Working with remote team members and freelancers can be a challenging task, especially if your team is fairly big and spread throughout the world. The most problematic part of managing a virtual team is choosing the right communication platform and eradicating technical barriers from the usual work flow.

There are a slew of remote desktop and video conferencing apps, which allows multiple people can join and have a conversation. As we obviously strongly believe, online collaboration has changed its form and is not limited to only voice and video conferences. Members working under a remote umbrella, have to frequently deal with videos, documents, Google Docs, PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, code segments, screen mockups and so forth.

Not many freelancers are aware of the fact that Google Plus Hangouts can be used as an online platform for remote video collaboration. The best thing about Google Plus is that it is completely free, needs no software installations and works from any computer, as long as you have a working Internet connection.

Screen Sharing

Google Plus hangouts have recently added Google Hangouts with Extras, such as the ability to share your computer screen with fellow team members. With just one mouse click, all the members participating in the hangout can see whats happening in your screen. You are free to choose whether you want to share the entire screen, a small portion of it or just a specific application window.

Here is how the screen sharing user interface of Google Plus Hangouts look like:

This feature is very useful when a member of your team needs assistance in fixing something or he needs the opinion of other team members about a design he created. With screen sharing, there is no need to take screenshots and transfer files to each and every team member, over and over again. One limitation of screen sharing feature in Hangouts is that remote users are not allowed to take control of the host computer. Hopefully, Google will include this in a future upgrade.

Seamless Collaboration of Google Docs Documents

This is one of those “Aha” moments when everything is built right inside the application and you don’t have to worry about sending files in order to discuss them via video conferencing.

Collaborating on files, PDF’s, PowerPoint presentations and documents with video chat and remote members has never been easier. If you use Google Docs as your online office application, you can share any document with remote members and collaborate over it in real time. That is a huge reason why we have integrated Mavenlink with Google Apps and Google Docs. Given the fact that Google Docs itself supports real time online collaboration makes the entire process smooth and preserves the focus.

To collaborate on a shared document stored in your Google Docs account, click the little “+” at the top of the left sidebar and select the document. Prior to collaboration, you must grant all the necessary permissions (view only / view and edit) from your Google Docs account.

Real-time document collaboration is probably the biggest edge of Google Plus over its video conferencing competitors (e.g. Skype, iChat) and Hangouts offers a perfect environment for freelancers and team members to work on a centralized environment while speaking to each other.

On The Move?

We’re often too busy and there are situations when you might not make the remote meeting in time. One advantage of using Google Plus hangouts for remote conferences is that team members can join the discussion from their Android or iPhone device. This makes Hangouts a must use tool for people who travel a lot and need a simple group chat app that works from a computer as well as from their Android or iOS device.

When you are hanging out with someone who is using a computer, you won’t be able to view shared documents or participate in a screen sharing session. However, you can talk with all the members of the team and use your smartphone’s front camera to broadcast yourself.

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Have you used Google Hangouts for video collaboration with remote teams or freelancers? If so, what tips or stories do you have to share?

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