How to build a virtual office for less than $200 per month

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In a connected world, needing to work from an office and being physically located next to your colleagues is gradually becoming a thing of the past.

By circumstance or choice, a growing number of professionals are choosing to work remotely either from home or a co-working space. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons many successful tech companies have been able to grow so quickly is because they don’t waste valuable resources establishing a ‘traditional’ office, but instead rapidly deploy teams into new cities.

If you’re either working or thinking about working remotely, here are a few things you absolutely can’t live without.*

Web conferencing

The key to working remotely is occasionally seeing colleagues or clients, not just talking to them. Face-to-face contact goes some way toward overcoming the tyranny of distance and is ideal for initial meetings or important conversations.

Skype can also be used for instant messaging and regular calls. You could even ditch the landline and use Skype exclusively for all your calls.

Consider: Skype, Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting or FaceTime. Pick your poison, but use the last one only if everyone is on iOS.

Meeting rooms on demand

Sometimes it’s not ideal to invite clients to your house or run a training session in a busy co-working space. While still in its infancy, on-demand meeting rooms are growing in popularity.

Websites like LiquidSpace and Breather connect you with beautiful vacant spaces at the press of a button. Use a room only when you need one instead of paying for a conference room that gets used once or twice a month.

Consider: LiquidSpace

Cloud computing

Remember keeping a filing cabinet full of installation discs? Or trying to remember which folder you dragged the installer file to?

Well, remember no more. In 2015, most common office software — from word processing, spreadsheets, customer relationship management (CRM), graphic design, accounting and more — are delivered in the cloud, right in your browser. This unparalleled portability means you are no longer tied to a single device, and you can jump around or go mobile to your heart’s content. Just remember to sign out if you’re using someone else’s machine!

Choose: Google Docs (Free), Adobe Creative Cloud ($49.99/month), Harvest ($12/month), Capsule CRM ($12/month)

Cost: Cloud services are probably your most significant expense, and costs will vary depending on what you use. Many cloud services have multiple tiers generally starting with a free level (or a free trial) and going up from there. Google Docs is a good, free option for basic documents, spreadsheets, slides and forms, while specialised software for graphic design or accounting typically starts at around $50/month.

Storage

Don’t ever be left without your important documents! Skip the backup drive or external server and store everything right in the cloud so you can access your files from anywhere, even your phone.

Choose: Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or Amazon Cloud Drive. Pick the plan that’s best for you.

Cost: Again, there’s usually a free option, but if you’re serious about storage, go for a paid option usually starting at $9/month for 30GB+ of storage.

Office plant

No matter where you are, they say a touch of green promotes wellness, reduces stress and improves airflow.

Cost: $25

Health benefits: Priceless

 

*For the purposes of this article, some costs of working from home or renting an office including electricity, laptops and internet service haven’t been included.