Collaboration Tools At LooseKeys

Since the LooseKeys team is often located in different places, it’s really important to have tools that make working together easier. Especially this week while Jake’s off working in an RV in New Hampshire and I’ve got a couple other people lending a hand from their home offices or wherever they feel most comfortable working. There are a lot of tools that help to make working remotely easy; such as Google Talk, Skype, email and LogMeIn. I thought I’d share a few of the favorites we use and how they help us work better. 

First and foremost, its important to have everyone working out of the same folder and for us, nothing does that better than Dropbox. Many people can access the same assets and project files at the same time, as if we were sitting in the same office together working off a server. With Dropbox we can make changes to files and have those changes update automatically to other people’s computers. Dropbox allows us to work well together while not having to be in the same place. There are other companies that have similar services but we really like Dropbox. We’ve played around with Google Drive and it’s great for sharing folders or files, it just hasn’t worked into the everyday work flow. I was also using dropbox long before Google Drive came out and switching everything over at this point would be a big undertaking.

Second is Basecamp, an excellent project management tool. All of the LooseKeys projects are housed there even if clients refuse to use it. When the clients don’t use it we still keep the calendars updated and post files, just in case someone on the project might need it. When the clients do use Basecamp with us, it just makes the job run so much smoother. They are able to see dates there and we don’t have to be answering emails when they can see it all on Basecamp. We’re also able to keep all the conversations with the clients organized, which is extremely helpful. Dropbox is a must for us but Basecamp just makes life easier. 

Another tool Jake and I have been using a lot is SpringPad. It helps keep track of ideas or if we come across interesting new businesses we’d like to work with we can share them on a list with each other. SpringPad has a lot of uses but for us its sort of a virtual scrapbook and to do list that we both have access to. We’re able to add notes or tasks about internal projects or ideas and then comment on them while keeping track of the status. If Google Wave had taken off or was still around I have a feeling we’d be using that instead of SpringPad. Being able to have folders or notebooks with different subjects allows us to prioritize things and stay up to date on future ideas. It sure beats having a Google Doc we both just keep updating. Believe me we tried that and it gets messy and confusing fast. 

Finally something we use everyday without fail is CloudApp. When you work in an office and you’re sitting right next to the person, it’s easy to have them just walk over and check out your screen. But when you’re miles apart, that just isn’t something that happens. With CloudApp we’re able to take a quick screen shot of our screen and it’s automatically uploaded. Then you just send the link over chat and you can get quick feedback. That way we don’t need to be in the same room with one another just to get a peak at the screen. With the free account you get 10 uploads a day, which depending on what we’re working on, we can hit our limit pretty fast. 

Working With A Remote Team

Seeing how the workplace has evolved over the last few years is really amazing. We are able to work and collaborate from anywhere and this has changed how, when and where business gets done. Having an office for your entire team to go to everyday is becoming less of a necessity. This has a ton of benefits and sometimes a few unique challenges. At the core LooseKeys is built on freedom and flexibility. I’m able to work with and collaborate with anyone, wherever they are. This gives me the opportunity to work with the right people for the project even if they aren’t located in Chicago. This is something that even three years ago may not have been possible. The tools I use to make sure a remote team works well together are Dropbox, Basecamp, Google Docs, Skype and email. Now a lot of times email is replaced with a Google Talk or AIM but for just sending a quick private message or updates email still is a good option. Skype is used for quick calls or chats if needed. Sometimes having that quick call or face-to-face chat can really help the project run smoothly. Google Docs are used to collaborate with others when writing scripts and creating contracts. It’s nice to be able to open up a document and edit it without having to download a new version every time. Basecamp is used for tracking most projects. Getting some clients on board with Basecamp is at times tricky but when you have them there, they really see the benefit. Not only do the clients see the benefit, other people working on the project are able to stay up to date on the status of things without having to send an email and check-in. Then there is Dropbox. I don’t know if LooseKeys would have existed without it or something like it. It’s hard to remember a time when I was constantly uploading and downloading projects to and from an FTP. Having Dropbox there to sync between all the people working on a single project really can’t be beat. If you’ve ever worked in a large or mid sized studio where all the projects are kept on a server and the entire team can work on a project together then you’ll instantly see the benefit of Dropbox for your remote business and team.

Just because someone can’t be in the same office with you doesn’t mean they can’t work as if they were. There are a few other tools that get the job done but these are the five main ones I use to make sure the LooseKeys remote team is functioning at 100%.

Goodbye Traditional Office

That conventional work idea of going to a place and working 9 AM - to - 5 PM seems to be dying and for me it’s been gone for awhile. Being in the creative field, I don’t even recall the last time I called it a day at 5 PM, even when I was working at Daily Planet Productions ltd. But now that I’m working for myself and building my own business I go back and forth on the need for a physical space. I can’t say you’ll never see me with an office but right now I don’t really have a need for it. Every dollar I spend or save is important and with a business starting out, a physical space is something that isn’t worth the overhead. The traditional office was necessary less than a decade ago, you needed a place for clients to meet and packages to be delivered. But today working from home, a coffee shop or a co-working space seems to be the norm. And since many of the clients that I work with don’t live in Chicago it dosen’t matter to them where I’m physically working at as long as the project gets done on time and looks good. Even having a space for freelancers who I might have working for me isn’t necessary when I can easily pass files around through Dropbox or jump on a Skype video chat with them. Sure it might be nice to be able to just walk over to their desk and check on the status of things but why shouldn’t I give them the freedom my clients give me. I know this isn’t an option for some folks since you might be working on a project with a larger team and larger files. For that I’d recommend looking around your city for a co-working space or incubators. With a small amount of money, much less then you would spend on your own space you can rent a desk or multiple desks for your team. You’ll also be surrounded by other people who are working because I know working alone can sometimes wear on the solo entrepreneur or freelancer.

Embrace the end of the office and cubical and enjoy the freedom of working wherever and whenever.

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