Working from the same location day after day can not be healthy. I have talked to countless people who agree that their productivity tanks when they have spent to much time in the same environment. Studies are now showing that employees who are allowed to work from home actually end up being more productive then they were while stuck behind their desk.
I work from a home office and have done so for the last 6 years now since I retired from the world of retail. I was 25 at the time and I knew that I could not continue to work 12+ hours a day 7 days a week to keep my retail store going. I did not have a good plan of action in place to have others run things for me. I decided to move into the website design business and liberate myself from being locked down to a single location with typical hours of operation. My goal was to work from where I want, when I want. Website design is a web based business so it should be no problem to work remotely whenever possible. The first year while I was gaining momentum with my business I worked from random Starbucks in my town and from friends houses out of town when I went to visit them. Once I started making some money I began getting out of town just for the sake of it. In 2007 I worked from various spots in the Bay Area, a nice little coffee shop in Capitola, San Diego, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Hermosa Beach, Yosemite, from a house boat on Lake McClure, basically anywhere but my home town.
My productivity was amazing. Whenever I began to get unproductive at my home office I would take off. Going mobile has became increasingly harder since getting married and having my first child. Once Liam gets a little older I plan to take my family out of town often to expand my working environment once again.
I designed and programmed websites, edited wedding photos, edited video, designed logos, fliers and more all from my laptop while sitting in a chair at a random coffee shop. My only overhead was the beverage of choice for that day.
The remainder of this blog will outline a few of the things I did to make sure I could work from any location and have the information I needed to complete work.
How to go Mobile on the cheap!
Internet Service: I used to have an AT&T wifi card when they had an unlimited data plan. This was a cheap way to have internet anywhere. The cost at the time was $49.99. AT&T managed to accidentally change my plan to a metered plan which I quickly cancelled. See my recent blog on choosing the right data plan for your computer. After that happened I just took advantage of Starbucks free Wifi. As a backup I now have an Android Phone with T-Mobile which supports tethering to my laptop wirelessly. It is a pretty decent 3G connection. Once 4G becomes the industry standard I may switch to gain faster internet connections.
With a Starbucks around every corner now complete with Free Wifi, you can work for hours at little to no cost. I always buy something from every establishment I work from that has free wifi and a comfy space to offer.
File Sharing: Working with such large files became an issue. At the time a 500GB external hard drive was the biggest drive you could get that would self power from your USB port. I did not want to haul around a large hard drive that would require me to plug into electricity. To me, Mobile meant being able to run from battery power if I had to. Over the years I have accumulated a few Terabytes of files. I don’t need access to all of them all of the time but it is nice to be able to connect to them when I need to. There are a few ways to do this. I am a Mac user and I have a Apple Base Station Router in my home office. With my external hard drive connected to it via. USB and my MobileMe account I can access those files at any time through “Back to my Mac.” Back to my Mac is a service that runs in the background on your Mac which allows you to connect to other Macs connected to the same MobileMe account. Because of this I have access to my four terabytes of storage at any time. My current Laptop has 500GB of internal memory which is sufficient to keep files I need most often locally.
I also use a service called Dropbox which allows me to sync files between both of my computers. When I make a change to a file, Dropbox noticed that, uploads the new file and replaces the old file. In case I make a mistake, Dropbox allows me to undo a change. Dropbox gives you 2GB of free space. Even if you do not need to sync files between two computers you can use it as a backup for files you are afraid to save on your laptop in the case that something happened to your laptop. Check out this blog post I wrote about why you need a free Dropbox account.
Things I always have on me: I bring anything that I could possibly need, which is surprisingly little. In my laptop bag is: My laptop, iPad, iPhone, Android Phone, AC adapter, Memory Card Reader, External Monitor Adapter, a few audio adapters, pens, pad of paper, screen wipes, my Square Card Reader (for taking credit card payments, visit Squareup.com and if you have an iPhone 4 and use a Square reader, watch my video on how to fix the issue with using a Square reader with an iPhone 4.), Starbucks Card, Excedrin Migraine (in case the coffee smell gives me a headache) Apple Airport Express (in case I am in at a hotel or somewhere that only offers cabled internet, I can make it wireless) and of course a pile of business cards.
Depending on the situation there may be other things I bring with me. If I am meeting with a client then of course there are other items I may bring.
Meeting with clients: I have battled over and over again with having a nice location clients can come to meet with me. I guess there is something in us that wants to have the typical brick and mortar, however there is something even stronger in me that wants to avoid unnecessary overhead at all costs. The only extra costs I have at my home office due to working from home is a slight increase in my electricity bill due to being at home often. Over the past 6 years I have never had a client or potential client have an issue with the fact that I work from a home office. We are in an age where that does not matter anymore. I believe that it is not only accepted but that people respect that. Just now while writing this blog post I received a call from a guy who is looking to have a website designed for his new startup business. He asked where I was located, I explained that I work from a home office. He then asked if meeting at a Starbucks would be ok. Is that ok? Sure it is!
You can make the switch: Over the years I have decreased the amount of stuff I bring with me. Part of this is due to figuring out a way to not need it and the rest is just letting go. I don’t need much to do my work. My laptop is my tool and perhaps a camera if I am shooting an event. I find myself more relaxed when I work from unfamiliar locations and I always get more done than if I had stayed at home.
As a matter of fact I am actually writing this blog while working remotely. I am in Aptos, CA less than a mile from the beach at a Starbucks.
I challenge you to change it up, if you can of course. For some great ideas on how to work remotely and get the ok to do so check out the book The 4 Hour Workweek. Not all of the advice in that book can be put to use but it is very inspiring. Check out my suggested reads section for some other good books.