Free apps to help you run your small business efficiently from home

Chelsey Sneath, WFHE. (Work from home expert) That’s an official designation isn’t it? I have been working from my home office for Design 2.0 for over 12 years and I have never been more productive in my career. Given the current state of the world, I thought it might be helpful to share my experience for those of you that are new to this whole “working from home” thing.

There are many useful tools out there to help you stay connected, keep you projects on-schedule and collaborate with co-workers and clients.

Here is a list of my favourite FREE tools that you can implement right away. They will make your day so much more productive & organized – promise! Bonus, all of these are available on your phone too so when you are out of the house for your one shopping trip per week- you can still stay connected.

Gmail and Hangouts
I use gmail to check both my work and personal emails. You can use Labels to easily identify which is which. The important setting to use is “Reply from the same address the message was sent to”. You can find that under Settings > Accounts and Import under the “Send Mail as” section.

Hangouts
Another great feature within gmail is that Hangouts is built right into it. I stay in touch with my team all day long using Hangouts. It can also be installed on your phone so that you can stay in touch wherever you go. This has been a critical communications tool – It’s like having a coworker right beside you!

PLUS, as of this writing, Google just announced that they have unlocked all of the advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities to all G Suite customers globally. That will allow you to have up to 250 participants per call, Live streaming for up to 100k viewers within your domain and you can even record meetings to Google Drive so you can share it with those who can’t attend.

Google Calendar

I do not know what i would do without a shared team calendar. I schedule all my personal and professional appointments here and I can see when people are available (or not) to book meetings.

Pro Tip: I even book time for myself in here to work on projects, so I know that this afternoon for example I will have 2 hours to finish up estimates. It’s wonderful!

Google Docs

This is another important set of tools. Google has a corresponding app for each of the Microsoft Office suite. I primarily use Spreadsheets for our list of active projects, billing, estimates and tracking hours. and then their word processor for to-do lists, estimates, timelines. You can share these via a link (where someone can only review or has the ability to edit- you set this!) and then people can collaborate from wherever they might be working from!

Zoom.us

This is an online video/audio conferencing tool. It’s absolutely free! But on the free plan you can only conference for a max of 40 minutes with 3 or less people so be strategic about who is on and how long you chat (Bonus- sometimes when you are approaching your 40 minutes, a notification will pop up offering you a little bit more free time too!)

You can talk, type (chat) or video conference. This is great to share your screen for reviewing documents or presenting creatives.

Skype

I have a love/hate relationship with Skype. Sometimes it works beautifully, other times not so much. They change their interface a lot so just be prepared to re-learn where things are again and again! The upside is that many people have it installed and know how to use it. The downside is… well, it’s Skype.

I hope you enjoy these tools as much as I do! They will make working from home much more stress free!

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