5 Free Collaboration Tools You’re Probably Not Using (But Should Be)

Whether you’re running a small business or planning to launch one, coming up with cost-effective ways to collaborate with your team can be a challenge. Paid software programs always tend to feel bloated and overpriced when you only have a few people on your team. After all, most of them were designed to scale for larger groups.

So I thought I would share with you five free tools that I use to manage my collaboration across various teams. Don’t worry, when you’re ready, most of these products have paid versions for “enterprise-level” users.

However, I think you’ll be thrilled at just how much you can do for free.

1. Google Apps

free-productivity-tools-google-appsI’m always surprised at how few people are aware of Google Apps. How do I know? The number of business cards I receive with email address that look like [email protected] or [email protected]. Seriously? It’s time for your business to grow up and use your own domain name.

Google Apps is free up to 50 users and allows you to host professional email addresses while using the much beloved GMail interface (or any other email client you prefer). There is absolutely no excuse for not having a custom domain name.

If you aren’t sure how to get started or how to do this, contact me for a free quote.

Google Apps is not just for email. It has full calendaring features and provides mobile access to email, contacts, and your calendar. It also includes Google Docs for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with people inside and outside of your company.

2. Google Voice

Google Voice is one of those services I depend heavily on. Think of it as voicemail on steroids. When you sign up, you choose a phone number and then use it as your primary contact number.

For me, it’s the only phone number I give out anymore. I then have it ring to any other phones I want – be they a home phone, office phone, cell phone, vacation phone, etc. I can opt for transcribed voicemails to be sent via text message or email. I can also setup different voicemail greetings based on who is calling.

Perhaps the best feature is one that was just recently released. GMail users can make and receive calls directly from their computer to any number in the US or Canada for free. That means that if you call my number, it will ring my cell phone and my laptop and I can choose which to use. I can also dial your number from my GMail account and it will look to you like I’m calling from my phone.

Being able to make and receive calls using my laptop with my main number is awesome. Doing it for free to any phone in the US and Canada makes it cooler than Skype which charges for the same service.

Don’t get me wrong, I still use Skype for international calling – just not as much for non-international calls.

 

3. Tungle.me

free-productivity-tools-tungle-meI’ve known about Tungle.me for a while now but only recently set it up. I work with people across many different time zones. Scheduling appointments and consultations without double-booking is a constant struggle for me. I also hate all of the back-and-forth emailing that comes with setting up an appointment.

Tungle.me synchronizes with my calendar and let’s me set “office hours.” Clients can head to my Tungle.me page to see only available time slots on my schedule and select a few that work for them. I simply accept a proposed time and it’s added to my calendar and the client receives a confirmation email. Everything is adjusted for user time zones so I don’t have to do it in my head.

 

4. Manymoon

free-productivity-tools-manymoonIf you’re used to working with project management tools like Basecamp, then you need to check out Manymoon. Unlike Basecamp, Manymoon will give you unlimited users, projects, tasks and events. It also integrates with Google Apps and Google Docs.

There are paid versions for more advanced features, but the free version will work well for most freelancers and small teams. And if you do have to upgrade, the cost is nominal.

 

5. TeamViewer

free-productivity-tools-teamviewerIf you are involved in any type of work that requires you to take control of another user’s computer, you need to look at TeamViewer. It works with Mac, PC, Linux and….iPhone and iPad! Now that’s cool.

Another possible use is as a free replacement for GoToMyPC and similar paid applications. (Hat tip to Joel Widmer for telling me about this one.)

Share Your Free Collaboration Tools

This is by no means an exhaustive list – it’s just what I’ve found works for me. Which free collaboration tools do you use? Share them with the community in the comments below.

About the Author

  • I’m a huge Google fan, so I use Google Apps and Google Voice. Thanks for bringing my attention to the others. I do use a scheduler through Google Apps – ScheduleOnce, which seems to work the same way.

    I’m with you – it amazes me how many professionals are still using Comcast, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. for their professional e-mail address. With Google Apps being FREE, why wouldn’t you use it?!

  • JC

    haha, they still use them ‘coz people hate change! I’ve been using Gmail since 2005 but I remember switching from Hotmail to Gmail and I hated it. However, I’d never use anything else ever again!

    also, Manymoons and Tungle looks awesome. Cannot wait to try them out.

  • Himali G

    Another tool which I like to add is DeskAway, its like Manymoon, BaseCamp. Its simple yet a poweful tool.Its helps me to manage organize and track my projects and its tasks and doesn’t cost much.

  • Thanks for sharing. I’ll check into DeskAway and possibly add it to my next “list of free products” post.

  • Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Manymoon and Tungle.

  • Is Google Apps free? Or is it $50 per year?

  • It’s free for up to 50 users. After that, it’s $50 per user, per year.

  • Holly B

    FMYI [for my innovation] is a collaboration site where you store and share information securely with your team. Everyone gets their own social networking-style profile page. People can create additional pages to post messages, files, links, tasks, events, and more for projects, contacts, resources or anything else you need to achieve your goals.
    http://www.fmyi.com/

  • I’ve used Google Apps for a long time. But I rely heavily on Tungle and Teamviewer. When I hire new contractors, installing Teamviewer is at the top of their Required pages. I don’t mind to help support them or fix their computers and it’s so much easier if I can see what they are screwing up or just fix it for them. When you have 35 people that work for you all over the country you have to keep things simple and easy.

    I’ve been using Basecamp for 2 years now and we really like it. I’m in the middle of writing a book about virtual team management covering a wide scope of topics from business structure to legalities. I hadn’t heard of ManyMoon so I’ll add it to the list of project management softwares I need to review.

  • Anonymous

    Tungle.me have a great product but I doubt that it will stay free… the freemium model is dying on the web. check out the following interview:
    http://www.financialpost.com/entrepreneur/Tungle+Corp/3687172/story.html
    “Tungle offers its product for free and has yet to generate any revenue, although Mr. Gingras has a plan to change that soon.”
    “Mr. Gingras expects to break even within the next year or two.”
    “We were in the first round, we were in the second round and if there is a third round we will be there as well.”

    Genbook used to provide the service for free until they burn all the cash, I believe Tungle.me are on the same track.
    I rather pay affordable price and get a good service than use another freemium.

    Do you have any recommendations for online appointment scheduling softwares?

    • You’re probably right about Tungle.me not staying free forever. It will be interesting to see how they handle the need to make money.

      Currently, I don’t have a recommendation other than Tungle.me. I’ve only recently been focused on online scheduling and, since Tungle was free, I chose that option. If you find anything, please let me know!

      Cheers,
      Travis

      • I’m highly recommending Scheduly.com as the best and easiest online scheduling system.
        affordable, easy to use and my clients love the simple booking mechanism.

        I’m glad I bumped into this great tool, it changed my life.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks for recommending Scheduly – I signed up and I love it!

  • Arlen Mark

    I think collaboration tool like proofhub should also be added in this list. Very useful tool for project management as well as collaboration. Its pretty simple to use and quick to implement and has got great features as well.