Working from home is great, awesome and totally wonderful…..but you also may suddenly find yourself without all the slick uber-pricey tools and resources that your old company used to pay for! While we all want to believe that riches are right around the corner – the truth is, you may need to budget your money as a start-up. The other truth is that there are a LOT of incredible web-based tools available today that are free or close to it that really do a great job!

We personally use all of these and some for quite a while now, so for what it’s worth (which may not be much) these all get our personal  ‘Seal of Approval’:

  1. Skype
    If you had asked me a year ago – I would have said ‘No way!!’. Seriously, I used to make fun of people e that used this , the increased performance and reliability just in the last 6 months has been amazing. I have clients all over the world, and about the only area that I still have issues is the UK – go figure! But I use it all the time, and frequently. I work on a mac and use an iPhone, so I love that it is cross-platform compatible. You can also upgrade your account and use it to make international calls from your phone, but the caveat is that it must be to another Skype user, which makes this a little less than ideal – but overall – best in class! You can also do screenshare for presentations, but I find it more cumbersome to use than other services.
  2. Slack
    We just started using this one and so far, we really like it. At first glance it might seem a bit redundant with Skype, EXCEPT that you can set it to monitor communications and alert you when a keyword (your name, client name etc) is mentioned in any messaging. You can also easily search all communications (not possible in Skype) and a feature that I really love: you can organize chats by topic – very helpful for project management with remote teams. Use this as a virtual office or command center to keep everything under control – and it’s free for unlimited users!
  3. GoToMeeting 
    This is the service that you use when you need to impress a client, because it is not free or terribly cheap for most start-ups at $49 per month, but you can use the 30 day free trial to see if you really need it – or just for the first really big client 😉 It’s the Grand Daddy of this vertical, easy to use, and most business people are used to using it, so none will be wondering about security etc when you send them the call details. You can share screens, change presenters, record the session and it is Mac and PC friendly – however, for the price, it’s still buggy. Just in the last few weeks, I was booted off  my own presentation, have had clients that were calling in but not added to the session and recordings that did not record properly. We still use it but just know that it is not perfect…..but if you need to pump up your image for a major presentation, this is the ‘Big Daddy” to use.
  4. Google Hangouts
    It’s free, it’s relatively easy to use but there is definitely a bit of a learning curve, so don’t think you are going to set this up 5 minutes before your first presentation! One of the best things, of course, is that it fully integrates with your Google Calendar. And of course, pretty stable since The Big G runs it. Not feeling so techie/adventurous? Try the next one on our list…..
  5. WebinarsOnAir
    They advertise themselves as “A Fortune-500 Type Webinar experience at 1/5 the cost…but at $19.95 per month, they deliver one heck of a great product for a fraction of the cost of GoToMeeting and others – and won’t have you screaming at the screen the way GHangouts has been known to do – so IT-phobic, newbie and budget friendly! The system includes: Monetization tools to help you make money with your webinars, integrates into all major autoresponders, and unlimited webinars and unlimited attendees. All around 5 star service in my book – just started using them but very, very happy so far. A little nervous about giving up GTM – but this may be the last month for the ‘high priced spread’. You can also get a free 15 day trial, too! WebinarsOnAir
  6. Google Drive
    I have a love/hate relationship with Google Drive. It’s great for massive storage at a cheap price but I find it frustrating to upload sometimes, and have had times when I uploaded a large folder, and then later discovered it was just the folder and not the content! Yikes that can be scary! I love Google Drive, but it does tend to update rather frequently, which means that just when you’ve figured it out and have all your things organized, it changes. That said, it’s free, stores and organizes all of your stuff, and you can work on the same document with multiple people at the same time.
  7. Dropbox
    One of my core businesses is involved in the payment processing industry, which means that I frequently send out and receive very large files. DropBox has been a wonderful tool for this! You can get a free account or upgrade to 1Terrabyte for $9.99. Trust us – the best $10 you will probably spend if you need to send files back and forth – you can also assign files to share with others, which really makes your life easier! Dropbox

That’s our basic list of must have tools…but we have more to share in the coming days.

And yes, I freely admit it – I love all the gadgets and tools we have access to today!!!

Once a geek, always a geek 😉

Have a great day!

Melody