Bootstrapping a startup isn’t easy. And even if you’re lucking enough to secure some funding, resources are scarce. There’s a lot to get done and everyone on your team is wearing multiple hats.
The first thing you need to figure out is communication.
In other words, where is your new business going to be located and how are you going to work together to get things done?
If you’re like most modern businesses, even if you find an amazing office space for your startup, chances are you’re all not under one roof. You might have teammates working from home part of the time or possibly in other parts of the world.
Remote working has become the norm for most companies large and small.
The good news is there are plenty of affordable collaboration tools you can use on any budget. Most start free and offer paid plans for less than one or two cups of coffee per month.
So, what tools do you need? How do they work? Where do you start?
We’ve got you covered.
Here are 13 insanely useful (free & cheap) remote team collaboration tools you can start using right now:
Every business needs a task management platform, like Trello.
Trello is a digital collaboration tool that gives you a visual of all the projects or tasks your team is working on. It also shows you who is working on them and how much they’ve accomplished.
It works like a virtual whiteboard filled with post-it-note-like cards stacked in lists that can be moved across the board from a project’s phase to the next.
The layout focuses on the team’s view so that whoever checks a Trello board can understand the status of a project or task without having to email anyone for updates. Collaborators can assign themselves to any project or task they’re involved in.
Moreover, Trello is completely customizable. It allows users to build and customize their board according to their preferences and processes, not being tied to a predetermined structure.
But what makes Trello even better for startups is that its core product is free, regardless of location or industry.
It’s been said a billion times but it’s still true. Time is money. And the fine people at Toggle are well aware of that.
Their time-tracking app monitors your daily activities across different platforms. It integrates nicely with Trello and has extensions for Chrome and Firefox browsers. It’s also compatible with Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, web and Windows platforms.
Using a time-tracking app can be tremendously helpful to startups still perfecting their workflows. Because online collaboration tools like Toggle can give you detailed insights into your workflow and identify areas where you and your team can improve.
It’s also extremely useful for projects or tasks that are paid by the hour. You can log the exact number of hours you’ve worked on a particular task.
This particular team collaboration app starts free so your business can get started without any extra expense. Then as you grow, Toggle gives you have the option to upgrade to one of their paid plans with more features and storage.
Over the years, social media has become a powerful marketing tool, and nowadays, a business that doesn’t have a solid social media presence might as well not exist.
In come Buffer, a team collaboration tool for carefully crafting timed posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms.
With one free account, users can manage one Twitter, one Facebook and one LinkedIn account with up to 10 pre-scheduled updates. For $65 per month, you can manage eight social accounts, send out 2,000 scheduled posts, and have a second-team member help manage the process.
Which option you choose will depend a lot on the industry your business operates in, and whether you conduct most of your business online or offline.
However, every brand, no matter the industry or size, should harness the marketing power of social media, and Buffer’s free account is the best option to start out with.
We can’t talk about free team collaboration apps without mentioning Slack. It’s quite possibly the best online team collaboration tool since the invention of email.
In fact, what propelled Slack to the top is its capacity to replace email altogether. Not to mention text messaging and instant messaging as well.
It’s just so well designed and a delight to use.
Slack offers an amazing mobile app that works in sync with its desktop or browser version. But what really makes it great is that it offers tons of plugins and integrates with loads of other apps. And it’s free.
With a free Slack account, you will get 10,000 searchable messages, 10 apps, and integrations, as well as one-to-one video calls.
Paid accounts give you more storage and allow you to make team video calls to several team members at the same time.
Skype is one of the most popular and widely used communication tools in the world. It became so popular, that in 2011, Microsoft acquired it for a hefty $8.5 billion.
And contrary to what people expected post-acquisition, Skype has remained a free app.
Skype allows both audio and video calls, sharing your screen during video calls, and it can also call and text regular phone numbers and Skype users outside your company.
Another cool feature of this app is that, while offline, it still allows you to read and search past messages, as well as type in new messages which will be automatically sent when your internet connection is restored.
Should one or more team members miss a call, you can record your Skype calls to keep everyone in the loop.
For startups and smaller teams that need to be able to keep track of messages and communications, Skype is an excellent option. It works on virtually every device.
6. UniTel Voice
UniTel Voice is a virtual phone system that allows you to run your business from anywhere, on any device.
It includes all the features and functionality of traditional business phone systems — without the complexity, high cost, or need for equipment.
Because UniTel Voice is completely cloud-based, you’re no longer chained to the physical office phone on your desk. With the UniTel Voice mobile app, you can turn your personal smartphone into your office phone and take it with you wherever you go.
Managers can track sales calls, assess marketing ROI, record support calls for quality assurance, and make instant phone system changes.
And the best part is you get all of that starting at just $9.99 per month.
If you’re looking for a less expensive desktop sharing/webinar app, like GoToMeeting, then join.me is your best bet.
Starting at just $10 per month, join.me makes screen sharing and video conferencing a snap. It’s easy to start and easy to join.
There’s no software to download or special equipment needed. Everything is online, making it perfect for presentations, sales demos, and ad hoc get-togethers you need to get work done.
So, whether your team is under the same roof or across the country, join.me instantly brings everyone together to share an idea, collaborate on a project, or close a big deal.
With join.me’s admin console, directory, and app integrations, your team can easily take online collaboration to the next level. On the cheap.
While join.me is a great collaboration tool for live screen sharing, Loom is the solution for sending a screen recording.
Loom is a (free) cloud-based screen recording app with a chrome browser extension that makes sharing video super easy. You simply click the extension to start recording your video.
Why would you want to send a screen recording?
Because sending a Loom is easier than typing long emails or spending your day in meetings giving presentations that don’t need to happen in real-time.
You can capture yourself, anything on your screen, or both! Your video is automatically copied to your clipboard and ready to share as a link or an embedded video.
It seriously couldn’t be easier.
9. Google Suite
Google’s suite of products is probably the most accessible and widely used collaboration platform, by individuals and businesses alike.
You get free, super-useful tools like Google Docs, Sheets, Calendar or Mail, that pretty much everyone in the world knows how to use.
With Docs and Sheets, you can create, store in the cloud and share documents and Excel files/tables, allow other people to view or edit these documents and have access to them at all times.
You just need a connection to the internet.
You can also customize the calendar and share it with your team members and even set up notifications via email for those events that are of higher importance.
All the tools in the Google suite of products are easy to use, and everything gets stored in the cloud, so you won’t have to worry about losing important work documents or projects.
InVision allows you to quickly create interactive clickable prototypes, mock-ups, and wire-frames, so you can gather instant feedback from your team and stakeholders.
But it’s not just great for designing websites, landing pages, and products. InVision is the perfect online platform for collaborating with your remote team.
You can use it as an online whiteboard to present ideas and brainstorm concepts. And it makes presenting designs, workflows, and ideas a real experience, infinitely better than sending dozens of PDFs, screenshots, or relying on a simple Google Doc.
Starting at $0 per month.
Asana’s delightful usability has made it the Slack of project management. In a nutshell, Asana is a tool that makes it easy for remote teams to track projects, tasks, and progress.
It gives you everything you need to stay in sync, hit deadlines, and reach your goals.
Try Asana and you’ll instantly see how incredibly intuitive and incredibly powerful it is. You can use it to manage basic to-do lists or complex team projects or map out each step of your largest projects.
Whether your remote team is building a product, running a marketing campaign, setting company goals, or planning a mission to the moon, Asana will help you plan, manage, track, and launch initiatives that get results.
Asana’s basic plan is free. But there’s nothing basic about it.
It’s perfect for individuals or teams getting started with project management. It includes unlimited projects where you can add as many tasks and attachments as you need.
Sync it’s like Dropbox, but less expensive and more secure. It allows you and your team to easily store, share, and access files from just about anywhere.
Most importantly, Sync protects your privacy with end-to-end encryption — ensuring that your data is always safe, secure, and 100% private.
Sync allows multiple users to work from the same set of folders.
It automatically backs up files and keeps them synced across your team’s computers and devices. With apps for Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, and the web, your team will never lose a file again.
13) Tap My Back
Many times, the biggest challenges to managing people remotely are the things you do naturally when working side by side in the office, such as providing work recognition and real-time feedback.
Luckily for remote teams, there’s an app for that: Tap My Back.
With Tap My Back, you can provide your team with real-time appreciation and continuous feedback no matter where they work or what time zone they’re on. You can track your employee’s mood, feedback, and engagement.
Tap My Back uses an automated check-in system that gives people on your team the ability to share how they feel on a continuous basis, so you can keep your fingers on the pulse of your organization.
Sounds amazing, but is it cheap?
Yep, it starts at just $2.50 per user, per month.
Editor’s Note: The article is part of the blog series Run Your Business, brought to you by the marketing team at UniTel Voice, the virtual phone system priced and designed for startups and small business owners.