Email has become the main way a lot of people communicate professionally, and contractors are certainly no exception. But even with improvements in email applications and webmail, email can still be a real time-killer. Thankfully, there are some great apps for your phone or your computer that can really help recover some of that lost time. At the core of your typical email are elements of communication and collaboration. Below are five applications that can help you communicate and collaborate more effectively and efficiently than email.
Slack calls itself “a messaging app for teams” embracing “team communication for the 21st century” (yes, that’s a dig against email). Slack lets you create Channels to organize team conversations that can include text, links, files, and more. You can make channels Private and also send Direct Messages to another user if you’re dealing with confidential info. Slack also integrates with a host of other services (even email, if you must) to add more functionality – and if you can’t find the right integration with Slack, check out its competitor HipChat. Slack is free for small teams and is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, as well as Linux and Windows Phone (both in beta).
Google Hangouts is great when you to do a video conference call with two or more people. It’s free (though you’ll need a Gmail or Google+ account to sign up) and it provides simultaneous video chatting for up to 10 people. It also allows for screen-sharing, which can be super helpful if you have to walk someone through something on a remote computer. Hangouts includes text messages, photo sharing, and even phone calls (sometimes free), but it’s standout feature is definitely free video conferencing.
An oldie but a goodie, Dropbox is a great file sharing and storage service that’s been around for almost a decade. You can set up folders on your computer or other device and all their contents will sync with Dropbox’s cloud-based storage (accessible anywhere through a browser). It’s also great for directly sharing large files that are too big to reliably send through email. Free apps are available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry and new accounts start with 2GB of storage space and you can pay for additional features and extra storage.
AirDrop (Mac/iOS Only)
If you’re an Apple device user then you can cut out the middle man (and email) to directly send files to other Apple devices within about 30 feet (bluetooth range), which can be super useful onsite. Both devices need to have bluetooth and wi-fi on, but they don’t need to be on the same wi-fi network. You can control your privacy by allowing airdrops from anyone or only from contacts on your phone. Airdrop is integrated into the Finder’s sidebar on desktops and laptops, and on iOS you can find it by Sharing a photo, movie, or other file.
While each of the previous recommendations are focused mainly on doing one thing well, Basecamp is a full-fledged project management tool that integrates a variety of helpful tools into one product. The new Basecamp 3 is a pretty big change from what I remember seeing back when we used the original. An updated design and a ton of learning about what users need have made this a great place to communicate (message boards, comments threads, etc.) and keep track of to do’s, files, and more. You can try Basecamp 3 for free or sign up with an unlimited internal team for $29/month or use it with clients (as with all their plans, this includes unlimited users) for $79/month.
All of the above tools are great and my digital marketing agency, Konnekt, uses or has used all of these for a year or more, so we’ve seen them in action. You can try any of them for free, so best of luck finding what works best for you and your team!
About Amber MacArthur
Amber MacArthur, President of Konnekt, has provided social media coaching and consulting to companies including Microsoft Xbox, Ford Motor Company, Tony Robbins, Canada Goose, Fast Company, PayPal, and Canadian Blood Services. In 2010, MacArthur wrote a national bestselling business book called Power Friending and has over 100,000 followers on Twitter, 450,000 fans on Facebook, 1.6M friends on Google+, and 10,000 followers on Instagram.