As an Online Business Manager or Virtual Assistant, you have tons of projects and ideas to keep track of, and hopefully, more than a few team members helping you get everything done. Making sure everyone is on the same page, that nothing is falling through the cracks, and that best practices are being documented for future use, are all part of business excellence.
You can invest as much – or as little – money as you would like in a solution that will work for you and your team. The key is to find a program that fits your budget, your requirements, and your future growth. There are dozens of project management programs available at every price point, but I don’t want you to over-invest. So I’ve put together a list of three possible solutions, one free, and two at a monthly paid level. Let’s take a look:
This is part of Google’s suite of business management tools. While it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles as far as communication, it provides a basic level of collaboration services, including document sharing, like spreadsheets, text-based documents, drawings, etc., as well as shared folders. It also has the ability to chat when team members are online and logged in at the same time.
As manager, you can create documents for each project and share with the applicable team members. Google Docs is a great, entry-level solution for small teams that mostly need file sharing and joint access to documents, and don’t need a high level of interactivity or flow-chart planning.
Cost: Free, but all members must have a Google account (but why wouldn’t you?). Find out more at Docs.Google.com
This is the gold standard for online project management, and the one that I use with my team and my clients. With a variety of membership levels, there are several options for everyone from the independent freelancer to a ramped-up team of many. With tons of options, Basecamp provides you writeboards for sharing, brainstorming, messaging, milestones, and to-do lists for multiple users. The drawback? A commonly cited complaint is that there is a bit of a ramp-up before users feel comfortable with all the features and elements. Here is a pretty good video tutorial.
This is one of Basecamp’s main competitors, and with the new price change, may become the new standard for small businesses. It offers many of the same options, including file sharing, messaging, and assigning and managing tasks. One of the benefits is that it uses a familiar, Twitter-style interface for users, and you can be updated via RSS feed. The interface is also a bit more intuitive than Basecamp, and I may find myself slowly migrating my current clients and team members over to it soon.
When selecting your solution from these or other options, keep in mind that what works for you today may not work tomorrow and beyond. If you’re hesitant to invest in a paid option right off the bat, you might want to start with a free or low-cost option so you can see what features and options you need, and then upgrade from there. I personally drove my team absolutely insane the first few months that I was shopping around for a great collaboration tool. I decided on Basecamp since it’s been the industry standard for a while, and most people were familiar with it. Do remember though, that you’re investing in a solution that will save you time, and therefore money in the long run, so any investment you make now will pay off over time.