How to Determine a Fair Wage for Your Foreign Virtual Assistants

How to Determine a Fair Wage for Your Foreign Virtual Assistants

How much you pay a Virtual Assistant depends on where they live and work. If your hiring from the UK, you can expect to pay anything from £10 to £35 per hour. If you’re hiring from the Philippines you will get offers of work anywhere from £1.00 to £10.00 per hour.

If you’ve never worked with people from overseas, that may sound absurdly low.

You may take objection to these low rates, maybe you think this is ak

in to slave labour, maybe you think it would be impossible to have a good quality of life on £3.10 per hour?

When I first posted our pay rates

The intention of this post is to give you enough information to make your own assessment as to what you should pay your international remote workers. After reading this I hope you will be confident that you are not taking advantage of people and that what you are doing is giving your workers and their families a decent quality of life.

While you are reading this, all I ask is that you keep an open mind and read the whole of this article. If, after reading this, you find an issue with our reasoning, I encourage you to share your thoughts and make suggestions as to how we can determine what would be a fair wage, one that provides a decent and happy life for your team. As you’ll read below, we are conducting further research into this ourselves and will publish our findings in due course.

What is a fair and decent wage?

The question of what is a ‘fair’ wage when hiring from abroad is a difficult one to answer and is the cause of much-heated debate whenever I post about this subject.

When I started using Virtual Assistants, I began with a UK based VA on £12.50 per hour, but, as my company had very little revenue, I was really limited as to how much work I could afford to outsource.

After reading Tim Ferriss’s book, ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’, I got the idea to look further afield to countries where the cost of living is much lower and therefore, the expected pay rates were less.

After a bit of trial and error, I found a great VA based in the Philippines.

When advertising the position, I received over 1000 applicants. Many applicants were asking for as little as $1 per hour (I have since learned this is the rate paid by many larger Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies). I took issue with these exceptionally low rates and I know from speaking with my current team of 13 full-time Filipino VAs, that one can hardly exist on $8 per day!

To figure out what I should be paying, I did some research into the average wages for Filipino VAs.

First of all, I looked at the recruitment site I’d used, Online Jobs, https://blog.onlinejobs.ph/comprehensive-guide-to-virtual-assistant-salaries-in-the-philippines,  and Chris Ducker’s blog, author of Virtual Freedom, https://www.chrisducker.com/how-much-do-i-pay-my-virtual-assistant/

Based on these sites, an entry-level wage for a general assistant VA should be about £3.00 per hour (it was a little less when I started a few years ago), so this is what I paid in the beginning.

After some lengthy discussions with our team we reviewed our wage rates earlier in the year and now have a basic starting wage of £3.10 (£3.30 after 4 weeks probation) and we pay considerably more for experienced staff.

I recently posted on Facebook to encourage people to start using Virtual Assistants. In that post, I stated what we currently pay. I had a mixed response, and some people were strongly opposed to paying someone so little.

This prompted me to do some further research, as I wanted to be sure I was paying enough to give people a decent quality of life. I don’t want people working for me to be just surviving day-to-day, I want them to have enough income to enjoy their lives and support their families.

Here’s what I found doing some preliminary research:

At the time of writing (August 2019), The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) currently pegs day-to-day poverty threshold at Php9,063.75 a month for a family of five. This equates to just £141 (€155) per month (for the entire family). However, there is much debate about this being insufficient to provide even a basic living wage above the poverty line. 9 out of 10 families in the Philippines are currently below this poverty line.

In order to know what amount of household income will provide a family with a decent quality of life requires far more data than simply looking at the average earnings and the relative cost of living. For the Philippines, where our team is based, this research has been done by IBON who ‘seeks to promote an understanding of socio-economics that serves the interests and aspirations of the Filipino people’, https://www.ibon.org/about/

They suggest a more realistic minimum household income [for a family of 5] is PHP23,660, or £370.20 (€407.22) per month, including bonuses.

https://www.ibon.org/family-living-wage-for-a-family-of-five-members-in-ncr/

However, The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has recommended that PHP42,000 or £650 (€715) per month is “a decent income [for an average household of 4.4 people]’ https://www.ibon.org/time-for-govt-to-come-up-with-realistic-poverty-threshold-ibon/

Our entry-level wage for an unskilled, general admin role, full-time Filipino contractor is about £3.10 per hour rising to £3.30 after a 4-week trial period. This equates to £528 (€580) per month. We also give an 8% Christmas bonus, 20 days paid holiday and some additional benefits such as maternity pay. We give inflation-linked pay rises as standard and a performance review linked rise every 6 months.

This means that even if the new trainee is the sole earner in a family of 5, they are above the recommended minimum household income of £370.20 (€407.22).

Once someone has been with us for 12 months, they would typically be on more than £4.06 per hour or £650 (€715) per month (due to promotions and pay rises) and therefore on their single income could support an average-sized family.

You can see all our wage banding here: https://bit.ly/3moNQQP

Below you’ll find a sample of wages, hourly rates and relative cost of living in EU member states. I was surprised to see the seventeen-fold difference between the highest and lowest hourly rate within the EU!

Country
Average NET Annual Wage (single, no kids, 2018)
[Gross Earnings]
Average Household Income (Married Couple, 2 kids 1 at 100% ave, 1 at 67% ave)
Minimum Wage, annualised (2018)
Median hourly earnings (2014)
A relative cost of living Index*
Earnings/Cost of Living^
SwitzerlandNo dataNo dataNo data€29.46230
Luxemburg€41,943€83,499€24,000€18,38174480
UK€34,049€60,151€18,600€14.81174345
EU-19 Average€26,233€48,749No data€14.08N/A
Spain€21,199€37,183€12,600€9.83130286
Czech Republic€11,265€21,810€6,216€4.56100218
Bulgaria€5,512€9,668€3,300€1.6783116
Philippines€8,508^€4,442^^9094

Data from https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat

Hourly Earnings: https://screencast.com/t/O1vlSAOMvP

Minimum Wages: https://screencast.com/t/uNsvMqhZVL1

Gross Salary: https://screencast.com/t/rCLCvyac0

* This is the recommended minimum living wage as the official minimum wage has been criticised as being unrealisticly low.
** This is the recommended Living wage for a family of 5.
*** The idea of including the final column was to give the means to compare the relative wealth of countries. I have simply divided Household Income by the Cost of Living.

Cost of living index from https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/country/ranking

* A Price Index of 134, that means that living there is 34% more expensive than living in the Czech Republic’. See the full explanation here: https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/country/ranking#price-index-explanation

 

The point of including this table is to show that what one needs to get paid, to have an average quality of life is relative to where you live.

This doesn’t mean that a Bulgarian on €1.67 per hour enjoys the same quality of life as a Swiss resident on €29.46. On the contrary, simply by looking at the relationship between hourly rate and cost of living cost index one can see a disproportionately low wage in the poorer countries, suggesting that those people have less disposable income after paying for life’s essentials (last column).

However, if you lived in Switzerland and employed someone living in Bulgaria and paid them €29.46 per hour, that person would have a disproportionately high quality of life due to the relatively low cost of living in Bulgaria compared to Switzerland.

Similarly, if you live in the UK and advertise a Virtual Assistants job at €14.81 per hour (the national average wage) you’d have a pretty tough job of convincing anyone living in Switzerland to apply. Conversely, your average Bulgarian, living in Bulgaria, would jump at the chance of earning €14.88!

The final column is simply the household income divided by the cost of living- this is an arbitrary number and is not proof of anything, but it does suggest that the relationship between household income and the relative cost of living is disproportionate for countries where the average income is lower. This suggests that it may be harder to have a decent quality of life in these countries, despite the low cost of living.

This concerns me as we want our team to enjoy life and not just survive. We are conducting an independent research project into determining what constitutes a fair and decent wage for a typical Filipino VA. For example, we want to know if the wage we pay an individual VA should be sufficient to support their entire family or is it fair to assume there would be more than one earner in the household? There are many other questions we want answers to, and we’ll publish all our methods and findings.

We aim to publish the results in early 2020 and will amend our wages and recommendations if needed.

By providing what we believe is a fair wage to provide a decent quality of life we have been able to provide stable, regular income to 6 people in one of the poorest countries in the world. This number is set to double in the next 6 months. If I had decided to hire within the UK, I would probably still be stuck with one, part-time VA as I simply wouldn’t have been able to grow the company at the same rate.

Our remote team of Filipino VAs run every aspect of our company. They manage other team members, create our websites and marketing materials, conduct research, write articles, solve problems and develop our products and services.

They are our first and second line support, our personal assistants and our source of countless innovations and ideas that help keep our businesses growing. They have genuine career prospects, engage in personal development and training and as a result enjoy their work and add value to our company every day. We rely on them sticking around for the long term, so we need to be sure we are doing right by them!

Using the data currently available to us for the Philippines, we recommend aiming for a family household income of at least £650 per month (including bonuses) for entry-level work. Therefore, we believe that our current base rate of £528.00 per month (not including 8% Christmas bonus) per person is fair. We’re also proud to have 2 families within our team where we employ two family members, so their household income is more than £1000 per month.

I hope you found this useful and welcome your comments and suggestions for our research project.

10 Practical Hacks to Be More Professional During Online Meetings

10 Practical Hacks to Be More Professional During Online Meetings

The popularity of online meetings has skyrocketed in recent times.

However, many businesses are failing to train their staff on how to participate effectively in remote meetings.

As a result, communication can feel disjointed and impersonal, which can negatively impact productivity and ruin rapport.

In this article I address the ten most common mistakes to ensure you and your team are both professional and engaged when meeting online.

 

1. Internet

  • Video lag and intermittent sound negatively impacts meetings and leads to frustration and delays.
  • If you can watch YouTube or Netflix on high resolution without interruption to the playback, then your internet should be sufficient for online meetings.
  • Make sure you test your internet before the meeting using www.speedtest.com. Try positioning your computer nearer your router or use a wired connection. Consider fibre-optic and have a 4G backup

 

2. Audio

  • You can’t participate in an online meeting if people can’t hear you! Straining to hear someone and having to ask them to repeat themselves continually is frustrating and kills the flow of conversations.
  • Consider purchasing an external mic on a stand or a headset with a mic-arm to keep your hands free. Laptop and camera mics are notoriously low quality.
  • 38% of communication is through the tone of your voice. Therefore, it’s essential you speak at a natural volume and don’t get frustrated if people can’t hear you as this may affect how people interpret the meaning of your words.

 

3. Camera

  • Communication is 55% visual. When you chose not to switch on your video, you make it easier for the meaning of your words to be misinterpreted. It’s also really disconcerting when you have your camera, and someone else doesn’t!
  • Quick tip- drag the meeting window to the top of your screen as near to your camera as possible. Make the window small, so your eyes are looking in the direction of your camera when you are watching the speaker on screen. Also, use the ‘speaker focus’ view if available as this stops you having to flick your eyes around the screen each time someone new starts to speak.
  • One more thing. Don’t force your colleagues and clients to stare up your nose for the entire meeting! Your camera needs to be at eye level. Consider using an external camera or use an external keyboard and mouse so you can prop your laptop on a laptop stand (or a few books).

 

4. Lighting

  • Having a camera is pointless if people can’t see your face! For this, you need to have a well-positioned light source.
  • Sit facing a window or other light source. Turn off lights behind you and close any blinds. Try to light your face from both sides if possible.

 

5. Longer Pauses

Many of the natural cues from body language and posture missed in online meetings, so you need to give people extra time to respond. This is especially true when people are new to online meetings as it can take a while for them to gain confidence in the new environment.

 

6. Encourage Participation

When people sit around a table, it’s easy to spot when someone isn’t involved, and a good Chair would bring them into the conversation. This is much more challenging in remote meetings, and it’s easy to forget about quite individuals so everyone should make a conscious effort not to speak over people and to involve everyone in the discussions.

 

7. Written Notes

Unless you are a master touch-typer, I recommend you scribble your notes on paper and type them up later. Doing this will allow you to focus better on the conversations as you’re not continually looking at and thinking about your finger position.

 

 

8. Share Your Screen

When you discuss a document, web page or anything on your computer, share your screen and use your mouse to highlight as your would a laser pointer during a presentation. Doing this improves engagement and makes it much easier to follow what you are talking about- especially when bringing the conversation back after a tangent.

 

9. Record

  • Online meetings can be recorded at the touch of a button. Consider if this would be useful for your company. We do this so our team can clarify what was said without having to ask the attendees to recall events at a later date.
  • We also scribe our meetings using the recordings as the scribe can listen at double speed so this saves time and money.
  • Having a video archive has also proved useful with dispute resolution. We also share recordings of coaching sessions with our clients and staff so they can refer back as needed.

 

10. Listen

  • And finally, LISTEN! When you’re in an online meeting, it’s easy to think people can’t see you. You may be tempted to check emails, look at your phone or whatever else you can think of. Try to resist this urge. Instead, imagine that you are sat in the meeting room with your colleagues and only do the things you would if they could see you.
  • In an online meeting, people can still see your eyes. If you continually look at your phone, they will think your distracted and not paying attention.
  • Lastly, if your the host, try to stare directly at the camera when other people speak, rather than looking at their image on the screen. This makes people feel as though you are giving them your undivided attention.

Good luck with your online meetings!

Dr. Steve Day

PS: If you’re using Zoom Meetings, please click here to watch this 30 minute deep dive into setting up and using Zoom like a pro.

Our Guide to Paying The 13th Month Pay Benefit

Our Guide to Paying The 13th Month Pay Benefit

You might be wondering what does a 13th month pay benefit mean? After all, there are still only 12 months in a year, right?

You’re right, there are still only 12 months every year. Although, if you are a business who has Filipino workers the 13th month pay benefit is essential. In the Philippines, people who work for you within many employment sectors will be expecting their 13th month pay to be paid to them by the 24th December each year.

Philippines Labour Laws

The 13th month pay benefit is a mandatory benefit in the Philippines. It is based on an employee’s basic salary. It is supported by the Department of Labour and Employment and unique to the Philippines and their labour standards.

The 13th month pay should be equivalent to one-twelfth (1/12) of an employee’s basic annual salary. Although, to our knowledge, not everyone is automatically expected to receive this benefit. Contracted employees are one sector who don’t need to be legally paid this benefit. So, if you pay your staff on a contract basis, on a task basis or a fixed amount for specific work, this 13th month pay doesn’t appear to be mandatory.

Here’s a sample of how to calculate for the 13th month pay:

Total basic salary earned for the year / 12 months = 13th month pay

January10,000 Php
February10,000 Php
March10,000 Php
April10,000 Php
May10,000 Php
June10,000 Php
July10,000 Php
August10,000 Php
September10,000 Php
October10,000 Php
November10,000 Php
December10,000 Php
Total basic salary earned for the year 120,000 Php
13th month pay  = 120,000 / 12

Pay Benefit = 10,000 Php

(Source: Philippine Department of Labour and Employment FAQ: http://bwc.dole.gov.ph/faqs-on-13th-month-pay)

Just because it might not be a legality or mandatory to your team, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look at paying it. Culturally in the Philippines, it is expected. After all, this is their Christmas bonus. It is also a great way to show your team that you respect their culture and really appreciate all their hard work and the loyalty they have shown you. If you don’t pay the 13th month pay, then you risk upsetting staff relations. If people don’t feel rewarded and nurtured by your business, they will look elsewhere.

After all your contracted staff have bills to pay and responsibilities in their daily life. By doing a good job for you, it is only right they get a bonus which will help make the festive season a happier one.

13th month pay benefit deadline and what to include

The law doesn’t stop employers from paying their 13th month pay early. It does state that it should be paid no later than the 24th December.

When you are calculating their 13th month pay things like overtime, holiday pay, night differential pay is not included. Maternity leave is also not necessary to include. Even though it will have been paid while they were on maternity leave, it is not seen as mandatory because they were not physically working for you at this time.

Employees who terminated their contract

The labour laws in the Philippines has made provisions that cover those individuals who resigned or whose employment contract was terminated, before the 13th month payment. The payment will need to be in alignment with the number of days a resigned employee has rendered.

 

As we ARE NOT recruitment or legal specialists, we highly recommend that you take advice from an expert within the field of recruitment/employment law, within the Philippines. This is only a guide, so please DON’T take everything written as fact.

Hopefully, this guide to the 13th month pay has shown you the importance of paying this bonus. Through awarding it you will help to keep your team loyal to your business in the year to come.

The Only 8 Apps and Services Needed to Delegate Almost Anything to a VA

The Only 8 Apps and Services Needed to Delegate Almost Anything to a VA

Learning to ‘let go’ and stop micromanaging your VAs is a skill that improves with time and practice. Using the right tools can make you feel more confident in delegating and hopefully speed up this process.

Below you will find the 8 apps and services that I use every day to safely and effectively delegate almost anything to my remote workers. This is my selection from years of trying to find the easiest, most simple and cost- effective apps and services for outsourcing. They are listed in the order that I could not live without, starting with the most important.

1. Techsmith Capture (formerly Jing)

Capture is free, easy to use and enables you to take screenshots and 5-minute videos and either copy, save or share them as URLs without having to worry about hosting as it’s all done for you and for free. The URL for the video/image is automatically saved to your clipboard, ready to be pasted into wherever you need it. This makes it one of the most user-friendly apps I know. Despite having a much more comprehensive screen-capture app (Screencast-o-Matic), I continue to use Capture every day as it is so simple, quick and easy to use.
Here’s where you can download it: https://www.techsmith.com/jing-tool.html

2. LastPass

LastPass is a cross-platform auto-password filler, form filler, and credit card safe. This app is a must-have for everyone who manages a remote team. It makes it effortless to share and revoke access to websites without ever revealing your password. All you need is the email address of the person you are sharing with.

Apart from sharing logins with your VAs, LastPass is one of the most time-saving apps I use. It enables me to have a different secure password for every site I use without having to remember what each one is. What’s more, since buying a phone with a fingerprint reader, I don’t have to type the password into login to LastPass on my phone!

Another useful feature is that it recognises when you have multiple accounts for a single website, e.g. webmail inboxes, and prompts you to select from a list each time you log in. Here’s where you can get LastPass: https://www.lastpass.com/.

3. Asana

Asana is a simple, but powerful task and project management app and works great for creating checklist and templates for your business’s operations manual. The free version has everything most people will need to collaborate with remote workers. It is also easily integrated with your calendar, mobile app, and cloud storage.

For me, the best thing about it is its ability to categorize all aspects of the business into a team, project, task, and subtasks. This, combined with Tagging, allows for effective, segmented communication with specific groups of people.

One of the unexpected benefits of using Asana is how infrequently I now use email. As all internal communications are now done via Asana, this keeps conversation threads and all associated files and folders out of my inbox and in a single location within Asana.

My email Inbox is managed by my PA, who messages me in Asana when I need to give my input on an email reply, meaning I rarely even open my emails anymore. This represents a massive time saving as I don’t waste time ‘getting lost’ or distracted in my email Inbox.

To learn more about Asana and create an account, head to https://www.asana.com.

4. Google Drive and Docs

With Google Drive, I can access all my files either online or offline (using the Desktop app). Every time the computer connects to the internet, the Desktop app syncs with the online Drive and vice versa. It also has amazing sharing capabilities as you can easily add and revoke access. There are also different levels of sharing files, e.g. view only access, edit access, changing ownership, etc.

One other nice feature is the ability to prevent viewers from downloading/printing or copying a document. I use this to ensure the latest version of my Operations Manuals is always being used. If you’re concerned about Intellectual Property theft, this makes it more difficult to rip-off your work.

For me, the best thing about Google Docs is its ability to allow multiple people to work simultaneously on the same document without ever getting conflicted copies. You can also modify documents in ‘Editing’ mode or ‘Suggesting’ mode, which is essential when mentoring your remote workers. The VA can then learn by reviewing the changes you have suggested.

Although most of these features are available on Microsoft 365, Google Docs and Google Drive and are both free, Google has been designed as an online service since day one, whereas Microsoft is playing catch up. I do still have both of these installed on my computer, but I rarely use Microsoft Office these days.

5. YouTube or Vimeo

We all know what YouTube is and what it does, but aside from entertainment purposes, YouTube is also a platform to upload and store all your business process video guides and training videos of any file size to share for free with anyone. This saves you from maxing out your cloud storage quota!

YouTube is totally free, and you can easily organise your videos into playlists and share by link or invitation based on your set restrictions. This is helpful especially when you need to revoke someone’s access, such as an ex-VA.

Vimeo is similar to YouTube but without the adverts! The free version of Vimeo isn’t quite as good as YouTube (you can’t share by a private link for example) but the ability to showcase your HD videos in a professional, ad-free environment makes the small monthly fee a no-brainer for me as an online educator.

If, however, the primary reason for publishing your videos is to grow a ‘fanbase’ and build your brand, then YouTube might be better for you. I use both.

6. PayPal for Business

You probably know that PayPal allows you to pay anyone, anywhere, for almost anything online direct from your PayPal balance, bank account or credit card. It’s also easy to use, integrates with WordPress and many other platforms you might be using as an online checkout and isn’t too expensive.
As most VAs in the Philippines have a PayPal account, it also makes it a great way to pay your remote team as you can pay in any currency you wish. The fees are minimal for these types of payments too.

What you may not be aware of, and where PayPal comes into its own, is when you set-up a business account (for free) and grant privileges to your VA depending on their role in the company. For example, my PA pays all my VAs’ wages each week. Therefore, she has the authority to ‘Make Payments’ but she can’t see my balance, withdraw money nor make any other changes to the account.

One limitation of the user-delegation is the inability for them to make online purchases on your behalf. However, by linking a business PayPal account to a prepaid bank-card (see next section below) and then sharing the login details through LastPass, you can allow your VA to safely make purchases for you, knowing that your risk exposure is limited to the balance on your prepaid card!

7. Prepaid Cards & PayPal

Business prepaid card (I use FairFX) allows you to delegate all online purchasing tasks to your VA, especially useful when PayPal is not available. Replenishing its funds is easily done by transferring money online from your credit card or debit card. I use a Google sheet on which my VAs to record all purchases and alert me when the balance is getting low so I can top-up. The reason why I prefer using a business prepaid account (as opposed to personal) is that I have multiple users, each with their own card, set-up on a single admin console. I have total control over the accounts and the cards are not all in my name!

As the cards are not directly linked to your bank account, they are totally safe to give to your remote workers as your risk is limited to the balance on the card. You can also combine one with a PayPal account (as described above).

8. Business Bank Accounts Delegate Users

With most Business Bank Accounts (I currently use HSBC), you can allow users to have restricted access to your account. This enables me to delegate payment of invoices by BACS transfer when credit cards or PayPal are not accepted (for example when paying a handyman!). You can easily check their activities online, limit funds usage, and set up alerts. I like that you have full control over spending limits and delegate authorisation to someone else, taking me out of the loop entirely!

I hope this article has given you some ideas on how to outsource more of your work by using these 8 apps and services, and has shown you some useful tools that will make the job that little bit easier!

The Search for the Best 1-2-1, Group Meeting, and Webinar Software!

The Search for the Best 1-2-1, Group Meeting, and Webinar Software!

As a business owner, we always need to be in the loop. There is always the need to communicate, and to communicate effectively. Not being to provide information or respond at the right time using the best medium, including a webinar software, could make or break a business deal.

For one-on-one communication, I’ve been using my phone and Skype. When I need to deliver information to many, I usually use Facebook to post on my groups and pages. (See how I outsource doing that here.) Now that I need to deliver my Systems and Outsourcing course, I was prompted to find a communication platform for interactive group sessions and webinars. This is totally different as I would need to be talking rather than typing, would be presenting lessons rather than information tidbits, and as the sessions are scheduled, I need to provide real value to my audience.

I outsourced this task and asked my VA to look for the best platform to deliver the course launch. Here are the criteria that I used: 

  • I need to have at least 10 participants.
  • I want to share my screen and also have a webcam cast of myself in the bottom corner of the screen.
  • Whiteboard function would be a bonus.
  • I want participants to be able to write questions and comments throughout the screencast.
  • I needed to record the audio and video.
  • Ability to have a 2-hour session if needed.
  • I also needed remote desktop (if I was going to use the same platform for 1-2-1s).

Based on those considerations, she began the search. We already have an idea what the most common platforms are being used based on experience, but we needed to confirm, so she first turned to Google for a list of these platforms. We found this article at the top of the search results, and it mainly confirmed that Google Hangouts, Join.me, and Zoom are among the more popular webinar tools.

Google Hangouts

This tool is a completely free option for anyone who has a Google account. This is both a strength and limitation. Strength because it allows for quick and easy integration with other Google apps and services like Google Calendar, and Gmail. The downside of this is that it is not usable for someone who does not have a Google account. If any one of your audience does not have a Google account, you would have to create it for them.

Google Hangouts is also readily available for any Google user that has a webcam and microphone. It also has the screen-sharing feature and automatic focus on the person doing the talking during the conference call.

However, another limitation is that Google Hangouts only allows 10 people in a single conference call. This means that it is not really made for webcasts. Nevertheless, a workaround for this being commonly employed is recording the call and uploading it to another platform for everyone else to watch.

Join.me

Unlike Google Hangouts, Join.me is a webinar tool that does not require account set up for anyone who wants to join the meeting or conference. A participant only needs the unique meeting ID to be able to access the webinar.

Join.me has third-party integration, such as Google Suite and Office 365. It also offers 5GB cloud storage for recordings, but it is less likely that this will be consumed in a single session since it does not have HD quality video. It also allows screen-sharing, mouse and keyboard control, meeting control, whiteboard annotations, and text chats. It costs $18 per month per user.

Zoom

Zoom is like Join.me and more. A participant only needs a unique URL to join the conference. This can be used on either a mobile or desktop app. It also has third-party integrations with more apps than Join.me’s. It has HD quality video recording capability as well.

This tool only has 1GB cloud storage, but has full integration with Dropbox. It is also the cheapest option for only $14.99 per month per user.

We, therefore, chose Zoom over the other two, and if given a second option, we would definitely use Join.me for the simple reason that we do not want to bother with the set up for the participants who do not have a Google account.

Free Versions

If you are planning to use only the basic features of Zoom or Join.me, here’s a list of what they can offer for free:

ZoomJoin.me
Participants5010
Call length40 minutesUnlimited
ScreensharingYesYes
RecordingYesNo

I now use Zoom and have found it to be excellent quality for both audio and video (far better than Skype). The controls are a little tricky to find the first time but once you get the hang of it, it’s a great piece of software. It is a perfect tool for one-on-one calls (especially due to the remote desktop function), small group meetings, and even for webinars (at an additional cost).

Have you had any experience using any group meeting or webinar platforms? What did you like and did not like about them? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.