By Rieva Lesonsky
Whether you’re looking for seed capital or for employees, a small business owners natural instinct is to look local. But why limit your choice of employees to your local community when you can have a whole world of talent at your fingertips? Hiring and working virtually are accepted and increasingly common today.
Using virtual or remote employees not only increases your options for finding specialized workers, it also means you’ll conserve working capital, by cutting back on overhead costs (without a brick-and-mortar workplace).
One piece of advice: Managing remote workers involves a well-organized system of procedures and communication. Virtual employees should know exactly what is expected of them since you can’t walk down the hall and check on their progress. Make it clear from the start what you expect in terms of response times, deadlines and working hours. If you and your employee work in different time zones, schedule specific times to talk or at least weekly conference calls to make sure everyone stays in the loop.
You might want to look into project management tools such as Liquid Planner. Project management applications let you keep track of your teams project members and chat with them through social media. Another tool that’s more HR related is Rypple, which provides a way to create and check on performance goals through a social media-type platform, review your employees and keep them motivated.
If you need to show visuals to your virtual employees during your calls, you can also use services such as Adobe Connect and GoToMeeting.com to share slide shows, Powerpoint demonstrations and more in real-time online. For simple face-to-face calls, Skype is always a good, low-cost option, too. If you need some time in person once in a while and if traveling isn’t cost-prohibitive, try setting up meetings in your home office, business office or at a restaurant. Sometimes a quick one-on-one can keep virtual employees engaged and motivated.
You’ll require a simple way to share and store files in the cloud for easy access anywhere you or your employees are. Check out services such as Google Docs, DropBox, Mozy and Carbonite, that let you access your company’s files from any location. Plus you can upload large files that are too big to email back and forth.
If you already have employees who work in your office, you can start saving money by offering them some work-at-home days. Most employees are already set up to work from home, and they’ll appreciate the effort you’re making to accommodate their schedules.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports