I have been outsourcing for the last 7 years and have loved it since day one. Having a virtual workforce has enabled me to tap into talent all over the world, at affordable prices, and has freed me to work on my business instead of in my business. Outsourcing has changed dramatically in the last 7 years and is going to continue to evolve over the coming years as more and more businesses and entrepreneurs choose to adopt a virtual workforce. The biggest things that have changed in the last 7 years are the tools that are now available for free or very low costs that make working with your virtual team so much easier, than 5-10 years ago.
I have tested many different tools and here are the ones that I have found to be the simplest solutions for efficiently coordinating with a virtual team.
A project management tool is an absolute must for working with a virtual team. I have tried dozens of different project management tools and have been most satisfied with Trello. Imagine Trello as your virtual bulletin board, where you can visually see each of your projects and each task within that project. In these boards, you can organize all your cards into different lists, and share these with certain team members. You can then assign specific tasks and deadlines to different team members and keep everyone on the team in the loop of the details and progress of the projects.
I estimate that Trello has decreased the amount of email between my team and I by about 90%, because almost all of our chatting takes place within Trello. We can also attach all necessary files for a project within Trello, so you do not have to waste lots of time searching your inbox or devices for the files you need.
Click Here to get started with Trello
How do you know your team is actually working? I have been asked this question many times and I have heard it discussed by many entrepreneurs who are concerned about their virtual workforce. These are legitimate questions, especially with recent studies confirming that only 13% of employees worldwide are actually engaged in their work.
Several years ago, it was very difficult to actually know if your team was actually working or not. At this time, the results coming from my full-time Indian team were continuing to go downhill. It was if I was running a babysitting service on the other side of the world. From communication to results the entire thing was turning into a nightmare. After firing this team, I decided to give outsourcing another try with a new team. At this time, I found a tool called Hubstaff which takes periodic screenshots of your teams’ computers so you can see in real-time what is being worked on and verifies the amount of work being accomplished. I have worked with my current team for a couple of years now and do trust them, but Hubstaff is not only used for the trust factor. Since it gives your real-time screenshots it allows you to see what is being worked on so that you can coordinate efficiently with your team. Although I do not constantly check the progress of projects, I could if I wanted to. As Ronald Reagan puts it, “Trust but verify”, and that is exactly what Hubstaff does and prevents catastrophes like having a virtual babysitting service from happening.
Click Here to get started with Hubstaff.
LastPass is an amazing free tool, for securely storing all your passwords in the cloud and making them accessible on all your devices. You can also easily and securely share certain passwords with your team. You can even completely hide the actual password, which gives the team member access to your accounts, but does not allow them to see the specific password. This is especially beneficial for those of us who use the same two or three passwords for all of our accounts. In addition, you can also revoke access to those who you have shared access with, in the past, meaning they will no longer be able to log in to your accounts.
Click Here to get started with LastPass.
I put everything in Evernote. It is my external brain in the cloud that is accessible and searchable on all my devices. I often times will write or record certain notes or blog posts in Evernote and then easily share them with my team members. Evernote’s new work chat feature is another great way to discuss notes with team members and decrease the amount of email communication required. Team members can also save your notes to their own Evernote accounts, if you let them, which allows them to easily access the information in the future with Evernote’s powerful search tool.
Click Here to get started with Evernote.
Ok, this is one that you are probably already using. I am in love with the Google community and all the free and low-cost tools they provide for entrepreneurs. Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Drive, Analytics, and Hangouts are all vital to work well with my virtual team. All of Google’s products simply work so well and give my team and I instant access to the information that we need.
Gmail has so many add-ons that increase productivity and make working with a virtual team that much easier. In fact my favorite one is Gmail to Trello (available for Google Chrome), that will instantly add the contents of a certain email into Trello, allow you to assign it to a certain team member, and add it to a specific project. This is mind-numbing how much time this how saved me and allows for effortless workflow.
Docs, Sheets, and Drive are excellent for storing all of our documents and files in the cloud for us to easily coordinate and access when we need it.
I have a Google Voice number that is associated with the email that I and my team manages. Certain clients call this number where they leave their voicemails and they are automatically recorded, transcribed and emailed to my team which allows for everyone to be in the loop with client requests and timelines, and removes me from being the middleman.
Screencastify is another Google Chrome extension, that I recently ran across, which records your desktop screen and audio for you to explain projects to your assistants. Screencasts are amazing because it gives a very clear picture of what you are looking for with your project by giving both audio and video explanations of your projects and it allows your team to watch it when they can, meaning that you do not have to coordinate with each others’ schedules for meetings. This has almost completely eliminated Skype meetings between my team and me. Up until recently I had been using another screencast service called Jing, but after testing Screencastify, I really like it a lot more.
Jing limits your videos to 5 minutes and is also flash based, which limits the devices that you can view your screencasts on. They also have a very limited free account. Screencastify does not put limits on the amount of time your screencasts are and lets you store them directly to your Google Drive account which makes for easy sharing and viewing on any device.