Tools for Virtual Offices

It’s funny: When we first launched Snackbox, my idea of success was office space, employees and a commute. But one day, after rolling out of bed and walking 10 feet to my computer, as I looked down at my juvenile-patterned pajama pants and listened to the hum of the coffee grinder, I realized that I had already found success. If you’re cut out for it, working from home is an incredible experience, but it’s important to be armed with the right tools.

The keys to working from home in a nutshell: Remaining focused, having the ability to separate work life from home life and pushing yourself to not put off doing what can be done today.

Of course, it’s not all cupcakes and roses. As we quickly learned, once you begin adding freelancers, associates and/or employees, you’re forced to become creative in your semi-unconventional working environment.  My top five virtual office musts are:

1. While we tend to travel to our clients for most meetings, it is important to have an alternate space for those times when you’re hosting the gathering. Co-working spaces are great as are restaurants with private rooms. Also, the occasional big favor works great (asking a friend or business associate to use their company’s conference room).

2. Create a method for sharing documents. It’s cool if you want to email the document back and forth like a tennis match, but Google Docs or Drop Box are favorites of ours.

3. Track your time if you’re in the type of business that requires it. A low-tech version is to track your time through a form created in Excel. An alternate, more hi-tech version is something like FreshBooks.

4. I post one phone number on business cards, our website, and everywhere else: My cell phone. By forcing phone calls through my mobile phone, it allows me to be well, more mobile. But if you aren’t into handing out your cell number to everybody and their brother, consider using Google Voice to forward calls to where you’re going to be.

5. Online chatting is a great way to keep the lines of communication open with partners, employees and freelancers. While instant messenger is okay, we prefer Skype for a number of reasons. And, if you chat with the same group of people frequently, consider Yammer.

Of course, that being said, I’m by no means an expert and am learning about new tricks and tools every day. Do you have a favorite tool that works great for virtual offices? Do tell!