This post covers some of my favorite tools for remote work, the ones I use on at least a weekly, if not daily basis.
When you make the jump from working for someone else to working for yourself, you’ll likely notice very quickly that every second counts.
No more hanging out near the Keurig chatting with coworkers about their weekend. No more walking as slowly as humanly possible on your way back from the restroom.
No more being tied to your desk until 5 p.m. It’s in your best interest to knock things out fast because when you’re done, the rest of the day is yours.
So, in the interest of working as efficiently as possible, here are just a few of the remote working tools I use on a daily basis to get things done!
Note: This post will grow over time as I update it to include more tools for remote work so I’ve included a table of contents here in the event that you are looking for a specific remote tool and want to jump straight to it!
Toggl: Remote working tool for time tracking
Toggle is one of my favorite tools for remote work. While they have several branches to their product line, I only use Toggl for time tracking. I originally started using it to track billable time for invoicing purposes but now I use it to track almost everything I do on the computer, work, and personal.
I used to use another tool I shall not name that was basic but simple (I like simple) but it crashed one day and customer service took about a week to get back to me. By then I was already gone. Life moves too fast for poor customer service.
I found Toggl and now can’t imagine how I lived without it. First of all the interface is super simple to understand. (Until I complicate it with all these red lines.)
I can set various hourly rates and attach them to different clients OR even set them up for different projects assigned to the same client.
For example, when one client switched customer service platforms, there were days when I jumped right in alongside the customer service team and answered hundreds of tickets in order to help the transition go smoothly.
(Plus I’d advocated for the switch and was in charge of making it happen so I was really committed to doing everything I could to make it smooth!)
Obviously, I needed to charge a different rate for those hours so I set up a new project under the same client, and now, though it’s rare if I need to jump into customer service and help out, I’m able to effortlessly switch my hourly rate.
The reports Toggl runs are just beautiful. (I’m a fan of simple but I also like when things are pretty!)
can easily see where my time has gone and where I need to make edits. In the report above, I did some work for a client and started my timer but didn’t assign it to them. I can easily click into that time block “without client” and then attach it to the correct client and task.
Toggl also does great detailed reports. I type the gist of what I’ve worked on in the notes section as I complete each session. With a few clicks I’m able to pull up a report for any date range I choose, export it to PDF, and send that to each client along with my invoice. When you’re working on a remote team, especially in the beginning, clients may like to see a detailed breakdown so they feel like you’re really working. Once they become more comfortable, they’ll typically not require that anymore.
There’s also a Chrome extension you can add to quickly start and stop the timer without going into the website but I found that I would forget to input my notes more often when I went that route.
More recently, Toggle has a desktop app for Mac. If you choose to always show it in the dock on your computer that helps as a reminder. You can also choose to always show it in the menu bar as well.
Toggl also has the ability to simply record what you’re doing on your computer (private to you only of course) and you can go back later and fill in the gaps.
This is great for someone like me who wants to take better advantage of using a remote tool like this one to track where my time goes, but also constantly forgets to start the timer.
All you have to do is give Toggl the correct permissions, then toggle that switch on and when you open your computer and get to work it starts up in the background. You can see that I haven’t given this block of time any description but the pink spots show where activity was recorded.
Hovering over the pink shows a popup that tells me where I went and what I was doing. I can then use that to assign the time to the correct project and write a quick description.
As a business owner as well as a freelancer, Toggl is at the top of the list of tools for remote work I use most often. It really helps me to see where my time is going, not just for clients but also on my own projects.
(Toggl doesn’t have to be just a tool for remote workers, it’s become a part of my daily life as well. I use it to track things like how much time I spend practicing violin or studying Spanish. It’s great to have that reminder as I improve, that it really does take a long time to become good at something.)
Loom: My favorite remote tool for screen recording
Loom changed my life. I’m not kidding. It is one of those tools for remote workers that instantly made working life easier!
As a former middle school teacher, I’ve been using screen recordings forever. Every day we had in the computer lab was basically a “day off” for me. I was the queen of efficiency (and/or laziness) back then.
Why would I repeat something 1000 times when I could instead record the directions? The students who understood got right to work. That left me with more time to give to the student who raised his hand with, “I don’t get what I’m supposed to do” (for the thousandth time).
“Please watch the directions again and then ask an intelligent question about the specific part you don’t understand.” Ahhh … I miss those days sometimes.
The only issue with screencasts was the screencasting software. Most of it sucked. It was too clunky and had too many steps required when what you’re really looking for is: I want someone else to be able to see what I’m doing on my computer and follow along as easily as if they were here!
Loom is the remote tool for that. It is SO simple. Once the extension is in your browser, click it, choose a few options (or just stick with your last choice for even fewer clicks) and start recording.
You can choose to record the screen with your face live in the bottom corner, just your picture in the bottom corner, or just the camera if you’re doing a webinar or something where you want to be talking into the camera.
You can also close out your picture and opt for nothing to show up. (I almost always do that since I find that the picture usually just gets in the way and all my client peeps already know what I look like.) Once you’re done recording and you hit stop, Loom automatically names the video for you based on whatever you were doing at the time or whatever application you were working in.
When talking about tools for remote workers, we have to think about how they make life easier not just for you, but also for the people you work with. Let’s look at an example. Here’s a video I sent to my assistant for a blog post I wrote.
The video is already named from the title of the Google Doc. It’s automatically dropped into the My Videos folder. It prompts me to, (with one click!), include a link to the actual google doc that I recorded on so she can go right to it.
There’s also a space below the video to type any comments to go along with the video. The link to share the video is right up top and ready to go and she can comment back directly in Loom if she wants.
While knowing WHO viewed your video is a premium feature, Loom’s free capability still allows you to see WHEN someone viewed it. Usually, I’m only sending videos to one or two people with instructions so I don’t really care to know who viewed it.
Going back to simplicity here, I love that Loom has a ton of features but is designed in such a way that you don’t feel overwhelmed by them.
I’ll be honest, I almost always just record and send the link. 99% of the time that’s all I need to do. I never even think of my videos again or where they are or who has viewed them. I just need to explain how to do something to someone. I don’t want to think about naming, organizing, saving them, and Loom makes that easy.
I sing its praises to anyone and everyone I come across and was so happy when one of the people I work with recently said to me, “Of the things you recommended to me, two, Grammarly and Loom, changed my life!” That made my day because I get it. Loom is one of those remote team tools that changed the remote game for me and I love it!
Grammarly: One of the top tools for remote workers who write a lot
If you write, you should use Grammarly.
This is one of the best tools for remote workers that spend a lot of time writing because their spelling and grammar tool points out all those little mistakes it’s easy to miss after going over the same content over and over. It’s pretty good about telling you when you need a hyphen or putting a comma where a comma should go and more.
As someone who spends a lot of time writing, even just emails and such, I find it invaluable because I don’t want to screw around with spelling and grammar as I go. I know I’m going to run my words through Grammarly at the end so I can write fast and furious without stopping for the mistakes I know I’m making.
It’s not perfect, no tool is. But it helps a lot. There are always going to be some mistakes when you write, hell, there are probably some in every blog post I write. But for me, once I’ve written a piece and run it through Grammarly, I’m done. Good enough for Grammarly, good enough for me.
The one drawback is its lack of/poor integration with Google Docs. I say lack of because it only began recently. And I say poor because more often than not it causes Google Docs to crash for me. A shame because when I’m not living in Slack in I’m in a Gdoc. Still, with the popularity of both of those, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until the integration improves.
The workaround? I just copy/paste a finished post over into Grammarly and let it find all the mistakes. Then, I’ll copy/paste the corrected version back into the google doc.
I also just use the free version. At almost $30 a month if you pay monthly I find that way too pricey for my casual use.
Plus, I purposely ignore a lot of writing rules and proper style in order to create a friendly and casual tone that actually sounds like me. If you write for a living however e.g. blog posts for other companies, $30/month may be worth the investment. Good tools for remote work aren’t all created equal so when you find a good one, it’s often worth the price.
Sip: A great remote tool for grabbing hex codes
This simple color picker has come in handy so many times! It’s a simple tool for remote workers who need to quickly snag hex codes and organize them and/or share them with others.
I work with a number of clients and one day I may be in a meeting where I’m asked to send over the hex codes of our brand colors.
Only I’m in my personal Gmail account, and that info is in my client company Google Drive account, and ugh, what was that document named again because of course Brand Colors would be too easy …
Or, I could pull up our website, click on Sip, hover over our solid header, and grab the hex codes. Boom. 8 seconds.
By far, my favorite thing about Sip is its simplicity. Too many tools for remote work try to do too many things instead of being good at one or two things.
I tried and discarded several before finding this one. I’m not a designer, I don’t work with colors a ton. But when I do need to, Sip makes it easy. Click the dropper tool, hover over the item you’re trying to identify, click it, and it’s saved in the list. The end.
Sip used to be free when I first wrote this post a few years ago, but now they charge $10 for a license for one device for 1 year. After that, you can extend the license for half-price. If you don’t feel like that you can just stick with the old version for as long as you want.
Skitch: A remote tool for when you need to blur something out
Skitch is made by Evernote and while it’s like many other tools for remote work in that it’s got a number of capabilities, I use it for just one thing — blurring things out.
If you haven’t picked up on it by now my reviews are not super scientific nor do I care, understand, or get into the backstory of my tools. I just care about whether they work to do the task I need.
Whenever I need to blur something out, like the client names in the Toggl report images above, I open the picture in Skitch, use the blur tool, export it, and go. Simple, quick, and easy.
I’m always looking to get things done more efficiently so if you have a favorite tool that you love, please let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or head over to Instagram @liveworktravelig and send me a message! If you’d like more freelancing tips and advice, check out these posts.