In this global economy, people collaborate more and more online. There are fewer face-to-face meetings and more work is done virtually. Business owners need to adapt to the changing environment and make use of any technology that helps them in their business.
A virtual team, whether they are virtual assistants, employees, contractors, freelancers, or a trusted colleague offers an opportunity that didn’t exist decades ago. It allows your business to be more efficient, productive, and nimble. With virtual teams, everything is handled online through email, instant messaging, software platforms, and shared files.
As you know, I’m a big fan of using Google tools in my business, and Google Docs is the one that I use the most. Google Tools are free, cloud-based, and make it easy to work as a team.
Word Processing Tools
If you’re a business owner, you probably have a word-processing tool for articles, procedures, and other content-related writing. Word processing tools – or writing programs – have been around for a long while.
Until recently, Microsoft Word was the go-to software for creating documents. While MS Word is robust and user-friendly, it does have key limitations. In my business, I’ve found Google Docs is a much better alternative because I share files and collaborate with others on a document.
What is Google Docs?
Google Docs is an online word processor that lets you create, edit, format, save and store documents. It’s part of Google Workspace. Other programs in the Google Workspace include Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Calendar, Gmail, and several others.
Two key features of Google Docs are its cost and its accessibility. Like other Google Workspace programs, it’s free to use. In addition, files are stored in the cloud. This makes them accessible from any device and from any location, as long as you’re logged in and have permission to access the file.
I love how this short video shows you how you can see others working on your document in real-time:
(Note that although this video is a little bit older, the content is still good)
Collaborating with Others in Google Docs
Google Docs makes it easy to send, edit, and discuss your documents with others.
One of the coolest features of Google Docs is the ability to easily share documents with others and set access levels. Here are the steps for sharing your Google Doc:
- Once you are in the file you want to share
- Click Share
- Enter the email address of the person you want to share with.
- Decide what role people will have in your file (Viewer, Commenter, or Editor).
- Check the box if you want to notify the person via email. If you don’t want to notify people, uncheck the box.
- Click Send or Share.
You can also share a link to the document, and anyone with the link can view the document.
Google Docs’ Commenting feature enables you to have a real-time conversation about a specific part of the document. This makes communication efficient and eliminates back-and-forth discussions on another platform – like email or phone.
Highlight the section you’re discussing, click Comment, and type in your notes. You can also add “+ the person’s Gmail email address” within the comment and it will notify a specific person that there’s a pending comment for them to review.
Of course, Google Docs has basic editing features, and edits are made in real-time when you’re connected to the internet. For example, two people can be editing the document at the same time, and each person will be able to see the other person’s edits immediately.
Has someone ever sent you a Microsoft Word document, but you don’t have the program? Now, you can upload and open an MS Word file within Google Docs. You can also upload and edit PDF files to Google Docs.
Finally, Google Docs has a Suggesting mode that’s very useful in some situations. If a person editing a document does not want to make changes to the document, but only suggested edits, then they can toggle to Suggesting mode. The original author of the document can then decide whether to accept or reject these changes.
Getting Started with Google Docs
To get started with Google Docs, all you need is a Google account. You can sign up for free. Once you’ve logged into your Google account, you’ll see nine dots in the upper right-hand corner of the Google home page. If you click on those 9 dots, you’ll see several Google tools, including Google Docs.
For more training on Google Docs, check out this longer tutorial:
I can’t imagine going back to sharing files via email attachments. It’s too hard to keep up with when you have multiple iterations and versions of a document. Google Docs has been a game changer in my business. My team uses this program daily to write articles, create and edit procedures, communicate affiliate information, and keep track of important information.
The advantages I’ve mentioned above – free, cloud-based, easy collaboration – apply to all of the Google Workspace products, not just Google Docs. Your team can collaborate on a Google Sheets file or a Google Slides deck.
While there’s no substitute for direct communication on the phone or face-to-face, the features of Google Docs make it easy to communicate and collaborate on specific business tasks. As your business grows, don’t be afraid to try out new technology or programs that may help you to be more efficient and productive.
(This article was originally published in June 2011)