Since homebased business owners often don't have the space or budget to hire employees, many utilize virtual employees on a temporary basis. But collaborating on projects with people in different cities--or countries--can get complicated. Fortunately, new services such as HotOffice Virtual Office Service from HotOffice Technologies (price varies; http://www.hotoffice.com) provide a single online location where users can post documents and share ideas in real time.
Chris Ayers, owner and president of Lunchspecials Inc., operates a Web site out of his Richmond, Virginia, home where he posts daily lunch menus from local restaurants in several cities. He uses HotOffice to collaborate with his virtual employee in Louisville, Kentucky, on price lists and ad layouts because it simplifies communication and ultimately cuts down on costs.
"Instead of FedEx-ing or e-mailing documents, we can post them right on our HotOffice site and grab them from there," explains Ayers, 37. "Even though we're spread out geographically, we have one place to converse, get information and provide feedback."
If you already have a Web browser, modem and Internet access, HotOffice and similar programs like Netopia's Virtual Office 2.0 (starts at $14.95 per month; http://www.netopia.com) are an efficient, cost-effective method for communicating with workers in remote locations. (For more details on HotOffice, see "Net Work" on page 28.)