Tips for Setting up A Mobile Office
By Tracey Dowdy
Whether it’s the quiet, dedicated space of your home office when everyone else has left for work or school or the energy that comes from sharing a co-working space with other innovators and small business owners, setting up a mobile office could be the best thing you do for yourself and for your business this year.
The key to success is running your business effectively and efficiently whatever that looks like for your business model.
1. Treat it like an office. If you’re first thought was “Well obviously” let your second thought be, “Oh wait, I get it.” If your mobile office is at home, you can’t be distracted by laundry or vacuuming and if your mobile space is a table at your favorite coffee shop you can’t spend the whole day people watching or stalking your ex on Facebook. In other words, separate the personal from the professional.
Consider setting up a different phone number, email and VoIP account dedicated to your business. If appropriate, set regular business hours so clients aren’t expecting you to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On the other hand if accessibility is important, make sure you’re responding to those texts and emails in a timely manner.
My husband is a private practice therapist and one of the components that sets his practice apart from others is the fact clients speak with a receptionist when they call to book an appointment. New clients looking to connect are often scrolling down a list of results in a Google search – if you don’t respond quickly, you could easily lose that client to another business.
2. Consider a coworking space. Taking up a table at a local coffee shop is okay for an hour or so but setting up for an eight hour day and asking for multiple refills on your coffee isn’t and not just because of the resulting full-body-shakes and raging headache. If working from home isn’t an option but you don’t have the need for full-time office space, consider a coworking space. Sharing office space with freelancers, entrepreneurs and other small business owners offers you dedicated space for client calls, wireless access for your devices, room to spread out paperwork or research, plus don’t even get me started on the importance of a decent office chair.
Not only do you have instant professional office space, coworking facilities provide access to conference rooms and networking opportunities with both peers and potential clients.
3. Choose your equipment carefully. Consider what you need or want and make a prioritized wish list if something is missing. My current laptop is a dinosaur and gives the impression I’m dragging around a bag of wet laundry when it’s in my backpack. It’s fine for when it’s sitting on my desk at home, but running around with it reminds me technology is getting more lightweight and mobile so a new one is top of my wish list.
Obviously staying connected to clients is essential to mobile office success so consider a mobile broadband dongle or dongles and mobile Wi-Fi device so you’re never without access to your virtual office.
While printers have come down substantially in price printer ink still seems to be made from unicorn tears. If you’re printing primarily in black and white with only occasional color copies, a basic printer may be all you need. If your business is built on top quality images but you don’t have the budget for high end equipment, consider working with a local printer instead. Some small business, (read “not chain stores”) are open for trade in kind. Consider providing graphic designs for their promotional materials in exchange for a discount on your printing needs.
If you’re travelling to construction sites or frequently work outdoors, make sure your phone and laptop are rugged enough to stand up to the demands of the environment. Verizon offers a variety of rugged phones offering durability without compromising functionality.
4. Reach for the Stars Cloud. Access to cloud based storage systems has revolutionized the way we do business. Of course you can print hard copies or back up everything to an external hard drive, but the freedom to retrieve or share archived information is invaluable. Sites like Dropbox, Google Drive and Amazon’s new cloud service provide users secure access to information and the ability to share it with others.
5. “Know Thyself.” You already know if you’re the Rumpelstiltskin type and can be locked in a room with a bale of hay and come out having spun gold. For others, the thought of being left alone to work on a project is a fate worse than death. Some not only prefer a solitary work space but actually thrive on it while others feed off the creative energy of others, using that energy to build their business and meet client needs in new and innovative ways.
Whatever your style, make the most of it. Use apps like Evernote, Simplekeep, Microsoft OneNote and DEVONThink to act as your personal assistant, keeping you on track while you’re busy coming up with new ways to conquer the world. That way no matter where you are, you’re not only working hard, you’re working smart.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.