In response to the coronavirus (Covid-19), the nation is shifting to home-working – kitchen-tables across the land are being swept clean of the breakfast things to make way for laptops and hard drives.
The era of homeworking came to us, however, about four years ago when I realised that the most important thing was to recruit and retain the best talent I could, rather than my choice being restricted by geographical boundaries. I haven’t looked back.
I have a team of productive, digitally savvy people (of all ages!) who know how to use software so that good team communication and happy working relationships thrive.
And it doesn’t cost us an arm and a leg to get set up. Here’s a list of the best affordable software that we’ve tried and tested.
Best transcription tool – Trint
Ok this is not free, sorry! But it’s such a time-saver and you do get a very generous free trial where you can at least get a couple of documents transcribed. If you are interviewing/talking to people remotely online and need their responses typed up – simply upload your sound recording (Zoom saves both sound and video files) to Trint and it will do all the hard work for you. It saves hours. It’s not 100% accurate and struggles with strong accents, but it does most of the leg-work meaning you just need to listen through once again and make corrections. Its auto-stop function means you don’t have to stop and start the recording as you make edits, it’s responsive as you type.
Best free software for project management – Trello
We’ve tried a few project management tools before settling on Trello. We like how you can organise activities on cards, drag and drop them to new locations, assign project owners add notes and upload supporting documents. Easy. And FREE!
Best free software for remote conferencing – Zoom
The free software allows 45 minutes of group chat. The premium is a little bit more, but that gives you unlimited time and the ability to save your conversations to the cloud rather than your laptop (If you don’t want to upgrade, just redial in again!). It’s a relatively stable platform and we like the features for creating break-out teams and screen-sharing. The downside of Zoom is that you have to send people a link in advance of your meetings so you can’t be completely spontaneous – it’s best for planned conference calls/online teaching. Here’s some more tips to get the best out of Zoom.
Best free software for quick team chat/questions – Skype
We always have Skype on in the background. We are a small business so the standard free Skype package (rather than Skype for business) works perfectly for us. I encourage a culture of regularly checking in with team-members on Skype. If you have a question for a colleague, don’t email them – video call them! You’ll get your answer in 30 seconds rather than wait an hour or so. One of the biggest dangers of remote working is e-mail overload – avoid it at all costs! The nuances of communication and sentiment are lost in emails and video calls help to remind us that our fellow colleagues are real people.
Best free software for social media graphics / simple graphic design – Canva
We love the simplicity of Canva. With lots of free graphics and styles, you can mock-up posters, flyers and social media posts really quickly and professionally. We use it on a daily basis. Whilst the free version is good enough, for a small cost (about £10/month) you can upgrade to use your own brand colours and fonts.
Best free software for social media video shorts – Animoto
You may find that your capacity to deliver digital marketing is going to be more crucial than ever. Boost your social media presence by creating catchy, engaging video content. No technical know-how needed, simply use Animoto which can piece together video or photography slideshows and overlays sounds and subtitles. You can trial the software for free but there is a monthly £5 for removing the watermark. It’s so cheap, effective and easy to use we thought it was well worth listing it here!
Best free software for writing effectively – Grammarly
You’ll be using those typing fingers more over the coming months! Even if it’s just for a quick chat on skype, we recommend you keep your professional edge with your colleagues as well as external clients by using the Grammarly plugin.