Working as a freelance graphic designer I tend to work with bloggers, web designers, programmers and writers all the time, I tend to work with virtual teams which often means I can receive up to 30 emails every day on pending projects, many of which are different versions of the same files, over time this can becoming confusing and often difficult to locate files and understand the flow of conversation.
I made the switch to use collaboration tools to help improve communication and be more productive with executing projects, by cutting down on sending emails back and forth and allowing peers to work together virtually. Many of these invaluable services are completely free which makes them fantastic for freelancers and start-ups.
Online Collaboration Tools
Google Docs allows you to share and collaborate on projects online, instead of emailing multiple versions of attachments via email, and trying hard to keep track of individual contributions and updates through email, you can make all the edits in one central location, and share those changes with your co-workers. Users can even add comments and make changes to the file; live, without any versioning issues. What’s particularly useful is the track changes feature which allows anyone to view edits and additions going back several versions.
There are numerous other document collaboration tools such as Redliner, doingText, PBWorks which are paid services, but have much more advanced versioning history and commenting features, including a slightly more sophisticated document and spreadsheet functionality than Google Docs.
PBWorks is additionally designed to work with clients, which can be helpful to collaborate with co-workers and keep clients in the loop of progress. PBWorks also has the added benefit of being a project management tool so managers can assign tasks to employees without the strain of getting everyone together for face to face team meetings.
Online Storage and backup
Online backup services like Dropbox allow users to backup their important files online, additionally subscribers can synchronise their documents between multiple computers so their files and folders are always updated, this is particularly useful for mobile workers to have a reliable backup of their files online. Additionally online storage services like Dropbox allows users to share much larger and different types of files online which may not be supported by Google Docs. Currently Dropbox has a competitive $5 per month for personal accounts allowing unlimited storage facilities, and tiered packages for larger companies.
Many online backup providers like SugarSync, Mozy, Opendrive etc. Provide free accounts to incentivise users to try they services, ranging from 2GB-5GB storage space.
For many internet businesses employees can be located throughout the world, and for many companies it’s normal for employees to work while travelling or from home. This can make it impossible for teams to have face to face meetings, which are important for planning, problem solving and brainstorming.
WebConference.com has an affordable solution to chat live with voice or video, and provides administrators and moderators to present slides and brainstorm with members on the digital whiteboard. For start-ups and charitable organization dimdim provides a free and open source web conferencing solution.
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