Skype can bring workers together from all over the world. Skype can make telecommuting much easier and more productive. You can use Skype just like a phone for personal or business purposes. However, Skype also has extra features that make it even more valuable than a traditional phone.
Skype conference calls work the same as a conference call over a phone. You also have the option for a video call, in addition to audio. Skype has many other useful features, including instant messaging (IM), file sharing, and screen sharing. We will discuss these features and others below.
Better Than Traditional Phones
First, I will provide a little background information about Skype. Skype is a VOIP system. VOIP stands for “voice over internet protocol”. This means that Skype is a phone system, which you can use on a computer with an internet connection.
Skype has all of the functionality of a traditional phone. However, Skype has many other uses. For example, you can set up conference calls between large groups of people. In addition, you can opt for a video call in Skype. This allows for a more personal touch when you leave messages or make contact with a business partner.
I have included a screenshot from my Skype profile below:
Skype conference calls allow you to have a teleconference with anyone on Earth. Each call participant needs either a phone, or a computer with Skype and an internet connection. You can have up to 25 people in a Skype conference call. This makes Skype a good option for most small to medium size teams.
If a person has Skype, simply search for his name in your Skype window, and add him as a contact. Then, call him, or add him as another participant on an active call. You can download Skype here.
Call or Text to Landlines or Mobile Phones
To reach someone without a computer, you can call a landline or cell phone from Skype. You will need Skype credit or a subscription. You can see current Skype subscription rates here. At the time of this writing, a U.S. plan costs $2.99 per month. This gives you unlimited minutes for calling any landline or mobile phone.
You can pay quarterly (3 months) and save 5%, or pay yearly and save 15%. Note that if you pay for the year in advance, it will cost $30.50. Some phone plans with unlimited calling minutes will cost $30 per month – or more.
In addition, you can buy Skype credit, in increments of $10 or $25. You also have the option to allow an auto-recharge when your account balance runs low. To learn more, check Skype credit options here. Skype credit allows you to make calls to mobile phones or landlines, or send text messages. I will cover this further below.
You should explore Skype as a low-cost phone option for your business or consulting practice. You can also make your business look more professional with additional features, discussed further below.
Record Audio or Video Messages
If you make a call and get no answer, you can leave an audio or video message. You can use this feature when you need to explain a task visually to someone. You can also create welcome videos for new employees, or video tutorials for colleagues.
Mute Your Microphone
You can mute your microphone during a call, to eliminate static or background noise. The Skype window has a mute button on screen, which changes appearance to indicate a muted microphone. When people ask if you dropped the call, make sure to unmute your microphone!
You can also turn video on and off during the call, as needed. I find that if one Skype user experiences slow internet, disabling video can often improve call quality.
Skype lets you send instant messages to contacts, whether you have an active call with them or not. You can also set your status and share files with others on Skype, using the instant message interface.
Send Private Messages to Contacts
You can send a private message to any person in your Skype contact list. Even better, you do not need to have an active call with that person to send a message. In addition, you can start conversations, and send messages only to the people in that conversation group. This feature helps if you have a small team that needs information and updates from you.
Send Files & Pictures
Within the instant message interface, you can send files and pictures to your contacts. Again, you can send them to one person, or to a specific group of people. During a call, you can send a document or picture to the group, without asking everyone to open an email. You can also send a file and a request for feedback to a coworker who is online.
Send Text Messages
You can also use Skype to send text messages to a specific cell phone. Again, you will need either Skype credit or a subscription to do this. This feature allows you to send text messages to international phones as well. As mentioned before, Skype has the potential to replace a traditional phone for your business, at a much lower cost.
Set Your Status
You can set your status to Online, Away, Do Not Disturb, Invisible, or Offline. If you use this feature, remember to change it when you finish an important task. Otherwise, people will think you are offline, and you will wonder why nobody calls or messages you!
This feature can help you to set limits on your time with coworkers who need assistance. This feature can also help you to manage cooperative versus solitary work time. Sometimes, you need long stretches alone to concentrate on creative or complex work.
Skype has many cool features. I have included some of these hidden gems below.
Use Caller ID
Instead of getting an unknown number, your contacts will know you called. When you set up a caller ID in Skype, you can use your mobile or office phone number. This mobile or office number will show up when you call from Skype. Translation: your friends and business contacts will take your call!
Get a Skype Number
When you sign up for a Skype number, you get your own separate phone number. This can help to improve your image as an independent consultant or small business owner. You can even use this number instead of a traditional home phone number. That way, you can provide phone contact information to banks and other entities. As an added benefit, a Skype number lets family and friends stay in touch when you are abroad.
I love this feature. I find it indispensable when I teach and tutor online. If a student has a question, he can take a picture of the problem, and view it on his computer. He can then use Skype to share his screen with me. Then, I can see exactly what he is working on, and guide him through the problem, step by step. I can also share my screen with a student, so he can see the steps to solve a problem.
By using Microsoft Paint or other applications, you can create drawings, graphs, and flowcharts. By using Skype’s screen sharing feature, you can explain your ideas to coworkers visually, in real time. You can also collaborate on Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files together.
Simply choose someone to edit the file, and have that person share his screen. This allows input and feedback as everyone works together on a project. You can also use screen sharing to coordinate travel plans for a business meeting. Another possibility is brainstorming product ideas or names. The potential uses go on and on!
You can forward calls to a mobile phone or landline, at no extra cost to the caller. The catch is that, once again, you need a subscription or Skype credit for this. This might help if you have multiple phone lines in your business, such as IT/Tech Support, Sales, etc.
You can give different Skype numbers on your website, and have the numbers forwarded to the right person. If a phone number changes, you can simply change the number that you forward to. That way, you do not need to update the Skype number that appears on your website.
Create Custom Contact Lists
You can create contact lists, or “groups”, in Skype. This feature can separate the areas of your life within Skype, such as family, friends, coworkers, and clients. In addition, you can create groups for different aspects of your business: IT department, Sales department, HR department, etc.
This saves you the trouble of searching through your entire contact list for a specific name. I use this feature to keep all of my current students in one list.
In conclusion, Skype provides a great way to keep in touch with your family, friends, clients, or business colleagues. Skype conference calls give you a great deal of flexibility in managing your virtual meetings.
Hopefully, this article will help you to decide if Skype has the features that you need to do business. Besides Skype, there are many other tools you will need to work remotely, so check out my article on the best tools for telecommuting.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.