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WFH: Guide to Remote Working

We wanted to provide a free resource that might help our network transition to the remote working amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Free Resource to smooth the transition

We toyed with the idea of not putting anything out regarding COVID-19 with the risk of being seen as using this as an opportunity to market ourselves.

However, we feel a duty, based on decades of knowledge and experience, that we should bite the bullet and compile a list of apps and services to help your business transition to remote working.

It’s in our nature to want to help our friends and network in times like this, so that’s exactly what we want to do.

Download The Free PDF Chart Here

No mailing list signups, opt-ins or anything like that, just a free PDF full of app ideas and local organisations that will help to inspire your transition.

What's It All About?

As a company that works with people all over the world, we’ve been working remotely for a number of years. We’ve seen in our networks that there are people struggling with problems that we see as basic things, to which we know there are simple solutions out there.

We simply wanted to share these solutions with you, so you can see what apps might be available for certain problems in your business.

The Chart

We’ve split our PDF into “Microsofty” and “Non-Microsofty” solutions for those who are for or against Bill Gates and his squad. Then we’ve broken down various business functions, and applications, with tools spanning different objectives.

Explaining Things Further

We’re going to write a small passage here about each section to try and explain each application in the guide, with useful links to various tools and websites to help you further. We’re also not going to use tracked links, affiliate links, or mention any of our products or services in this article, due to the nature of the situation.

Communications

As many of you know, Skype has been the go-to app for text or audio communications for Windows users for years. So it comes to no surprise to some of you that it’s top of the list, and spans a broad spectrum of applications as it can be used as a chat app, an internal calls app, or it can be used as the main business phone system.

Alternatives for the more Mac friendly open-source community out there, like ourselves, include: Slack; a great tool for chatting with teams informally to save emailing all day, you can also transfer files with slack and host video chats.

Secondly, is Circle Loop. This is a relatively local business based near Rochdale I believe, that offer a cloud based business level phone system boasting such things as voicemail, voice assisted menus (press 1 for this dept. and so on) and easy to use apps for all devices. This allows you to have a geographical phone number on any device.

Zoom is rapidly becoming the leader in video communications and is a great app for remote meetings, file sharing, screen casting, and webinars. It has a free tier also which is great if you’re just trying it out. Not to mention apps for all devices also.

Office 365 Email, and GMail’s business grade email solution GSuite, are also two great options for getting proper business level email services, with virus scanning, spam filtering, and loads of other great features including contact lists and sharing, calendars, and so on.

Links to downloads:

Productivity

Getting work done is obviously very important during this time. So these two productivity suites allow just that, and are both cross-platform. So they will work on Windows, Mac, and most mobile and tablets too.

Both platforms we are suggesting come with live collaborative working. Meaning you and your colleagues can work on the same documents, at the same time, in real-time. You’ll be able to see each-others edits as they happen, and work together collaboratively.

The Microsoft flavour comes with the aforementioned Office 365, and the Google variety comes with GSuite, linked above.

You can create documents, spreadsheets, powerpoint presentations, knowledge bases, and much more, on both platforms. 

The Microsoft suite comes with Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and many other productivity tools. The Google suite comes with Docs, Sheets, Slides, and more. But both of them are linked together with a wonderful cloud based file sharing/storing solution, so you don’t need to mess around with VPNs and emailing files to get shared folders.

File sharing is available on either platform, on Microsoft it’s called OneDrive, and on Google it’s called, you guessed it, GDrive.

Both are available across all devices and browsers etc. so you’ll always have the latest version of your files available to all members of your team, at all times, no matter where you are.

Project Management

Keeping people on task whilst working remotely is key. Managing their work loads, to do lists, and sharing notes and statuses of tasks across teams is absolutely paramount to make sure everybody knows what they’re doing.

Microsoft Teams, part of certain Office 365 subscriptions, is a great all-in-one tool for working collaboratively and remotely if you’re already part of the Office 365 ecosystem.

For the rest of us, Trello is an awesome, card-based, project management tool which is absolutely brilliant for keeping everybody on the same page. You have lists of cards, which can be assigned to different people on the team, so everybody can see where the squad is up to.

For more granular or “to-do” list based project management, there are a number of tools out there. We love Asana, but there’s also Monday.com, and a hoard of others. Asana is highly customisable with due dates, status fields, automations and more, as is Monday. It’s all about preference and pricing really. Research and try both tools. We literally couldn’t survive without them.

Creatives? Check out Milanote. It’s a fantastic tool for creative teams to share project resources and develop ideas together. You can share todo lists, images, files, notes, videos, colour palettes, and more, all in a huge single board view so you can get an overview of the whole project at a glance. It’s brilliant for web developers, graphic designers, content creators, and a whole hoard of other creative industries.

All of the tools have loads of online resources for help, and guidance to assist you getting started.

Links to signups:

Combined Collaboration Suites

If the thought of using loads of new software packages scares you, there’s always the option to explore some of the “all-in-one offerings out there. We’ve had experience with Zoho in the past, which is massively comprehensive; however, the learning curve is quite steep.
 
If you’re looking for something more user friendly, that combines communications, project management, CRM, customer ticketing and even web page builds, check out Bitrix24. It’s an all in one collaboration platform, that combines the above areas to bring your team together.
 
Take a look at Bitrix24’s article on remote working here.

Finances

Everybody’s least favourite thing to keep track of: the accounts.

You’ll probably already be aware of the plethora of online accounting and bookkeeping packages available. If you’re not, and still using a server installed version of Sage or perhaps making your own invoices in Word and Excel, you might want to go and change your pants after researching these tools.

For agencies, and consultants, we find Freeagent to be an amazing piece of software. It literally appifies your company finances, accounts, and has super simple click through wizards to do some pretty damn complicated accounting tasks. Not to mention it integrates with payment gateways such as Stripe, GoCardless, and PayPal to make sure you get paid quickly. It’s pretty bloody amazing.

Freeagent will even chase your late invoices for you, and does your payroll, and god knows what else. I’m not an accountant, but I love this.

Other alternatives, which have very similar features, are Xero and Quickbooks.

If you have an accountant, speak to them, we’re sure they’ll have their preferred tool for using, and most will be happy to use any tool that you’re already working with.

If you’re local to us, and don’t have an accountant, our guys over at Tussies are comfortable with any platform, and have their own portal for dealing with remote accounting sign-offs for your returns, so you don’t even need to visit to get your accounts done.

Alternatively if you want a more hands-on experience for your accounting and need help getting set up on one of these platforms, our friends over at Aspire JD Accounts are Xero partnered, and will be happy to assist you.

An add-on app to these bookkeeping and accounting apps is Float, useful for tracking cashflow, and it plugs straight in to these accounts packages to help you keep your eyes on the cash.

Links to apps:

Sales

Keeping the sales machine ticking over in these uncertain times is key. You’ve got to keep your marketing going, and survive this crisis. When things pick back up again, you’ll want to get the cogs turning quickly.

One strategy to try is to put an offer on now, for pre-payment of a service you could deliver once the quarantines have been lifted. But to get the word out there you’ll need some marketing tools.

ActiveCampaign, Drip, and Mailchimp are three excellent platforms for setting up marketing automations, mailing lists, and keep the leads flowing.

Once people have enquired, you’ll want to track them in some sort of sales pipeline tracking app like Pipedrive or Keap.

Before you send anything out however, you’re going to want to make your campaign look the part. To save you 3 years at design college whilst you’re getting off the ground, check out Canva, which is full of great templates and tools to help you get your branding sorted.

Once you’ve made the sale, hit up Stripe or Paypal to help you remotely process your card payments. Or if you’re on a subscription based business, GoCardless is the perfect way to set up direct debits for your clients.

…and as we mentioned, all of these apps plug in to the above accounting packages, so you won’t even have to manually reconcile invoices. How cool is that?

More app links:

Utilities

Now you’ve signed up to 30,000 web apps, and you’re struggling to keep everything up to date, now’s the time to start automating.

Apps like Zapier and IFTTT (which stands for If This Then That) allow you to easily build automations from other apps.

For example, when someone clicks a link in an ActiveCampaign email, add them to the “Hot Leads” pipeline in PipeDrive. Or when you send an invoice to someone, have ActiveCampaign follow up 7 days later with a thank you email and a referral link. Or why not have Slack message someone when they get assigned a task in Monday or Asana so they don’t miss anything?

Lots of the previously mentioned platforms have integrations with many of the others as part of their features list, but for anything you’d want them to do that they don’t out of the box, we’re willing to bet theres a Zapier or IFTTT link that will add that functionality for you.

Here’s a link to both platforms for more inspiration:

Finally. Keep your mind in check through all of this crap. Getting stressed, worrying about the future, and panicking the next few months away is not a healthy way to go. Keep your sanity in check, and live more in the now, with Headspace.

Headspace is a guided meditation app for most devices. It’s brilliant for clearing your mind, helping you sleep, and grounding you in the now. There’s not an awful lot we can do about this current situation other than the old British adage “keep calm, carry on” … so why not get a little help with the mental health through all this with Headspace.

Operational Support

We’re all naturally going to be knuckling down trying to convert our businesses to remote working outfits over coming months. Trying to package our services to distant selling offerings, consulting businesses, and whatever else we can do without leaving the house.

For us web developers we’re knuckling down and helping our clients keep their marketing and businesses going digitally, so partnering with other businesses for support on operations is key.

… and in these times, it should be for you too.

Virtual Assistance

Having someone catch the phones for you when you’re busy with someone else is a great way to ensure your customers get to speak to a person, and your todo list can stay prioritised. We use Moneypenny to help with our phone lines, and they’re a great service to work with as I’m sure many of you have already noticed from calling us.

If you need more support with your admin, errands, posting stuff, operations, or pretty much anything a bit more hands on, Pink Spaghetti offer a very reasonable personal assistance service. Our local contact is the lovely Jayne, who would love to assist you relieve some pressure and take some admin off your hands.

If you need help keeping your team accountable, using a remote project manager is a great way to make sure there’s a real-life person keeping your team on track. The wonderful process guru, Rachel Chiverton, is a great person to work with on this.

If you’re using any of the apps mentioned, getting Rachel signed into them with you will make sure your team are using them effectively, and keeping on top of their todos.

 

Leads

Don’t let your lead pool dry up. If you can keep operating in quarantine, make sure you do. Advertise more than ever. Facebook Ads, Google Ads, local groups, and countless other methods are great ways to do this yourself.

If you can’t deliver your product until after the quarantine, but need to keep cashflow going, why not put an offer on for delivery later in the year? Plumbers; get deposits in for boiler installs, coaches; get your sessions done online via Zoom, consultants too. Do not let this defeat you.

Online Networking with 4N+

We make no secret of our involvement with 4Networking, the UKs only joined up business network. It’s been great for our business, and as you can imagine there have had to be some changes to cope with the fact we can’t meet in person for the time being, but our online marketplaces have come alive.

All members of 4Networking can network in our new online meetings. There are three of them per day! It’s mental. But it’s a perfect way to keep meeting people and keep the lead pool floating.

Get involved here.

Guidance

You don’t need to go this alone.

There are loads of support groups online for business owners, and they’re becoming more and more valuable by the day, right now. Get a coach, get involved with local business groups, and keep going. Get the advice, get the support, and get a team around you that can help.

The invaluable advice of the legendary James Burke, our very own ActionCoach, has been totally golden this last few days amidst all of the panic around COVID. Moving our sessions to online meetings, keeping everybody in the loop with regards to the funding and different ideas on marketing and operations.

The support from our other advisor Brad Burton, and everybody in the Now What Club family, has also been priceless. You need to be involved with people like this around this time, for your mental health, and for your business health.

If you need help with your pipeline, the amazing Carie Lyndene and Alex Patchett-Joyce are another coaching duo that specialise in online business, and keeping your sales machines going. More info here.

Together

Now is not the time to give up. Yes, there will be a few months of uncertainty, but we will find a way through, together.

Take the help out there, change how you operate, and find the way through.

Need Our Help?

This guide is not intended as a sales pitch for Knights. But, if you do need some help or free advice with your web, marketing, or anything we’ve mentioned above, please reach out using the form below.