Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Client Relations

Advice for Canadian independent contractors in IT for working with clients and building long-term, valuable relationships.

3 Boundaries You Need to Set as an Independent Contractor

3 Boundaries You Need to Set as an Independent Contractor

IT contracting and running your own business has a number of perks, including the fact that, generally, you get to set your own rules. It’s your business and as long as you deliver on your contract, the rest of the decisions are yours. All too often though, independent contractors fall into a trap of trying to please everybody and deliver the best service to earn that reference. You do more than you need to, which is fantastic for your client, but not doing yourself any services.

As an IT contractor, it’s important to set boundaries with a number of people — your client, colleagues, recruiters, friends, family and even yourself. Few people in your life are out to take advantage of you maliciously, but the more you give them, the more they’ll take. Eventually, you’ll find yourself doing things that don’t align with your goals. Here are three types of boundaries you should be setting as an IT contractor:

Time Boundaries

Probably the most common boundary we think of, and also the one most of us can improve. Your time is valuable, and even if a client is willing to pay you for the extra time worked, it doesn’t mean you need to work more hours than agreed to in your contract. Set office hours so clients know when your day begins and ends. Let them know which hours they should not expect to receive an email response.

Your office hours should not only be communicated with your client. First, setting these boundaries with yourself allows you to optimize your personal time outside of office hours. Next, other people in your life need to be aware of the hours you choose to work. Independent contractors enjoy flexibility with their hours, but friends and family sometimes think that means you’re available to help or chat at the drop of a dime. They too need to know that although you can take an hour off to run to the store, you’ve already scheduled that time for your client’s work.

Finally, time boundaries can be set at a more micro level as well. For example, when scheduling meetings, decide on the topic and set the exact length of time you intend to be on that call. Do not let the topic shift or the timeframe to change.

Ethical Boundaries

Your integrity must be a top priority if you want to continue hearing from recruiters about new opportunities and getting called back by clients. Similar to how your time can creep away because you keep giving a little more, there are countless stories of people who kept pushing their ethical boundaries slightly over the line until eventually they found themselves in an unimaginable dilemma.

One example of a little white lie that can get out of control is lying on a resume. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for recruiters to see this happen. Perhaps you expand the length of a project to fit the job description criteria or claim you have plenty of experience with a technology even though you only touched it briefly on a project. Regardless, if this continues to happen with every job application, these little stretches can turn into big lies. If recruiters don’t recognize them by comparing different resumes and your LinkedIn profile, it will surely stand out when you finally land a contract and can’t deliver. You’ll end up being blacklisted by that staffing agency and the client.

There are many other ethical boundaries that can be pushed and lead down a slippery slope. Billing for an extra hour or two when you weren’t actually working, discussing confidential client information with close friends (they won’t tell anyone, right?), and lying about other opportunities to negotiate a better rate — these all seem minor but can quickly come back to bite you.

Client Relationship Boundaries

Finally, it is critical to set boundaries with your client to prevent yourself from being deemed as an employee. This is important for both you and your client. Should the CRA do an audit and decide that you were, in fact, an employee, you will both be on the hook for some serious, unexpected payments.

Many of these boundaries are simple and just require you not to get sucked into the client’s every day activities. For example, those office hour boundaries we discussed above are a good example to show that you operate under your own business’s policies, as opposed to the client’s. Furthermore, you want to refrain from attending company events typically reserved for employee appreciation or using too many office supplies and equipment paid for by the client. Your accountant or lawyer can help you better understand what other boundaries you should be setting to help separate yourself from your client’s employees.

Setting boundaries is a wise idea to maintain your work-life balance while building a strong relationship with your client… but it’s easier said than done. Take time early-on to know understand your boundaries, so you’re not setting them on-the-fly. Then, be upfront, honest and clear about your boundaries with clients, recruiters and anybody else who needs to know them.

What other boundaries do you set as an independent contractor? How do you ensure they’re respected by clients, colleagues, recruiters and others in your life?

The Video Meeting Gone Wrong That We’d All Love to Join

In the last few months, leaders have been forced to manage their teams completely online. Team meetings, performance reviews, project updates — they’re all being done by video call. On top of the natural communication challenges from this new set-up, some team members are absolute nightmares during these virtual calls. They don’t focus, can’t figure out the technology and seem to have no etiquette at all.

This quick video by mrandrewcotter shows a perfect example of a company meeting that would make a manager want to rip their hair out. Fortunately for the subordinates, their puppy dog eyes will always get them out of trouble and are guaranteed to make you smile!

Stop Playing the “Blame Game” and Start Finding a Solution

Stop Playing the "Blame Game" and Start Finding a Solution

The “Blame Game” is a habit that humans pick-up at a young age. Kids are quick to learn how to pin their mistakes on their siblings, cousins or any other sucker who can get them out of trouble. As they get older, students push responsibility for their failures and shortcomings onto teachers, coaches and peers. You would think that as we mature this behaviour stops, but many adults are guilty of it… some more than others. We’ve all had those colleagues who are adept at dodging accountability and shifting responsibility — they’re experts at professional dodgeball!

There’s no single reason people point blame at others, whether it’s intentional or subconscious. It can be a natural form of survival as people try to hide their mistakes to keep their job and avoid consequences. Serial blaming may stem from insecurities, jealousy, office politics or simple dislike for others. It’s mostly irrational yet still all too common.

Blame culture, in the workplace or any other aspect your life, is harmful. The aggressive and attacking behaviour hurts feelings, damages relationships, and destroys reputations. It’s also contagious, meaning when one person starts laying blame, it begins a vicious circle where others get angry and point blame back. In the end, everybody’s now sidestepped accountability and, even worse, absolutely no progress is made on the project at-hand.

Putting an End to the Blame Game

The first step to ending this toxic behaviour is to take a look at your own habits. Things go wrong and mistakes happen, it’s a natural part of life. For IT contractors, a bad interview, not getting the interview at all, a project going off the rails — these are all cases where it’s easy to cast blame on the recruiter, manager or team member. While it may be true, there are some important steps to take in order to remain professional:

  • Point to Facts, Not People. Maintain the big picture of why things went wrong, including the process and environment. Avoid pointing to an individual unless it is absolutely something that was their responsibility.
  • Admit When You’re at Fault. Understand that nothing was 100% outside your control. Take an objective look at what failed and figure out what you could have done differently to prevent that situation and take ownership.
  • Know Your Responsibilities from the Start. Great communication prevents so many needless problems. When responsibilities are clarified at the beginning of a project, it’s less likely there will be mistakes and, if there are, accountability is clear. A tense argument over fault won’t be necessary.

While you should refrain from needlessly pointing blame, the same is true on the other side of the scenario — don’t be the person who always accepts responsibility for somebody else’s errors. IT contractors are in a position where you get blamed for more than necessary. It’s easy for clients and their employees to push responsibility for failures onto you. Even lousy recruiters will tell their boss that you flubbed the interview when, in reality, they didn’t prepare you properly. Sure, they all should have been more prepared and communicated better, but why damage their internal relationships when there’s a perfectly good contractor to use as a scapegoat? This is where preparation and documentation are key. Double-check responsibilities, ask many detailed questions, and confirm agreements by email, ensuring that if things go wrong, you can back up all of your work.

Whether working on a project or searching for a job, things are going to go wrong. Finding and solving the root of a problem is a difficult process that often includes accepting responsibility and addressing other people’s shortfalls… all without hurting relationships. That is not easy. What tricky situations have you found yourself in? Do you think you could have handled them better?

Working Remotely? Secure your devices with these 5 easy security tips

Working Remotely? Secure your devices with these 5 easy security tips

This guest post was written and submitted by TechWarn

These are very strange times we are living in. Many governments have implemented a stay-at-home order meaning more and more people are working remotely. Studies show that in mid-March 2020, more than twice the number of North Americans were working at home compared to the same period in 2019.

Companies spend thousands of dollars a year on security measures to protect their systems from cyberattacks. But with employees turning their kitchen table into a home office and working on a home network, how can they follow company protocols and protect sensitive information?

Encrypt Data

One of the best security tips for staying safe when working remotely is to secure devices with a VPN. A virtual private network creates a secure connection and encrypts data, making it unreadable to prying eyes. VPNs can be installed on individual computers and smart devices, which also helps protect and shield online activity when using public wifi.

The Internet of Things (IoT) now means that many devices are connected to a home network. Think gaming consoles, security cameras, baby monitors, and AI-powered virtual assistants. It can be difficult to install a VPN directly on these devices, so protect everything connected to the home wifi with a VPN router.

Antivirus

Your home computer is now being used to store and amend work documents that, without installing the proper security, are easier for hackers to steal or destroy. The antivirus software available for home installation may not be as powerful as those used by businesses but it can prevent malware from attacking devices. Even free antiviruses significantly reduce the risk of attack and should stop you from getting in trouble with the boss.

Update Programs and Operating Systems

The security risks to operating systems, programs, and applications continually change as cybercriminals look for new ways to overcome protocols. Unfortunately, this is often easy as users are too lazy to update software.

In 2016, a ransomware attack known as WannaCry affected 200,000 computers running an out of date version of Microsoft Windows. Ensuring devices and software, especially those used for work purposes, are up-to-date with the latest security patches, should help prevent these kinds of cyberattacks from happening in the future.

Use Strong Router Passwords

Default passwords for routers are often very weak and a quick search on the internet is all it takes to find them. Hackers use these defaults by writing them into the code of malicious software. If a router becomes infected, it becomes a bot, allowing criminals to read all data sent over the network. Always change the default password to a minimum of 12 characters with a mixture of numbers, letters, and symbols.

Always Use Corporate IT Services

Many companies have IT services set up for employees to use while working from home. Corporate email systems, internal messaging platforms, and video conferencing tools have all been vetted and secured by IT departments and provide colleagues the tools to communicate.

It can be tempting to use instant messaging and video meeting platforms outside of the corporate setup. Zoom has become a popular platform for holding virtual meetings but a breach in its security lead to Zoom bombing, with uninvited guests accessing meetings and posting pornographic images. Always use the systems that are already in place to avoid unauthorized assess to company and personal data.

Working remotely may be the new norm and no one knows when employees will return to the workplace. In the meantime, stay home, stay safe, and be sure to work as securely as possible.

5 Challenges of Starting a New Contract from Home (and some ideas to overcome them)

5 Challenges of Starting a New Contract from Home (and some ideas to overcome them)

Over the past months, businesses across Canada have adapted to having entire teams working remotely. It’s presenting new obstacles, but it isn’t stopping projects from moving forward nor is it preventing IT contracts from starting. Consequently, we’ve had a number of consultants express challenges of their own as they start new gigs with new clients while working remotely, specifically because they’re getting a completely different first-day experience.

There are always difficulties that can arise on the first day of your contract, but the current situation has brought some brand-new ones. Here are 5 challenges some of Eagle’s new contractors have experienced, as well as some suggestions on how you can approach them:

Getting to Know the Team

Who’s who? Who does what and how do they fit into this project? The first few days of a new contract usually include a lot of time meeting the team and understanding each individual’s role — a task that’s generally easier to do in-person. Now, you’re confined to web conferencing and collaboration tools, which makes it difficult, but not impossible. You’ll need to go above and beyond to get to know people since you won’t have those watercooler or lunchtime conversations. Use your webcam when possible to make a more personal connection and so you can put faces to names. Also, follow them on LinkedIn and reach out to people individually, asking questions and learning about who they are, what they do, and what makes them tick.

Setting-Up on the Client’s Systems

Be prepared to have certain software already installed on your computer (which conferencing tool do they use?) and you’ll probably also need the ability to log into their system. Don’t wait until the last minute to get set-up or you can lose an entire day of productivity. Reach out to your client before the start date to understand all of the requirements and try to get your credentials early. Then spend some time a few days before to set up your workspace. Make sure you have the right equipment and applications downloaded and test them to make sure that they’re working. It’s also wise to be up a little earlier on your first day so you can get connected and get off on the right foot.

The Client May Not Be Prepared

Some clients aren’t ready for you on the best of days. Now that they’ve been thrown into managing their teams remotely, you can bet they are also dealing with more challenges. We shared a similar post on this topic a couple months ago and much of the advice still applies. Be prepared to take matters into your own hands and ask for some reading material to familiarize yourself with the organization and the project. It’s also a great opportunity to quickly reach out to a few people to get to know them.

Proving Yourself is More Challenging

Not just the first day, but throughout the contract, showing the client that you are working and providing value is going to require more effort because they will not physically see you being productive. On that first day, ask questions to understand and define your goals and targets. Then you can prepare detailed reports throughout the contract that match-up. You’re still going to need timesheet approval to get paid, so this will help minimize disputes with a client who is reviewing all spending with a little more scrutiny.

Building Your Work-from-Home Routine

Forget it being the first day or that this is might be unchartered territory for both you and your client, people working remotely have been trying to balance their routines for years. You need to consciously develop a plan that prevents you from either not being productive due to all of the distractions around your home, or the other extreme, working too much because it’s always right there. Build yourself a distraction-free workspace where you know you can focus on work and, if possible, close it off to yourself outside of working hours. You can also set specific work times, including breaks, that will ensure you get the right balance of work and personal life at home.

Have you discovered any new challenges as organizations adapt to a new way of doing business during the COVID-19 pandemic? We’d love to hear about your experiences and how you dealt with them. Please share in the comments below.

Change the Negative Attitude That’s Destroying Your Career

Change the Negative Attitude That's Destroying Your Career

When we look back at all the reasons contractors have created a bad reputation for themselves, one common theme sticks out across the stories — a negative attitude. We all have bad days but there are some IT professionals we meet who are plagued with a negative attitude that hinders their relationships with not just recruiters, but clients too. In fact, there are situations when clients have asked us never to present an individual to them again because their demeanour was too sour.

Examples of negative contractors stand out through the entire job search and contracting process. Some destroy their first impressions with rude interactions when a recruiter first reaches out. Rude behaviour like immediately demanding “What’s the rate?”, swearing or hanging up mid-conversation are all behaviours that almost guarantee you will not be hearing from that recruiter again, no matter how much of a fit you are for the next role. You might argue that intrusive phone calls from random recruiters in the middle of the day warrants a harsh response, but there are certainly more polite ways to handle the human being on the other end of the phone.

Then there are the times a negative attitude suddenly appears from the qualified IT contractor who we’re working with to submit to a client. These individuals were amazing in the initial screening but transition into a monster. They refuse advice, telling us their resume is “good enough” and when they get in front of the client for an interview, they immediately start bashing previous clients and sometimes even the potential client! Then, when the inevitable decline comes in, they throw the blame back on the recruiter, claiming they were badly prepared or misinformed about the opportunity.

And finally, the most common example of negative attitudes that hinder a contractor’s career come when they’re at the client site. It’s usually something that doesn’t come out immediately, but then the client informs us that the individual is intolerable. The negative person takes a hostile approach to dealing with confrontation or has a “my way or the highway” frame of mind. In other words, customer service on the contractor’s part is clearly lacking.

Do any of these examples sound like you? Have you noticed that people are calling you less and less for opportunities? It might be time to take control and bring a more positive approach to your work. Here are a few tips on how to do that:

  • Recognize the negative attitudes you have and when they’re most prevalent. This is the most difficult part of the process and requires some uncomfortable self-awareness.
  • Identify the cause. Are you unhappy in other parts of your life? Are you under pressure or frustrated and reacting with too much emotion?
  • Understand how negativity is affecting your career. Recognizing the bridges you’ve burned will give you motivation and goals to create a change.
  • Evaluate how you speak. You may think you’re a positive person, but if you think back to conversations you’ve had throughout the day, your wording may have been perceived as miserable.
  • Force yourself to use positive speech and positive self-talk. Consciously adding more positive words and eliminating the negative words from your vocabulary will shift your way of thinking and your natural conversations.
  • Put yourself in positive situations. Indulge in more comedy, read more uplifting stories and, most importantly, surround yourself with positive people. You’ll naturally pick up a different approach.
  • Take on a “Change” mentality instead of being a victim. Rather than get angry at a situation, ask questions to see how you can make it better.

All of us slip up here and there. Sometimes you’re having a bad day and, frankly, sometimes you have to deal with ridiculous people who need to be put in their place. What will differentiate you as a negative or positive contractor is how you deal with each situation. Carefully thinking about your wording, recognizing when you mess up and apologizing, as well as understanding other people’s bad days will all move you into a more favourable spot with both recruiters and clients.

Build a Stellar Client Relationship by Managing Realistic Expectations

Build a Stellar Client Relationship by Managing Realistic Expectations

A reality IT recruiters face is that some gigs are going to go wrong. The contractor and client get off to a good start, and then a few months in, we get a call that things aren’t working out. There are a number of reasons IT contracts crash and burn — personalities, lack of skills, poor leadership — but many times, we learn that the situation could have been avoided if more clear expectations had been set up front. Obviously, the contract between all parties defines the project and deliverables, but a good working relationship has to be built on more than is typically written in a contract.

Failing to define realistic expectations with your client, your team, or anybody involved with an IT contract can lead to damaged relationships and unnecessary conflict. As the project progresses, all parties may make assumptions that drift further and further apart. Suddenly, when one person thinks everything is running smoothly, another is disappointed and angry at the status.

A standard contract will define the final deliverables, expected hours to be worked, location, duration and rate. But there are always other smaller expectations to be discussed upfront with your client. For example, you might ask your client for more details about the final deliverables, their own goals for the project, and milestones they would like to see met. It’s also the time to be upfront about your own limitations to avoid and scope creep. For example, which days you are unable to work and which skills you do not have (and never claimed to have).

Expectations are not limited to complete projects and should be set on a micro level as well. One example is meetings. These are frequently referred to as a waste of time because proper expectations were not set. If everybody attending is aware of the goals, desired outcome, expected duration and who will be in attendance, it not only helps them prepare, but you know if the meeting was successful at the end. When it’s a waste of time, everybody will understand why and can work to improve it.

How Can You Set Realistic Expectations with Your Client?

The earlier you can set expectations to ensure everyone is working towards the same, common goal, the more efficient the project will be. Here are a few tips to get you on your way:

  • Don’t assume anything. Put everything on the table and ensure you both clearly understand each other’s expectations, desired outcomes and definitions of success. Understand what’s a must-have and what’s nice-to-have.
  • Eliminate the fluff. We’ve posted many times about realistic SMART goals and expectations should follow the same guidelines.
  • Build your communication skills. It is impossible to understand expectations if you cannot communicate your own. You also have no control over other people’s communication abilities, so yours need to make up for their shortfalls.
  • Confirm it all in writing. Not everything has to be in a formal contract, but a follow-up email summarizing the agreed expectations can be invaluable.
  • Provide updates. Things are going to go wrong and off-track, and that’s ok. But if expectations were never adjusted, there is going to be disappointment when reality is revealed.

What expectations do you set with your clients before beginning a project? What about with your recruiter? Are there any discussions you like to have upfront before moving forward on an application? Please share your opinion in the comments below.

Client Agreements and IT Contractors: Understanding your ability to re-use information you gained while working with a client

Client Agreements and IT Contractors: Understanding your ability to re-use information you gained while working with a client

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Competition in the business world is fierce and some industries are more intense than others, innovating at an extremely fast pace. The slightest delay in a new product release or minor variation in product features could be the difference between being first to market and that can have a drastic impact to the bottom line. To ensure that clients protect their position in the marketplace, clients go to great lengths to protect their IP, including tools utilized to develop new products. Being an IT contractor, often working on new projects that impact a client’s market offering, you have the opportunity to work on leading edge projects with leading edge tools. Clients realize the risk they have in bringing on contractors and thus have strict contracts regarding the access and use of IP and tools.

Most client contracts go beyond the basic details of pay rate, job description and invoicing details. Client contracts typically have many clauses built in to ensure they are protected from external resources sharing and reusing information gained while on contract with them. Typical protection clauses include confidentiality agreements, non-competes, intellectual property rights, ownership of information, data security and data privacy clauses. These clauses are often followed with client schedules going into further detail on each of these clauses.

If you have been a contractor for many years, you are not a stranger to these clauses and understand their implications. With the influx of IT resources into the Canadian marketplace and the rise of the “gig economy” there are many new players on the scene. Often, these resources do not take the time to fully understand the clauses they are agreeing to and the impact on future use of data/products they gained during the time with the client.

When signing a new client agreement, it is important that contractors take the time to read the contract, and where needed, seek external legal guidance on the clauses and implications to your business. 99% of the time, contractors understand and adhere to these clauses but there are always a few contractors who take liberties with the knowledge they have gained or developed while working with a client. Breaching these clauses has serious legal and financial ramifications and can impact future contracts.

For example, very innocently, you may believe you have the right to take home data or files after a project is completed because you feel you own it, after all, you created it. Perhaps it’s so you can bring its value to future projects or maybe you’d just like to use it within your portfolio and score future gigs. But when you agree to work with a client and sign-off on their contract, you do not own any of this. Certainly, you own the knowledge capital that you brought to the project but what you do with it is owned by the client. They’re paying you for that knowledge and your work, so everything you work with while at the client site is owned by the client.

What can you do about this? You could ask to modify the contract and edit the clauses so they suit your needs, but this will rarely become reality. Clients’ lawyers carefully worded those clauses to protect them as best as possible and they are not up for debate. Their privacy and confidentiality are of higher value to them than any individual could possibly bring.

Instead, it’s best to accept that they exist and ensure you don’t do anything that might raise some red flags with the client. For example:

  • Don’t access external sites when working that are not on the client’s approved list.
  • Don’t send documents to your personal email, even if it’s harmless and you have full intentions to delete them.
  • Don’t print client reference material and bring it home, again, even if you plan to destroy it once you’ve completed your work.
  • Don’t take copies of software.
  • Don’t keep any devices given to you once you depart a project.
  • Ensure that all material and anything “owned” by the client is returned at the end of the project.

You can also take a few measures ahead of time to protect yourself and your own work:

  • Understand clauses fully and have them reviewed by your lawyer. They often extend beyond the end date of the contract so know what restrictions that might have on you before signing.
  • If you know that you will be using your own methodology or technology that you are bringing to the client, get your ownership of it in writing up-front. A heads-up though, this will involve lawyers and will have extra costs for you.
  • If you want to take home samples, not to share with competitors but to use in your portfolio, discuss it with the client and agree what is alright to be used and what you can say about it. Ensure this is all in writing.
  • If you are given any technology at the end of a project, for any reason, get a written release.

Clients usually have audit rights written into their contracts, meaning they can (and will) check in on you at any time to ensure you’re following their procedures and protecting their information. As already mentioned, neglecting their terms could result in the loss of your contract, legal proceedings and a damaged reputation. I always strongly recommend your lawyer reviews your contracts before you sign anything (if the terms are new to you) and if you believe you might bump into any situation where you’ll want to take home your work, make you completely understand those specific clauses inside and out.

Silver Linings: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Can Strengthen How We Work

Brianne Risley By Brianne Risley,
Director, Delivery Strategy & Development at Eagle

When faced with sweeping changes affecting how we live and work, I like to reflect on some of the positive outcomes I can see for our companies and teams when restrictions are finally lifted. We have gone through something together — let’s look at some ways we are strengthened by this experience.

  • Tighter Bonds: “Work-Friends” are now “Work-Family”. We’ve shared an unprecedented experience together over the past 4 weeks. “Work-friends” have deepened into something a bit more personal as we share stories, fears, and find ways to offer support to teammates that needed that extra bit of connection. We’ve met co-workers’ kids, we know their dogs, we’ve seen them with beards and have no make-up. It used to be I could only say that about close friends. I believe the personal nature of this openness will lead to long-term connections with the people we worked with through this crisis, which is far different than the transient nature of most work relationships.
  • Remote Work… Works!: Every company that has ever stubbornly held fast to a “must-be-on-site”, “bum-in-seat” policy for their project teams has been awakened to remote work possibilities. This opens the opportunity of using remote workers with specialized skills from across the country (and beyond) to support that ‘hard-to-fill’ project in Atlantic Canada or the Prairie provinces. It also presents a path forward for workers in Alberta who find themselves under-employed by the ‘double whammy’ of low oil prices and the pandemic to find work on projects across North America. Before this all started, there was already a strong undercurrent of Canadians working remotely for US companies on tech projects. I expect this to grow significantly in the time ahead.
  • IT Jobs for the Foreseeable Future: All this connectedness is driven by Technology projects and IT workers. Jobs and wages will continue to be strong in this sector which is good for me, as an IT Recruiter, and for my candidate base!
  • ‘Show and Tell’ Culture for Companies and Workers: How will a company introduce a remote worker to their corporate culture? Likewise, how do you, as a remote worker, show that you can be a key contributor to a team-oriented company? Companies will expand on using visual techniques like team pictures, project videos, and 360 video tours of their offices to publicly showcase their work environments. An example of this is here. For workers, we’ll go beyond the basics like optimizing a LinkedIn profile, or crafting a solid personal brand to showcase who we are. To stand out, we will do something bold like sharing a video-tour of our home office to show our preparedness for remote work, or come to interviews with a family photo along-side our diplomas. If you’re joining a ‘work-family’, be prepared to share a bit more about who you are on both a personal and professional-level.

All change comes with a silver lining. There are intrinsic benefits to our work culture that will come from this experience. It’s up to each of us to be mindful, and to capitalize on them.

The Top Tools to Host Meetings Online While Working from Home

The Top Tools to Host Meetings Online While Working from Home

COVID-19 has quickly forced many of us from full-access to our teams in-person to working by ourselves at home. Communication with the rest of the team is obviously still possible, but depending on your client’s set-up, productive communication and updates might not be as simple. Separate from your contract work, physical distancing also creates challenges in setting up interviews with recruiters, leading networking events with colleagues, or any other kind of gathering you’d typically have professionally or personally.

There are a number of solutions available to help set-up meetings and accomplish your objectives. The challenge is weeding through them all to find the one that’s right for you. We’ve looked into some of the most common ones and summarized what you need to know here:

Standard Social Media Chat Applications

Let’s get this out of the way first. Facebook Messenger, Facetime, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Google Hangouts all provide ways for you to connect with friends and family, whether by chat or by video. They’re completely free and generally simple to use, so at a first glance, these would look like a fantastic options, but they do have some drawbacks. First, as noted, these are typically used for friends and family and require you to connect your social media profiles. Maybe you’re ok with it, but others would prefer not to have their colleagues following them on Facebook. These applications are also not designed for the work environment and are limited in a number of meeting-related features available in the below solutions.

Zoom

Zoom is perhaps the most popular platform being used today. Sign-up is easy and the free version allows unlimited 1-on-1 meetings. You can schedule meetings or start it immediately, but either way, you’re provided a link to send meeting attendees, which they just click on. Attendees will be prompted to download some Zoom software, but the process is quick and easy. Once in the meeting, users can turn on video as well as share screens. The downside to the free version is that any meeting with more than 2 people is limited to 40 minutes in length.

The paid version of Zoom is still reasonable. The cost is $20/month or you can subscribe for an entire year for $200. This opens up a variety of new meeting features, including up to 24-hour maximum meeting duration. Only the host of a meeting is required to pay for the upgraded version of Zoom. All attendees can have a free account and still attend.

Zoom also has many extra features, including a filter tool that lets you touch up your appearance when you’re on video. This recent Inc. article summarizes 7 tips for using Zoom.

Join.me

Join.me is another popular meeting tool and has been around for years. It contains many of the same features as Zoom but does not have a free version available. The Lite version costs $13/month is limited to 5 participants per meeting and no webcam. There are no time limits or meeting limits, though, so if you’re looking to host small conference calls, this would be a great solution. The next level up is $24/month and allows for up to 10 webcam streams and up to 250 participants.

Google Hangouts Meet

Google’s Gsuite is a business solution that provides access to email hosting, storage and a number of other organizational tools, including Google Hangouts Meet. The cost is $7.80/user/month, so if you’re an independent contractor, that would be your only cost and you get the entire Gsuite package. This solution is especially great if you own your own domain and want to consolidate all of those services.

Similar to the other solutions, Hangouts Meet lets you setup a meeting and share a link, without worrying if other teammates also have accounts and plugins. With a fast, lightweight interface and smart participant management, multi-person video calls are a breeze. Hangouts Meet also integrates with Google Calendar for some extra features and is accessible on mobile.

Microsoft Teams (replaced Skype for Business)

There’s a chance you already have access to Microsoft Teams. It is primarily for collaboration and chats as part of Office 365, and also includes a great meetings feature, that replaced Skype for Business. If you don’t already have access, signing-up is free and just requires a Microsoft account, but there is an extra fee if you want access to the conferencing.

Similar to Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams comes as part of a full package of business services from Microsoft. This starts at $10.20/user/month that is an annual commitment, and also comes with storage and access to web applications.

GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting by LogMeIn is another one of the original services and scales up for very large organizations. Their basic Professional level starts at $19/month or $16.25/month billed annually. This package should give you everything you need, including HD video, screensharing, web audio, dial-in conference line, unlimited meetings or meeting lengths, up to 150 participants, plus much more.

Blue Jeans

Another industry leader, BlueJeans, offers many of the same features. Their standard package starts at $15.90/month and allows you to host up to 50 participants, with unlimited meetings with unlimited durations. A differentiator is their Smart Meetings Features which includes meeting highlights, action item tagging and intelligent meeting recaps. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, you can sign-up for a 7 day free trial to see how you like it.

There are tons of meeting tools available and the ones listed above are a selection of the popular ones we’ve come across or used in the past. While Eagle does not recommend any specific one, we do believe that each of these are worth looking at if you’re in the market for a new tool.

What online meeting tools do you use? Do you have a preference? Please share your recommendations in the comments below!