well and what we were doing was very creative! After two years we moved to work in the same office as them because the company was growing.

    1 agrees
  10. For me:
    -Adium + aim forwarding to my cell. I need to use Gchat for some, aim for others and Adium takes it out of the browser.
    -evernote: for all my personal documents that I edit and search from everywhere (2 computers & a phone).
    -google docs for when we need to work together.
    -and join.me. Magic.

    I don't default to Skype or hangouts. Odd.

    1 agrees

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