Home offices are really nice, but they do come with one obvious limitation: they don’t work outside the home.
Lugging around a printer, filing cabinet, business journal, desktop computer, stationary and a receipt spike doesn’t really facilitate an ‘anywhere’ work style.
The idea of shrinking an entire home office down into an object fifteen inches wide, ten inches long and one inch deep makes the obvious sound implausible.
There are now digital equivalents to every aspect of the analog office. With laptop in hand, you can take your home office with you anywhere in the world.
- Use wififreespot.com to source out free wireless internet.
- Subscribe to an international wireless provider (e.g. Boingo Wireless, starting at $21.95 a month).
Mobile Task Management
- Eliminate paper to-do lists with one of the many to-do list web apps available.
- Use task management software to keep track of tasks and plans.
- Try to liaise with customers, clients and colleagues with email as much as possible.
- If your work is based on a lot of phone conversations, use Skype as a substitute. Create an open Skype account your colleagues can use.
- Stop providing clients, customers and colleagues with your home address unless necessary. This will discourage snail-mail invoicing and communication.
- If working with others, create a workstream you can use to keep your colleagues up to date.
- If clients are used to in-person demonstrations, start using Basecamp as a substitute.
- Transfer your schedule or diary into Google Calendar.
- If some of your clients require you to send out invoices in the mail, Freshbooks allows you to compose invoices online which they can send out by snail mail on your behalf.
Mobile Filing and Records
If you sometimes need to refer back to paper records and files at home, scan them on to your laptop so you can take them with you.
Structure your folder system in the same way your filing cabinet is structured (even if it’s imperfect, you will have already be comfortable with the system).
A labeling mix up allowed me to get a HP printer/scanner for $122 (worth $300+) at my local office supplies store, but I would have got this one otherwise.
Pay a relative or friend to collect your mail once a week, scan it and email it to you. If they don’t have a scanner, lend them yours for the duration of your travels, though you might have to teach them how to use it.
If you’re concerned about privacy, use Earth Class Mail instead, which allows you to mimic the process digitally for a monthly fee.
- Set up an internet banking account with strong passwords.
- Make digital backups of your invoices and financial records instead of printing them out (the safest solution is to email the documents to yourself every week and back them up to a password protected USB thumb drive).
- Use Quickbooks or Mint to keep track of your finances, expenses, balances and financial records.
Instead of keeping physical items in your home or business to sell, make an arrangements with a wholesaler who will ship these items for you. All you need to do is email them orders to fulfill.
If you sell products from a physical location, hire a local salesperson to look after your business while you’re gone. If you can’t afford to do so, consider moving your shop online and hiring a virtual assistant to handle customer service by email (much cheaper).
Buy a drawing tablet that allows you to draw by hand directly into design software.
Scan key pages from books you refer to often or purchase cheap digital version of indispensable books in your library. You can take the essential information in your bookshelf with you.
There’s almost too much to say on this topic, and there are a few more variants I want to cover in future: the online office you can access from any computer, anywhere, and digitizing your life.
While these options aren’t for anyone, making educated decisions about the kind of workstyle/lifestyle you want to have is never a bad thing.