Skype is a universal communication tool – and it’s free!
You may be wondering when I got hired at Skype to promote their services, and to that I say: I WISH.
Seriously, though, I don’t work for Skype, nor am I being paid for advertising. This is simply an article to help freelancers communicate with current or prospective clients.
Most people probably assume Skype is just a fancy calling tool, used for long-distance relationships and to hilariously prank your friends (or is that just me?). You can make phone calls to other users or directly to a physical phone, which is mightily convenient for those without a phone themselves or just to avoid service fees. It’s also handy for video chats, as this allows the callers to see each other for whatever reason, usually for family members who are apart, but I’ve seen it used for interviews, too. These are typically for remote job positions, where the prospective employee would be working in another city or state or even country. Face-to-face conversations (or rather, screen-to-screen) can help personalize a work relationship and make it seem more like a traditional job.
But by and large, in my experience, Skype is far more often used for its text messaging. It’s faster and less formal than email, since if two people are online at the same time, you can instantly send and receive replies. Even if someone is offline, their messages will be saved until they can read and respond to them. You can ping a coworker for some advice, send a few files over to your assistant, or even shoot off an informal request to your boss. Obviously, emails should be used for important things that require having records, but normal, everyday queries can be quickly answered on Skype.
To be honest, I found it to be a little annoying at first, since you’re technically always logged in. You may have to mess around in the settings to make the program suit your needs – for example, I didn’t like the icon always in my Start bar, so I toggled off that function. If you don’t want anyone to know you’re online, but don’t want to log out completely, you can change your status from “Online” to “Away,” “Do Not Disturb,” or even “Invisible.” This allows you to still receive messages, but you can reply to them at your leisure.
Most of my experience with Skype is communicating with my clients. Again, email is useful, but it takes time. When I’m a prospective hire, I’m often asked for an “interview” on Skype using the text chat, where I’m asked about my experience and other typical topics, all in real time. Sample files to edit, contract details, etc. can be exchanged as well. It’s more convenient than phone calls – and probably less embarrassing than a video chat!
If you haven’t jumped on the Skype bandwagon yet, it’s a good idea to do so as soon as possible. (Here’s a guide to using it!) It’s becoming more of a requirement of the freelancer – I’m no longer asked if I have a Skype, it’s simply assumed, with providing my ID being part of the application process, for example. Practice with some friends to get used to the tool, and fix the settings to your liking.
Now go and chat!
Freelancers: How often do you use Skype for work purposes?